Lady In Waiting

I’ve never been any good at waiting! Honestly, you should see me when the computer doesn’t fire into life immediately when I push that button. And you know that silly little symbol that appears when something is happening in the background of your PC? You know, it can be like an hourglass, or a whirly thing? Well, when that pops up my heart sinks and I bang my head on the desk and wail “Nooooooo”. How can it make me wait so long? I have STUFF to do! People to be calling…..cups of tea to be making!! Alright, nothing I need to do is THAT important, but you get me, right? Waiting for a machine to do what it jolly well ought to be doing is so frustrating.

We live in this era of ‘why-wait-for-anything’. Ads tell us we don’t need to wait for what we really want NOW. We can buy now and pay later – all on interest free credit too. We can borrow for what we’ve not yet earned so we can have the luxury of owning that ‘something’ in advance. Looked at in the cold light of day, it begins to seem rather ridiculous. The ‘get-it-before-it-goes’ philosophy can be infectious and drives behaviour – gives a sense of urgency which can actually push people into debt they could really do without, and, even worse, can’t afford.

I am learning now that I MUST wait. Waiting is becoming my status. I am calling this my Posture of Waiting. It is a Posture I have to learn to hold. Practice makes perfect – and oh boy – I have lots of opportunity to practice!!

There are other related things that I’m learning too. I’ve always been a very ‘in-control’ sort of person. I like to know what’s happening ahead. I like to be able to have a say in how things will be. I like to understand what’s happening and be able to influence how things will go; how I, and others, will operate. I’ve tended to be better if I have some level of responsibility; that is, if I’m allowed and empowered to lead. I am happy to take charge of projects. I love nothing more than to sit with a spreadsheet, mapping out tasks and contingencies; schedules and outcomes; expectations, plans and goals. Love it all. Sad, but true. I like working out what risks there might be; how can we manage them; how do we communicate with stakeholders. Love all of that. But, you know what? I can’t do that with Cancer. I’m learning that I cannot be in control of this part of my life.

It’s a rat of a thing, because, even though it’s yours, (as in, it’s in YOU), it’s YOU who can’t seem to get a grip of it. You get your head round what it is, or think you do; so it can be defined and you know what you’re dealing with. Then it turns out it’s just really an umbrella term for thousands of ‘types’ of tumours and minging cell abnormalities. That pop up and grow – seemingly where they jolly well like. You can research it all you like; you can find the statistics (frighten yourself to death over them). You can tap into websites and blogs and online communities – you can talk to other folk with cancer – you can quiz professionals. You can arm yourself with all this information. But what it boils down to in the end is this – you spend a great deal of time WAITING and NOT BEING IN CONTROL

As soon as my surgery was over, even while still poorly and recovering, I wanted to know what they’d found. What was next? I have no say in that though. It all depended on when the lab would be working over Christmas; what they found in a cell that might lead them to look in another; when my specialist was available for clinic. Things I had no control over. A usual two and a half week wait has turned into a five week wait. I sit here now, a week away from that clinic appointment on January 9th and I cannot make it come any faster. Someone, somewhere knows more about me; more about what happens next for me than I do. I can’t even plan what I’m going to be doing next month until I know those results, as the outcome will determine how much time will be taken in treatments, and what they are to be.

Then there’s the recovery from the surgery itself. No longer is it a case of – come on, Billy, let’s go for a walk on the hills. Now it’s ‘where can I walk today, that he doesn’t need a lead, and which won’t be too challenging for me?’ These have never been considerations for me before! I am however not yet back to full fitness, although I’m out walking again and also using a treadmill daily. I have to therefore be far more careful of where I walk; I have lost the carefreeness of being able to just grab the lead, call the dog and simply set off, deciding where we go as we walk. Fully in control of our own pleasure and self-esteem. I will need to wait some time before I can claim that state again.

I am finding this book helpful in my learning this new Posture of Waiting. It is “The Stature of Waiting” by W H Vanstone. It was given to me by Rev Steve Harvey, our Curate, who was given it when he faced cancer himself, by Bishop Jonathan Gibbs. I read this about being a patient :-

“What happens ….happens to him, is done to him; and the satisfactoriness or unsatisfactoriness of a particular day depends hardly at all on himself or his own efforts and decisions. A ‘good’ day is one on which a machine or instrument shows a certain reading, or a drug has a certain effect…”.

Yes, I get that. I am waiting for my body to heal; I can do somethings to help that, or at least not hinder it, but ultimately I need to let the wounds (external and internal) heal fully before I stress my body further. I am waiting for results which will determine how my next few months, maybe years, will pan out. I can’t make full plans until I know. I’ve become more dependent on others doing what they need to do. I am even, I realise, dependent on which drugs will be available in this area. Not all cancer drugs are available everywhere and some are available only on clinical trials. I can’t control if I am on a trial or not!

Vanstone also talks about how there is often a ‘suddenness’ in transition between being a self-sufficient person into being a patient. That this is so disconcerting that it immediately alters how we perceive the opinions, attitudes and remarks of others, as well as how we see ourselves. I know that I found myself constantly wondering how it was that professionals seem so easily to view me as ‘the patient’ when I hadn’t actually fully grasped that I was one! My head had to catch up with what was physically happening. So I was always having this conversation with myself in my head – how have I landed here? Is this really me?

This suddenness makes learning to wait even harder. Luckily, having moved from being ‘economically productive’ to being ‘retired’ in recent years, I have already learned the necessity of having to change pace. This is going to be helpful as I move forward. A more relaxed and considered pace has many benefits. It’s possible, beautiful even, to have time to stare at the clouds for a while. It;s pretty good to spend a whole afternoon relishing the reading of a book. It’s not at all bad to walk in the woods without worrying about having to get back to make a deadline. I’ve learned these things. I can learn how to wait for what is outside of my control, surely?

Vanstone’s book is of course about Jesus and his stature of waiting. About how what we have viewed as his ‘suffering’ was more about his ‘passion’ which has the same roots as ‘patience’. How he knew that he was called to move from being fully active to being completely passive. That he was ‘handed over’ to that state and how he accepted that as a fundamental part of his calling. I haven’t finished it yet, but I have learned already that even this – this wretched cancer thing – is part of what I am called into as a disciple of Jesus. God has allowed this to happen (he’s omnipotent so could have stopped it) and that there is a purpose in it. In ALL of it. Even, and possibly, especially, the Waiting and the lack of control. I will therefore gladly go on practicing how to wait with grace; with a good posture and with patience! Just don’t berate me if you see me banging my head on my desk and wailing in the meantime!!

9 thoughts on “Lady In Waiting”

  1. Bev, lovely friend, I was about to do something else on the computer when up popped the alert that this was waiting for me. I knew it would be a treasure, beautifully-written as always, and that I would want to read it IMMEDIATELY (you see, I have no patience either and can’t wait!) THANK YOU for this article, your amazing insight and honesty, which no longer comes as a surprise but bowls me over every time. We are waiting with you, alongside you, praying for you and what happens on the 9th matters to us.

    1. Janet, you’re such a darling friend. You’re one of my dearest cheerleaders and I do so treasure you. Thank you for commenting and for your kind and encouraging words. You’re very special xx

  2. I’ve just read your Blog on the subject of your cancer Bev……and confess to being astounded by your courage, wisdom and acceptance of this horrible disease, which has dared to try and change your lifestyle, and also your faith in a loving God. I relate to every word you wrote. Right now, with my MS galloping through my body, I can barely walk more than 5 yards, using 2 sticks, and am completely exhausted after the exertion. My hands and most of the rest of my body shake virtually the whole time. I believe my loss of hearing, reliance on stronger glasses, and lack of balance are all due to my condition. And then there are the memory problems, too, so I keep repeating myself, lose something I was just holding a minute ago,forget the names of people I’ve known for years, and get lost in places I knew like the back of my hand a few years ago. So, what is this all about,God? What have I done to deserve this? Why did you choose to take away my ability to walk?
    No answers come to comfort or sustain me as I rage against my Creator. In the silence I hear nothing. And this is where I’m left with the disabilities that I know God could release me from if He chose. But as I reflect on the last 6 years of hardship, I realise how much my attitudes to others have changed. I no longer judge other people, as I consider what hidden problems they might be dealing with. I smile at people I would have barely noticed in the past ….and they sometimes smile back! I befriend people I would have maybe avoided previously…….and feel blessed by spending time with them, as others just ignore them.
    In all these situations, I sense God is teaching me more about my former self and how judgemental I used to be. And I’m also learning how kind most people can be, which in itself is a blessing. These last few years have been hard, and there are no signs they’re going to be easier in the future. But what I’ve learned in this school of disability is the fundamental kindness of the majority of people, and above all, I’ve grown in the knowledge that God never leaves us nor abandons us, but blesses us in unexpected circumstances through people we might never have noticed before we were brought into our current situations, and learned we can’t manage on our own, because we all need one another.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Elizabeth, and for sharing something of your own story. God works in the most incredible ways and although we wouldn’t choose the paths he sends us along, they often turn out to be the best ones for us and he’s with us on the journey.

  3. Hi Bev you write so amazingly well; I love reading your blogs. You are doing so well and I applaud you. Bless you and keep writing!

    1. Thank you, Joy. It’s so lovely to get feedback, so I really appreciate you taking the time. It’s a funny old journey and I thought I would be in a constant state of panic about the whole thing, but I find I’m not! I can only put that down to the continuous prayers of others and the gift of faith from God himself. So many blessings are coming about because of this. Part of those are feeling part of something much bigger than ourselves and this sense of being alongside others. We ‘do community’ in so many different ways now and each is a blessing in itself.

  4. Bev, what a wonderful piece of writing. Totally understandable feelings, so real. God bless you. Praying for you for 9 Jan. xxx

    1. Thank you, Jane. I continue to enjoy your blog too! It’s part of the way I have used recovery time to ‘travel in mind’. I am hoping to be blogging about our trip to South East Asia next Autumn. I don’t want to be forever prattling about Cancer- it’s pretty boring really! Far more fun to write about the sights in Halong Bay 🙂
      God bless x

      1. The amazing gift of joy. Being full of joy and grace and peace doesnt mean that you are always joyous ans happy (I was once challenged on this in relation to my own journey not with cancer but my mental health) I only came to understand what freedom in Christ was at my lowest and most difficult moments.

        Your honesty is powerful. A reminder that none of us are immune to what life throws at us. A reminder that whatever our ability or status we are all human. We all have need to depend so much on God.

        Keep sharing your journey beautiful friend. You are shrouded in prayer. So many peoples lives you have touched… sit back and recieve from Him.

        Big love and hugs. Xxx

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