Have you seen all the stories that the people of Marsden and Slaithwaite are telling about their faith? Link here. This week we have a complex story of Helen Haigh’s faith, health, and motivation to fundraise for good causes.
Do you have to go to church to be a Christian? Helen’s faith is an active faith: seeking to both pray and to make a difference in the world. Going to church to tick a box is low down the to do list. As your Vicar, I hope that your church will be a place of refreshment and renewal, of encouragement and prayerful support, and most importantly a place of intentional encounter with God. However, the mark of a Christian is that the blessings received from God become the blessings we pour upon the world around us. Helen Haigh is a wonderful example of a Christian being a blessing, read her story here.
Helen Haigh writes…
Please let me introduce myself first, my name is Helen and I live in Marsden, I did move away for a short time when I went to do my nursing but I have now returned with my family as Marsden will always be my home.
I did go to church as a child but not religiously, as now I don’t feel I have to attend church every Sunday to show my faith in God.
Seven years ago, I returned to Nursing and I got my dream job as an Oncology nurse at the best cancer hospital in the world, The Christies in Manchester, where a lot of my patients were for end-of-life treatment. At times I did question my faith when I would be sit with families of people who were about to die, why would God let young people get cancer? Why did he let them suffer? Questions that I couldn’t answer and to this day I still question things that happen.
Two years after I began my dream job, I went for a routine mammogram, and that was the day my life stood still for a little while. The consultant brought me back in the room to tell me they had found a lump and after more scans, treatments and bloods, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
How could I have cancer? I was a cancer nurse, I suppose cancer doesn’t pick and choose in these circumstances. So I had two choices; sit and feel sorry for myself, or find something to do whilst going through surgery and treatment. That something was fundraising.
In the early days I probably did a bit more praying, not only for myself but for those around me. The little chapel at the hospital became a place where I would spend most of my time between appointments. Then one day at my surgery appointment, the cancer specialist showed me some black and white pictures of the surgery I would be having. I remember asking her why they used old pictures and not modern ones, she explained they would love an iPad to use, but unfortunately they hadn’t the money for one. So I set about fundraising to buy one. I became Chair of Link4Pink the breast charity at the unit where I was treated , we held several events over the two years, many including fellow cancer patients. We ended up raising over £30,000 – so we managed to buy a couple more iPads !
I did get back to work at The Christies for a short time, but due to complications around my previous surgery I had to give up work, which was a bit of a blow. It made me determined to do more fundraising whilst I had the time.
My partner and I also made the decision to move back to Marsden two years ago, as we were foster carers to two long term children. We had been asked to foster another two year old, but after she was put up for adoption we decided we wanted to adopt her instead, which was finalised this year. I wanted the kids to be brought up in a village life, and Marsden was an obvious choice.
So we moved back. We continued fundraising for the kids schools, helping them raise vital funds for schools, I helped with getting the kids into church for Christingle, Remembrance and other major events, which I loved being involved in. My Mum was a regular at St Bartholomew’s Church and is now a Churchwarden. I began to help her with events and raising much needed funds for our beautiful church, I loved being involved and I was lucky I had the time to give.
Then crash-bang-wallop: on the 27th December, 2018, I became poorly again. After all the tests, x-rays etc, I was told my cancer has again returned. It is now on the lining of my lung and is incurable. It is treatable, but incurable. I have chemotherapy tablets every day for three weeks, then a week off. I have monthly injections with a needle the size of a javelin, and tablets to put me in early menopause.
I did begin again to question my faith, but as I returned to our church I realised there were people worse off than me. So I continue raising awareness of cancer, and the importance of regular mammograms for both men and women.
We decided that our regular events at church wouldn’t be going on due to COVID-19, so we decided what we could do to keep the church in everyone’s mind. I spoke to my friends in Marsden: Cath at the CoOp has kindly got us a £250 donation, to allow us to get Christingle gifts bags out to all the kids in school. Lisa at Crumbles café came up with the idea of providing a hot meal to all those living alone, isolating or simply not being allowed to be with their families on Christmas day. “Donate a Christmas Dinner” was especially necessary, as we heard our local residential home would not be having a Christmas day meal due to the kitchen being out of use. Well they will be now!
The response to this “Donate a Christmas Dinner” appeal has been amazing and we are hoping to provide meals for up to seventy people, which is what our community is all about: pulling together and making a difference. I have also got the schools involved with making Christmas cards to go with the dinners, and the remainder of the cards and pictures will be placed on our church railings… bringing a smile, and hope that 2021 will be better than this year.
So while I am still able I will keep helping pull our community together and next year will be about raising money for our beautiful church. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a very peaceful New Year.
God Bless, Helen