Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The Miracle Lady - my autobiography is available to buy!

 


Exciting news! Over Lockdown I decided to write my autobiography! The book is a candid account of my life, the ups and the downs and it has an amazing ending (well, you can probably guess the ending since I am alive and well and writing this today). 

Buy your copy today at Etsy.com https://etsy.me/30okHvF

Here are some of the comments from those who have read it...

"I am absolutely roaring with laughter!!! Other than the cancer of course which I am not roaring at, this book is brilliant!!!" RB

"I really enjoyed it...some of it must have been very difficult to put down on paper so it's a real achievement and most inspiring" CI

"I've just finished your book - so beautifully written" VS

"Just finished the book...I loved it!!! I didn't want it to end!" JD

"I have started reading it and it is fantastic. I have already laughed so much and cried too xx" SG

"I'm hooked!!" LG

"I've finished reading your book. I'm crying in bed. What an amazing lady you are. I always knew you were but didn't know everything you had been through" HR

"I couldn't put it down...Congratulations on your exceptional writing talent." JS

"I don't think I've ever read a book in just over 36 hours...you are a fabulous writer! You are truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing your amazing memories and your darkest moments" LR


Saturday, 22 August 2020

My wonderful best friend Cheryl

I have been lucky enough to have an incredible lifelong best friend. I have been horribly unlucky to lose her to cancer at just 47.

Cheryl and I met at Primary School where we shared a love of English and complete ineptitude at sports. We were somewhat enchanted by each other's company. We would walk to school together, learn together, play together, walk home together and write each other letters every day. Our favourite game was 'letters in your name'. Not a complex game, it involved shouting out a letter and then moving forward one step if that letter appeared in your name. I performed well with the letter 'A' and Cheryl's name offered the benefit of lots of 'E's. I was shocked to find out that she had extended her middle name, Ann, to 'Annette' to secure victory. Those pesky extra 'E's and 'T's gave her the advantage. Under the circumstances I have forgiven her.

At Sneyd Green Primary School, we were given a creative challenge, to decorate a boiled egg. Mine was an appalling travesty of a broomstick-less witch painted in red nail varnish. Cheryl's was a beautiful peacock egg with a feather for a tail. I don't recall how it performed in the competition, but it remained in pride of place on the top of the gas fire in Cheryl's dining room for TEN whole years. It's longevity was quite simply incredible.

At weekends Cheryl's Dad would take us swimming and then to McDonald's. We would cram our hair into those funny little swimming caps that would make us look like matchsticks. It was a joyful experience since it gave us an opportunity to spend more time together, plus, I was the only one in my family who could swim.

Cheryl's wallpaper was a map of the world and I wished I had paid more attention to it as my geographical knowledge is dreadful. It was in Cheryl's bedroom that we practiced our moves to rapper Redhead Kingpin's 'Do the Right Thing'. It was a flawless routine but sadly we never had a chance to perform it publicly.

Cheryl's Mum used to make fabulous chips followed by bananas and custard. On one occasion, we all started laughing during the serving of the custard, you know those belly laughs that are uncontrollable and bring tears to your eyes? It was one of those. No-one had any idea what was so funny, but I always remember that moment and smile to myself, especially when eating bananas and custard.

One of the things that Cheryl and I did regularly together was go to the cinema. After seeing Empire of the Sun, we developed a crush on the star of the film, Christian Bale. We decided that it would be a great idea to phone him. As this was a clandestine activity, we made the call in the dark so that Cheryl's neighbours could not see what we were up to. We looked up 'Bale' in Bournemouth in the Phone Book. There were only two! I called the first one and asked if I could speak to Christian as I was a 'friend from school'. Unbelievably she put us through, and an awkward conversation ensued where I asked him whether he was going to do any more films, he said "yes" and I said "good". Cheryl and I were overcome with excitement and I kept his phone number in my Filofax. I never used it but it was good to have it close at hand.

Cheryl and I spent many a holiday in Cornwall with her parents. We would travel down with her dalmatian called Dom asleep on our laps (Dom was almost as car sick as I was) and stay at a campsite. We would walk on the cliffs and the beach with her Dad and dog respectively. Special times.

When Cheryl moved to Banbury to live on a boat, I had lots of fabulous weekends with her and her then partner, Tim. Cheryl and I shared a dry sense of humour and she was fabulously laid back so it was a delight to be in her company. We also shared an obsession with language and spelling. She was an editor and I worked in advertising so we would often talk about our horror at a misplaced possessive apostrophe.

When I worked at McCann's I won an all-expenses paid trip to New York after a day at Galaxy Radio. I chose Cheryl to accompany me and we were super-excited. Cheryl has the patience of a Saint and the most gentle and loving nature, so when we were delayed for 24 hours, we just pottered around the airport, reading and chatting, and extended our trip with permission from our employers. We were kind to the fraught check-in-desk lady unlike our fellow travellers, and she gave us an upgrade to Business Class! An upgrade on our already FREE trip! Another classic moment that didn't faze Cheryl and I, was that our luggage went missing, so we had to buy knickers from Macy's until our cases arrived the next day. We loved the trip and saw the sights. It was a poignant time as the 9-11 Terrorist atrocity had happened only weeks previously and the embers from the fall of the Twin Towers were still burning. 

Cheryl made a wonderful companion at weddings, and when I took her as my 'date' to our friend Vicky's wedding, she made such a good impression that she was invited in her own right to our friend Charlotte's wedding. We celebrated their nuptials on both occasions retiring to our room at the Travel Lodge for a cup of tea.

For Cheryl's 40th birthday, I hired a luxury Yurt and her boating friends joined us for fun and high-jinks. I was deeply saddened when talking about pensions (what a fabulous conversationalist I am!) that Cheryl told me that she would not be saving for her future as she expected to die young as her Mum had (from Breast Cancer). I told her that was ridiculous. I was wrong.

When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer later that year, Cheryl was an incredible support to me. She came up to live in Stoke and was by my side throughout, as a loving, kind and funny friend through troubled times. She even told me that she would have happily taken the cancer away from me. It was a sign of her love and devotion that she said this, and I knew she meant it. It was devastating that she was later diagnosed with Advanced Lung Cancer.

It was too awful to contemplate that Cheryl had cancer. She tackled it with grace and humour and it barely dented her joy and happiness. At this stage she had found the love of her life, a fellow boatsman named Craig (also known as Sheridan). He won't mind me saying that on paper he was a poor prospect for my beloved Cheryl, with a seriously chequered past. He turned out to be a spectacular choice however, and I credit him with so many things, not least, caring for her during cancer right to the end, and most importantly making her heart sing. She was giddily happy and in love, even as the cancer caused her immense pain and suffering.

Even at the end of her life, Cheryl was happy. My heart breaks for the loss of this incredible friend who has been a significant part of my life for over forty years. She had an enormous heart, a fabulous sense of humour, a beauty that shone from the inside out and she taught me how to say "I love you" after every conversation with her. 

It is unfathomable to think that I will never hear her laugh, see her wryly raise her eyebrow or bask in the warmth of her company again. I have lost another sister and it feels cruel. But love endures when life is lost. Before she died I told her that I wanted her to be in Heaven with me when the time came. With the help from a lovely Church friend, I gave Cheryl a prayer to say to Jesus. Although she is gone for now, I know we will be reunited. 

Rest in peace my beautiful friend. Love you x




Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Britain's Cancer Crisis

To say that 2020 has not turned out as any of us expected is a huge understatement. It goes without saying that the pandemic has had devastating and far-reaching impact. One (sadly large) group of people particularly affected are those living with cancer. In the furore, ever-changing guidance and a culture of anxiety and in some cases, fear, many cancer patients have been deterred from visiting their Doctors, Oncologists or even A&E.

BBC One's Panorama explored the topic of 'Britain's Cancer Crisis' to understand how Covid-19 had impacted cancer treatment. It made grim viewing. With cancelled drug trials, treatment and radiotherapy, it is estimated that there may be up to 35,000 excess deaths from cancer. Behind the statistics are real people. People who are already suffering, and a pandemic has curtailed not only their freedom but also their access to cancer treatment.

This, coupled with screenings put on hold (two million screening appointments did not take place during Lockdown) and only half of the usual attendees at A&E against the previous year is alarming to say the least. Cancer is a pernicious disease and it cannot be furloughed until the pandemic is over.

Clearly Covid-19 had the NHS on its knees, but my heart aches for those who are experiencing cancer and were not able to access life-saving treatment, and all the people who would normally have visited their GP with symptoms they were concerned about.

Early diagnosis has a huge impact on the outcomes of cancer. Clearly, Covid hasn't gone away and its impact will be felt for a very long time. However, cancer has been around even longer and will continue to claim lives. So, if you notice any differences in your body, identify any lumps or bumps, have a lingering cough or a bodily change of any kind, it's not to be ignored. As things slowly return to normal, it is as important as wearing a mask to seek advice on those little niggles in your body that make you worry that something's not right.

It might just save your life.

Amanda














Monday, 23 March 2020

Love in times of crisis

When I look around (from a safe distance), I see a world facing unprecedented challenges, the worst of which is the real and present danger of the Coronavirus to our most vulnerable. It is horrible to see the numbers of people dying from this alarming disease. What is also deeply concerning is that those who are affected are the most vulnerable in our society. Among those are cancer sufferers. Facing cancer in normal circumstances is horrendous. Facing cancer during a worldwide pandemic is unspeakably awful.

My precious life-long friend who I have been privileged to have known and loved since I was in primary school, has lung cancer. It is devastating enough to see her suffering, but now, with the impact of Covid 19, a new, potentially life-saving trial was closed to new participants. It is utterly heart-breaking that this option has been closed to her.

My friend's Dad died yesterday of cancer. A popular man with children and grandchildren, his funeral will be restricted to a small number due to the guidance on group gatherings.

An older (but very sprightly) neighbour is being treated for cancer and faces regular treatment in our local hospital and lengthy queues for blood tests where it is almost impossible to be a safe distance from others equally in need.

My Dad has experienced Corona-like symptoms which exacerbated his COPD and, despite the fact that he is extremely fit and healthy for his age (he will probably disown me for this, he is in his early 70s), he is considered high risk. This means that despite an active life that belies his age, he now has to self-isolate for three months. An unpleasant prospect for a man who, having lost my Mum a few years ago, is saddened that his life choices have been curtailed and fears loneliness.

Many of my friends' parents are facing similar struggles with cancer, dementia, alzheimers and heart conditions whilst my father-in-law has Parkinson's disease among other health issues.

So, now, in these hugely difficult times, we need to bring love and light to those around us, find new ways of communicating and helping others practically, spiritually and emotionally. There is no better time to follow Jesus's word and apply our hearts and minds to navigate these troubled times. We can help those in our communities and friendship groups to be safe and know they are loved. We can pray for our world and seek to bolster our faith and share this with others. We can be thoughtful and find ways of helping our neighbours whilst respecting the guidance we have been given by the Government. We can all worship, but in different ways. Most of all, we should be guided by love.

Amanda




Wednesday, 4 March 2020

What is love?

When I think of heaven, I don't think of angels or rivers of gold.

The heaven I imagine is filled to the brim with overwhelming love. Love that is untainted by the body's frailties, insecurity, worry and fear of loss. On earth, it is love that connects us all, love that enriches our lives and love that makes our hearts sing. In 1 Peter 4.8 he says "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins". It is love that has inspired infinitesimal songs, poems and works of art. Love underpins acts of kindness and compassion and evokes joy.

But love has a darker underbelly. Love on earth is tainted with loss. My heart aches at the loss of my kind, gentle sister, my clever, quirky Mum and the many friends and family I have lost to cancer and other diseases. Love endures after death but it is still painful to not be in touching distance of those I have loved and are no longer with us.

While it is heart-breaking to see the suffering of the people I love, it is incredibly uplifting when I see how indefatigable love is in the face of adversity. A popular reading at weddings is 1 Corinthians 13, "Love is patient, love is kind"..."It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." So, today, and always, I remember all my loved ones, those who are in a better place and those whose struggles continue and I know for sure that love conquers all.

Amanda




Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Today is a very sad day

When I started chemo (24th January 2014) I was apprehensive. My Dad, my husband Dean and I rocked up to Royal Stoke and we had no idea what to expect. The chemo ward was unexpectedly pleasant. Everyone had a comfortable chair and most had a friend or family member with them. The room was light and airy and all the seats faced inwards so it was a convivial atmosphere, despite the fact that we were all there for life-saving toxic treatments to be pumped into our veins.

This was the first time I met Kate. She was a chemo veteran, she knew everyone and became a regular friendly face at my sessions. We chatted about her cancer, her sadness at not being able to be a carer at the hospital any more and her love for her horses. Somehow, she made the enormity of what all of us with cancer were facing a little more normal.

After a few more sessions, we began to discuss 'bucket lists'. I must confess that I only found out last week that a 'bucket list' was a list of things to do before you 'kick the bucket'! I could blame the brain surgery, but I hadn't had it by then, so I have to blame my ignorance instead. Kate told me that her dream was to swim with dolphins, ride a Harley Davidson and fly in a helicopter. My less ambitious (and significantly shorter) 'bucket list' was just about spending time with friends and family until the inevitable happened.

So, as time passed, Kate continued to have the most horrendous cancer experience. It seemed like every time I saw her, she had been hit with more bad news...multiple brain tumours, cancer in her liver, bowel and spine, fewer years to live, more arduous treatments and both her parents being diagnosed with serious illnesses. But, Kate being Kate, she rolled with the punches, persevered with the side effects, faced the pain and drew on her sheer will and strength to keep on going. With great sadness, we learned that Kate was dying, and today, many of us who were inspired by her resilience and indefatigable strength of character will be mourning her loss at her funeral.

But as for the bucket list...see below...


RIP Kate, you were an inspiration to us all.



Tuesday, 31 December 2019

An embarrassment of riches

Well, as I approach another year (and decade in fact), I have had time to reflect on how phenomenally rich I am. OK, just to note, these are by no means physical riches. A terminal cancer diagnosis does not have a positive impact on your bank account, or prospects for that matter. What it does do, however, is create a huge bank of spiritual riches. Here are some of them...

1. The richness of God's healing spirit when you are facing an imminent death (and then go on to live, and live and live...)

2. The joy of another Christmas with my Dad, my husband and my fabulous friends

3. The memories of those who gone from this life, but I long to meet again in Heaven

4. The incredible gift of time spent with loved ones

5. The richness of kindness and compassion

6. The priceless joy of giving

7. The myriad riches of seeing friends recover from cancer (Josie and Gill, you are both amazing)

8. The inspiration of a wonderful soul, taking on cancer with grace and humour (wonderful Cheryl)


Life is a precious gift that we should never take for granted. Its value is incalculable.

Amanda