I sat in Glasgow Royal Infirmary last summer and the consultant told me that I had cancer: stage 4, aggressive and incurable. When people said they would pray for me, I asked if they would do so through the intercession of Venerable Margaret Sinclair. She needs a miracle, I would tell them. I knew that the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints had looked into the case of Venerable Margaret, a poor Edinburgh girl turned nun, and concluded a miracle was still needed in order for her to be declared a Blessed.
I felt a great sense of achievement and hope when, at the end of September 2016, I completed my cycles of chemotherapy. But a couple of weeks later a lump appeared. It emerged that I had a very significant abscess that required removal by surgery.
I was promptly hurled into theatre at the end of October. I woke afterwards feeling groggy but pain-free for the first time for months as the surgery had gone much better than expected. Two weeks to the day after the operation, I was told that I could begin to prepare for going home three days later.
Everything seemed rosy until that night, I awoke in the small hours with excruciating pain in my chest and my shoulder. A scan was arranged in the morning and my consultant explained to me that I had a blood clot in my lung. That was the good news. The bad news was that the scan of my chest had shown up an extremely dangerous and extensive infection in the tissues of my body running from my hips to my chest and even to my shoulder blades in places. It appeared that I had become infected somehow with what the papers somewhat sensationally describe as a “flesh-eating bug”.
I was told that the normal treatment was to surgically remove the infected tissue but that I had so much infected tissue that the operation was unsurvivable and therefore no operation could be tried because it would kill me. Life expectancy was 24 to 48 hours. On Sunday the discussions had been about going home. On Monday they were about dying.
The next two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, are a blur to me. I slept through most of them, waking up to groggily acknowledge visitors and try to chat coherently with them. I was also receiving Holy Communion each day and had been anointed.
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