Holiday diaries -a change is as good as a rest

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I have always loved diaries.

I find it fascinating to recall all those little moments in life, the tiny insignificant ones that bring a smile to the corner of your mouth.  It’s funny really, as it has been a fascination since I was young – the many different covers they can come in, bright colours, leather bound or even this one which has no cover at all.  It must be a family thing as my niece loves notebooks and diaries also, and we once shared a secret grin as we realised that Isla is the same.

And so, many months after treatment we find ourselves on holiday.  The first time in almost four years.  We have chosen the Italian lakes and it is truly truly breathtaking.  The need for some sunshine therapy is a real one.  Just to lay back, closing your eyes and inhaling the fresh mountain air is a therapy that you cannot pay a price for.

I chose some books at the airport (even though I could have downloaded some on the kindle) but I much prefer the old fashioned paper version for reading material.  This is possibly why I love Italy so much, the old mixed with the new is a juxtaposition that you can almost feel.

The children are beyond excited.  Noah has made new friends wherever we go – starting with our flight a kind little boy named Noman (renamed Norman) who shared his fidget spinners & sweets right to the many other children who are more than happy to join in the dive bombing at the poolside edge.  Noah loves to swim and dive for objects thrown right down to the bottom of the pool for him.  In fact he loves the pool so much he never wants to leave when it is time for day trips or lunch.  His second love is the newly discovered football pitch which allows even more friends to be made & bedtime curfews to be broken.  Isla is growing in confidence in the pool too, learning to jump in and even being brave enough to join a game of water volleyball with the younger ones without her brother.  It seems everywhere we go she is being called ‘Bella’ by the waitresses and passers by – blonde hair and green eyes make her look very Italian or so it seems.

Every now and then I catch a glimpse of the views across the lake from the poolside or the balcony and it takes my breath away.  The lake (Garda) is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  The huge clambering mountains provide the perfect backdrop for the sparkling clear blue waters.  In the harbour the boats bob along at the side of the shore and the restaurants spill across the setting, awaiting their guests.  One evening we sat after dinner with giant ice creams on the harbour wall, legs dangling, just taking in the peacefulness of the sunset and the lapping of the water.

Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to check if it is all real.

And there has been day trips.  Much to the annoyance of the children who want to stay by the poolside and swim all day and everyday.  Tempting as it is, you just cannot be in such an amazing country without exploring its nooks and crannies.  We have driven along the periphery of the water as far as we could go to a small town laden with little shops displaying canvases of local artwork.  We have stolen glances at the beautiful houses over hanging the sides of the water and set back amongst the trees as if they are hiding from you – no doubt belonging to a very rich (& lucky) person.  We have sought out the nearby tourist attractions in cities such as Verona.  Juliette’s balcony has been a highlight (perhaps one for the bucket list) and has fuelled many conversations about Shakespear, love stories and Noah’s favourite ‘biting of the thumb’ by way of insulting your enemies.

There has been ice cream – oh so much ice cream from the little gelato shops only too happy to provide a cool distraction from the stifling heat.  Strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, cherry, pistachio, Nutella and many many more than you could ever eat although the children are giving it their best shot.

And when the clouds go dark and the Mediterranean storms arrive everyone takes cover to watch the most spectacular lighting displays.  The thunder rolls through the mountains and the clouds are so dark it seems like the end of the world, if only for a while.  And just as quick as it arrives,  it goes again leaving behind it the calmness of the lake and some very scared children.

Each day Noah asks what we have planned and then proceeds in letting us know that it he had planned a day by the pool.  Each day Isla makes up a little dance and tries her best to read bits of my books and score yet more ice lollies by asking one or the other of us.

Each day we forget more and more which day it is, or that there is ever a place other than this.

Of an evening we explore the local restaurants and the food is beyond perfect.  Fresh meats and cheeses, olives, seafood and salads.  Pizza, pasta and wine – lots of wine.  Noah has a new love for mussels and Isla loves the deep red tomatoes, much to my relief.  The children have rediscovered a love for colouring in, while we chat idly about how we would love to buy a small house here for our retirement one day, perhaps for our grandchildren to run around in.

It seems like we have been here forever and it has only been a matter of days.  This holiday was a much needed break for us all.  The sunshine has healed old wounds and caused our shoulders to slowly relax.  There has been squabbling over swim floats & who sits where in the hire car – but there has been smiles, plenty of smiles and laughter too.

Oh and did I mention? There has been lots and lots of ice cream.

Summer 2017

Artwork credit – Yolanda Sanchez Midsummer Magic

The Way We Once Were

Sometimes in life things happen that are hard to explain and to justify.  The past few weeks have been precisely that.  I have found myself wondering how to broach conversations with my children, knowing all too well that they will come up.  Wondering, if I am doing a good enough job as a parent in teaching my own babies about the difference between good and bad?

Of course my gut instinct is to protect, to shield and to keep them from harm’s way – but that is just not real life, or not life as we know it anyway.

Just lately I have found myself staring at the boy and taking in every detail of his smile.  He has grown again, his face has caught the sun and he his freckles dance across his cheeks just like mine.  Still cheeky and kind, but those large green eyes are becoming deeper and more knowledgable.  He can read and tell the time now, he listens to the news and forms his own opinions.  After a few days of turning the news down in the car I realised that I could only partly protect him from the truth.  He is growing up and there is nothing I can do to stop that.

As always we find ourselves wrapped up in school and activities – football mainly.  I find more and more that I repeat our little chats about good attitude and listening.  Admittedly this is somewhat lacking at home, but on the pitch it seems that he is turning into an accomplished young player who respects others.  I find myself watching him, beaming with pride and I can’t stop myself, my heart swells.  If my mind ever wanders I sometimes wonder just how much of him growing up that I will get to see?  Will I see the gangly teenager?  The first love?  The first heartbreak?  Will I take him to Uni or help to buy his first car?  I truly hope so..

I know all too well that I will be the parent waiting outside the gig to take him home.  Waiting to pick him up from a club or expecting a phone call after a football match.  I will be standing right there waiting to see him catch my eye with all the other parents.  And if for whatever reason I am not there he will always know that I am in his heart.

As the days go by the girl is changing too.  Her hair seems to get lighter as it is bleached by the sun.  Her eyes sparkle green just like her daddy’s, and her little arms and legs seem to never stop moving. She is quick and she loves to run, usually after her brother.  She has picked up the footballing ‘bug’ and thinks nothing of weaving her way through boys much taller than her.  Most days I feel I can’t quite keep up with her to tell the truth.  She has almost taught herself to read and understand phonics much better than I.  She is loyal and caring, but only to those who have earned her trust.  Mostly she loves to laugh, at her cousin, at rude noises and cartoons.  A childhood innocence that I hope she keeps for a long long time.  She often reaches for my hand when she is unsure and this worries me a little because I know how much she needs me to be by her side.

And as ever it is the small things in life that seem to see us through.

The rush of the school run.  Blowing a kiss through a window.  Saying “I love you”.  Little surprises or the normal everyday.  Singing in the car and getting the words wrong.  Sitting on park benches with an ice-cream.  Eskimo kisses at bedtime or reading stories.  These are the things that are priceless, they have no value to anyone but us.

More and more I am learning to appreciate the little things and the normal.  In some ways I am still learning to be a parent too and feel like I am ‘winging it’ on a daily basis.  Some days it can feel overwhelming, like perhaps too many plates are spinning, but surely we can only do our best?

Over the past few weeks I have tried to answer honestly all of the questions that have come up.  I have tried to reassure and give a positive to any negative fact, where one could be found anyway.  I have watched in awe at our own community and how they have been affected by recent events, and I have realised that we absolutely made the right choice to move here all those years ago.

Look for the kind people, the good people, the ones who are helping.  There will always be more good if you choose to see it.  This is one of my favourite quotes that I have repeated to the children because I believe in it, and it explains things in a very simple way.

Tomorrow will bring a new day and it will be the same for them, a luxury not everybody has.  Laughter, fighting, running, skipping and all the other things that they decide to do.  I will be there in the background as always trying to catch up with them, trying my best not to be late, and stealing a forehead kiss before they try to get away from me.

More then anything, I want them to remember the way we once were.

The things that we do together and the things that might fade over time.  Happiness is all around you, you just have to look in the right places.  I don’t know much, but I know that.

A list of your favourite things;

Pancakes

Story books

Paddling pools

Football

Ice-cream

Sunshine

Music

To Noah & Isla, always be happy.

Love Mummy xxx

June 2017

 

 

Gone Girl – a lost voice

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A few years ago I was very poorly.  I don’t mean my diagnosis of breast cancer, I mean before that, just after I had my little girl.

I didn’t see it coming, yet it hit me like a freight train.

I had two little ones and I felt like I was treading water.  I can remember being tired, so tired I could barely walk us all up the stairs to the bathroom.  Too tired to be bothered with food.  I stopped sleeping and at first I blamed it on the children, except they slept through the night mostly.  I lost a lot of weight and I looked like a shadow of myself.

I remember sitting in the car with the radio on and not being able to actually hear the song playing, no matter how high I turned it up.

I began to feel claustrophobic at home, and this was the part where the guilt set in.  An overwhelming guilt.  I loved my children and my husband more than anything – and yet I wanted some space.  Each day the urges became stronger to get the space that I craved.  I began going for walks in an evening for some fresh air, and it helped.  A little.

I became very ashamed of myself, ashamed of my feelings, the strong emotions, anxiety and yet at the same time I felt complete numbness.  Everyday I reasoned with myself that I shouldn’t be feeling this way – and yet I was completely overwhelmed by the gravity of what I was going through.

I felt like I was dying in my darkest moments I genuinely thought that it was the only explanation for it all.

I wasn’t dying.  I had postnatal depression.

From the moment I sought help, it was a month outside the postnatal depression timescale, and so perhaps it was not postnatal.  However you label it, I was quite poorly.  I wouldn’t admit it because I didn’t want to be seen as a failure as a mother.  I did not want to talk about it if I could help it.

Then one morning out of nowhere, I got help.

At first I couldn’t speak.  I literally could not speak.  I had to write it down.  I had lost my voice.  As I wrote things down though, it began to come out, and slowly but surely I got better.

I am telling this story because it is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week and it has made me remember.  Even though there are hundreds of others who have experienced this, even though I knew all about it before it happened to me – I still didn’t see it coming.  It has taken three years for me to be able to say that.  I lost a whole year of my children’s childhood.  A whole year.

Eventually I got better, but it took a long time.  Eventually I shifted the dark thoughts and the fear I had of death.  Little did I know I would come face to face with my fears a few months later. Little did I know.

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As I got better, I stuck to what I knew.  Fresh air, warm baths and snatching time with the children.  I was actually proud to make the school pick up or even make it through the day.  In a way going through all of that made me much stronger.  Stronger to face the months ahead.

My voice came back and I gathered the little confidence I had left.

We took a much needed break to Italy & I remember still feeling the faint urges to leave – even as I got better.

I say all this, not because I need to, but because it is important to.  Prince Harry said something that resonated with me last week, he said “Once you start talking about it you suddenly realise that you are part of a big club”.  I am not good at talking, I prefer to write, but I know what is right.  It is right to say “me too” even though in a way, it is all in my past and I could pretend it didn’t happen to me.  There is no comparison between my two illnesses non at all.  They were both tough on completely different spectrums.  They did teach me a few things though.

I have a new found gratitude for life.  I genuinely appreciate the small things.  I now realise it is ok not to be ok.  More than anything I have realised that it is good to talk.

The day I asked for help was the best thing I ever did.

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I have loved very minute of becoming a mum, I do not regret it for a single second and it has made me who I am today.

That, in a way, is the very first chapter of this blog.  Back to where it all began.  Back to the part I could never talk about, until now.  Right back to the very start.

If you, or anyone you know is suffering from post natal depression you can find help here; all you have to do is ask..

www.pandasfoundation.org.uk

 

 

The Next Chapter

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My friend told me a story once about a lovely day trip she had with her mum.

She was young, and they had some precious time to visit the city and to see a show together.  In later years she lost her mum, and though she assures me that her childhood was more special than ever imaginable, there is one thing I know that she wishes she could have.

I know she wishes that she could remember all of the small things about that trip, what they ate, where they stayed, all the tiny details.  All the details that do not matter to anyone else but you, and yet some memories do stay.  Somewhere deep inside you memories and feelings stay locked away because they matter a great deal.  I suppose that is how our friendship began really.  As I panicked that I was going to disappear from my children’s memory she helped to show me that actually my children would be just fine, if that day should ever come.  I know this not because of what she has told me, but because of who she is and what she has achieved – it made me realise that my Isla and Noah would not just crumble, they would become determined to make me proud one day.

More recently I almost asked her (as if she needed anymore questions) what she thought I should do about continuing to take my medication (Tamoxifen)?  I stopped short though because I knew what the answer would be.  I knew that if her mum had been given the treatment available to us nowadays for breast cancer that she would have gratefully taken it.  And so that is what I have duly done.  It is my choice as a mother.

As the days go by I have often pondered how I will keep the memories alive for my children, that is after all the reason that I write.  It is starting to feel like this is the next Chapter.

And yet deep down I know that one day my boy will forget the moment that he looked over to me with tears in his eyes when he had been injured in a football match.  A look only he and I shared for the briefest of moments when only I knew that he was really hurt.  Followed swiftly by look of indignation that he would continue to run through it, despite my best motherly efforts to dissuade him.

Or the memory of sharing ice creams on Filey beach that the girl holds dear, hers was the delicious lemon ice cream she still assures me.  Or the day she nearly won her cross country race wearing a school hoody too big for her and as she ran my heart soared with pride.

So much to the annoyance of my ever patient husband, I recently applied for us to appear on a children’s television show called Our Family.  It is the girl’s favourite.  She knows every single child on the show.  Of course straight after I had put us forward, I instantly regretted being so bold, because we were then shortlisted to the final few.

There is a method to my madness though…

You see they are going to film us as a family, with good quality cameras not like the one I have on my phone that only captures the odd funny five minute episode at home.  They will film our querky little habits, our favourite foods, our messy house, our day trips on a steam train and even our favourite beach that the children love oh so much.  They will film all of this and capture it for the children to watch forevermore, and that in itself is priceless.

Now I have to be honest here and say that the filming has often knocked the stuffing out of me.  We have regularly become accustomed to packing several fun things into a weekend, where we would normally just managed the one.  It has taken me a few days to recover each time & all the while I have been hoping that the final footage of us will show us as we really are.  The children I have noticed, are becoming more and more attached to the film crew because each one of them is so lovely.  Last time they left at the end of the weekend Noah declared he didn’t want them to go – and neither did we really.  During the break sessions we all happily put the kettle on and chat and joke as if we have known each other for years.

There are a few more weekends to go, and one special one in particular will be filmed on our favourite beach.  The weather most probably will be windy and hopefully sunny enough for us to collect shells and walk along the shore as we always do.  And that is just our little family, it is just what we do, all the normal things, nothing special to anyone but us.

To me.

It is tiring (according to my husband I am always tired nowadays) but it has been great fun at the same time. The next chapter of our lives begins, and as I scramble around trying to record the memories – I also marvel at what wonderful little people my children are becoming.  In amongst the daily hustle and bustle I often stop and make a wish that I will see this through, and I truly hope that I do.

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The new episode of Our Family begins on Monday 27th March – we only feature on the titles *waving* for the first ten episodes, I think our episodes begin in May.  I hope it shows our family in its true light, and I almost wish they could show the outtakes as there has been some very funny moments (my own particular highlight was my husband making train sandwiches with the kids).  It has been truly wonderful experience for us all, one which Noah & Isla will never forget.

I am hoping, just hoping that one day as memories fade this little piece of ‘us’ will remind them of all the smiles & laughter, if only for a moment.

 

 

To Gaz – thank you for filming for me, I promise no cameras will come to Italy on our next holiday

Jigsaws – a new addition

Something lovely happened in our world two weeks ago, and I have been dying to say it out loud ever since.

My sister had a baby!

It has been like a huge secret that I have been bursting to share, and I can feel a ridiculous grin spread across my face as I type because it really is the best thing that has happened to our family in quite sometime.  Nowadays the prevalence of social media means that you have to be careful when getting excited about someone else’s news, and of course it has not been my news to ‘tell’ really so I have kept quiet (well as quiet as is possible for me).

When I first read Lisa Lynch’s blog Alright Tit.com there was a point where she found out that she was to be an auntie to her brother’s baby entitled Auntie Gobby.  This little moment of happiness, of hope, she fixated on and she clung to with everything that she had.  I now understand all of her feelings, because all of a sudden we have something positive to focus on – something that matters so much more than any of the small things.  My mum is a proud granny, my sister and I are humming with excitement, the children are excited to teach the new addition to the family all of their naughty ways.  For months the children have tried to guess whether it would be a boy or a girl, Noah wanting it to be a boy as we are girl heavy on our side of the family.  Isla willing it to be a girl, and choosing a very traditional name Emily, which I knew my sister and her husband would never opt for.  We went to great lengths to explain to them that it did not matter whether it was a boy or a girl because the most important thing was that the baby was healthy, this of course fell on deaf ears, because the boy wanted ‘team boy’ and the girl ‘team girl’ in the most obvious child like way.

Well she is a girl, and a very perfect one at that.  She has dark hair like my sister’s girls but lighter skin like Noah.  She has a look of my niece when she was a baby, but at the same time she has a look of her very own.

It is difficult for me to explain my feelings about my new niece other than to say that there are certain times in your life that fit together like a jigsaw.  Ashani Lye is one of the missing pieces of my jigsaw, I haven’t even met her yet (which is hurting my heart) but she has fit right in just where she belongs.  She is a miracle baby in more ways than one, and there is no doubt in my mind that she will continue to be very special indeed.

Isn’t life funny? one minute you are rushing around, never quite taking stock of the important things, and the next minute something so wonderful happens that forces you to stop and realise that the privilege of life is a wonderful thing.  I suppose that is just the way it is, and I more than anyone should know that.  A lot of the time my jigsaw is at the confusing strewn all over the floor stage and some of the time I stare around at it and think ‘where the hell do I even begin?’. Sometimes though, just sometimes, everything seems to fit into place.

The new addition to the family has brought things into sharp focus for me.  A few years ago when we were considering the possibilities of IVF treatment before my chemotherapy began, I had a very different view.  We had decided not to have anymore children.  We had concluded that we were more than satisfied with our ‘lot’ in life.  We had two healthy children and as we sat in the consultation room we decided that we would leave things up to nature from now on.  We were well aware of the side effects of chemotherapy, and yet do you know what?  It was still an incredibly difficult pill to swallow for me personally (you would have to ask my husband how he felt about it all).  Even though we knew we were lucky, and even though we decided to put my health first – the reality of someone telling you that you will not be having anymore children and the decision being taken out of your hands is as unfair as life gets I think.  So much so, that when good friends of ours announced they were expecting again I burst into tears, completely irrationally of course because I was so happy for them, but I felt selfishly sad for something that maybe could have been.  Having said all this I am left with more than my hands full, and in reality a third child would have left us squarely outnumbered I am sure.

The past few weeks both myself and my sister have worried so much for our younger sibling as we know only too well that being a mum is hard.  On the day(s) she was in labour I had a fleeting conversation with my cousin, stating out loud that I wished I could have gone through it for her.  Of course I couldn’t, but the want to protect someone you care about from going through unimaginable pain is a real one.  Everyday we are dying to ‘help’ or impart knowledge from our own experiences, but she doesn’t really need that, all she really needs is sleep… and perhaps a hot shower.

And so I will continue to grin at my little darling niece.  The baby who makes me smile a ridiculous grin each time I see her.  The baby who cheers my whole day up in her little combat onesie, and the day dreaming thoughts of finally having my cuddles with her.  She makes me forget about things that have been, and look towards the nicer things to come.

A little reminder that life goes on, one of the final pieces of my jigsaw for sure.

 

To Jay and Paul, thank you for making us all smile (and sorry in advance for anything her cousins teach her in the future)

Source Art: Yolande Sanchez and Disney image from Pinterest, Alexazdesign Etsy.

 

This Time Around

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This one was never going to be easy to write. I nearly didn’t write it actually, and then I thought that there might just be another person going through the same things – the same worries and fears and that fact, after all, is the very reason to share it.

As I have said before, the diagnosis and the surgery and the treatment is not the end.  Not by a long chalk.  You also have to live with the after effects of cancer, and that is no easy thing to do.  Some months ago I decided, after much procrastination that I would ask for my implant (on the mastectomy side) to be changed.  This could have all been done last year of course, but I was not in the right place to have it done at that stage.  After a year of living with the side effects of the drugs, the lack of energy from the chemo and the hormonal ‘ups and downs’ I decided to bite the bullet and ask my specialist what she thought?  She agreed. Shit.

And so I found myself back again. Back in the same ward, in the same hospital, waiting to hear again where I was on the list of those going in to surgery.  I sat with my husband on the same couch, watching the same fish swim up and down, watching me right back (I have a history with fish watching me at all important points of my life, just ask my best friend about my first labour and my irrational hatred of my pet fish lining up to stare at me – mid contraction).  Anyway I digress, these kind of thoughts tend to happen while wondering what is to become of you – just before you go into surgery.  My husband commented that it felt odd to be back, and I agreed.  Ever thankful that he was sitting there at all.

This time there were a few things the same – and a few things different.

This time I was not crippled by the fear of the unexpected, and I was able to notice more of the things around me.  The young girl sitting with her mum worried sick for her, the hospital tag said she was born in 1995.  The older lady with the trendy hair and pretty tattoo running down the back of her neck. The young couple sitting cuddled together with fear in their eyes.  The cheery nurses at the start of no doubt a very long shift.

I was called in first again, which was lucky for me.  The anaesthetist made me smile by not believing that I looked my age – I can tell you that I very much feel it after two children and all of this, but I took the compliment and shall brag about it for the next few years wherever I can.  Although the nerves kicked in, I chose to remember the words of another mum who once told me, that anaesthetic is just like a lovely long sleep (any sleep deprived mum will take this as a huge positive no doubt).

Soon enough I woke up after surgery and after sometime I realised that I had not even said ‘hello’ to the lady in the bed next to mine.  Usually I would avoid such things as I prefer to keep myself to myself, but I thought it was only polite.  I was glad that I had been friendly because we went on to have a nice little chat about our consultant, and how lucky we both felt we were to have her.  This is the lady who has watched over me from the beginning.  She is fiercely efficient and professional, but more than that she is kind.  She always looks you straight in the eye, always cheery and smiling, always warming her hands when she examines you.  You can tell that she cares, in all the small things that she does, and it means a great deal.  We both agreed as her patients that she just ‘gets it’ and that is a priceless quality in my eyes.

We also went on to speak about the books that we both liked to read which was nice, and we even swapped some of our favourites. We both found out we were being kept in overnight at the same time, and so she reminded her husband to bring in her Kindle and I sat with my big old fashioned clunky book.

The children also came in to visit me which was lovely.  They looked nervous and upset, and so I pointed out the electric bed at which they delighted in moving me up and down on – until I had to declare that I was too motion sick to take anymore.  I had saved them each a chocolate biscuit, and let them climb up onto the bed for a cuddle on my good side.  The boy lay next to me and asked detailed questions about my cannula.  The girl took her turn, and stated firmly that she did not want me to stay in overnight. I tried my very best to distract them with talk of the weekend and suggestions that we play ‘doctors and nurses’ when I returned home, but it was to no avail.

There was one other thing that the children’s visit helped me with (it answered a very important question that I had been mulling around in my head for a while).  You see, I had to come off Tamoxifen (a hormone blocking drug) two weeks before the operation, and I worried silently if I would ever want to go back on it again? To face the reality of its side effects for many more years. That was until I realised something very important.  This drug is giving me more time.

Time to be with my children.

My son’s angst as he snuggled into me and told me of his day was almost palpable. My daughter was weeping (tired tears) as she left the ward without me to put her to bed that night.  In fact, her tears in the playground as she tells me she misses me each day, are starting to truly tell me their side of this story now.  When wondering whether to continue to take Tamoxifen again, the answer to the dilemma is simple.  I am a mum, their mum, and as long as I am fortunate enough to be given a drug to keep me here then I will bloody take it, every single day.  If it means that I get to be here when they need me to be & for as long as it is possible, then so be it.

The truth is that the guilt of asking for the operation has weighed heavy on my shoulders, but I made the decision based on my own reasons – albeit quite selfish ones.  The decision to keep taking my medication is a very personal one too.

This time around a few things are the same, and a few things are different.  I am very different.

This time around I will be going home to play doctors and nurses with my little people, and I can’t bloody wait.

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Memory: 3rd February 2017 6am – When asked what they wanted to be when they grow up Noah exclaimed that he wanted to be a footballer, Isla a doctor.  

This will change many times over the years I am sure, but just so you know my lovelies.  It doesn’t matter what you choose to become, as long as you are happy.  That is all that really matters.

[Most of this post was written under the influence of some fairly strong painkillers]

Both Sides Now

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There is a moment in a famous film that makes me cry.  Every time.  A moment when Emma Thompson’s character realises that her husband’s gift is a Joni Mitchel C.D.  All at once life seems so unfair, and the tears fall as the realisation sets in all around her.  And then she takes a big deep breath, so as not to show that her heart has been broken, and she ushers everyone out to the school concert.

Life goes on, whether you want it to or not.

It has been a rocky start to the year for me, the end of last year beckoned new beginnings and the chance to close the metaphorical book on things that needed to remain in the past .  And yet something happened that I think will change the way I look at things forever more.  A friend of mine passed away – the angels took her, far too soon.  She passed away as a result of breast cancer and it really hit me.  All at once the change of year seemed unwanted, as if time was moving on for those who did not wish it to.

Grief is a strange thing, a private thing.  How do you even begin to be a friend to those you care for who have lost someone so dear?

One thing that I have learned is that you don’t do is to rush them.  To speak, to do, to even grieve.  As a friend, the thing that you want to do the most is to comfort, to ‘help’, but it turns out that the best thing that you can do sometimes, is to do nothing at all.  That is not to say that you can’t show that you care.  Standing beside someone in tough times, in silence is sometimes the only thing needed.

I had always thought that I had the qualities of a good friend, and I have to a certain point, but I have learned a few things of late that have made me take a good look at myself, as a friend and a mother.  It is ok to show kindness, when it is needed.  It is ok to be around, but at the right time.  It is ok to show that you care.  The question is, when the right time is I suppose.  I have made a few mistakes in this regard which I intend to learn from, in the hope that this will make me a better person going forward.

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And so the children have begun their school term again, somewhat begrudgingly after the lovely times we spent together over Christmas.  I have noticed changes in them both.

The boy has grown taller and wider.  New clothes are needed and he has started to notice brands, and ask for certain trainers.  He is too big now to share a bath with his sister, and he regularly asks to stay up later – wearing this like a badge of honour.  Older children get to go to bed later or so he says.

His sister on the other hand, is on a rollercoaster ride of growing up.  She too has grown, but she needs her sleep to grow, and tiredness remains a daily battle for us both.  I am struggling as a mum to get her to eat, I have noticed that her appetite wanes in line with her tiredness.  I have become almost desperate to ensure she eats and remains happy, doing things that I always vowed as a mum I would never do (making special themed packed lunches) going in to school where I can, or even inviting friends for tea.  It seems to have worked for now, there have been three whole days of no tears.

And as for me, well I continue to plod along.  One day at a time, with plenty of laughter and music along the way.  I have truly looked at things from both sides now.  I have seen the beginning and the end of this cruel disease.  I have realised that moments and memories are to be treasured and learned from – that is all we can do in the end, is to try our very best.  And so I will keep on trying.

Sometimes, just when you think that you have life all figured out, you realise that you really don’t know life at all.  I know that I certainly do not..

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
 
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
 
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
 
Moons and Junes and ferries wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way
 
But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away
 
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
 
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
 
Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way
 
But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.
 
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
 
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
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Songwriter: Joni Mitchell
Art: Olivia Pendergast