D-Day: Defying Definition by Diagnoses Seven Years On

D-Day: Defying Definition by Diagnoses Seven Years On May 20, 2024

Bluebells in a wood
Hope helps you not be defined by your diagnoses Image: Adrian Warnock

Seven years ago today,  I was diagnosed with a form of Blood Cancer that has tried to destroy my identity and define who I am. Today, on my personal D-Day, I can report I have been slowly learning to defy those definitions and cling onto hope. My identity is not merely a diseased and damaged individual.  I am still in an ongoing battle to live beyond such labels, and it is far from easy.

The blood cancer diagnosis and several others that have followed all made a good attempt at defining my life. Sickness destroyed my career as I was no longer able to work and damaged so many relationships. This was partly because I didn’t always respond “well” to the challenges, at times I felt quite alone and was not always the easiest person to support.

This day seven years ago followed a dreadful 22 days of sickness wondering what was wrong.  I had become unwell on 28 April with a nasty pneumonia that didn’t respond well to treatment and had been caused by the damage to my immune system that blood cancer had done.  I had two diagnoses by this point but several more would follow later including Autonomic Dysfunction, and POTS.   I am under around 15 different consultants and spend a lot of time dealing with my many health conditions.

I used to describe my illnesses as like a tsunami that destroyed everything in their path. And this destruction did make me question everything.  My identity before sickness was caught up in what I did.  I was a Human Doing not a Human Being. I was a doctor, a dad,  a preacher, an author, part of a church leadership team.  Even today I am severely limited in all those fields by the effect my diagnoses have on me, particularly by the severe fatigue which is a daily companion. Over the years I have had to realise that my identity and value lie in being a Human Being and not in being able to attempt to save the world!

In an article I wrote last year “Six Years On: Life After a Cancer Diagnosis,” I reflect on my story up to that point,  and the numerous challenges I have faced, both emotionally and physically.  I also explained how my faith itself was challenged and yet has been a cornerstone in coping with this illness, providing me with comfort and strength.

I am thankful that, whilst at times I felt totally alone, it wasn’t true.  There have been faithful friends and family members who have walked this journey with me.  And right now I am firmly planted in my new home, new church, and new marriage.

The fact I am still alive, and have not lost my faith,  is testament to the grace of God and the comfort that comes from those who will stand with those who are suffering.  I hope my life serves as an encouraging message to others facing similar battles, and that we will all understand that while diagnoses can be life-altering, they do not have to be life-defining.


Hope in Suffering

The Tyranny of the Positive

Six years on – Life after a cancer diagnosis

Safe Haven – when God leads you to a new peaceful place. Colchester here I come.

Why I’ve joined a Grace Baptist church

Covid caution and God’s grace



Adrian on BBC’s Songs of Praise – Finding God in Times of Turmoil

Compassion fatigue, the Saviour complex, and Benevolent detachment

About Adrian Warnock
Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor. He worked as a psychiatrist and in the pharmaceutical industry on clinical trials. He has been a Christian writer since 2003 and is a published author. Alongside his career Adrian also served on a church leadership team. He was diagnosed with blood cancer in May 2017 and is the founder of Blood Cancer Uncensored an online patient support group. Adrian is passionate about helping people learn to approach suffering with hope and compassion. Adrian qualified in 1995 with an MB BS medical degree from London University (in the USA this would be called an MD). Adrian also has post graduate qualifications in both Psychiatry (MRCPsych) and Pharmaceutical Medicine (MFFM and DipPharmMed). He studied theology through courses organised by Newfrontiers. You can read more about the author here.
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