Not held by fear

I’m definitely an ad hock writer but learning to be ok with that. Today in church we were encouraged to write out chapters of our stories and here is one from the last few month. It’s a long one but well worth a read.

I’m going to start with an apology not many knew I was facing what I am going to talk about today but I needed the circle on this to be small and I’ll explain why later.

So I’m about to go on a sailing trip with the Ellen Macather Cancer Trust in-fact I’m writing this from the train on route. It’s my second trip of the season my first being in April earlier this year. 2 days before I had a call, you know the ones you don’t want.

I’d had a scan in February, and the results got a little lost. But eventually I got a call in April, saying ‘we’ve looked at your scan’. I’m already in hyper drive! Thinking you don’t call for nothing. Come on spit it out… ugh get to the point… What is it? what’s wrong?! Still more waffle about how what they were looking for was clear but how sometimes these scans show other things…

Ok now I’m worrying it’s not my lungs, there is no scaring. This is what the routine scan was for. What is it?

They found an enlarged lymph node… if you’ve ever faced cancer you know where my brain was at right in that moment… ok so it’s fighting again then? Is it Hodgkins? I am at a higher risk, and that weird complication I had was early signs of this. My mind went straight there!

It wasn’t crazy big, but the radiographer had requested an ultrasound scan within 2 months (we were at that 2 month mark then). He says it could be due to an infection or it could be more sinister and with my history he wanted it checked. He want it done quickly because of the timeframe set by radiology. But thinks the best way for this was to have it in Hereford as if any follow up was needed it could be done locally. He also said it wasn’t an Immunology issue so they were handing it on. In this I heard we don’t think it’s infection related (as they deal with all this) and think it could be more sinister.

See once you face cancer you end up living in this place of a fear of relapsing. Living in the unknown and having the looming worry of relapse over you. You also become an expert in reading through the lines of the doctors while it’s hard to get their tone across in this I definitely felt the need for the rush to find out.

Within a few mins of putting down the phone I was a mess. In a place where my future was uncertain, and scared at how was going to impact this life I’ve finally started to get back.

I took a moment, and thought ok let’s be rational and rule this out. Have I had any other symptoms?

⁃ tiredness, yes but that could also be down to other things…

⁃ night sweats, ohh actually yes

⁃ Bruising, yep that killer bruise from Cyprus was still lingering months in

⁃ Itchy skin- yep

⁃ Unexplained weight-loss no but it’s the only one.

Now I realised this could just be coincidence, but instead of ruling it out it brought just more uncertainty.

Within a few hours, I’d had some people come around me and pray for me. I’d hit the practical mode of planning. Ok, so if I’m fighting it will still be early stages. I’d have minimal treatment and I’d be back to normal within 6months. I’d be ok… I could cope. Right when do I tell people? Who do I tell, how would I get to treatment? Where would I have treatment.

I called the Trust just so they knew where I was at head space wise for the residential trip. They said if I needed to or didn’t think I could they would manage without me. I say I’ll be ok and they say if you change your mind at any time let us know. I love the trust and how they care for their volunteers.

I arrive to big hugs from the team and a conversation about how if I need time out just to say. Throw myself in and forget about it.

Then just before going home I have a conversation with a young person about a scan they were waiting for, my advice to them was until you know try to assume it’s nothing, what’s the point wasting time worrying for what could be nothing.

I never realised just how hard this advice really was to follow, til I started to do it myself. Hitting reality of home, I was constantly checking the mail for the letter from my consultant to my G.P for scan referral. I let the waiting consume me. I spent the following few weeks calling doctors to chase things only to experience delay after delay of getting answers. Just getting more and more worried in the waiting.

I soon realised that this was a pointless waste of time. So chose not to let the fear or worry steal from me any longer. While this was a journey that didn’t always work. I chose to refocus each time on God knowing he has it all. Knowing that worry solved nothing so why waste my time with it.

In church and academy we sang this song called follow you anywhere by passion. Part of the lyrics are ‘there’s a million reasons to trust you, nothing to fear for you are by my side, I’ll follow you anywhere.’ One week we were singing this and I broke. Into such a blubbering mess, because I realised I’m singing this and truly meaning it. But that following God anywhere also means anywhere even back into the fight.

A week or so later I go on a walk with God. It actually felt more like I’d gone 10 rounds with Him. After an hour he says to me that I fail to have desires of the heart all because I’m too afraid of them being ripped out from under me, and while yes I was surrendered it was only because I had nothing to surrender.

The days that followed I went on several more walks and realised just how right this was. I was ready to fight but part of the reason for this was because although yes outcomes were unknown it would bring in a lot of known to. I’d be re-entering my comfort zone and the place I thrived, being a super patient who knew how to navigate through. This was my comfort zone.

I soon realised as I had a plan for if I was to fight I also needed one for if I wasn’t. I needed to put those dreams and desires in my heart again, and not be so afraid of loosing the things in my life that I refused to live. In this I realised just how long I lived in the fear of loosing it all.

Yes I’ve written about this before and I’m not saying I haven’t been living, or acting on this by going on the journey of truly living. What I’m realising tho is there is always more. ALWAYS MORE!

I won’t say right now what those things in my heart are. But for the first time in the longest time I can truly say I have dreams, I have aspirations and I’m chasing after them unafraid of them being swept away again.

Oh yea the lump.. It’s taken 6 months from my initial scan to answers. But I had a scan about 2 weeks ago and it’s nothing! NOTHING! The lymph node is still enlarged but completely within normal range, and so nothing to worry about.

Yes I cried when I left the hospital seems like even though I wasn’t letting the fear of future hold me. There was still a huge sense of relief that my future didn’t look like more drip stands and treatments.

I would have told people if it was something but I felt that worrying others as well was silly and unnecessary. I also decided I didn’t want to make a big deal about it and felt it would help with this.

Sometimes we are taken on unexpected journeys to unearth and uncover different things.

This chapter of my life has taught me

⁃ not to live in a place of fear or worry.

⁃ That my faith is strong and knowing I can trust God makes life that bit easier.

⁃ That not everyone needs to know every battle you face, for me this helped because I wasn’t constantly being asked for updates from everyone. It also increased my faith because I chose to lean on God in these moments more.

⁃ That doctors are over worked humans who can forget to send letters but be patient with them.

⁃ That I have a future

⁃ That I can really live

⁃ That it’s normal to have dreams and aspirations and these can be from God too.

⁃ That prayer works

⁃ Having people that speak life into situations of death and uncertainty is so helpful for keeping you positive and worry free.

#thisismystory #MyStoryHisGlory

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Cancer. It no longer defines me!

Hey lovely people,

Today is world cancer day and so thought it was apt to write this post today. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to write about for a very long time, and back in November I spoke on this at FYSOT (a Teenage Cancer Trust conference). I’m going to try and write more than what I chose to speak on, simply because lots has changed since then too. However, to start I’m going to talk about how and why I first started to loose the cancer label.

So obviously if you haven’t read my blog before you have guessed I had cancer, well technically I didn’t. It was a blood disorder called Very Sever Aplastic but treated similarly, so it was cancer-ish. For me it was an incredibly hard season of my life. I had to have a bone marrow transplant which basically strips you back to nothing, both physically and mentally.  It changes your life so drastically, and often quite dramatically too, that you loose who you are. Re-building your life after something like this, well its certainly not easy.

For me I felt like I had nothing, my life was a shell of what it once was. I had to suspend uni for a year and a half and even when I went back it wasn’t the same, I wasn’t the same. I had to adapt to my ‘new life’ and the restrictions that illness had imposed on me. I felt distant from friends, and felt that they lacked the understanding (even though they were massively supportive). I’d struggled with memory loss and PTSD and my mental health was in a mess.  The things that got me through this time however were incredible charities like CLIC Sargent, Teenage Cancer Trust, and Ellen MacArthur Cancer.

I will often say that cancer-ish whilst being the worst thing that ever happened, it was also the best, it changed everything. Incredibly I got the best help and support I could have ever imagined and I was able to rebuild a sort of life thanks to these incredible charities.

I finished treatment but walked into this sort of half life. Unable to fully live due to the complications, late effects and long journey of recovery that I was on. So while normal life was still a way off, I decided that the best thing I could do was to immerse myself into the cancer world. This had me in a place with people that understood and where expectations of me weren’t too high or unachievable.

I felt that once I finished treatment, and returned back to university that I’d moved on from cancer. I thought I was done and as much as I possibly could moved past it. After I finished uni I was pretty sick still. Around the same sort of time 3 years ago I walked through the doors at Freedom Church. I was really unsure on where my life was heading. Especially as the internship that I was doing at the time with CLIC Sargent, simply proved how unready I was for the world of work, due to my late effects.

About a year in (maybe longer) someone at my church came up to me and said I just think you really need to loose the cancer label. I was furious, I didn’t see it. I thought I’d already lost it, and was really angry about it. I’d moved on as much as I possibly could and thought ‘how dare she say this when she knew nothing about it’. I avoided her for a good 6 months, but then someone pointed out to me that if it wasn’t there how did someone else see it?

So I began investigating how I portrayed myself, and then I realised. When introducing myself to anyone I’d ask what do you do? When the question was thrown back at me- I’d respond well I can’t work because of the late effects from cancer-ish. The problem with answering a question in this way was that the questions that followed were never about what I did get to do, but always about the Cancer and the late effects I suffered. So when I realised this, I started to change the way I talked about it, simply talking about the volunteering that I did. Its was amazing when people knew more about my sailing than the days in bed I had to take. Changing how I talked about it changed everything so much so that about 6 months later one of my newer friends had no idea that I’d ever even been ill. I was no longer held by this label of Cancer-ish!

Fast forward to November when I first got asked to give a talk at first I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t up for telling the sob story and wasn’t sure about emerging myself in a world full of people who were still living that story. With EMCT its completely different- because its about building confidence and learning a new skill, getting out of the cancer world bubble and finding yourself again. This conference however isn’t about stepping out its more about relating to others.

I decided to do it but not just to be another story where you hear about the dodgy diagnosis or moments you nearly died. But one of life change even when the odds were stacked against me. Even when I hadn’t recovered like others had, after all I still had chronic fatigue, memory issues and no immune system. I talked on loosing the cancer label and how changing my language around it changed so much. What is so amazing is that I still have people reaching out now or commenting how good a talk it was for them. By sharing insight into the small changes I made its helped way more than just me.

 

 

While I was preparing I asked God (yep I’m a christian too!) to guide me in what to write which he did. I’d never have chosen to talk so openly about my mental health without his nudge. However not only did God show me all of the areas I had worked through and overcome. Like how changing the way you speak can change so much, or that I’d defied the odds time and time again and stepped out into new things like the course I’m doing now. He also showed me all the things I still had to work on like loosing the crippling control issues I had. Speaking life and not sickness over myself, getting bigger vision for my future, and believing that I do have a future. He showed me how I’d let the fear control me, and how my health and wealth were intertwined (I’m sure at one stage i’ll explain all these a bit more).

I can now honestly and truly say that control plays way less a part of my life now, I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and I know more is to come! Illness doesn’t define my outlook any longer (which doesn’t mean I don’t still face it- but its in a completely different way). For the first time in 8 and a half years I can say that Cancer doesn’t define what I do. That cancer label which yes will always be apart of my life no longer has a negative impact on me or my life.

I can truly say I’m Thriving not just Surviving.

I can’t wait to see what my future holds, but one thing I know for sure is I will keep going and will keep sailing as its a great opportunity to inspire and help others.

All the best

Wen

ps. If your one of my cancer friend reading this and want to know more please dm me and I’d love to talk more about what I shared. Go loose that label! thrive.jpg

The start of something NEW!

Like always, its been a while. Sorry for that- its not that I’ve not had things to say it’s more been is it the right time to say it…. and for most things it still isn’t- but one day i’ll get round to then hundreds of blog post ideas and getting some of the things said that I’ve wanted to for a long time.

This blog post is about CHANGE! Something that I massively hate and have done for the longest time… but something feels different this time and I can’t quite put my finger on it- maybe I will as I keep typing. Stood in the kitchen of my friends house last night I said about how I really don’t like change and doing something new always terrified me yet I hadn’t felt like that moving out recently as I began the process of  moving from Cardiff to Hereford (I’ll explain more later).

Growing up I defiantly was someone who needed a routine and I was someone who was always busy- every night of the week I had something… and I also would often cram in swimming before school too… routine and business kept me going. Deciding to go to college, Camp America and University was all stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing change… but it was hard! Then after I got sick even the smallest of changes unsettled me- I remember how fearful I was when anything changed. Going on my first EMCT trip I remember telling my social worker I didn’t want to go, and returning to University seemed like an impossible challenge. I think getting ill worsened my outlook on change because my life changed so drastically in an instant… I went from a normal university life to one surrounded by drip machines and months of isolation. Knowing how quickly you can loose it all really rocked me for a long time.

Things however, have finally changed…. and although I still don’t like change but I’m learning to embrace it and run with it… and having faith is helping massively with that. Don’t get me wrong I still have concerns and I’m still nervous about the change but I also know that I don’t need to worry about every little thing. I’m putting faith into my faith, and knowing that whilst I’m unsure on how I’m going to manage financially or with the practicalities of life in a new place- this should not and will not hold me back from giving it a good old go!

I’m leaving the life I’ve built for myself in the wonderful city of Cardiff, and its hard. This city has been home for the past 9 years, its where I met some incredible friends through uni, hospital and church. It’s a place I got to call my own, a place of safety and a place where I’ve got to be me. This past few weeks I’ve said goodbye to some incredible flatmates, my stomping ground where I’ve been based for at least 6 of those years, my favourite coffee shops and favourite places and I’ve had moments of sadness in this- not knowing if i’ll get to call these places mine again… (I’m not saying I won’t be back its just if I’m back it will be different). I’m also going embracing the fact that I could be called anywhere after Academy and I’m not ruling anything out yet…

Last night on my way to my last rehearsal with church I got teary… goodbyes have never been a strong point for me, I find them hard and I will often push those I’m close to away in preparation for it (I know this is not the way to do it but its a habit I’m yet to break- so I’m really sorry if I’ve done this- its most defiantly a me thing and recognising it is a huge step for me…so please accept this as an apology). The team I’ve had the privilege of working along side at church have been well incredible… they have taught me so much, not just in faith but in skills and in leadership qualities. They have helped me transform from a broken girl who felt like I could bring nothing to one who can get stuck in, own the vision and now I’ve been training others up too. This team have been key in that transformation they have pushed me when I’ve needed it and helped me manage my health when I’ve needed that too. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without them and the hours of love and prayer they have given me. I’m going to miss them all massively especially Sam and Kyle who have rocked production managing and have pushed me further than I ever thought possible. Last night they gave me a lovely send off with a couple of gifts including beautiful orchid which I’ve named ‘Mac Toshi’ after the beloved big mac.

Mac ToshiThey also prayed for me which is a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. They spoke such wonderful words about me, from the transformation that has taken place in me, to the glue I’ve been for the team… They also prayed into my future and gave me some key things to hold for the days ahead. Yes there will be a hole in the team because I’m leaving but that will soon fill with the guys stepping up and new people joining the team. I’m going to have a huge hole in my heart for this team tho- and knowing that I’m not ever coming back to the same team because everyone grows and new people will be added and others will be sent out… it does however make me immensely proud of the team that has been built here. Thank you Production team its been a blast!

I’ve got 2 more Sunday’s in church but because i’m sailing next week, which feels immensely perfect as I did my first time trip the week before I moved back to Cardiff to start University again- now i’m sailing the week before my new course. This has meant some goodbyes have already had to happen… I’ve said some goodbyes to those who I’ve known for years and thats been tough… please make me accountable to staying in touch its something I’m not great at but hope this time i’ll do better at it. I move to Hereford on the 10th September and I’ll be taking part in a leadership course with my church called Freedom Academy… it’s a ten month programme (2 days a week) designed to grow our;

  • understanding of the Christian faith
  • relationship with God
  • sight into the role and development of leadership (insight and experience)
  • growth personally

I’m super excited and think this change feels different to others because it feels so right for me, because I now have an unshakeable faith and because I’ve learnt to embrace change not fear it! I also know its the right time for me to do something new otherwise i’d just be forming a rut and one that i’d never move on from. I’ll be living with lots of people from all over and its gonna be tough and very challenging. If you pray then i’d love prayer covering  a few things

  1. My finances for the year- I’m stepping out into the unknown until I’m there I won’t know what the impact on my finances there maybe so be praying that i’ll have enough to afford to live and pay rent and course fees.
  2. Friendships- for great bonds to be formed in and out of church.
  3. Health- for my immune system to not be effected too much with the change of environment and my energy levels not to dip as much this winter.
  4. Existing Relationships- for me to navigate the best way to stay in touch with people (I’m not the best at this).
  5. Personally- that I’m able to open up, trust and give this year my all.

I’m so grateful for all the things that have helped build me to who i am today and I’m looking forward to see the change that this year has on my life further down the line… I’m looking forward to reviewing how I action some of this and seeing how I grow. Thank-you to every single person that has encouraged, challenged and pushed me I wouldn’t be facing this new challenge if it hadn’t have been for your input.

 

Prayer

Hey all, Finally feeling more human after being on strong antibiotics for about a month- had a week in the middle of the 2 course without the strong ones and still a week left. However I’m finally through it and feeling more human again. It’s been so hard to do much over the past few weeks and at times I felt like I’d completely shut down. This coupled with a few other things has meant at a time when I should have been leaning in to God more I haven’t been. However, I have been super grateful to have some awesome people around me fighting for me in prayer, and generally having my back.

This prompted me to be quite challenged this week, especially on Saturday when a group of people doing academy in Hereford visited. Boy did things really turn around- I’m not gonna go into too much detail but these guys are incredible and I was so encouraged by them, and they have spired me on so much. So thanks guys- if you don’t know the difference you have made- ask Ruth or message me privately and please continue to pray for me. This years academy students really are awesome, if you get the chance hang out with them… or read about how they are putting faith into action here- https://hannahgraycrosby.wordpress.com/2018/01/25/scott-the-artist/

So one of the many challenges I’ve faced this past week and really past 4 weeks, has been accepting prayer and praying for myself. Some in my small group know praying for myself is something I find really really difficult (still do) and having people pray with me or for me is also something I find tough but am learning to accept and embrace it. I was asked a before Christmas why this was and I have to say that until this weekend I had no idea. For those non-christians reading this stick with it, please continue reading and you might gain something from this. Prayer works- it may seem silly but I’ve seen the results of prayer, seen it in my own life and seen it in countless others lives too. Now God isn’t some genie who grants wishes, and goodness knows we have all thrown up that God if your real- let me win the lottery prayer. (He’s probably sick of hearing this one thousands of years ago- so imagine where he’s at now.) However I’ve seen mountains shift in peoples lives thanks to the power that prayer has. I’ve experienced and seen healing thanks to prayer. Yet in my life I still find it tough to accept, and really hard.

At freedom church one of our five DNA (what we stand by as a movement) is Amazing Faith. https://youtu.be/soj_FQbT844 I would say this is probably the DNA that I know I still have a way to go with. Now I’m not saying I don’t step out in faith, or can believe for mountains to be moved. However I find it much easier to believe for this to happen in someone else life than my own. This week I realised part of the reason for this has roots from when I got sick (all those moons ago). One thing I distinctly remember is having people come up to me and tell me that they were praying for me. At the time I would get so offended by this, no one asked me if I wanted them to pray for me. In all honesty I didn’t want them to- I was so lost and confused at why God has caused all of this suffering within our world. Why cancer and cancer-ish existed I didn’t want prayer because I didn’t believe it had any worth, value or purpose. I’d have much preferred they didn’t tell me, or didn’t bother at all. I remember the new vicar at church saying he was praying for me and I thought he was a complete loon he hardly knew me, and I certainly didn’t want prayer from someone unknown… However, now looking back I’m not sure where i’d have been without it. I know that now I pray for thousands of randoms without asking.

This past week God has had me in a place where I’ve physically, mentally and emotionally felt every prayer thats been said for me. Even at times when I’ve woken not knowing who it was that was praying but whole heartedly knowing someone was. I’ve seen the difference of how my church approach prayer, whilst you still have people comment they are praying for you. We are a church that asks can i pray with you/for you? there is something more to this… at the moment i can’t quite get to it. But is powerful, special and immensely life changing.

I heard something once that every human at some point in their lives has prayed. Even if it was for that lottery win, or elusive snow day off school. Thousands upon thousands of people all around the world are praying right now, there are 24/7 prayer organisations (Freedom Church being one of them). Prayer works, else this would have died out thousands of years ago. My prayer life still has some way to go and although I’m great at getting behind and fighting in prayer for others- I defiantly need to work on praying for myself.

This is just one of the many things I’ve learnt this week. I’m gonna try and be better at telling you more about my learnings, and get better at writing blogs from that long list of topics I have, however I’m not expecting this to happen over night (or anytime soon- it is winter after all).

Lots of love till next time- I’ll be praying for you.

Wen x

ps- when i sat down to write this wasn’t what I was expecting to come out.

Pps. Just want to say a huge thank you to the academy guys- especially Ruth Djirackor aka Kenyan Ruth for really helping me by encouraging my spiritual gifting and giving me the boot in the butt I needed.

The Faith that rocked.

Don’t switch off because I’m gonna be talking about religion read this anyway cuz it’s about more than just that… So where to start?? Well it has to be Emily. If you’ve read my previous blogs about her I apologise you’re gonna be hearing more about her but I’m so grateful for all that she has done for me and I can’t even thank her. I don’t know if anyone else has ever experienced it but if you have that one friend that has changed your life forever and they are still about phone them right now and say thank you! Life is far to short not to!

So those of you who have been in my life in the past few weeks or months I’m sure I will have spoken to you about Freedom Church but this post is going to explain a lot more about it, and how I ended up there and why last Sunday I chose to get baptised.

I grew up in a Christian household and went to church (St Stephens) every week in my home town of Redditch and I always believed in God that has never changed. Many points during my childhood/early adulthood I got angry with God for what he did and didn’t stop from happening. I just didn’t get it, I didn’t understand how this God could create a world where bad things happen. I got confirmed but that was more because I wanted to have the bread and the wine. I went to a church youth group which was part of Emmanuel church during my teens where we would explore Gods word a little more but if I’m honest I went for the friendship rather than the religion. I went to church to tick a box and say yep been this week I’m a good christian but I never really listened or understood being a christian is so much more than that.

When I was diagnosed with cancer-ish I had people say they were praying for me but honestly I wanted to knock them out (couldn’t because I had no energy) I was so done with religion. How could God exist if he was going to put me through this I thought? I didn’t want people to pray for me because at that point I’m not sure I knew if I even wanted to get better or not- I was so tired and so weak, my immediate future had been taken away from me. I didn’t want God in my life but I still believed in God. I was told by my consultant that I couldn’t go to crowded places and that church was an infection risk so I stopped going… After treatment I really struggled! I have a great cancer friend called Luned who really tried to get me back to church, taking me to #convinced?/#cardiffstory but I just wasn’t ready for it. In 2013 i made a film along with some others about faith (now I look at it and its so cringey and so not where I’m at now) have a watch https://jtvcancersupport.com/2013/06/faith/ I was in and out of church only going for special occasions.

So almost a year ago (a year ago on Monday) I lost an incredible friend to cancer- His name was Peter Wilkinson- he worked for the amazing JTV Cancer support (the site I just sent you too). It was heartbreaking, I found out at the end of a rugby match (anyone who knows me knows how passionate I get) and I went from this high of emotion to utter despair. We knew Peter’s life would be shorter thanks to his brain tumours but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it was going to hit me. I’ve lost many cancer friends over the years and while there were a few I’ve really missed Peter (like Emily) was in a different league. I never went to cancer friends funerals but thanks to some amazing friends I was able to go to Peter’s funeral. This may sound weird but Peter’s funeral was a dream funeral. It was perfect for him, they talked about the Peter before cancer and him growing up, they spoke about Peter and his life with cancer (#tumorhumour #boom) and Peter & Debs (his life with his wonderful wife). Peter was described as superman, because he was human most of the time but superman when he needed to be. Throughout all of his eulogy they spoke about how Peter found comfort in his faith which left me a bit confused yet comforted How could Peter keep his faith when I lost mine? Yet I was really pleased he had faith because he was comforted in his final weeks by this. The worship was more upbeat than I was use to but I loved it, we left the funeral to Jump Around (House of Pain). I left feeling comforted that Peter was in a better place now.

Over the next few months I didn’t really think much about it until I spoke with the wonderful Emily. One of my final conversations with Em was about faith, I talked to her about Peter and his amazing funeral and how I didn’t understand how she, peter and Luned kept their faith throughout. She pointed out it wasn’t easy but a work in progress, but then in true Emily style she sucker punched me. So if you found this funeral so amazing, why haven’t you seen this as your sign to find a church that’s right for you? Wow ok Em don’t hold back will you. Oh and how right she was, so I spent some time at home googling local churches and reading about them and found Freedom Church was literally 2 mins away from me. I looked on their Facebook page and saw that a friend from Uni liked it… so then obviously stalked Ste on Facebook and saw him on stage behind some drums Wow I thought he’s loving it and pretty involved. (I knew Peter had been in a band so this seemed like that sign)  So I watched a few preaches on their Facebook page and was like ok yea its pretty relevant I’ll go see what its like. I went to tell Em that i was going to go on Sunday but she had been moved into the isolation rooms so I decided I’d tell her after I’d been what it was like.

So Mothers day 2016 I walked into Freedom Church Cardiff for the first time. Wow do those guys know how to welcome you I was greeted on the door by Andy, then took two steps and got a flower (thanks to it being mothers day) then Ant saw me looking a bit lost and greeted me and asked if it was my first time in Freedom. I explained I knew Ste from uni and that’s what brought me- ste was on the next set of doors and as soon as he saw me he gave me a huge hug. Next thing i know I’m sat on the front row next to Ant and Ste. Now I’d prepared myself that it was going to be different from the traditional church I’d been use to but Freedom was something else- I’ve spent a long time working out how to describe what its like and really the only way you will ‘get it’ is to come but it’s basically like going to a gig followed by the most inspiring relatable religious ted talk you’ve ever experienced. Ste jumps during worship and I’m sure he was jumping above my shoulders. But wow did it hit me, I was in tears in the first worship song because I suddenly felt so connected to Peter again, I knew it was the sort of place he would have loved. I couldn’t wait to hear when Em was up for visitors so I could tell her all about it. The preach hit me like a em style sucker punch and at the end of the preach they ask if anyone would like to respond to getting to know this Jesus they talk about or If you’ve been away a while and you are recommitting back to the journey with Jesus. I had felt so moved I couldn’t not respond- but I originally thought i was responding to coming back- Its only now i realise how wrong I was.

The following Saturday I was at a volunteers day for the Ellen Macather Cancer Trust- which takes young people in recovery from cancer sailing, something I’d managed to convince Em to sign up for. It was the first time I’d seen people who were at Peter’s funeral so it brought back some tough emotions. At lunch they have a room with a memory tree- I wrote a message for Peter and put it on the tree- but felt really uneasy and had to take a step back in the afternoon sessions, after I was sat watching England v Wales in a pub in Birmingham with some- it wasn’t going well for us (welsh) and i looked down at my phone to see a message from Donna- Emily’s mum ‘Emily died at lunchtime xx’. I couldn’t breath, I was so overcome by grief I could not believe it, Emily’s death was so unexpected for me- despite me getting ‘the look’ from Nargal (our tct doctor) last time I tried to visit- Em was gonna pull through, she had so much to she wanted to do. It was so tough! I was such a mess. I hadn’t got to tell her i’d gone back to church. I couldn’t understand how someone with so much purpose and direction could die and there was me bumbling through and I get to survive. The next day I decided I would watch church online (Yep Freedom are also online!) I sobbed most of the way through it because now church meant that bit more. Church was hard work over the following few weeks but I kept going and started going to our small groups (catalyst groups) mid week. Em’s funeral was hard I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to someone who had made such a big impact in my life. Rev Rhiannon Francis spoke about her relationship with Emily from her hospital bed and being with Emily’s family as she passed. She described how Emily’s soul could no longer be contained I at this point visualised this cracked pot with a purple light peaking through. Soon after we were shown a purple crystal I knew that’s what i was seeing inside this vessel. Em shone, she was bright (smart and her personality) she drew people in and defiantly left you in awe. The sermon/eulogy made me realise that Emily had something I didn’t- a real relationship with God. I didn’t get it at this point still but I decided i needed to push in, listen and act upon what I was learning at church until I did get it.

Fast forward to about 6 weeks ago and I’ve been going to church for a few months and all this time I’ve been learning- looking at how others could open up their bibles and pick them apart. I found reading it like reading Shakespeare- hard and very easy to put down. Then Karin Cooke one of our wonderful pastors did an in-house preach on John 15 about growth. We were shown a picture of a dying withered branch (in this moment God spoke to me and said right now this is you- but it’s not what i have for you). The scripture talks about how God is our gardener, he prunes so that we can grow and be fruitful but to do this we need to remain in him, and his word without this the vine withers and dies. Karin talked about how we all begin as seeds and need to be in the dark soil to gain nutrients and be watered- It was a lightbulb moment suddenly everything Id been learning over the many many years made sense- and it was like the moments when a seed plants its roots in the ground for me. I understood that to be a christian is way more than just believing in God, its about the relationship you have with him. All of a sudden everything made sense and the things I’d been trying to put into practice over the weeks before stuck too- like my foundations had been laid. I understood that sometimes we have to go through the bad to be able to see all of good and to get to the place we are now in. We were set the challenge of John 15 in 15 mins every day for a month- and boy did I learn things from this (ask me about it and I’ll tell you more).

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If it hadn’t been for being diagnosed I’m not sure I’d be alive today- I had a 5 year plan to become a teacher and I’d decided that if anything got in the way of that I’d either run away or I’d kill myself. I know got dark quickly then but at the time I was in such a dark place this is what I felt. Cancer saved my life because I had no choice but to accept the treatment, and when I got PTSD after transplant and had to struggle with repressed memories of things that had happened before my transplant I was lucky enough to have Jude Rowlands (my amazing CLIC Sargent social worker) in my life who helped me get the right support in place and I have had lots of problems with my mental health since. I still struggle from time to time yes but boy have I come a long way a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have been open and honest about this.

I can now look back over my life and I see so many times when my outcome could have been different. When I’ve had good people step into my life at just the right moment. When that conversation I had with Emily came just at a point when I really needed it! The past 6 months without Emily have been really hard, because there have been so many moments I know she has influenced- pushed me to go to something, or speak to somebody. I can’t Thank Emily or Peter- but without them I probably wouldn’t have walked into Freedom Church. The past 6 weeks have been eye-opening, heart wrenching, and a constant stream of OHHH… ok I get it moments. I hadn’t realised how dead i’d become- I hadn’t realised how tough I was really finding things. However over the past 7 months I’ve found a church family who I love, I’ve found new friends that just like my cancer friends come from all backgrounds and walks of life, I’ve found a home in my city and most importantly I’ve found my Faith!

Last week I decided I should get baptised because although I was christened as a baby and confirmed I hadn’t accepted Jesus into my life at those points. I knew I needed to show that to the people who had helped make that happen (my freedom family). 7 weeks ago in freedom church I would turn up as the event started and I’d only sometimes hang around after. Now I love that place so much because of the change and massive impact its had on my life I’m volunteering there and I’m never late, I’ve made stronger connections with those that go there and now I’m a much part of their lives as they are mine. I’m still very young on my journey and like most christians I’m far from perfect and I don’t have it all down yet but it’s ok because it’s about being on that journey- growing and developing. Some people in my life have seen a huge shift in me over the last few months and it really is incredible I know the best is yet to come and my story is far from over. I’m just so unbelievably grateful for all those who have helped me get to where I am today.

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I couldn’t recommend finding a community and a church strongly enough. If you’ve read this and been moved message me, if you’d like to find a church that’s relevant to you- message me. I’d love to help. Check out http://www.freedomchurch.cc/about follow freedom church on YouTube and watch some of the preaches. Feel free to ask me questions because I’ve only skimmed the surface here.

For now sorry for such a long blog but

Goodnight God bless #boom