Holding On

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A lot has happened since my last post. I have had my fourth breast cancer operation, my lovely friend John (that I’ve known since childhood), died and I’ve had four cycles of chemotherapy. I think it is fair to say I have been holding on….

Holding on to the lifestyle I had carved for myself.

Each surgical operation I have had through this breast cancer journey has had this habit of bringing with it another additional bit of bad news. A kind of tortuous drip effect, we (my husband and I) have adjusted to the tumour status and characteristics at each investigation or operation outcome. Going into the last operation I had hoped we knew everything we needed to know. However, pathology reports have this habit it seems (in my case anyway) of churning out more findings; this time it was additional tumour and another positive axillary lymph node. We reset our mark in the sand again and after a short period of psychological adjustment, we recalibrate, recover and carry on.

Body changing and life changing surgery takes a while to adjust to. Having all of your lymph nodes removed from your axilla means you are forever at risk of arm lymphoedema. This means that you can no longer have any blood tests, injections or blood pressure measurements taken on that arm. Not much of an issue you might think, but it means the other arm as a consequence takes the full assault of tests and has consequences for subsequent chemotherapy administration. It also means you have arm exercises that you must do for life. Recovery from surgery can seem to take forever, regaining full arm movement is a slow process that takes perseverance. In reality, it wasn’t that bad for me and I managed to get back into handstand (it was a personal goal) about 4 weeks post-surgery; recovery isn’t all bad news.

Coming to terms with an altered body image has been a longer journey. My surgeon did an amazing job for me and I am very happy with the overall cosmetic result.  Wearing a bikini on holiday this summer wasn’t an issue for me. Strangely, it has been managing the process of showering and getting changed at the gym that has been a challenge. Gym life BC (before cancer) I would undress with gay abandon in the changing room, my philosophy, we all have bodies they’re just different shapes and sizes-no big deal. Gym life post cancer surgery, yeah not so much gay abandoning going on here. In an effort to retain some aspects of the lifestyle I had BC I was desperate to get back to the gym, but the anxiety of changing in the wide-open space of the gym changing room was becoming an easy excuse to avoid the gym altogether. It can seem such a small thing in the big scheme of things, but being able to overcome those anxieties and feel able to do normal very basic activities I’d previously not blinked an eye about, is a big deal when sport and exercise is a big part of who you are.

Moving on to chemotherapy, I knew having chemotherapy would be tough, I’ve talked to plenty of cancer patients over the years. I’m also very resilient and a pretty tough cookie. I managed to get to the level of third Dan black belt in karate (not quite sure how, except for the expert instruction from the superb Sensei Matt Price and Sensei Nick Heald from the Leeds Karate Academy). I’ve taken plenty of punches (and kicks) over the years and I know I can take pain and not even wince. Yet chemotherapy is really tough, the physical side effects are managed really well by the team of professionals looking after me, but managing chemotherapy and life, and work has been extraordinarily rough. At the first chemotherapy cycle it took the expert nurses four attempts to put a cannula in my left arm to administer the drugs; I knew it was going to be an issue as even the experienced anaesthetist at my last operation had struggled to get a cannula in first time. So, we’d gone to my first chemo session prepared. My husband had me warming up at home to get my blood vessels working and this continued once we arrived on the chemo unit. Picture this, me in my little Ted Baker off the shoulder dress and heels (it was August and still warm) my husband has me doing squats and lunges in my chemo bay in the off the shoulder dress and heels while we wait the arrival of the chemotherapy drugs from pharmacy. Yes, I drew a few looks, but I was eventually cannulated and we were off. This is me at cycle one wearing the very attractive cold cap in an attempt to reduce the impact of hair loss.

Cold Cap

I had thought I knew quite a lot about chemotherapy given my professional background, yeah, strike that, I now know I knew very little. When you have chemotherapy, your immune system is compromised and so you are vulnerable to picking up infections you would normally fight quite easily. To reduce the risk of developing a bacterial infection you are advised to avoid certain foods, the list is way longer than I expected. I also didn’t realise that the chemotherapy would have such an impact on the veins in my left arm as quickly as it did. By cycle 2 I was already feeling pain in my lower arm on administration of the drugs and afterwards this discomfort continued. With the support and expertise of the Oncology nurses I moved to having a PICC line inserted (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) and this has made subsequent chemotherapy administration much easier. PICC lines are not without their problems though, they have to be managed carefully to avoid them becoming blocked and infected (weekly flushing and dressing changing) and they must be kept dry. I was given a plastic sleeve to support showering with the PICC line and advised that many patients find wrapping the arm in cling film often works better. Try wrapping yourself in cling film with one hand it’s not easy and it didn’t go well for me. Needless to say, I’ve stuck with the plastic sleeve..

The main learning for me has been about the cold cap used to support patients having chemotherapy to keep their hair. For instance, I didn’t know that around half of people that try the cold cap are unable to tolerate it (people who suffer from headaches can find it unbearable). The cold cap success rates also aren’t as great as some of the reports on the internet suggest. Even if you can tolerate it, it doesn’t work for everyone and it depends on the type of chemotherapy drugs you are prescribed and even for women having chemotherapy for breast cancer the drugs you are prescribed can vary. You also have to wear the cold cap prior to administration of the chemotherapy (approximately 30minutes before) and for a period of time after chemotherapy has been given (around 90 minutes afterwards), it basically can feel like a long time.

Trying to hold on to my hair.

I had tried the cold cap for the first 2 cycles but it didn’t work for me, and losing my hair was traumatic despite being prepared that the cold cap might not work. I suffered depression after cycle 2. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone and I was ready to give up. My friends were messaging me as they were worried as I’d stopped doing drop offs and pick-ups at gymnastics, I avoided everybody including my sister who has been a pillar of support through my whole cancer journey. I was lucky to have the amazing support from my hairdresser and friend of over ten years who skilfully managed my collapse from “I can do this bring it on” to “I can’t face this, it’s too much”. My hair had dropped out in clumps it was uneven with bald patches in weird places and we both finally agreed the best course of action was to shave the remaining hair off. So, one Sunday afternoon that’s exactly what she did for me. Getting myself there and managing to sit there while she shaved what was left of my hair was so difficult, and I only managed it because of her love and care. The task of ringing up and booking an appointment to get a wig was another unbelievably hard step for me to take.

You might wonder why losing your hair could be such a big deal given the other things cancer puts you through. Everyone is different, and for me it was a big deal. I’ve never been a very confident person. As a small child I was extremely shy and I found it hard to talk to anyone I didn’t know well. On my first day of clinical placement as a student therapeutic radiographer at The London Hospital, I was so nervous about speaking to patients I lost my voice (I’d not been ill) I was simply overwhelmed by anxiety; I overcame this fear as my student training progressed. As I moved into the role of a qualified health practitioner I developed strategies to enhance my confidence; I worked hard to make sure my professional knowledge was sound so I could talk with confidence at work, and I wore my hair in different ways to express the inner me and to boost my self-worth. These strategies have continued as I transferred into a lecturer and researcher role. Standing in front of large audiences to speak can be daunting and feeling prepared has gone hand in hand with feeling well presented and having good looking hair. More than that even, I love visiting my hairdresser, she’s a great friend. I would enter the salon often worn down by the stresses of the week, tired and bedraggled. I would leave like Beyonce, flicking my hair and strutting like a diva ready to take on anything; I miss that.

I eventually pulled myself round, the constant support from my close network of friends and family, the totally amazing oncology nurses at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan centre and a friend’s blog actually pulled me back to reality. It’s only hair and in the big scheme of things I am very lucky.

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Holding on to memories.

Amidst all of the above, during the summer an extraordinary human being and friend who had been a special part of my childhood and my adult life, died; he was having a bone marrow transplant following years of living with leukaemia. He was without doubt, exceptional. He was an amazing musician, played the Sax like it was part of his human form, a song writer and producer. He touched the lives of so many people in a positive way and he has left a large void that is hard to fill. In the last year of his life he did an amazing thing for a complete stranger, at a time when he was already unwell himself. He lived his life with love and passion and humour, signing off all his messages with ‘Love and sunshine’, that was John.

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This photo taken by Mark Loraine, another of my very talented childhood friends (I’m surrounded by talent!) makes me smile so much. It was taken on Saltburn beach, one of my favourite places in the world and where I know John liked to surf. John left us all a legacy in his music that lives on. More than that he left us all with an insight of how to live our lives better. Since his passing there has been a swell of love, and a desire from those that were lucky enough to know him, to be more like John. He was kind, he lived his life with love, he gave to others generously, and he always, always made me smile.

Holding on to my career and holding on by my finger nails to life itself.

During the process of the standard cancer bad news, treatments, appointments, bloods, and procedures we have tried to maintain business as usual at home for our children. The usual life stresses still happen and we still have to deal with keeping on top of the school diary of organised events (Harvest festival, choir concerts, athletics competitions) as well as gymnastics training and competitions. Dealing with the accidental dropping of your daughter’s one and only school tie in the dog’s water bowl 2 minutes before you have to leave for school, or supporting our son through settling into a new job in a new city and finding a flat to live in that he can actually afford on a graduates pay, these all still need our attention. Add in that my husband is still working, still trying to make sure he gives his patients the care that they need, contributing to on-call to save adding burden to his already stretched colleagues. I am still trying to work when I am feeling well, because I believe my work is important, has worth and I am determined that my life will not be defined by my breast cancer diagnosis. I am a female academic, my career is already disadvantaged because I took a career break to have two children and I work part-time (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). But research funding applications don’t have sections where you can claim extenuating circumstances for having fewer peer-reviewed journal articles than your colleagues. I have cried lots (daily in the first month following diagnosis) worried about the future and whether I would be there for my children when they needed me, and whether I would be there for my husband; the thought of leaving him to cope alone in the future is horrendous, and too hard to bear some days.

We are still struggling to manage our lives through my cancer journey. We are trying to keep life as normal as possible for our daughter who is coping with her mum having cancer treatment brilliantly. But she has had a couple of wobbles in moments of quiet time where her thoughts have drifted to worries about my breast cancer and the future. She’s not the only one who worries about the future, David and I worry with every pain and twinge I experience that brings a fresh heart sink moment of “is this something I need to tell somebody about? is it bone pain?”

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Throughout this difficult period for us I have been so proud of how our children have pulled together as a family, how they have supported us and each other; no words can express my love and pride for these guys.

What it all comes back to is love, kindness and support. I have been blessed with the most amazing support from friends, colleagues (actually I don’t see them as colleagues they are all my friends) and family. I can’t tell you how much this support has meant during this period. The messages that come at all times of day with no expectation of a reply, the gifts left for me without need for words of thanks, the hand drawn pictures, the art personalised for me, all because people care and they want to help. The friends who meet me for coffee, for food, for walks, who share of their time, who send me playlists to lift my spirits and keep me going, who cry with me when I’m down, who come up with ways to help me overcome the difficult weeks. To those people who perhaps have stepped out of their comfort zone to tell me they love my new hair cut (I’m not always sure they know it’s a wig or not, but it doesn’t matter) they can’t know the truly transformative impact it has on helping me cope.

I find myself saying thank you so often and it never seems enough, and I also doubt whether these amazing people realise quite how important all that they have and continue to do for me and how much their messages buffer the difficult stuff. It’s no exaggeration that they are the only reason I am able to move from holding on to moving on. I have pondered what I could give back to these selfless human beings who have done so much for me. The one thing I feel I can give to you is the insight that a cancer diagnosis bestows on you. Live your life with passion, with purpose, and with love. It is easy to let the drudgery of the negativity in the media, or in the narratives that some people express under the guise of fact, but which is in fact opinion, bring you down.  I recall as a young qualified therapeutic radiographer an older staff member saying to me “I don’t understand why you young ones are in such a hurry to achieve everything, you have the whole of your lives, what’s the rush?” I never could quite align myself to that thinking, and here I am faced potentially with a shortened life expectancy. I am prone to quoting a bit of Shakespeare and not breaking this trend I thought I’d share this extract from The Tempest, spoken by Prospero, which I love, and more eloquently describes the fragility of life, and the reality that in an instance all that we hold close may simply disappear.

“And like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself—

Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve,

And like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep”.

The Tempest Act 4 scene 1.

The truth is we are all mortal, and none of us know when our time will be up or when our dreams will end, and so we must use the time we have with purpose, with love, with kindness and with passion. I’m trying to be more like my friend John every day, he truly lived his life.

So, while I’ve been holding on over the last few months, I’ve done so because of amazing people, and amazing love and I will continue to hold on to my beautiful family, my beautiful friends, and to beautiful memories. As I sign off this blog, I’d like to share with you this song written and produced by John (sung by James Arthur) and I invite you to join me (in a virtual sense) to dance around your home while I dance in the kitchen holding on to my amazing husband, as we have hung on to each other and will continue to hold on to each other through this whole journey, me attempting to replicate the grace of Oti Mabuse from Strictly, failing terribly but enjoying the dream.

Hold On by John McGough

Love and sunshine people (oh and still hoping for crisps).

24 thoughts on “Holding On

  • Oh Heidi – the classic “I don’t know what to say” but I want to say everything. Forget the “you’re an amazing woman” (you are) or “you’re so brave” (you are, but I know you’d rather have had a choice) – I just want to say thank you for this. I’m sitting in my sunny office thinking of you with much love and hoping that you get all the crisps, handstands, hugs and good news in the future.

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  • You are so inspirational, beyond a amazing with your words!!! And yes we will have you being Beyoncé aka Sasha fierce again… being that diva (with a heart of gold💛again!!! Always looking fabulous and kicking arse 👊🏼 My love and support always.. 💕

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  • Heidi, your honesty is sublime… Thank you for sharing your worries, challenges and achievements, they are all enlightening and we will all learn from them. We are all on a unique journey, learning about life in the dark valleys and the bright mountain tops and wow, how tough it can be. Please be kind to you super-strong soul and rest when you can. Sending a huge virtual hug to you and your wonderful family xx

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  • So honoured you asked to use one of my photos Heidi, your words are inspiration beyond comprehension in so many ways, yet simple and honest. Indeed Love and Sunshine Mx

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  • Thanks for sharing your journey Heidi. No doubt provides strength and courage to others. And provides perspective for those of us dealing with the many “1st world problems” that consume us. Please continue to fight so you are more than hanging on, regaining a firm grip and in time control.

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  • Thank you Heidi for letting us know how it really is for patients. It’s made me appreciate anew just how different the experience of cancer is for everyone. Despite my many years on the job I needed the reminder. Wishing you and your family many more handstands x

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  • Hi Heidi, I got this link through mark lorraine via face book and although we lost touch after school (maybe 35 years ish!) your post has really moved me and brought back many old memories. I am truly sorry and wish you and your family well. Your positive attitude is inspirational. Steve Wanless

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  • Hi Heidi… a very deep experience from the heart around your illness. I am so sorry to hear of what is your path at the moment. I remember you as a very shy little girl .. hiding behind your big sister. I am sending some strength and love across the miles as I now live in Australia. I often sent it to John too. I was best friends with Clare his sister. Take care Heidi… thinking of you. . Beautiful inside and out. Catherine Featherstone nee McAnespie

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  • Hello Heidi. Thank you so much for sharing your experience on here with us. I think you are a strong person to be honest. I still can sense the optimism and strength in you despite all of this. Concerning your hair, I would say, do not worry so much about it. You are an attractive lady from the picture you posted, hair or no hair, you still look good. You can try on wigs, they look good and no one will notice. Coming from me and the world at large, I would like to let you know that we appreciate you.

    I understand that this situation is not easy. If you can keep an open mind, there is someone who I would advise that you talk to. This person should be able to help you. The person is God. God is an ever present help in times of need.

    God says in Isaiah 41:10
    “”Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”.

    You can speak to God through prayer. Prayers that come straight from the heart. The bible says in Philippians 4:6
    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done”.

    I strongly believe that God can help, he has done great things in my life, and in the lives of many others. I am sure that he can do the same for you too.

    I do not know whether you have a relationship with God or not. If you already have a good relationship with God, congratulations, you are on the right path. You do not need to read this comment any further. Chances are high that if you have a relationship with God, you probably already know everything that I am about to tell you. I would say this, keep praying, keep obeying him, and keep trusting in him, and he would come through for you. However, if you do not yet have a relationship with God, you are in luck, here are some exciting details about God that you need to know:

    You may have heard that God is the creator of the universe and everything within it. This claim is 100% true. God did create everything in the universe, including us humans. Like a good father loves his children, God loves each and every one of us dearly. He likes to provide for us, to bless us, and to help us. His intention is to provide for us in this life and to also grant us eternal life. Eternal life is the life after this life that we are currently living, you can simply call it the after-life. Eternal life would last forever. Not everybody would gain access into the eternal life. Since that life would last forever and in it people would not die, it would not make sense to allow in violent people, liars, thieves and others. Since these people would not die, there would be no end to the problems that they would cause. Therefore, only the purest people are allowed in. We humans cannot be pure by ourselves. We are prone to envy, lying, cheating others and so much more. We learn to do these bad things from such a young age, by the time we reach adulthood, we are already too far gone in it. For this reason, God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins so that we can be easily redeemed and saved. The blood of Jesus has made us pure and worthy. After the death of Jesus, all we need to do is to believe in Jesus and obey the Word of God, and those are the core for gaining access into eternal life. Like I mentioned earlier, God loves to bless us, and he desires to give us everything that we need. However, because God exists in the spiritual realm and we exist in the physical realm, we need to learn to understand how God communicates and to build a relationship with him in order to understand him. Over the course of building a relationship with him, you would understand how he works and how to locate the blessings that he has sent to you both in this life and for the next.

    God wants you to inherit eternal life, as a matter of fact, eternal life is one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind. Nevertheless, God also cares about how you fare in this life. He wants you to know that he loves you. He does not ever want you to feel alone, confused, anxious or sad. He wants you to know the provisions that he has made for you. Like a good father, he loves us and he would like us to love him and obey him. He has put everything in place for our good.

    The Bible says in Romans 8: 38 – 39
    “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

    God says in Jeremiah 29:11
    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

    The Bible says in Psalm 34:18:
    “The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged

    If you are interested in building a relationship with God, I will include below a lengthy and detailed suggestion on how you can do so. However, since I am aware of your health, I would advise that you use discretion. If fasting would not work for you, do not fast. I think a strong element would be prayer, hearing from God and obeying the word of God, that is after a confession of faith of course. I find that many people get scared at the length of the suggestions. I want to say this, it is a step by step process, do not feel the need to execute it all in one day. Go at a pace that works for you and trust the process. Some people also get the impression that I am judging them or trying to tell them how to act or how to be, No! I do not want it to come across that way, because that is not my intention, I am simply giving friendly suggestions. Some people also get the impression that i am trying to say that if they do not do everything on my suggestion list that they would be doomed. I am not trying to say this. Also bear in mind, that although my suggestions seem lengthy, they would quickly become second nature to you. If you struggle with any of the steps, you can ask God for assistance and he would it make it easier for you.

    If you are ready, here are my suggestions:

    1. Confession of faith: you need to find a quiet space. Imagine that Jesus is in front of you. Ask him for forgiveness of your past sins and the sins of your ancestors. Ask him to give you the strength to forgive those who have offended you. Honestly, I suggest that you forgive the people who have offended you, because whatever they did to you is now in the past, and upon a confession of Jesus as your Lord, you become a new creation. In addition, God commands that we need to forgive others, before he can forgive us. You can also get a deliverance before your confession of faith. Deliverance will rid you off any ungodly spirits that have taken residence in your body and mind. A pastor with a deliverance anointing should be able to help with this. There are also videos on YouTube, where pastors with a deliverance anointing pray directly for people through the videos. You just need to search “deliverance prayer” in the search bar to reach these videos. Now, you need to tell Jesus that you want him to come and be your lord and personal savior, and surrender to him. You need to know that Jesus died for you. He died on the cross so that you may have a chance at salvation. The minute you give your life to Jesus, you need to know that you can no longer live as you wish, you shall live according to the stipulations in the bible. Believe in your heart that Jesus was risen up from the dead by God, and confess with your mouth that he is the messiah and your personal savior.

    2. Prayers: Women need to pray with their hair covered with a scarf or any piece of clothing, this does not apply to men. If you have any unforgiveness, bitterness, or anger in you, it is better to address it before prayer. You are better off coming to God on a clean slate. If you are struggling with dealing with these negative emotions, ask God to help you deal with them first, before proceeding to your actual prayer (a quick prayer asking God to help you with these emotions should be fine). Singing worship and praise songs before praying is useful, because it allows you to get into the prayer mood. Ask Jesus to bless you with eternal life. Tell him to make a place for you in his heavenly abode. You need to understand that praying for heaven is the best prayer that you can ever pray. Life on earth is so short, you need to be worried about eternal life, which is so much longer. God knows that you need clothes, food, shelter etc. He is your creator and he knows your every need. The bible tells us to pray for eternal life and God would provide our other needs (i.e. clothes, shelter etc.) according to his riches. If there is something bothering you, tell God in prayer, commit it to him and ask him to do it for you. However, bear in mind that this life is temporary and so are the things in this life. When you are praying, the devil will try to disrupt your prayers by bringing sudden disturbances such as sudden phone calls or loud noises and evil thoughts. An example of an evil thought that the devil tries to use to stop people from praying is by bringing the thought that Jesus is not present and that they are simply wasting their time. Jesus is there with you when you pray. So pray like you mean it. Pray the same way you will if Jesus was right in front of you because he is. You need to understand how prayers work as well. You see, when you pray, God answers prayers. God usually has three answers to prayers Yes, Yes but Wait, and No. God has a reason for every answer that he gives. He loves you and he will make sure that everything works out well for you in the end. When you get a No from God, sometimes it is not because that thing is not good for you at that point in time, but it may be because God is trying to draw your attention to something that you are doing wrong in your life. When you get a No from God, you need to evaluate yourself, what is the motive of your prayer? is it pure? Is it Godly? Is there an area of sin in your life that you need to work on? When you reflect on these things and you find something in yourself lacking, try to fix it. When God says Yes to prayers and sends you his blessings, trust me, there are spiritual forces of the devil in high places that work against people so that their blessings from God would not reach them. You need to pray against these spiritual forces. Rebuke them by the power and the name of Jesus. This way, your blessings would be able to reach you. Lastly, some people pray lazy prayers. For example, someone might pray for a job, without actually applying to any. God does not reward laziness. When you are praying for something, you need to be putting some work in as well. God rewards hard-work and we ought to strive to be hardworking. God’s role is to direct, bless, and make your path clear. However, bear in mind that sometimes God answers even lazy prayers and gives us undeserved blessings, that shows you the power of his love. He would always be with you. You need to make sure that you are close to God in prayer. Do not cease to tell him about what you are struggling with. If you are struggling with sins of the flesh that you believe are hindering your spiritual growth, you need to make sure that you tell God. Make sure that you pray for an increment in faith. Faith is important, you need to have faith in God. When we pray, we need to have faith, God does not like it when we doubt his ability to provide us with what we want, he is mighty and nothing is impossible with him. When you are low in faith, pray to God for an increment in faith. Remember to pray for your family, your city, your country and the world in fact, no prayers are too big for God. Pray that unsaved people would be saved. Pray for your non-Christian family members, pray that they see the light and become saved. When you pray, make sure that you take care of sins. The bible says that we need to forgive others if we want our sins to be forgiven. Make sure you forgive others, ask for forgiveness of your sins first before praying. Sins can block your prayers from getting to God. Try to avoid sin, but pray for forgiveness of sins everyday, because sometimes, we are not aware of the sins that we are committing. When you get answers to your prayers, remember to thank God.

    3. The Bible: You need to make sure that you are reading the bible and that you are obeying it. I suggest you begin with the New Testament because the coming of Jesus changed many of the things that were practiced before. However, bear in mind that the old testament is also important. You can find free bible apps on google play. You can also find free bibles online. The New Living Translation is an easy to read bible version. However, the most popular one is the King James Version.

    4. Hearing from God: Trust me, God would speak to you. He would speak to you through dreams. Through people, through situations, through the bible and so much more. You need to practice and perfect the art of hearing God’s voice. Dreams contain a lot of symbolism. When you possess an avid knowledge of what the bible says, you would understand the biblical meaning of all the symbols in your dreams. However, for now, you can search online bible dream dictionaries for the meaning of things you see in your dream. You also need to know that although there are general meanings for some symbols, some interpretations are based on context. Take context into account. God does communicate via dreams. Sometimes, you might be asking God for direction on something. Pay attention to the words all around you during this time i.e, the things people say, words you see when reading the bible etc. Sometimes you might even just turn on your TV and the TV anchor would say something that directly relates to what you are going through. Pay attention to these things. You would know it is God’s voice when whatever is said is not in contradiction to the bible and God’s nature. If it is in contradiction then it might just be something random that popped up. You can also hear God’s voice by meditating on him. You can do this by finding a quiet space, you can play some background Christian music if you want. During this time, close your eyes and focus on God. Do some praise and worship in your heart first, then invite Jesus to come to you. Ask a question and pay attention to any bible verses that are brought to your mind, inner voices that you hear, any general feelings etc. If what is said is in line with the bible, then it is probably God speaking. It might take several weeks before you begin to hear God via meditation. If you keep trying one method and it does not work, try another method, like paying attention to the words around you. As you practice the art of listening and hearing, God might give you the gift of seeing visions or the gift of hearing an inner voice, and take you to deeper depths of hearing.

    5. Fasting: fasting is an effective way to get God’s attention. Fasting is a way to spend time with him. You deprive yourself of food because what you seek for is more than food. There are different types of fasting, and you need to plan what works for you. There is the:

    A. Avoidance fasting: This is a fasting form where you avoid something that you cannot do without i.e. Coffee.

    B. Daniel’s fast: In this sort of fasting, you only eat fruit and vegetables and drink water. You do not eat anything cooked or anything other than fruits and vegetables.

    C. Water fast: In this sort of fasting, you do not eat anything, you only drink water. No food, just water.

    D. Total fast: In this sort of fasting, you do not eat or drink anything. You do not drink even water.

    Make sure that you work out what works for you. You can pray to God for directions on the timing of the fasting to follow. However, as a general time-frame, on fasting days, many Christians fast from 6am to 6pm. Many Christians also use those moments when they feel hungry/ feel cravings as prompts to pray. You need to have increased prayers during fasting periods.

    6. Temptations: When you believe in Jesus. Trust me, the devil sometimes would throw trials and tribulations into your life, the goal of this is to get you to denounce your faith. The goal is to frustrate you. You need to pray and fast when trials and tribulations strike. God would never leave you or forsake you. He would be with you and with God, you will overcome this if it ever happens.

    7. Spreading the gospel: Now that you know the truth, you are chosen. It is now your duty to share the truth in the bible with others. Make sure that you save people from falling prey to Satan’s tactics. You need to join the fight to depopulate the devil’s camp, while populating God’s kingdom. With spreading the gospel, do not feel the need to finish reading the whole bible before you begin. You can teach people the little you know.

    8. Read: There is a lot of material out there. There are ministers of God who have practiced for about 40 years. These people have a lot of stories about their ministry. Some of them have the gift to heal others, others see visions, some of them hear God’s voice. Many of these people have written books about how they accomplished what they have accomplished, and how they got their gift. Buy these books and read them. If you do not have money, some of these ministers have shared their stories for free on YouTube, take advantage of that.

    9: Reform yourself: begin to watch Christian movies and listen to Christian music. Make sure that your thoughts, actions, and words are in obedience to the word of God. Make sure that you are not doing anything sinful in your thoughts, actions or words. Refine your world, the space around you, the things you see and hear, make it all about God. You can also join a community of bible believing Christians. However, I need to tell you that there is sectarianism in the religion. Do not pay attention to sectarianism, pay attention to the bible. The bible is your authority. If a church seems to have too much sectarianism issue going on, if they are more focused on promoting their denomination than promoting God and the word in his bible, you need to stop going there. Get a water baptism, and pray so that God would baptize you in the holy spirit.

    (I know I have written this list in the order of 1 to 9. It is crucial that you begin with Step 1. Prayers are something that you need to do constantly, so is bible study, hearing from God and reforming yourself. However, you can start small with fasting and spreading the gospel. You can start by preaching to your family members in the beginning phase of spreading the gospel, but you need to expand on these over time. I know this list seems long and all these seem deep, but trust me, you would blend into it so easily and it would become second nature to you. Pray to God to make all of these easy for you, and he will. The devil would try to trick you into believing that God’s standards are too high and that you would never overcome sin, when in actuality, you can. So therefore, pray to God and believe and he would help you overcome sin).

    If you ever backslide and fall back into sin again while trying to follow God’s word. You need to ask him to forgive you and try to get back on track. You should also ask him to strengthen you, so that you can have more strength in withstanding and blocking off sin. God would hear your prayer and he would send help according to his will.

    If you have any questions, feel free to let me know. If you need to talk, I am here for you. God bless you. Have a blessed day 🙂

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  • Oh my word Heidi, just read your very touching and honest post after Mark shared it. Very emotional (huge lump in my throat)… what a journey you are on and its really clear that you have some amazing people around you. The tears came when you mentioned starting school as I was right back in the playground with you on our first day… two little shy kids ending up as great friends! Your words are inspiring and I’m sure will help many people. Stay positive, love and sunshine xx
    Sue (I’m Hurst now but was Rawden) xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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