I’ve found September really hard. Too hard to talk or write about, which is why it’s been near on a month since my last post. I have tried to write but haven’t been able to find the words to articulate my feelings or express myself in this constantly changing, swirling world of emotions and treatment and cancer. Six months in and there are times when I’m transported right back to the beginning again. To those confusing, fearful few weeks spent in the bubble of Bristol Children’s Hospital. I look back and wonder how we survived it. How we kept breathing and putting one foot in front of the other, all the while protecting Poppy and Daisy the very best we could.
As each phase of treatment passes, I find myself reflecting on our journey so far. It’s almost unbelievable how much has occurred in the last six months. Those early days feel all at once like a lifetime ago, and in the same breath as if they happened yesterday. I feel like I can recall every tiny detail from those early weeks and wonder if that will ever leave me. The people who helped keep us standing. The daily visits from family and friends. Thoughts and messages received constantly. The nurses who made every effort to get to know Poppy and keep her as comfortable as possible in their care. The layout of the playroom and the faces of the first children I saw on the ward. Even the smell of the hand cream I used frequently to combat the drying nature of the heat in the hospital.
Maintenance felt like such a long way off when Poppy was first diagnosed. I cried so many tears at the end of that first day of treatment wondering how we would ever survive the next two years and three months. I felt so weak and vulnerable, as our world fell and crumbled around us. Now as I remember that moment, I’m crying more tears, mixed with a huge dollop of pride. I’m so proud of Poppy and how gracefully she’s handled this at every turn. I’m so proud of Daisy for growing from a baby into a giggling toddler despite the many changes in her young life. And I’m proud of the rest of us, for coping with the shocking reality of childhood cancer and finding an inner strength none of us knew we had. I’ve learnt that having strength and courage isn’t about being brave all the time, but knowing that with each ebb, there will be another flow. Never before has our life been lived in such stark contrast and I still struggle with the speed at which things can change.
I can’t remember August. It passed me by in a flit of hospital appointments, new drugs and worry. That said, I kept going. Kept pushing on, taking each day as it came and before I knew it, the month and all that it brought with it was gone. September has been one long, deep breath. A month of reflection, of accepting all over again what is happening to our family and actually, being a bit sad about it. I’ve been drained of energy, feeling fed up of cancer and the rippling effect it is having on us and everyone around us.
On top of that, it’s been Childhood Cancer Awareness Month; a cause I wholeheartedly support but at times find utterly overwhelming. Most of the time, I try not to compare too many details of other families experiences with childhood cancer. The truth is that there are so many tiny details which make each case entirely different and yet at times, all the same. Reading the words of other parents facing ALL makes my heart break all over again. For us and for them. Reliving the experiences of those early days, of decisions to make and consent forms to sign, the overwhelming familiarity of those words and feelings which instantly transports me back to our hospital room in Bristol. There is much that is similar and familiar, which is comforting and reassuring but also lots that is truly terrifying to contemplate. Childhood Cancer Awareness Month has pushed some of these stories into my eyeline, meaning I’ve read things without really meaning to and then can’t forget them.
That said, there have been many positives of it too. A huge amount of money will have been raised to fund more research into kinder treatments and better outcomes. Seeing gold ribbons and rocks glittering all over our town has made me smile, as have the many kind gestures from the people around us. The friends taking it upon themselves to fundraise in our honour by organising bake sales and dress down days at work. The love and effort they’ve put into making these events a success in the hope of making our lives just a little bit easier has blown us away and brought tears to our eyes.
We finally made it to Legoland this weekend after missing out when Poppy had an unexpected trip to hospital a few weeks ago. The timing still hasn’t been quite right for the holiday I’ve been yearning for us to have, but an overnight stay in a hotel in Windsor followed by a second day at the park was at last the change of scenery I needed to shake off the anxiety I’ve been feeling throughout the month. It was such a joy to spend some real, quality time together and share the excitement which oozes from the girls as they absorb each new experience.
It still amazes me how being away from home, no matter the distance, enables me to see things more clearly and I finally managed to begin processing all the feelings which have been swirling around during September. A middle of the night chat with Graham complete with heaving sobs helped me to release the emotions of the month gone by. Today felt like a brand new day. The flow I’ve been waiting for and the rising water I needed to fill my empty cup x