This weekend has been really fantastic, catching up with family and old friends.
I feel very lucky to have such a great set of people in my life, but I know that I tend to take all those people for granted. I can't ever imagine them not being there to have a laugh with, lend a shoulder on which to cry, offer their wisdom, enjoy our lives together. But this weekend I heard two heart wrenching stories about friends of my Brother and my Sister who have had their their worlds turned upside down. All those things that we all take for granted have been compromised and they have been placed in a world of uncertainty and upset.
Sam, a work friend of my sister, Louisa, was at her desk back in August complaining that she had this terrible sore rash on her forehead and asking if they thought maybe she should go and get it looked at. The following day she came into the office desperately upset saying that she had been diagnosed that morning with Lupus. After a Google session, she seemed to calm down a bit, realising that it was fairly common and treatable although incurable. You see lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself as it can't tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy substances in the body. Absent from work the following day, Louisa was worried and called to find out if she was maybe feeling down about her new diagnosis and needed cheering up. In fact, Sam was in the hospital, on a ventilator, completely paralysed. And this had all happened in 3 days, going from a rash to having Lupus to fighting for her life in ICU. She has now been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome which is very rare and only affects 1 in 100,000 people. It is an autoimmune disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscle paralysis. Sam has been in the hospital now for more than seventy days. Her husband and six year old son visit her everyday and this week saw her able to speak very faintly and move the very tips of her fingers on her right hand. The drugs she is on to help her recover have left her swollen and have perhaps led to her kidneys recently failing. There is every chance that Sam will recover completely from this but it could take as long as a year.
Alex is the 3 year old son of my Brothers good friends, Ben and Miranda. He was complaining back in March or April that he had a pain in his leg. Finally after a week or so of this they took him to the doctors who could find nothing wrong. Another few weeks went by and the pain continued to bother little Alex. A blood test at the doctors in May revealed a high white blood cell count. He has since been diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the cells involved in development of the nervous system which affects fewer than 100 children in the UK every year. He is going through aggressive chemotherapy but is responding well, even though it is stage 4 cancer. His father is writing a blog about his progress to keep family and friends updated, which is undoubtedly good therapy for Ben and achingly emotional to read.
The point of sharing these stories is not to depress you all, but to reinforce how precious life is and that we must celebrate our relationships with each other everyday. You never know what is around the corner to challenge you or to take your family or friendship into an unstable position, whether through illness, or something else completely. It also highlights the strength you need to have in life to be able to stand up to adversity and keep on fighting like Sam and her family and Alex and his family all are. Count your blessings, be grateful for the people close to you and thank whoever you thank in these circumstances that you are all enjoying good health and good fortune. And if you aren't then know that we have all been born with the strength in us to fight for our lives if needs be and to keep on fighting until our sea is calm and our ship safely docked.