Friday

Crucifixion.

Many years ago, my friend Rachel who's a Greek/Theology scholar amongst other things (including keeping bees which I think I admire even more) said this:

"It's not the crucifixion and the suffering that are the key, it's the death. Once you agree to die then resurrection is a done deal."

As she has a Virgo moon, she'll probably correct the sentence as I'm paraphrasing :-) but can you get the point?

I always got it intellectually but this time (with a few hiccups and still some moments of backsliding) I'm beginning to get it in my soul.

It's been somewhat of a journey because there's so much hanging on the cross to let go of, and I've just had a brilliant session with my friend and healer, Deb Rowley, which has helped, yet again. If you don't know Deb and need some help, find her here. She is the real deal.

We all get crucified — whether it's divorce, bereavement, loss of job or a health crisis or something completely different. Some of us jump off and just move on. The problem comes when we hold on to the cross for dear life because somehow that pain has become part of our identity. Possibly we get more attention and love because of the suffering or maybe we just get used to the pain.

Caroline Myss calls it 'Woundology' and she tells a story about a woman who always had to say that she couldn't do this or that because it would conflict with her incest survivors' support group. The need was to tell everyone how much she needed that group and that she was a survivor of incest. BUT the group obviously hadn't helped her move past the horrific reality of incest because she still needed to point out her 'wound' when it wasn't relevant to the conversation. She could easily have said, 'No, I can't do that date' without the additional information.

Wounds re-invent themselves too. Whatever weakened your psyche in childhood will return again and again. My classic and all-embracing wound was called 'nothing I do works' and came along because no matter what I did, I couldn't heal my mother and I wanted to, desperately.

She gave me a clue (which I missed - duh!) when I did a talk for a society of which she was a member years ago. It was a talk on healing and afterwards someone said to her, in my hearing, 'you must be very proud of your daughter' and she replied, 'yes, the only person she can't heal is me.'

Which, come to think of it as I am now, was probably a bit of a barb too!

Anyway, it repeated and repeated in a subtle way even though I've had an amazing life, travelled round China, worked in radio and TV, written more than a dozen books, been ordained, become a professional stand-up comedian etc. etc. But there have been times when it counted when something that really should have worked simply didn't. Lots of times. That was where what Eckhart Tolle would call 'the pain body' said, 'let's make sure Maggy gets taken down a peg or two.'

So what a classic opportunity for this demon (and it is an inner demon) to come up when I was diagnosed with lymphoma: 'Gosh, look, Maggy. All your holistic and spiritual lifestyle, your teaching, your books and your ordination has led to is this, therefore, you must be the biggest fraud on the planet.' Tie that to my learned 'wound' that chemotherapy had killed Henry and we can really get some humiliation going for Maggy, can't we just?

But humiliation and humility are, oddly enough, uncomfortable bedfellows. Embrace the latter and you get off the cross. Hold the former and you'll hang there, dying but not dead, for as long as it takes.

I have a friend on Facebook (not you Mel!) who is still hanging on the cross of her lost baby. Now that's a terrible, terrible, genuine wound and at the moment she needs to reinforce it with every post. But it's more than five years ago and she's re-inflicting it on herself with every sad reference. She's crucifying herself because she daren't let go.

I think I've posted before that my ex-husband left me once but through my hurt pride I made him leave me a thousand times in my thoughts.

So my job here, is to get off the cross of not managing to heal myself holistically when so many others have; to get off the cross of chemo having killed Henry, and to get off the cross of the obsession that the doctors around him were culpable in not seeing that in time. That was then, this is now. Chemo saved my life so I can never again agree with anyone else's wounds that it's wrong or evil. I can't even blame big pharma any more - both of which are big crosses to get off, dammit!

But get off them I must. I have to say, every time, 'I don't know.' I don't know. I only know what worked for me. And I'm glad and grateful that it did. That's my resurrection.

I'm also sure that's what Jesus came to show us: not that we should be 'Christians' and worship him, but that we must follow his example so that when we are being strung up for no discernible reason whatsoever, we can have the humility to say 'so be it' and to forgive (which means 'to give up that which went before' - not to condone).

We can't get off immediately - of course we must grieve and work through the pain and the problem - and yes that can take a year or two, maybe even three. And there will probably be times forever when the original pain still kicks us. But if the wound needs to be re-expressed in virtually every conversation after a couple of years, then there simply has to be part of us holding on to the problem. Yes, you can join a campaign to make sure 'it' never happens again. But do that from a place of healing, not a place of woundology. It's much, much more powerful that way too.

That, for me, is the whole big picture behind Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection. As Dolly Parton said, 'get off the cross; somebody could use the lumber.'




Thursday

Loving The Little Life

Walking on the Moor in 2013, taken by Nixie James-Scott.

I've struggled a little with this entry because it's about a time when I really was down, both emotionally and physically. I could tell you loads of stuff about the negative effects of chemo on my body; I could relate more stories of nurses and the hospital which might not be entirely positive … but I simply didn't want to so I avoided writing.

And it's a relief to realise that's okay. I thought I had a kind of duty to plough through the whole sorry story but I don't. If I have any duty at all it is to enjoy today.

Biggle on the Moor today.
Today, Lion the beagles and I went to Scorhill Stone Circle on Dartmoor. It was the first time I'd been there since September and it was one of my dreams once I got better and could walk again. The picture at the top shows Biggle and me walking in the autumn of 2013 near the stone circle and the second picture was taken today, in virtually the same place, looking in a different direction, on my return to this wonderful part of Dartmoor.

I managed to get pretty happy during the painful and difficult times but it did take work. A friend recently wrote to me that I could have asked to take the easy route when I asked God to clear me out and I guess that's true. But what would I have learnt? If I'd just had the miracle that I wanted I would have learnt about miracles, for sure, but how would that have made me of any use, any help to anyone else who didn't get the miracle they wanted? How much more powerful is it to say, 'I have been there. It was a long journey for me and a lot of it was very painful. Is there any way that my experience can help you?'

There were certainly many days where I was horribly upset — and in distressing amounts of pain. I'd been told that the first round of chemo would make a fairly dramatic difference — that is, a dramatic improvement. In my case it was dramatically worse which was very frightening and scared the consultant too. But that was probably a combination of my long-term lack of belief in the process and the fact that I was taking supplements which, according to some research it took me a long time to find, could and maybe did antidote the medicine in a rather painful way.

Now, as you probably know, I'm a fan of eating very healthily (but with treats) and of supplements and it's absolutely rubbish to say you can get all you need from your food if you are unwell (a VEGA test just last week showed me exactly how deficient I am in some minerals and vitamin despite taking extra - that's because of the damage to my body). But oh, please, one day, will doctors take this stuff seriously and do some research? Some vitamins are excellent for helping you through chemo. Selenium isn't. Or at least it wasn't in my case. I did ask my consultant to check for me but he didn't/couldn't/didn't see the point/whatever.

However, that's water under the bridge. Session two worked a little better and session three did show improvement. I could walk a little again, the lungs were clearing (my goodness, I was weak though!) and it all progressed steadily although I nearly always tried to do too much, go too fast and walk too far, which threw me back until I learnt the lesson.

I began to write again; started a novel about travel. Being sick and tied to the timings of district nurses, even if I had the strength to go out, I was becoming very isolated. I thought that writing about travel would lift me and inspire me but it did the opposite. It was only when I realised that I wasn't making peace with now and stopped writing about desires that I couldn't believe in that the darkness started to lift.

I had to learn to be content with the 'little life.' Sitting watching a movie on TV all afternoon because I didn't have the energy for a 'good' book. For a while that offended my arrogant 'I'm better than this' sensibilities until I realised that it had to be done — and I saw some excellent movies as well as some pretty daft ones.

I had to learn to be content with a round of the garden as my walk and watching the early evening sunsets in the winter and looking up at the stars in the evening. I'd always done both as part of my daily routine but now it was the total of my daily routine. I had to learn to rest and rest and rest again.

I was so happy when the phone went and it was a friend with details of their life; their world, because I could share in their larger life and absorb myself in it. I was so very happy that Facebook existed because it took me into the lives of my friends on there and gave me many conversations about life, the universe and everything other than illness. I will always defend Facebook to the hilt because on the worst days it was my lifeline.

I had to learn to let go of envy of others who could go to the shops even and to appreciate every morning of waking up simply because I had woken up again. Glad because of our lovely (but increasingly dirty) home because Lion was there and the beagles were there. I learnt to celebrate every single night that we managed to sleep together all night because I hadn't had to stay up half the night (steroids are bastards for keeping you agitated and awake) or hadn't been in too much pain to settle with him.

I had to learn to accept that the house was filthy because Lion was doing so much he didn't have time to clean too and I didn't have the strength.

I had to learn to love liquid morphine for the relief it brought me and the blessed sleep. And then I had to learn to love coming off it!

I had to learn that I couldn't do any weeding or I'd be in bed for two days. I learnt that I'd actually be grateful for doing weeding (which I've never liked).

I had to learn to fight only the battles I could win … which meant just the one … getting slowly better.

I can't tell you what a joy it was in February when I was able (with sit-downs every five minutes to rest) to make just one batch of orange marmalade. I felt like I'd scaled Mount Everest!

But mostly, as I began getting better, it was just peaceful to get to the next stage. No jumping for joy because it was just the next stage and there were so many 'two steps forward and one step back' times.

One of the most wonderful moments was seeing a different doctor at the hospital who said, as soon as he greeted me, 'I want you to know that I've been through this; I've had chemotherapy. I have an idea how you may be feeling. Please tell me of any and all concerns you might have. I will understand them.' And when I told him I was scared because I'd become more breathless as soon as I'd had the drain taken out of my lung, he said, with a smile, 'Of course you are more breathless. The psyche's a bastard like that, isn't it?'

How could he have made me feel so very much better if he had had the miracle that he also must have desired? I'd give him a medal if I could. His name is Dr. Veale from Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Exeter.

But enough of all that. Today I went walking on the moor. And I only puffed like an out-of-condition person, which I still am. And that can be remedied.



Monday

Creating What We Fear

Thalia, the Muse of Comedy
by José Luis Munoz.
The Theory of Absolutely Everything is that we are not only connected to God (whatever our perception of God may be) but we also are God. That's the whole message of mystical Christianity — that Jesus came to show us who we are not who he was, exclusively.

So that makes us creators. And the oft-quoted Law of Attraction tries to make that clear.

But what often isn't clear is how our underlying fears; our inner demons — the ones we chew over or return to repeatedly — are creating too.

And together with that is the conditioning we learnt in childhood of what we deserved and what we didn't and all the pain that we may have held in from those days in either to support our parents or through fear of their reactions. All those are creators too.

I only told my mother a few weeks ago about some bad times I had at school. She had no idea as I'd never told her. I didn't tell because she was unwell and unhappy when I was young and I didn't feel I could burden her. So I took it into me instead. We do that kind of thing … and we get used to doing it so we repeat the pattern.

From the woe and despondency being expressed on my Facebook timeline over the last few days, it appears that's exactly what happened with the UK General Election last week. So many people were afraid that the Conservatives would get into power that that's exactly what occurred.

I can't point the finger; I created my greatest fear: chemotherapy.

Mind you, I did at least realise that and, given that it was the only thing that could save my life at the time, it was something that was fairly easy to come to terms with.

By the way, being of a hopefully spiritual disposition, I did get my fair share of 'dying is healing too' from people who actually thought it was a helpful thing to say. I know that it is ultimately true but it can also be one of those pseudo-spiritual cruelties —incredibly tactless and even disempowering if you're working on trying to live.

It is interesting, though, that if you walk up to your fears, they often dissipate on the way and I'm sure that when it's my time to die, I'll be okay with that. But it isn't. So there.

My making peace with what I'd created didn't mean that when it came to the day of the first treatment it was going to be easy. I was calm and peaceful the night before; calm and peaceful on the morning. But as the actual moment became immanent, I did feel panicky.

You can be as wise and logical as you like but the inner part of you that is still a child will have its say and my inner child's heart broke as she watched Henry die from chemotherapy all those years ago. She was going to need to have to have her hand held big-time particularly because having my hand held wasn't something I experienced much when I was young.

I'd done my groundwork. Firstly I'd made sure that the consultant knew exactly where I was with this and that I might need some extra TLC. This is not to say that anyone else having chemotherapy isn't afraid, by the way — I doubt anyone goes into it without a few qualms. But this was deep stuff for me.

I'd done inner work with my spiritual psychotherapist on healing the wounds and that showed me that my body was okay with what was going to happen and would be able to handle it; I believed that it would have the desired effect and, on the day, I had my dear friend Karen with me to sit with me and help me through it. She was the one to hold the little girl's hand: to be the Mummy that I probably never had and to say, "I know it's horrid but you are such a wonderful girl and I am here. We're in this together." I am perpetually grateful to her for that.

So, of course, the nurses on the day ward were incredibly behind time and, given that Karen had to leave at 2pm to collect her daughter from school, she couldn't stay as long during the actual treatment as we both would have liked. See, my inner demons created that with the subconscious fears so I would end up being alone as has been the pattern of much of my life. Again, I could see that, which was a relief but it didn't make it easy.

If you're now going 'this is just wanky bollox, you're not that powerful' then fair enough. You're creating your life too and it's different from mine. Just cut me the slack of the benefit of the doubt if you would...

I blessed the medicine (loads of different drips and injections) with holy water beforehand … nowadays nurses aren't allowed to make faces or object to anything weird you want to do but they did decide to leave the stuff with me and go away while I did it which was slightly amusing.

Then there's the list of warnings before you start, which are bound to make you feel great (not). I'd had the three-page printed 'side effects' tome before, of course. Isn't it extraordinary that your consultant nowadays prints it off and hands it to you to read later rather than talking it through with you? Mind you, there's not enough time in the day for him/her to go through all of that stuff with you and, in some way I think that's probably good. Maybe you don't need to know it all for fear of anticipating it. But if you do end up reading it at home and it frightens you, that's not going to help either.

Given that it contains details of many different ways the treatment can kill you, maim you and cause further cancers, I am glad I didn't read it until it was all over. I was lucky; I had homeopathy, healing, herbal medicines and acupuncture to help my body cope with it all.

The warnings on the day though are mostly sensible: If you feel this, or that, tell us immediately. Basically, if you feel it and you don't tell them you're screwed … from permanent nerve damage to death. Don't ever forget that chemotherapy is poison; it's only purpose is to poison the cancer before it kills you.

But also on the day came 'don't eat uncooked eggs or cheeses with mould in them.'

This was a month before Christmas when I had promised, promised myself the treat of having some home-made Christmas cake. And what goes into home-made royal icing? Raw white of egg.
So my response to that, I'm afraid, was 'we use our own chickens' eggs and that rule can get stuffed.'

During the first administration of the drugs, the nurse sits with you and asks how you feel physically (but not psychologically) about every minute until they are well under way. I was doing okay on both fronts on the first four. But then Karen had to go.

I told her I'd be fine and I truly believed it. But ten minutes after she left I started to get pains in my sternum.

Now I was pretty sure this wasn't a heart attack but of course I had to report it. And to be honest I was more annoyed than afraid when they went into panic mode — which they had to do — with stopping everything, getting the emergency team, the ECG and a load of other stuff.

I said to my inner demons, 'shut it — this is fake' and I held my little girl's hand and said, 'don't worry; this is all okay; it's just the drugs starting to work.' And I was right.

But after that, apart from blood pressure and temperature checks every hour, no one spoke another word to me. The job had been done and the nurses were doing other things. Fair enough but it was still lonely and I was still slightly afraid.

So, during the long afternoon, while the drugs dripped in, I watched comedy on YouTube. I watched Rhod Gilbert ranting for a couple of hours and then listened to I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and finished up with some Michael McIntyre. And I began to laugh and laugh. I had to do it quietly because even though you are curtained off and in a separate area from the rest of the patients on your first time in case of problems, it might not have been tactful.

But my inner demons weren't quite done with me yet. At the end of the day, I was the last in the ward and all the nurses were sitting in a far corner, discussing The X Factor. A different nurse from the one who'd administered the drugs took the drip out and said, 'That's it. You can go,' and I was left completely alone to pack up my things, call Lion to fetch me — it would take him a good half hour to get there and I'd had no indication of when I might be finished.

That was a moment of feeling completely abandoned and unloved. I wanted a 'how are you feeling' or a 'well done' or just some acknowledgment of my having been brave or something seemingly daft like that.

But it's not daft. That's exactly what people need; all people who've just been through an initiation like that. All people, not just people who'd had a specific problem, like me.

What was quite clear was that the message had not got through that I might have a psychological problem or that I might not be strong enough with the breathing problems to be able to get from the ward to the car park (I'd had Lion and Karen when I came in). I'd told them myself when I first got there (untrusting - moi?) but either different nurses were on duty or they'd forgotten (now see how powerful my demons were?!)

I walked out of the ward very slowly and carefully completely unacknowledged by that circle of nurses — not even a goodbye —and sat outside in the pathetic fallacy (literary term but so apposite!) of slight drizzle and a chill wind waiting for Lion to come.

Which he did. And enveloped me in his arms and took me home for a long, hot bath, a special supper and a shoulder to cry on.

Still work to do then, sigh. But then the inner work never ends.

Thursday

Love and Support.

Lion and me on a pilgrimage in Japan
It's important to write that I'm okay at the moment — in fact I'm waiting to hear if I'm in remission or not. The dis-ease has retreated massively, if it hasn't gone completely, so, apart from the incredible journey of my body repairing itself after being systematically poisoned for six months, all is well. This blog is currently covering what happened towards the end of last year.

You may have noticed that there's been very little mention of my family — and very little about my friends. That's because, as Aslan said, 'I tell no one any story but his own' and revealing stuff about people I care about without their permission is off limits really. I do have a family and friends, honest!

What I will say about my family is that despite my 'weirdness' in their eyes (you should have heard the deafening silence round the lunch table when I told them I was being ordained!), they were totally supportive of my 'weird' decisions all along. And what I will say about my brother is that the moment I called, he came.

I knew I needed him in the heart of the night in hospital. I didn't know why I needed him — we've never sat in each other's pockets — but I knew that I did. And he came, and he helped immensely.

And what can I say about Lion? My dearest husband has been the rock that his birth-name of Peter describes. Every time I let go of control, he stepped up to the mark.

Control? Yes, even with all the juicing, the good food (even the raw food), I did nearly everything because I wanted to do it right. But that was part of the lesson, wasn't it? I probably ended up beating myself up to get it 'right' and beating yourself up is always counter-productive. But as soon as I couldn't garden, he did the gardening. As soon as I couldn't do the shopping, he did the shopping. As soon as I couldn't walk the dogs in the afternoons, he walked the dogs in the afternoons. As soon as I couldn't get out of bed, he did everything that was required of anyone who could get out of bed.

He's always been supportive; always been proud of the work that I do; always wanted to drive me to gigs but this was a different kind of support. He never once complained when I couldn't even cuddle because of the pain. He never once complained of all the nights I spent in the spare room. He never complained about doing the washing and the cooking and the cleaning. He got pissed off at the situation, of course, but he took it out on the brambles in the garden, never once on me. Sometimes I shudder to think what it might have been like had I still been married to the previous incumbent … but God is good and that never could have happened.

Lion was always there to listen; to hold me (carefully) when I cried and to keep the beloved dogs that I frequently couldn't handle away from me. He didn't talk much to other people; he's not built that way. He just did his thing and played a lot of Call of Duty. They used to call it the strong, silent type. Now, they'd probably give it a syndrome. Never once did he fail to kiss me when we parted or when we returned. Today, when I got in the car to drive myself to acupuncture, he ran all the way to the car for a kiss because I hadn't found him for our farewell kiss before I left (In my defence I couldn't find him and I was going to be late).

I know I did all that for Henry; it's what you do a/ for someone you love and b/ to cope. But as lymphoma is a dis-ease of the very part of the body that's supposed to look after you, it was very important for me to learn to be looked after just as much as it was important to teach my body that I would look after it too.

When I was young someone once said to me 'you're too ****** independent. You're too ****** efficient.' I had to be both because of my childhood and it was hard to be criticised for it. But your greatest strength is your greatest weakness too.

I remember an old boyfriend stepping in when a drunk man started being rude to a girl in our group at a party. He told the man where to go. The man had been just as rude to me earlier and when I asked him afterwards why he didn't step in to help me then, he said, 'You can defend yourself.'

Another time, a drunken guy at dinner said that all female journalists (I was the only female journalist there) were whores. Nothing was said by any of the people you'd have expected to support me in my defence. But when he threw a sausage at another female member of the party, he was politely escorted out of the house.

I'm not whinging here … I'm looking at my old pattern of feeling undefended. I could find dozen examples but I won't because that pattern is over. The dis-ease has sorted it. And it sorted it through Lion, my loving friends and family … and through the district nurses who came every single day for more than two months and through the doctors and the nurses at the hospital and the treatment that I had hated and feared and resisted and learnt to call a (very exacting) friend.

It sorted it through a fund set up to support people with blood cancer who provided someone to help us through the challenge of earning no money and needing to claim employment support allowance and all the shenanigans behind that.

It came through kicking out the independence and efficiency that I thought was the only way to survive. In fact, letting everyone else take the strain was the only way I could survive.

I can now be supported — and defended if necessary. So that's another step achieved. And by George, when someone now comes to me for help and/or advice (and strangely people do — and now more than ever before) then again and again I can speak from experience and understanding, those all-important words, "I have been there."

Thank you, lymphoma.


On God

Would a loving parent ever give a child a story to read that didn't have a wonderfully happy ending?
No. Never. But they might add, "Whatever you do, don't stop reading at the scary parts!"

Mike Dooley, Notes from the Universe.

Wednesday

Grace in Unexpected Places.

Our two beautiful beagles.
'If Mum's not home, we'll wait for her on her meditation chair.'
It was a strange sensation lying in hospital with lungs full of fluid and, never having spent a night in hospital before in my life —let alone in the emergency unit — seeing for the very first time what life 'inside' was like. I had no idea how it would be but the first night was pretty surreal. I couldn't breathe without oxygen. I couldn't lie down because then I really, really couldn't breathe and I couldn't sleep sitting up. Some people can sleep on aeroplanes and trains but I'm not one of them. All night there were new admissions going on and other people, far sicker than I were crying out with pain. I prayed for us all and felt a total hypocrite because I didn't know where God was any more.

Nothing I'd believed to be true had turned out to be so. Nothing. I was out of options. Even out of faith. Where was that loving God that I'd felt was beside me during all my comedy and my happy life? The one who had supported me through all my inner exploration of my psyche and soul — and all the healing work I'd done these last few years? How had it come to this? I'm sure these are questions that millions have asked in far, far worse situations. I'm just grateful (in a strange way) that I got to understand first-hand how that feels. It's not nice.

(If you know me well, you might be asking 'where was Lion?' He was home, taking care of the beagles and coping as best he could. He would have visited, of course, but I was in too much pain for a cuddle and being very practical, I couldn't see how it could help to have him sitting awkwardly there when we could talk on the phone — that probably sounds really daft but our marriage works very well for us!).

The lung consultant came along the next day, once I'd been moved to a 'not in imminent danger of dying' ward and told me that I had to have a tap put into my side so that one lung, at least, could be drained daily until I started the treatment that would solve the problem. It was to be a tube that hung out of my side, like a colostomy tube and would mean a daily visit from a district nurse to drain a litre or so of fluid per day. So be it. But, he said, it had to be done by a surgeon and it could not be done for three more days at the earliest.

Three more nights of sitting up all night in a hospital bed and not sleeping. That was hard. That was horribly hard. I gave up.

But by the Grace of that non-existent God, I gave up in the right way. I just surrendered. That's not me being incredibly spiritual; it was me out of options. I finally stopped trying to control the situation, let go and let God. In times of crisis, I have the ability to stop thinking completely. It's only happened a couple of times in my life (apart from the seconds or perhaps minutes in meditation) but it's a profound thing.

And then I lay down. And kept breathing. I can't tell you how impossible that was. It was even medically impossible. I'd not been able to lie down in two whole days for danger of suffocation. Even sitting up, I was on oxygen. But somehow, amazingly, I could do it. I wasn't even amazed because I wasn't thinking. I totally failed to realise until afterwards that the oxygen pipe had fallen away from my nose.

It was incredibly peaceful lying there half-realising that something miraculous was happening and I think I rather prosaically just dozed off. That was, until I realised that there was a tall angel in pale green standing by the bed. It was one of those incredibly ugly men who are utterly beautiful, if you know what I mean. None of his face should have worked but all of it did.

He spoke in a Spanish accent (probably because he was Spanish…) and said, 'Hello, my name is Juan. I'm a surgeon. I have a cancellation in half an hour's time. Would you like it?'

And so, instead of languishing for four days in that hospital bed, I was back home that night with nearly two litres drained from one lung and a pipe bandaged to my side. A whole new world of medical procedures, district nurses and living with a plastic tube as a part of my body had opened up. I didn't like it, and it hurt like hell, but it wasn't my job to like it. It was my job to experience it and learn what I could from it.

And I believed.

Down into the Dark Days.

Comedy evening at Naked Dragon, Chertsey.
After Edinburgh, I was on a roll. I felt really happy and confident and after two years of eating astonishingly healthy food, healing, counselling, homeopathy, journeying, Shamanistic work etc. etc. I was feeling on top form. In fact three of my therapists were entirely confident that the root cause of the lymphoma had gone and it was only a matter of time before my body reflected that.

I had another VEGA test on my immune system in September and it was still doing incredibly well. Cathy, the tester, said, 'all the anger has gone from your eyes,' which was another lovely sign.

So I was happy. I thoroughly enjoyed doing an hour's comedy for Naked Dragon in Chertsey and did a pretty stonkingly-good talk at the Meta-Health conference in Birmingham about the dis-ease and what I'd learnt from it. And driving up to Brum from Devon, I asked God to tell me just how well I was … and a car pulled out in front of me with the registration number MW 999 WEL.

Being so confident and all that, I took it to mean 99.9% well, given that there was a stud in the right place. But it was obviously one of God's little jokes (for which He/She/It will receive a right slapping when I do get up there) as only eight weeks later, Lion was calling 999 because I could barely breathe.

I was doing a Soul Wisdom workshop when it started: I woke up with a pain in my right ribs, thought I'd pulled a muscle and got on with it. But within three days it was obvious that I had shingles — and very bad shingles at that.

I was basically paralysed by the pain for eight weeks during which I couldn't exercise or do very much else than lie in bed (If I laid on the shingles side it hurt much less) or shuffle miserably around the house. Loads of painkillers prescribed by the doctor: none worked. My body, for some strange reason, has always refused to believe in painkillers. Sigh. Sleep at night was very difficult indeed which really, really didn't help. I don't think Lion and I slept together one night during that time because I was lying awake in the spare room, listening to inspirational talks or videos because I couldn't sleep.

So there I was, trying to work out what that was all about and how I'd attracted such pain after such a happy summer and becoming horribly aware that my immune system was going down further everyday  and that I was getting depressed and upset no matter how hard I tried…

And then, as it began to recede, I found I was getting breathless when I walked which I knew must be the lymphoma but before I could get that investigated I woke up in the night barely able to breathe at all. So, hospital it was, by ambulance which was really quite exciting in a not-nice kind of way (I'd never spent even one night in hospital before in my life).

Suffice it to say, that after all the shenanigans required and a little miracle story that I'll tell you later, I knew that I'd been presented with the thing I said I would never do; of which I was most terrified … the very thing that had killed my first husband. Yep, my old adversary, chemotherapy. Right now, that was the only thing that was going to save my life.

And yet, when it came to it, it was okay. Yes, I was still terrified but I'd realised not only that I was learning very important stuff about suffering — because I'd always been so healthy, I'd had no idea at all what other people had to go through — and that that this was all about walking up to the greatest terror and healing it. Chemo-phobia had lurked in my psyche for 25 years, conveniently hidden as a  'virtuous holistic belief.' I believed that I'd never need it because I'd Do All The Right Things and could heal myself.

Well, Maggy, you couldn't. Nothing you did, worked. Nothing. Not one of the holistic practices; not even the diet. Louise Hay did it; Wayne Dyer did it; Brandon Bays did it. You didn't so let's get through the shame of that and come out the other side. Your so-very-holistic view was strongly tinged with arrogance. Here is your next lesson: humility.

And I was so lucky; you see non-Hodgkins lymphoma is one of very few cancers where chemo is actually very effective indeed. Eighty-five per cent effective. No, it doesn't 'cure' but it will take what is there in the body away. The rest is up to you.

The doctor from the haematology department who talked with me as I lay in the hospital bed having literally litres of fluid drained from one pleural cavity was lovely. He had clear dark eyes and he said, simply, 'it's okay, you're going to be fine.'

And I believed him.



Tuesday

The Book of Job

The view over the gate from our beautiful home — as far as I could walk for several months.
I haven't posted about the life-enhancing dis-ease for a very long time now. More than six months in
fact. Wow. I've posted a lot about life and travel but it's all been stuff from the past, which I enjoyed doing very much.
And, to be honest, I've been more concerned about getting back to writing for a living.
But a friend recently nudged me about writing about dis-ease again and now I'm stronger, I think that maybe I will.
You see, dear reader, it's been a pretty tough six months. And no, that hasn't been reflected on my Facebook page because I do still believe that I want to speak only of that which is good in my life — because where you focus is where your energy is. My very dearest friends have all known what has been going on but when it comes to getting down and dirty in the really gritty stuff, I'm very Scorpio. I'll tell you how I survived it, what I learnt from it and the deep joys I found even in the very worst of it, but I won't splurge pages about suffering. Even the 'new and improved me' that is beginning to shine out of six months of pain and revelation isn't that kind of communicator.
Suffice to say, I got very ill — dangerously ill as in pretty close to dying when the lymphoma took its chance from a dip in my immune system and leapt — and it's been a long, painful (and yes, fascinating in retrospect) haul out of it. Am I out for good? I don't know. But I've got my sparkle back.
If you're one of my good friends who didn't know, then please forgive me for not including you in.  A lot of that had a lot to do with how little energy I had and is nothing to do with my love for you.
If you have read this far and simply don't know what I'm talking about and want to find out about the beginning of this story, then please click here.
I now, finally, understand that incredibly powerful phrase from the third chapter of the Book of Job: "For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me."
It's basic law of attraction really but at a pretty profound level. You can positive think and speak as much as you like but if there's a deep-down hatred, resentment or fear that still surfaces in your 'woundology' then guess what, if you've chosen to ask God to clear you out (which this daft cow did), then the last and most important cleansing is your experience of the very thing you fear. You have to find life and love and joy in the darkest of your imagined hells and, if you won't go there voluntarily, trust me, a dis-ease will do it for you.
Dammit.
And I thought I was doing so well!