Anouska’s Story

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine.

Anouska and I were childhood friends. We went to church together. I can still picture her back then – a pretty snippet of a girl – a little bit cheeky – always laughing and full of beans. She was named after a character from a book that her mum was reading about a Russian Ballerina.

Years ago…Crystal Palace Park

Sadly, at around age 11, life took us in different directions, and for years, we lost touch. One day, I heard from a mutual friend, that Anouska’s life had taken an extremely difficult turn. At that time, she had all but lost her faith. I began to cry out to God for her. One day, out of the blue, she messaged me on Social Media, and eventually we met up for coffee.

Not long after, I had the privilege of praying for Anouska at her baptism, in June 2017. It was impossible to hold back the wave of tears and emotion as I witnessed her go through those waters, and listened to her testify about her strong faith in Jesus, through the storms of adversity.

I don’t think Anouska truly knows the impact she has had on me, and many many others.

This is her story.

  • Sep, 2011 – Anouska was diagnosed with HER2 Positive Breast Cancer. She was just 35.
  • October 2011-March 2012 – Extensive Chemotherapy (which forced her through early menopause).
  • April 2012 – Double Mastectomy with immediate reconstuction (9 hrs and 30 mins in surgery)
  • April 2012 – Declared Cancer Free!
  • September 2013 – After months of excruciating headaches, doctors discover a Stage 4 Breast Cancer related Brain Tumour.
  • October 2013 – Undergoes surgery to remove it.
  • November 2013 – Ten sessions of whole brain radiotherapy
  • Jan 2014 – Anouska’s beloved Mum, Gill passes away from a sudden massive heart attack, four days after she is diagnosed for the third time with a small secondary breast cancer in the liver.
  • February 2014 – April 2014 – Undergoes Chemotherapy and targeted therapy antibody drugs, Herceptin and Perjeta.
  • April 2014 – Anouska contracts the hospital superbug ‘C-Diff’ and is unable to continue with her chemotherapy.
  • May 2014 – Continues with 3 weekly antibody drug treatment and is told that this will continue for the rest of her life.
  • June 2014 – Full body scans – receives the magic words: ‘Anouska, you’re in remission!’
  • October 2017 – Routine Scan shows up a small secondary breast cancer brain tumour.
  • November 2017 – Undergoes surgery to remove brain tumour, reopening scar from first brain surgery. Developed complications, leaking cerebral fluid from scar. Develops a CSF infection (viral meningitis.)
  • Anouska is hospitalised with severe headaches, dizziness, vomiting and an intolerance to light. She is given intravenous antibiotics.
  • Sent home from hospital on 23rd December 2017 but is still vomiting and dizzy with constant severe headaches. So she is readmitted to hospital for six weeks, until finally she is sent home as the hospital need the bed.
  • May, 2018 – Begins 3 sessions of cranial osteopathy – which are unsuccessful. On fourth session Doctor tries acupuncture. Finally, the room stops spinning, the headaches and vomiting stop.
  • September 2018 – For some time, Anouska has been experiencing weeping from her right nipple. Biopsy reveals Cancer in her right nipple.
  • October 2018 – Surgery to remove both nipples.
  • Jan 2019 – Scan reveals small tumour in brain. Further scan shows 2 more.
  • February 2019 -SRS Radiotherapy treatment.
  • May 2019 – Scans on brain and body ALL CLEAR!

Quite a journey, hey?

Yet if you met Anouska, I’m pretty sure you would have no idea what she’s been through in the past eight years. Instead, you would be met with a beaming smile, and a friend who, time after time, is far quicker to ask how YOU are, than talk about herself.

She’s the type of person that shows up with a pair of Marigolds on and does your housework when you’ve had a busy week- and I’m not exaggerating.

She is unbelievably generous and kind. She bowled us over with this stunning hamper when she came over for Christmas Dinner last year.

Treats Galore!

She is always the first one to wash up, or bake a cake, or help serve at a church event. She recently served on our Homeless Shelter Team.

When Anouska’s mum passed away, Anouska took up full care of her 29 year old foster brother, Christian, who has accute physical needs, due to being born with an extremely rare condition.

I’ve never heard Anouska grumble. I’ve never heard her moan. But I’ve heard her crack plenty of jokes. She sends me encouragements. She cheers me up. She tells me off when I moan about my bad hair day, reminding me that she still doesn’t have any hair to moan about. She rocks a wig better than anyone I’ve ever met – and looks just as beautiful with a turban on her head.

She is positive. She is grateful for the small things. She oozes faith and hope. Her smile lights up the room. She lives life to the full and she never sweats the small stuff.

She lives out, on a daily basis, her favourite scripture verses:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you – you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “what shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all of these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:24-33
Cheers…

She sent me these words today:

Before I met with Jesus, I blamed God for all the bad things that happened to me, and I felt like I was facing everything on my own – especially when my mum passed away 5 days after I was diagnosed for the third time.

Now instead of blaming God for letting this happen to me, I thank Him for the world-surpassing peace, strength and positivity He has given me.

My faith in Jesus is everything now. I know that even when I’m sitting in the treatment chair, laid on the radiotherapy bed, or on the operating table, Jesus is with me, I’m not alone and I never worry about what the future may bring.

Anouska, I salute you. It’s a privilege to be your friend, and I love you from the bottom of my heart!

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

FAITH!

  • Happy…Sad
  • Rich…Poor
  • Big…Little
  • Bad…good
  • Faith…

Up until yesterday, my natural inclination would probably have been to fill in the blank with the word ‘FEAR’.  But my Greek Bible taught me something which totally stopped me in my tracks.  The most appropriate antonym for the word Faith, is not fear…

It’s SIGHT!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things NOT SEEN

Hebrews 11:1

By faith, Noah, being warned by God about things NOT YET SEEN, in reverence, prepared an ark for the salvation of his household

Hebrews 11:7

For we walk by faith, NOT SIGHT – 2 Corinthians 5:7

2 Corinthians 5:7


In the absence of sight, faith gives me flight!

Seeing is NOT believing!  Oh no my friend, it’s quite the other way around!  

Image from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Faith is going, not knowing.  It steps out in the dark.  It leaps into the unknown.  It gets out of the boat and walks on water.  It says yes when everyone else is saying no.  It can part the red sea, it can move the mountains, it pleases God, it really, really pleases Him.  It turns the worrier into a warrior, the barren into the fruitful, the weak into the strong!  It’s the currency of heaven and it only operates in the absence of sight!

Then he said to Thomas, “reach here with your finger and see My hands, and reach here with your hand and put it into My side, and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Because you have SEEN me have you believed?  Blessed are they who did not SEE, yet believed!”

John 20:27-29

Oh, Lord increase my faith!



Psalms and Hymns and Teacups

-For a few years now, my sister Kerry has dreamt of opening up a tea-shop, serving delicious cream teas, coffee and cakes on vintage china.  This dream has become so vividly etched in her mind, that some time ago she began visiting auction houses and charity shops and collecting tea-sets.

Kerry has boxes and drawers literally crammed with all manner of teacups and saucers and side plates.  She has scoured the internet, and most of South East London, searching for that particular teacup to complete a set, and has become something of an expert on vintage china.  She has a natural eye for colour and interior design, as this photograph shows:,

Vintage Tea set

But the trouble with dreams such as this, is that so often they are very easy to carry in our hearts, but not quite so easy to carry out in reality.  They come with a cost.  So often, they require our time, our energy, our money and our committment – not to mention a fair amount of risk-taking.

But this is not the only dream that Kerry carries.  There is one that has lingered within her, in embryonic form, since she was a little girl.   Not only is Kerry mad about teacups, she is also a gifted musician and singer.   She learnt to play the piano and flute as a young child and for as long as I can remember has always had the most beautiful, pitch-perfect singing voice.

Around 10 years ago, a visiting speaker who had never met Kerry before, spoke a prophetic word over her, that she would be used by God to lead worship and write anointed worship songs.

The trouble with giftings and promises such as this, is that so often they require our courage and faith to step out and walk in them.  Kerry, although clearly gifted and called, constantly struggles to find the boldness to step into this anointing, particularly when it comes to leading worship.

Isn’t it interesting that God so often chooses people, like Gideon, hiding in the winepress, and Moses, a man slow of speech, for callings that seem so much bigger than themselves?

A few days ago, Kerry was out walking her two boisterous Beagles, Poppy and Daisy, in the local park.  As she walked, she poured her heart out to to Lord.  All these dreams – tea-shops and worship songs – lay heavily upon her heart.  She needed guidance and confirmation about her future.  Questions and doubts went round and round in her mind…Was her dream of opening a teashop ok with God, or was it just becoming a huge distraction?  Was she really called to write worship songs?  Was she even any good at writing songs?   She certainly didn’t feel spiritual enough to lead worship.  Surely she should be reading her bible and praying a whole lot more. ( I wonder how many people can relate to thoughts like these?!)

All of a sudden, her eyes were drawn to what looked like shredded paper strewn all over the grass ahead of her.  She went over to investigate.  On closer inspection, she realised that the shredded paper was in fact pages from a bible that must have been caught by a lawn-mower.

She reached down and picked up the most intact piece that she could find.

Kerry's Psalm

Of all the pages, in all the bible, she happens to stumble across a Psalm – a song written by the biblical King David, arguably the bible’s most well-known worshipper!  Coincidence?…I don’t think so.

“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee!  

How amazing and wonderful is our heavenly Father?  How swiftly and amazingly He hears and answers our heart-felt prayers!  How lovingly He confirms His word to us – sometimes even in tangible ways: with a piece of shredded bible that you can literally pick up and read!

Okay, so Kerry still doesn’t know all the answers to all her questions concerning her future.  But she does know this:  God loves her enough to speak to her in such a personal way.  And even though she feels unqualified, He really does want her to write those worship songs!

If you’re in any doubt today that God has plans and purposes for your life – then I hope this story encourages you!  We have a wonderful, intimate Father, who knows each and every one of His children by name – who has good works that He has prepared for us in advance to walk in.  Life can be confusing at times – dreams and hopes can seem to lie dormant within us for years.  But at the right time, God is able to come along and breathe His life over these buried desires and fan into flame the gifts that He has placed within us!

Praise His Name!

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