Hi, this is Catherine and I thought it would be good to share something of my journey in this situation we face as a family. Today it is a month since my world veered alarmingly into a new direction. I got up as usual, went to work as usual. At 10.30 it is break time at my school. I had my usual cup of coffee, chatted to staff and by 10.45 we were back in the classroom busily getting on with guided groups. I was due at a meeting at 11 but was delayed. My phone rang at 11.05 which was unusual. I had given Jeremy instructions to ring at lunch time but now my phone was ringing an hour before the agreed time. I had mentally traced his movements for the day. I had not seen him since the previous evening where he had seemed very unwell with a virus. A Brazillian bug we thought. I went to reject the call and was surprised to see “Jeremy” on the callers ID. I pushed the button to put him off. Something nagged. I asked the teacher I work with if I could call him back. Anxiously I found a quieter place and rang to return his call. Then the news I had been dreading, “It’s not good” he said. “It is cancer. Here is Sandra.”
I felt in freefall. A mild panic set in as I tried desperately to get my head round this and listen to what I was being told. Crumpling is the only way to describe those minutes. Having explained to those that needed to know, I was sent away from school. I was all alone. I walked the 3 minutes home to our flat. Nothing seemed real, all was in suspension, waiting…for what? What should I do? I rang my parents or tried to between the sobs. I knew I had to get the youngest two home and somehow tell the three of our children who live away from home.
I didn’t trust myself to drive so I walked up the High Street to their school. “My husband has cancer”, was all I could think. The world seemed in suspension around me. I got to the reception desk somehow and then just broke down. I managed to convey ‘I must talk to my children’, trying to explain why. I knew they would guess when they saw me. Their crumpled faces were haunting my brain. Then they came through the glass door. I could see they knew before they even reached me. If only I could change the words; if only this was someone else’s news. Lydia and I sobbed, Josh although upset decided he would finish his lesson.
Lydia and I began the walk home. I do not remember that journey. We kind of floated. I could not get my head to believe what my ears had been told. It’s CANCER! Is all I could hear. We got home and soon after Josh did too. He hadn’t been able to stay. I then messaged the other three boys. Tom having just started at Cardiff University, Simeon having just started a new job after a very difficult period and Ben in Brazil in a totally different time zone. “Please contact me asap when you have more than 5 mins and are somewhere private.” Tom got back to me first, then Ben then later Simeon. Devastation ruled.
Jeremy, I was told, would be brought back to the flat after blood tests and X-ray. He returned about 2 hours after getting that fateful phone call. He looked awful. “We won’t make it to Christmas”, I thought. He explained to me what he knew. It could be lymphoma or melanoma. Neither was good, the latter worse. It was secondary, not sure where the primary was located. More tests would tell us what it was, we would get a call tomorrow.
I went to school as usual on Thursday. The children didn’t. It was Book Day so required a costume. I wore a princess dress I had made the previous weekend; before the news. Yes, it had become that, with events. Some things were before, some after but whatever way it was looked at, a new existence started on October 8th 2014. One little girl repeatedly told me I looked lovely and that we had the same dress. Throughout the day I felt the comfort of the children. A little hand, a smile and a laugh. Jesus loved the little children and Father used the very same to encourage me. Lunch time at the flat confirmed it was melanoma – I already knew. It felt claustrophobic. The same story repeated endlessly to different people on the phone, no lessening of it, no change, just repeat, repeat.
It was necessary to miss school the next day due to Jeremy’s need to see his GP. The GP said he was sorry and it was time to contact the Hospice nurse. That was a very weepy day. Since the diagnosis I have struggled to eat; that day the dry feeling in my mouth was almost unbearable. Much has happened in this last month. Many decisions have needed to be made. Living in a vicarage poses certain issues not faced by others. Living in two homes poses yet another set of issues. However I have been so aware of God’s peace surrounding me. Friendships have been fast forwarded and my potential future as a widow doesn’t feel scary. I shed tears, laugh, be a mum, a wife and try to hold onto my job which I love. The future is not clear but I walk hand in hand with Father God who sustains me and gives me hope.