“I sat in stupefied silence .. How could I possibly have leukaemia? How did I get it? Why did I get it? Was I going to die? If so, when?”
At the age of 56 Pauline Dewberry felt content with her life. She had sons and grandchildren, the company of six cats, projects and plans. Then she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).
“Hold it there”, you may think. “You’re suggesting I read a medical-term laden memoir of a cancer survivor?” Not at all. I’m recommending a story of faith, prayers, cats, purring, medical marvels, unexpected friendships, and even a love story.
“I asked what would happen if there weren’t any (stem cell) matches. I was told that they would just make me as comforable as they could and basically wait for me to die.” By the greatest good fortune, Pauline’s brother turned out to be a match. But there was a long road to travel after that.
The author wrote this often raw account of her seemingly interminable – and near to actually being terminal – battle with cancer to share how ‘despite the odds being stacked up against you, it IS possible to look your enemy in the eye and win’.
Pauline describes her illness and treatment with such clear language that it is easy to comprehend. As well as being informative about AML, this candid account will be a valuable eye-opener, I think, for the supporting friends and family of anyone who is locked in a prolonged battle with ill health, not only with cancer.
The author does not shirk from telling of the moments of indignity and additional trials involved, especially while in hospital. For instance, a mid-night ‘simple’ procedure to remove a cannula by a doctor ‘who looked to be about twelve years old’ became an hours-long complication leaving her with bruises and stitches. ‘I felt like I’d been to war. Who knew that hospitals could be such dangerous places’. And at home there were the the maddening itches to endure, dry mouth, sleeping too much, then being unable to sleep, no appetite, then sugar cravings, nagging worries about changed appearance … On it goes, all the things that a healthy person (like me) would simply not realise an cancer patient is going through.
Health is not only about the body, of course, but about the strength of the spirit. The author’s fears and doubts will resonate, I think, with many people dealing with a long illness. Despite knowing that hundreds were praying for her, there were many days of despair. Even simply telling people how sick she was turned into a struggle. Some reacted as if her illness was causing difficulty for them.
But she also found humour in unexpected things. The rumblings of her room-mate, Mr Fridge, for instance had me laughing. Although distressed by the loss of her hair, she talks with good humour about the new headwear. Deciding that the scarves made her look “like a Russian peasant wringing her hands at a failed beetroot crop” she opts for her faithful beanie.
As well as her faith, and the great good fortune of the stem cell match with her brother, Pauline valued her ‘Purr-atherapy’. She describes how her cats would curl against her at home and purr her through many dark hours. As time passed, each of her purr-ers died, sadly. But two new cats, Casey and Gibbs, introduced themselves into her life, and with their company the author is now in remission after surviving aggressive chemotherapy, the stem cell transplant, CMV, MRSA and Graft Vs host Disease (GVHD).
This is a true story of great odds surmounted and of quiet daily courage. And remarkably, Pauline found ‘autumnal love,’ even at such a time as this.
The Daily Mews is Pauline Dewberry’s popular website for cat lovers. With cat humour and jokes, caption contests, guest articles about cat care and cat antics, it is your ‘purrfect way to start the day.’ (Mawson’s guardian has been a reader of the dailymews.com for years.)
The author: Pauline Dewbery trained to be an editor and had many articles published in teen girl’s magazines. Pauline is a pet bereavement counsellor. Her Daily Mews website provides, among other things, a space to respectfully reflect on feelings of grief for our passed pets, for instance, in the tributes called “Napping on A Sunbeam”. Another popular feature of The Daily Mews was “Ollie’s Diary”. When Ollie died Pauline decided, after some thought, to continue with the diary but with Ollie now reporting from beyond the Rainbow Bridge. She is currently preparing these diaries for publication. You can contact Pauline at pauline @thedailymews.com or p.dewberry @ntlworld.com
Where to find it For Such A Time As This, by Pauline Dewberry, cover by Aida Marina: Amazon UK and Amazon USA (under $3 on Kindle) and Amazon Australia (free right now with Kindle unlimited). Check your own Amazon Stores in Kindle.
You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic, bibliophile and Guardian of Mawson Bear, a Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.