As I watched Casino Royale, the day after my dreaded chemotherapy treatment, there was a scene which I totally related to: James Bond’s drink was spiked as he sat at the gambling table. There was an expression on his face as the drug took effect, transforming his whole demeanour and clearly leaving him disorientated. A wry chuckle escaped my lips, as it so resonated with my current feeling. And then I walked into the kitchen, put the kettle on, and proceeded to pour a bottle of cold water onto my teabag. Chemotherapy does that to you. That is me today; however, this journey started many years before.
My first real experience of losing a loved one was the sudden passing of my beloved sister, who was killed in a car crash. This tragic event ripped my heart out, yet could never prepare me for the loss that would occur in the short years that followed. I would lament the loss of both my parents and my partner (the father of my three children), who all passed within two years of each other. Regrettably, those trials over 20 years ago were the beginning of my undeniable battle with devastating circumstances, and unfortunately, not the end!
In 2015, I was sadly left to battle a fatal disease called amyloidosis, attacking the lining of my heart. This stemmed from myeloma – an incurable, life-threatening, bone-marrow cancer. I went from a fit and active working mother of three, to someone I hardly recognised. I was pumped from the chemotherapy and steroids treatment; my condition left me frail, unable to climb a flight of stairs or make a cup of tea without fighting to catch my breath. Inevitably, my life would never be the same. As well as the onslaught of grief (now too many to mention), I live with the trauma that my heart could unexpectedly suffer a cardiac arrest. I was given six months to live and sent home from the hospital in 2015 to spend what the doctors alleged would be my last Christmas with my family.
My late Pastor, Rev Dr. Curdell McLeod, was instrumental in my healing, emboldening my trust and devotion to the Word of God, especially standing on the Scriptures of healing. My faith was entrenched. Calling on God, I became determined not to allow my medical condition to obstruct me or cause me to succumb to the doctor’s prognosis.
I fought back. I am baffling the doctors, and my circumstance became the catalyst that revitalised my writing. Laid off work and disabled by my illnesses, I penned my memoir, Why Me? My fight for life from heartbreak to hope, where I openly and honestly bare all in my story.
By combining my passion for writing with my strong desire to encourage, I shared my experiences in my book, bringing hope, insight, and inspiration to all who may be dealing with devastation through loss and a typically taboo subject. I became an overcomer, and showed others that they too could prevail over sickness, loss, and misdiagnosis. It has truly touched lives.
Then the pandemic hit. I was high-risk with the underlying health conditions, so I took particular caution during the subsequent lockdowns. With my in-person hospital appointments cancelled, self check-ups became even more critical. Checking my breasts in October 2020, which happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I found a lump that unveiled my greatest fear: a grade three (rapid-growing) breast cancer. Who would have thought that an unconnected cancer could be added to my fight? Already immunocompromised, I had to draw on God – and all the principles and methods I used in my book to encourage others – to now succour myself.
I underwent an invasive lumpectomy in December 2020, followed by more chemotherapy and radiotherapy in early 2021. The breast cancer is under control; however, after five years in remission, the myeloma cancer has relapsed, hence the start (in September) of weekly chemotherapy for the next nine months. In the midst of all this, I lost another beloved sister to cancer in February 2021.
Assisting others has helped me to maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout. Regardless of what I am going through, I remain optimistic; I do not focus on my circumstance or suffer in silence, and I share my story with others, especially those who pray. Cancer is not a death sentence to me.
As a member of many groups and organisations, I volunteer and work with a leading hospital’s focus group to support the training of practice nurses (COVID-permitting). I am also Treasurer at my church, assisting with administration and bookkeeping.
Whilst fighting my battles, I became an advocate for cancer, raised £24,000 for Macmillan, and was instrumental in their 2020 Christmas campaign, where I shared my story. The campaign subsequently raised almost £800,000.
My story describes how love, determination, and belief can guide and help you through your world, sharing love, faith, and hope, even when all you see is darkness, sickness, and death.
I continue to fight the good fight of faith with determination and confidence. If you would like to read my story and learn how I became an overcomer, Why Me? My Fight For Life From Heartbreak to Hope is available from all major bookstores.
Written by: Sharon-Ann Phillips