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Cancer is a Roller-Coaster

Cancer is a Roller-Coaster

"Cancer is a roller coaster. Three months ago I got very bad news. Today I got very good news. What will happen at my next scan?"

She writes

“I’ve been a bit off the radar a while. Feeling lots of mixed, upside down feelings … so prefer to lay low.  So much shaky ground, uncertain moments, unexpected experiences – it’s just the unknown that is so scary .…”

Then she texts,

“I’m very relieved that I have a good idea of what I’m dealing with now.”

I wonder – is there a stage at which we have a good idea as to what we’re dealing with? I so struggle to be there for her as I know what I expect, and don’t want to be the one to tell her so. I expect she’ll feel better and better, then normal again – and then go for the next treatment and be back to square one.

She adds,

“Been missing my mom lately.”

She is my niece who at 52 has a melanoma in her eye and mets, stages 3 and 4, in her liver.  Now she’s had her first round of immunotherapy and been through a week from hell.

I saw this over and over again with my 39 year old daughter Shirley who after eleven months died from lung cancer: You have treatment – in her case it was chemo – fade into a fug, ache, can’t see, vomit, ache, gulp down morphine for a week, and then feel somewhat better the next week, and so much better the next, actually feel glad you feel so much better – and that the scared thoughts subside… And then you go back for more of the Red Devil … and the cycle starts all over again.  Last time, after the first chemo you spent a whole night in a corridor in Emergency on a gurney in absolute agony until they could diagnose the cramps as the result of the chemo treatment and give you pain killers. Last time, after the first grey days Shirley starts to chat and feels better. What will happen this time? You wonder.

Shirley drags herself back for round 2 and is upset to find she is in the same single bed sterile ward. And the drawing pins on the board are exactly the same as they were last time. She gets out of bed and rearranges them –  surely this will make this time different? Better? Maybe.

In the book I wrote to tell her story, Shirley tells her friend Nick,

“I just can’t do this…”

I notice that in the few days before a new treatment begins, she becomes increasingly silent and withdrawn. In her diary she writes,

“I feel like normal life is over and there’s this monstrous fear ….”

She also describes the higgledy piggledy journey as “Swings and roundabouts.” She finds herself crying – she so wanted a full life, a second chance.

As her mother the ups and downs – and the unpleasant surprises – buffet me too. They buffet us all. Waiting for the results of scan after scan unnerves. For us all it becomes a mix of chemo, pain, frustration, fear and faith.

After Shirley died it took me a lot of time to emerge from the greyness of grief. I began to see she had a lot to offer other cancer sufferers. In time I put her story in a book.  I called it, Mum please help me die, because that was the last thing she asked me to do for her.  More than that, I recorded it in episodes as an audio book to be broadcast on radio.  You can listen in on Radio Cape Pulpit on Sunday nights at 11.45 pm (729AM). From March it has been broadcast in the programme, Leef at 10.00 am, on both Radio Cape Pulpit and  Radio Pulpit (657AM).   You will also find it on my website.

Someone wrote on Instagram,

“Cancer is a roller coaster. Three months ago I got very bad news. Today I got very good news. What will happen at my next scan?”

Because all of this is so harrowing I can understand when someone else writes,

“Sometimes I wonder if my family would be better off if my cancer and I weren’t here.”

Let Shirley encourage you as you read the book and/or listen to the broadcasts.


Thy Cameron

Thy Cameron

What will happen this time? You wonder.

Thy Cameron

About the Book

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Thy grew up on a small farm in a church-going family.  She always wanted to teach and completed a BA (Bachelor of Arts) and teaching diploma in South Africa and a Masters and doctorate online with Regent University, a Christian university in Virginia Beach USA. She loved being a radio journalist for a Christian radio station and produced and presented various programmes for 17 years.

As a little girl, Thy loved her mother’s garden, especially at sunset. Her relationship with God began when she marveled at a rose called ‘Peace’ and decided whoever made it must be wonderful. Over the years the most difficult times were the most precious. That was when God molded and shaped her faith.

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Hair falling out

Hair falling out

She’d been given the Red Devil – you might know it? – It’s very strong chemo, and now her hair was falling out.




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