Mike Peters, cancer, and church of the non-believers

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Thanks to Paste Magazine for its interview with Mike Peters of The Alarm. Heartbreaking to read about his bout with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). You can read the entire interview HERE .

* “I was in hospital, and my glands were so swollen, it was like I had tennis balls in my neck. It was so bad, I didn’t want to look in the mirror because I couldn’t even recognize myself. It was scary, and I thought, ‘The only way I can get through this is, I’ve got to respect what I’m up against and allow it to be – I can’t pretend it’s not happening and wish it away. I have to embrace, so I’m gonna let this come to me, and I’m gonna take it on, and I’m gonna relish the game, I’m gonna relish the battle. I’m gonna try and be the winner here, and the only way to do that is by respecting the opponent.’ Which were the drugs, because they come into you and they are killing part of you that you’ve created within yourself, in the biology of your humanity. You’ve created these things that are trying to kill you this time, so my way to combat them was to recognize them, give some respect, and say, ‘But you’re not gonna get the best of me – I’m gonna fight back with all I’ve got.’ And that’s been my mindset all along, ever since I first heard the word ‘cancer’ applied to my life back in 1995.”

In another section, his interviewer asked about his faith.

Paste: In “The Returning,” you sing about the afterlife. Have you had any glimpses of it? And in “Forwards,” you talk about being “In the church of nonbelievers,” so what part does faith play in it all?

Peters: Yeah. “Forwards” was really my place where I could ‘Save my sanity,’ if you like, while I was in hospital. In between the IV sessions, I would be disconnected, and I could wander down the corridors and walk, and kind of save my muscle strength a little bit, because you really need to keep moving, and not just be in hospital, lying there all the time. So they said, “You can go, but just don’t go too far,” so my hospital walk was just up and down the corridors, but it was at night, and you’d see people at their loneliest in that time, when there no visitors and people had masks on, and I could see some people crying sometimes, and you’d wonder, “Wow. What’s going on there?” But if you kept walking, you’d pass by the natal clinic, where people are giving birth, with absolute joy on their faces. And then I’d meet some people on the ward who virtually gave up. You could tell that they’d given up, and they didn’t seem to want to communicate. And to me, they were in the church of the non-believers, those people I saw in the hospital, in the streets of emptiness and the city’s all deserted.

So my little ward became my world, and I would wander through it at night, and in my mind, I would keep looking for the way out. I wanted that way forward, I was looking for that sign that I was gonna come out alive. I wasn’t sure if I was, at first, but I didn’t wanna become a disbeliever, either. I wanted to hang on and will the drugs to work, will the doctors to do their best, sing for the nurses so they could give me their best, and I could give my best to what they were trying to do, as well. So I tried to always think about that. But it’s a sad state of affairs when you’re in health care in the UK – and it’s free, and it’s brilliant – but doctors and the staff are briefed to not give any false hope, not really allowed to say to you, “Hey, we think you’re gonna make it!” Because if you don’t make it, somebody out there will sue them, and say, “You said he was going to get well, and he didn’t – he died, and it’s your fault!” So they won’t give you any of that false hope at all, so that was probably my walk through the afterlife – realizing that I might be transforming into a more dangerous disease, which people who’ve been suffering Leukemia for a long time can. So the doctors were worried about that, too, and they kept giving me this test and that test. And it was all trying to rule things out, but they didn’t want to frighten me or frighten my family, or give me false hope or any misinformation that could backfire on them. So I’m grateful for what I received from the NHS.”

To learn more about Mike Peters’ LOVE HOPE STRENGTH FOUNDATION, click HERE

For further reading, The Alarm’s Mike Peters has converted an old chapel into a free retreat for cancer sufferers. With it they want to “offer people affected by cancer the opportunity to rest, relax, regroup, recuperate, reset, retreat – to do what they need to do to help give them hope, build their strength and feel loved” (WalesOnline).

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