In the last few months I have spent some time in hospital as an inpatient. The first time I was in for just over two weeks in April for my stem cell transplant. The second was for a couple of days or so in June as I had pneumonia. As my immune system was weakened because of the transplant, I was able to have my own room (Costa del Chemo). As there is always a running commentary going on in my head most of the time (tell me I’m not the only one), I thought I’d write about it. Writing about the experience was one of my thoughts from my hospital bed, but let’s call that a bonus as I share five others with you.
1. The food isn’t that bad.
I know. I’m as shocked as you. ‘How’s the food?’ is a question we like to ask, but hospital food is known for being awful isn’t it? Ok, they do rotate the menu so you end up getting the same choices eventually and that can get a bit boring. But I had a lot to choose from the outset. Plus the desserts were excellent. The portion sizes were better for my waistline. The stuff I chose was, on the whole, pretty good. And I told the staff that – and they were surprised too. I don’t want to get into the habit of visiting hospitals and sampling the cuisine however.
2. A change is as good as a rest – but this change was not restful.
It’s full on being a Mum so spending time in hospital with my feet up is a break, right? I’m sure no one is thinking that. Yes, I had my own room and joked that it was laid out like a Premier Inn (this was my room in isolation). I didn’t have other patients keeping me awake. But I felt yucky, tired and planned my day according to the rhythm of the hospital which does keep you tired, on top of having your immunity wiped out. In the early morning I had observations and bloods taken, breakfast at 7.30am, medication, a bit of daytime TV (which was just background noise because it was just so awful), shower and dressed before the doctors assessed my progress, chemotherapy, more observations, lunch, passing time until dinner, managing side effects and then the quiet of the night as the day staff went home and the night staff took over. Then it started all over again. The real rest and recovery comes when… well… we’re all exhausted from so much at the moment, aren’t we?
3. It really is a case of taking one day at a time.
Laying there, I would tell myself to take it a day at a time, not knowing how I would be feeling from one day to the next. Although all of the days ran like a well oiled machine, I certainly didn’t. The doctors and nurses had given me an indication of what side effects could happen and it was a matter of waiting and seeing how my body responded. I remained thankful that each day was not as bad as I thought it could have been. Sometimes it is the thoughts of the unknown which are worse and they can cripple you. I kept thinking upon the verses throughout my treatment: ‘You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you’ (Isaiah 26:3 ESV) and ‘But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you’ (Psalm 56:3 NLT). Although I was afraid, I trusted in my Saviour Jesus and all that He has done and continues to do for me. When I looked to Him, He calmed my racing mind and anxious heart with the peace that He gives by His Spirit. I was never alone in my suffering despite being isolated and unsure of all that was to come.
4. I want to take my kids out, like all the other parents.
I spent time scrolling on my phone when my mind was too tired to read. Thinking about it now, audiobooks and music might have been the better option. It was beautiful sunshine when I was having my transplant. Looking at the clear blue sky from my hospital bed was appreciated. Yet, when I went on social media it was filled with the smiling faces of families taking their children out to enjoy the weather. I was missing my two little ones so much and in my weakened state, I knew I couldn’t do all of those things even if I wanted to. I just wanted to do the simple things with them, like go for a walk, give them a cuddle and just be there. It was a hard season to be parted from them, but it made me appreciate and be thankful for every moment with my family.
5. God is answering my prayer.
Before our lives changed substantially through this experience of a cancer relapse, I had prayed to know the Father’s heart. In the middle of a pandemic, after having my second child in the midst of it, then losing my Nan and being diagnosed with cancer for the second time, I thought God was on my case. It was a relentless season of suffering that didn’t seem to ease. At times I was angry toward God. I sobbed, begged, feared. It made me think about my mortality seriously for the first time. It opened my eyes to what felt like a clear divide between the healthy and the sick, and I was now back in the ‘sick’ camp. In short, it drove me straight into the Father’s arms. There were times when I’m sure God’s arms were outstretched toward me, but I felt distant toward Him and kept at arms length. As I saw my reflection in the mirror through tears and anger, I thought ‘you’ve ruined me’ as I looked at my appearance with loathing. But in the brokenness and times where I felt alone, He was close, tender and merciful. Knowing God more and giving Him glory is the pursuit of my life. Knowing His heart is an ongoing endeavour. From the hospital bed, I was resting in the everlasting arms of my God. As Deuteronomy 33:27 (NLT) says, ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.’
This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less reliance on self and the world. I have never heard anyone say, “The really deep lessons of life have come through times of ease and comfort.” But I have heard strong saints say, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with him has come through suffering.”John Piper