Friday, September 18, 2015

Do You Believe in Signs?

On my morning walk, a few hours before my last oncology follow-up, I found a heads-up penny. I instantly pocketed it, believing it would bring me good luck.
When my nose itches, I preemptively kiss Jim, wanting to be on the right side of “have a fight or kiss a fool.”
Twitching left eyelids, itchy palms, moths in the house, cardinals in my yard-you might call them superstitions. My Italian mother taught me they are signs of respectively; good news, unexpected money, and souls in my midst.
The number 1017 is another very personal sign. It may not mean anything to you. For me, 1017 will only ever mean the day my father died.
Since being diagnosed with cancer last year, I cannot tell you how frequently I see or hear the numbers 1017—on the clock, a ticket stub, cash register receipt, an address—countless times and ways the numbers 1017 show up. And, every time they do, it feels like a sign my dad has my back.
One day at a time, I'm adjusting to this stage “beyond” cancer treatment, trying to shove cancer so far behind me, I stop fearing its return. The exception--my follow-up oncology visits still freak me out.
Finding that penny the morning of my last oncology visit was only the first sign. A couple of hours later, as I stoically got ready to leave the house for my appointment, Jim looked up from the newspaper and said, “Wow, it’s already 10:17. Where did that last hour go?”
He could have rounded back to 10:15 or up to 10:20. The fact that he said 10:17 felt like my dad telling me we had this and my visit would be fine.
And, it was.
Does this all sound eerie and far-fetched? Or, like me, are you a sign-believer, too?

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Helena Johnson - AuthorI am happy to welcome guest blogger, Helena Johnson.

Helena is a writer from "the other side of the pond," and we met in a Facebook writing group. I value her positive outlook and believe you will, too.
When I met my husband 16 years ago, we both shared the same dream of one day retiring to Spain. Over time, the stress and pressure of work, made him feel there was no way he could learn a new language, he was too old, and thus our dreamed died.

Some years later, after seeing our teenager through cancer and losing a parent in the same year, we re-evaluated our lives. We started spending the summers touring France and fell in love with the country and the lifestyle, and our dream was resurrected. Hubby even took French lessons. 

Recently, we decided that as our daughter was over 2 years in remission, had dealt with her demons and was in a happy relationship, our son had completed his electrical apprenticeship and was enjoying his new flat and the older three were all settled with good jobs and partners, it was time for us to think seriously about our new life in France and so we found a house and it’s full steam ahead with the purchase
However, yesterday I found myself  back in the cancer hospital with my daughter. I had stopped going to the check-ups with her some time ago, as it’s a good hour from my house, whereas she works nearby and was happy to go alone. I felt she was showing signs of premature menopause and her GP was not taking her seriously, so I needed to step in and insist on a referral to the fertility clinic, as she desperately wants to start a family soon. It might be nothing, and I hope it is, but I didn’t want to ignore it and then it be too late to save some of her eggs.

As we sat in the waiting room for an hour and a half - they are always running late - I could hear a beeping noise coming from a nearby ward. My mind recognized the sound, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and then my daughter shivered and said ‘I hate that sound.’ Memories came flooding back as I realized it was the sound of the chemo machines and I was quite overwhelmed. I have a habit of shutting out anything bad in my life and this was just another event that I had packed neatly away. I felt guilty for not going with her to all the check-ups, as I realized she must feel the same each time she came here.

I didn’t have much of a battle with the consultant. After explaining her symptoms, he agreed that she needed to be referred, which actually worried me more. So we now find ourselves back again to hoping for the best and agreeing to take it one step at a time, but that is all you can do in life. There is no point in wasting your precious days worrying and being upset, it won’t change anything. Make the most of each day and deal with the bad if, and when it happens. You don’t need to be religious to have faith and hope, and as for France, that will still happen, albeit perhaps a little later than intended.

Helena Johnson is a writer, wife and mother, living in beautiful North Yorkshire, with her husband and two dogs. Find her blog at:

Her daughter's cancer inspired her to write, Coffee "n" Cake Short Stories, a small collection of heartwarming short stories about love and life. All profits go to Teenage Cancer Trust.