Fear & Pride

It’s 3.40am and I can’t sleep. So often I fall into bed exhausted and drift off within minutes, only to be wide awake each night at this time. Cancer is undoubtedly on my mind at this hour. My mind turns the same thoughts over and over, and it’s preferable to get up for an hour or two than to lie there with my darkest thoughts. I spoke last week of having nightmares but didn’t go into detail. When I’m afraid, it’s hard to speak the words out loud but often fear is better faced head on and I feel better for having voiced and acknowledged what I’m thinking. My nightmares always follow a similar theme – they’re never about cancer, but a struggle of some other sort. A fire or a drowning situation, in which I’m powerless to save the girls. I always wake mid-nightmare (usually screaming and gasping for breath), so never know the outcome of the scenario, but it doesn’t take a specialist in dreams to recognise the link between these nightmares, cancer and the lack of control/ability to rescue my loved ones. Another way for my mind to process the trauma; things inevitably always seem better in the morning.

Much of what we’re feeling is subconscious, and often it’s hard to pinpoint what is most troubling us and what help we need. Our needs and feelings change frequently throughout each and every day so even coming up with ideas of ways to help can be exhausting. Our family, friends and wider support network seem to be doing a pretty good job of keeping our spirits lifted with ideas of their own though. The postman continues to bring us joy from further afield, in the form of handwritten cards to let us know we’re being thought of. Our dresser is always bursting with homemade cards from Poppy’s peers and the kind words of those around us. One of the hardest things about all of this is the length of treatment, so it’s reassuring to know that we’re still in people’s thoughts, especially as we’re about to enter the Delayed Intensification phase with so many unknowns still to come.

The sunshine this year has been incredible, and whilst I’m not usually a sun-worshipper as such, it’s been wonderful to have beautiful, consistent weather for so long. We already feel like we’ve had a whole summer, making lots of memories and having lots of fun playing outdoors, so if we end up lying low for August, we won’t feel too cooped up as we’ve got lots of lovely days to look back on. Two holidays and lots of time at home in our garden, which is looking increasingly well kept thanks to our friend, the gardening fairy who visited while we were away to tidy everything up and plant some beautiful lavender under the windowsill. There are so many other ways to help which people have thought of beyond the GoFundMe donations, and we’re equally boosted by all of them. Researching the best TV and dishwasher for us to buy, fixing the subsequent technical issues, sending homemade colouring sheets bearing Poppy’s favourite things and making papercut pictures for the girls bedrooms are just some of the ways people have shown their love and support. Along with the many messages we receive wishing us well, we are buoyed by each one and continue to be in awe of our wonderful and wide reaching support network.

Knowing how much the girls love to play outdoors, we used funds from GoFundMe to purchase a beautiful outdoor kitchen for them to while away hours in the garden. They both love to cook and dream up ingredients, so it’s an ideal way for them to spend time together, especially with the addition of the perspex window designed for painting, combining several of their favourite things. Our cheeky, clumsy Daisy always manages to make a mess (leading to Poppy’s nickname for her…Messy Bessie!) so it’s nice for them to unleash their creativity whilst containing the chaos to some degree.

We’re so close to reaching our GoFundMe target and have been truly overwhelmed by everyone’s support. An arbitrary target admittedly, as we have no way of knowing what cancer truly costs, but as we said at the beginning, we will only take what we need to keep our family spirits boosted throughout Poppy’s treatment. The rest, should there be any remaining will be passed on to the worthy charities who have supported us since day one, along with anything generated from the fundraising ideas we have for the future. I’m desperately sad for any other family facing this, and knowing what has helped us, gives us motivation to repay the kindness we’ve been shown.

Until this point, we’ve been relatively private people and asking for money is not something we’ve been brought up to do, but I realised early on that people wanted desperately to help, and this was a modern way in which that spirit of togetherness could be shepherded in the same direction to build us a giant safety blanket. At present, we don’t have any further purchase plans, but will dip into the funds as and when needed over these next two years to boost our spirits, whether that be with a holiday, a weekend away or a day out in the English countryside. I like to think of the funds as the gift of time, as they have opened up opportunities for us to simply be together, making memories.

Poppy and Daisy have grown up a lot in these last few months and I’m so proud of the personalities they’re developing. They’re kind, caring girls who have a growing friendship and look out for one another. When Poppy is feeling poorly, Daisy instinctively knows to be gentle, and will caress, cuddle and kiss her big sister whilst loudly cooing ‘ahhh!’ in the same manner as with her precious dolly. She’s infinitely mischievous and looks for the laughter in every situation, often lightening the load we’re carrying by having us all collapsing into giggles. Having a sibling has encouraged sharing too, and Daisy will always take a snack for Poppy too when stealing from the prepared bag to take out with us!

Poppy is compassionate and loving; she reads situations well and often knows exactly what is needed without being asked. I’ve had a few back problems this year, and when it’s sore, Poppy will offer me a cushion and gently rub my shoulders, whilst whispering comforting words. She often declares her love for “mummy, daddy, Daisy and myself” and recently told me that her and Daisy are “best friends forever”. I’m not sure where she learned that phrase or indeed the notion of loving herself, but her affectionate qualities shine out of her soul and lift even the dampest of spirits. All of these things make me so proud of both of them, as well as the lovely people around them who spend time with them and have shown them these ways of being.

Despite cancer, our home is often filled with laughter, music, dancing and so much love. We’ve always said that we’re not fighting cancer, we’re facing it, and these are the best tactics we’ve got to make cancer turn around and run off into the distance! x

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Homemade colouring sheets x

3 thoughts on “Fear & Pride

  1. Your last paragraph says it all, Steph! In spite of those horrific nightmares, and the times when the soul is dark and troubled, you are defying cancer and confronting it with love. I admire you all very much. Margaret x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It may help to know you won’t be alone in the “wee, small hours”. I know of several grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and friends who have Poppy in their thoughts at all hours of the day and night. We are all standing strong behind you, shaking our tambourines and banging our drums. Together we are a formidable band and that cancer will be scared off eventually i’m sure.

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