Cheryl McPhail's Reflection 2016
Updated: Mar 22
Cheryl McPhail Reflection
The Reflection was given at St Theresa's Church, Glasgow on Thursday 6th October 2016
Good evening everyone, I would like to say thank you to Father Hendry for inviting me along to St Teresa's tonight to share my story with you all. I spoke briefly with Father not so long ago and told him that I don't use the word hate very often but sadly cancer is something that I have come to despise. Unfortunately it is part of our society, some of us it is part of our daily lives and more and more we are hearing about someone who has been lost to cancer or is fighting a very hard battle with cancer. I hope and pray that my words may bring some comfort to anyone suffering from cancer, to their families and to their friends. My prayers were answered, not in the way that some of you may think. I will give you a brief summary of my mum and my family's journey with cancer. In January of 2011 my mum was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Multiple Myeloma. It is a cancer of the bone marrow, one of the blood cancers, which affect your immune system, your plasma cells and your red and white blood cells. There is no known cure although there are medicines and treatment to prolong life and bring relief from pain. My mum's journey with this terrible illness was difficult for her and for her family who watched her suffering. Cancer does not just affect the individual it affects the whole family in different ways, physically, mentally and most of all emotionally. It is at times very hard to keep your faith, your hope and your love but the power of prayer can appear in so many different ways. In March of 2011 my mum began her chemotherapy treatment at the Beatson Hospital in Glasgow. It was not easy, her immune system which was already failing was very low and she was prone to all kinds of infections. She got clots in her lungs and was close to death several times. My mum, myself and my family prayed to God, to Jesus and to St Peregrine, the patron St of Cancer sufferers for her health, for comfort, for peace and for relief. We also prayed for strength and support more than anything. We were very blessed to have the support of family, friends, fantastic doctors, nurses and specialists. After a period of time the treatment was working and we were able to enjoy some normality and happiness with my mum. We tried to appreciate every day. Treatment continued with chemotherapy and a range of maintenance medication to keep her cancer in remission. She continued to attend the Beatson regularly for treatment and was admitted often. In August of 2012 for reasons unknown my mum started to suffer from seizures and there were complications within her brain. She was admitted to the Western Infirmary then transferred to the Neurological Department in the Southern General. Again we prayed for strength and support more than anything. And yet again, we were very blessed to have the support of family, friends, fantastic doctors, nurses and specialists. The seizures had caused lots of damage to different areas within her brain. She wasn't herself anymore. We thought this was the end. It was very traumatic for her and for anyone witnessing her behaviour. She was hallucinating. She was making up very strange stories which she believed, she was seeing things coming out of the wall and the floor and she was seeing very strange visions of people who had died or she hadn't seen for a long period of time. Her vision was also affected and she was very distressed. However, with medication and medical support she began to make some form of recovery. She was transferred to a rehabilitation unit within the Southern General. Rehabilitation was long and slow. She needed care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She would never be independent again. In March of 2013 due to her poor co-ordination and vision she fell and broke her arm. This activated the multiple myeloma within the bone marrow again. She was transferred to the Royal Infirmary for an operation to insert metal pins in her arm and then transferred back to the support unit. However this break appeared to have activated the cancer again, chemotherapy was not an option this time and in September we were given the news it was just a matter of time. Throughout this period my mum was in and out of hospital. The medications available to help with pain relief and to help her sleep were very effective. The hospital spoke of admission to the Hospice. I prayed again for strength for support and for God to guide me to do what was best for my mum. I spoke to a family member who was a priest. He said to me, your mum is terminal pray for her comfort and for her peace and pray for your own strength to see you through what is going to become a very difficult time. I did. My mum came home with me. I was supported by a fantastic Community Health Team which involved District Nurses coming to my house every day to administer pain relief. District Nurses also came out through the night if needed. My own family Doctor took my mum on their register and visited very often to ensure she was supported and I was supported. They also introduced us to the support of the Marie Curie Nurses and St Margaret's Hospice liaison nurse. The resources, the support and time we were given was absolutely phenomenal. I will never forget it. I kept my faith and prayed every day for my mum's comfort and peace and for my strength. The Doctors and nurses increased the dose of medication daily to ensure my mum was comfortable and pain free. My mum passed away on 14th January 2014, 3 years after her diagnosis, surrounded by her family. After the initial relief for my mum's peace my emotions were all over the place. I was hurting. I was very angry and I started to question the drugs that were administered and thought maybe this had speeded things up. I picked up the newspaper and there was the prayer of the day, it read; Dear God, thank you for giving us the drugs that help to relieve pain and that help to keep us comfortable when we are suffering from terminal illness. I thought this was my message from God telling me my prayers had been answered. My mum didn't survive her illness but God was with my mum, with my family and friends and with myself and he did answer my prayers. He gave my mum pain relief and comfort and he gave me and my family strength and support. My mum was supported in the best way you could ever have imagined, with the support of a very loving family and friends, with a fantastic medical team and with very powerful medication. I truly believe this was through the power of prayer. She is now at peace in heaven with my dad and my brother. I thank God every day for my faith and for the power of prayer.