Monday 23rd August 2010 was a lovely bright, sunny day. Even though Monday is usually my 'day off' I had agreed to a morning meeting with someone at church to discuss some financial matters (probably taxation, I can't remember).
I picked an egg mayonnaise sandwich and a bottle of water in the Tesco round the corner from church for my lunch and wended my way the whole five minute walk to hospital where I would spend the afternoon.
Five years on, I can still recall the smells, sounds, tastes and sensations of that afternoon... in fact about the only thing I can't recall is what I was wearing!
That day, my Mum was undergoing pioneering life-saving surgery far away in Oxford, and I was waiting for news about that at the same time as I sat in pale blue faux-leather chair in the waiting area of a Victorian building.
I still recall the first words spoken to me by the man who I now trust as 'my' breast surgeon, introducing himself by name, checking if I had come alone (I had) before taking my history and carrying out the initial examination. I can still see his face as he said "I'm sorry it's cancer" just as I can still recall how 'my' breast care nurse gently took my hand in hers whilst the biopsies were taken. Those first impressions matter, and this team, consumately professional whilst utterly humane, got it just right for me.
In the one, maybe two, second(s) it took to say the words, a paradigm shift took place.
Fearful I would not see Christmas, let alone a five year anniversary, I took very much to heart the parting words of my surgeon who said, "we'll talk about this in five years". I wasn't convinced, but the words gave me just a shred of hope.
And now those years have passed by. The Victorian hospital has all but closed (a month until the breast out patient clinic moves to its temporary home en route to a final relocation). I have continued to live with long term effects of treatment and to reflect on my experiences, much, but not all, of it via this blog. I have met and made friends with many wonderful people, have laughed and cried, and said farewell to far too many whose journey with this cruel disease was much shorter. I've travelled to New Zealand, spoken at a conference, supported other ministersaffected by cancer, shared parts of my story with students and ministers and trained as a peer support volunteer. And always in the background, just there, quiet and supportive have been the people who were there at the start... my medical team, friends, family and The Gatherers.
Sunday 23rd August 2015 - preaching on Ephesians 6, being and doing what I believe I am called to be and do, in the place I feel I am called to be and do it. It feels like a very good way to mark the transit of five years, to give thanks to God for all that has been, and to step forward into the future with all that these years have shown me.