I did something amazing today!

I gave blood today. I re-registered the night Poppy was diagnosed and have been waiting patiently for my appointment ever since. Last time I gave blood, I had recently turned 18 and naively turned up by myself, but this time I brought a merry band of supporters with me. There were four of us donating (two close family friends, my mum and myself) and four in our support team too (Graham, Daisy, my dad and our guest of honour, Poppy) Driving to the hall, I felt quite emotional, but I managed to hold it together pretty well, until the nurse saw me gazing at Poppy and asked if it was the first time she had come with me. I lost it completely when I explained that we were all here because of her! I felt so proud seeing her watch on with my mum in front of me and our friends by our side.

Poppy was reluctant to get too close, understandably weary of being called in to participate, but her presence nearby made me feel brave. Especially as I spent the time thinking of how many tests and pokes she has to endure weekly. I was there today by choice, but Poppy has no say in her treatment and today gave me a tiny insight into how some of it feels. Before giving blood, the nurse performed a finger prick to test my haemoglobin levels. A short, sharp scratch, I’d say this was more uncomfortable than the donation itself. My finger feels a little bruised as I’m typing now, and whilst it’s only a very mild discomfort, it’s a telling reminder of what happened today. Poppy has her blood checked at least once a week, often twice. Sometimes this is via her port, but it is often with a finger prick. Before today, I had no idea how that feels. Poppy doesn’t even flinch when it’s being done and waits patiently for the bleeding to stem, before she is given a plaster, a sticker and her beads of courage.

We were all given stickers today. It was a nice touch and I felt really proud wearing mine, as well as seeing the girls with the ones they were given. That in itself gave me another insight into Poppy’s world, and I can see why receiving a sticker gives her a good feeling. It’s not just a sticker, but a well earned badge of honour, which Poppy deserves to feel immensely proud of.

We’re coming to the end of her Interim Maintenance phase, with just two more weeks until Delayed Intensification is due to begin. It’s been playing on my mind recently, and the weekend just gone was a hard one for keeping my emotions in check. Nightmares and a panic attack are the darker side of the impact cancer is having on our family. Not pleasant to talk or hear about, but as I’ve said before, honesty is integral to our journey, and Poppy playing happily at a family party doesn’t always tell the whole story. We try so hard to live in the moment, but there are times when it’s hard not to look back on where we’ve been and ponder what might be around the corner. At the moment, Poppy is getting better and better each week, which is in stark contrast to the early days when each week she became more poorly. We’re about to head down that slippery slope again, and it’s tough knowing she’s going to be knocked down again after building herself up so brilliantly. We’ve got used to this Maintenance phase, plodding along in our strange new world and change can be a little unnerving, especially when there are so many unknowns involved.

I’m writing this from another holiday home. An act of kindness which arrived just after I published my last post on the many nice things which happened last week. I know the kind lady who made it possible for us from Happy Beans, but certainly not well enough for her to generously hand over the keys to her beautiful lakeside home. Sometimes change can be a good thing, and it was certainly well timed this week to give us a relaxing break in this serene corner of the world.

Life speeds up with cancer. Everything is multiplied and all consuming, at a time when it’s difficult to think straight or perform basic tasks. I nearly caused a kitchen fire a few weeks ago, when I left the hob on with a jute bag on top full of plastic Tupperware. Real flames and billows of smoke – we were lucky that it wasn’t worse. I can see how things spiral out of control when one thing throws your life off key. It feels like we’re functioning as normal, but though it’s as best as we can manage, it’s far from normal.

It doesn’t seem long since our last break away, and yet it felt much needed again to pack our bags and find some respite amongst the lakes. Being outdoors always calms us, and we find so much comfort in the trees, water and birdsong. This week will be a chance to be still, a chance to breath and a chance to prepare ourselves once again for what is to come x

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