I’m aware that my posts of late have focused on myself and how I’m feeling. I’ve needed a way to muddle through and come to terms with those feelings and writing them down has really helped, as has speaking them aloud to the various people who have asked. I’m also aware that you may well be wondering how Poppy is getting on as an update on her progress is long overdue.
Poppy has returned to preschool – a different one, as the one she spent several weeks in before being diagnosed is undergoing some major building work this year and we weren’t convinced it was to going to offer the right environment for her at this time. She has to put up with so much already that it seems fair for every other aspect of her life to be as simple and comfortable as possible. I agonised over this decision in very late August as we transitioned from Delayed Intensification to Maintenance. It had thrown me that Poppy was already well enough to return to a preschool setting as I had expected this to be much later down the line, if at all. We were extremely fortunate that the new preschool had a place for her, particularly as I have recently learnt that they don’t usually accept children partway through their two year early years education programme. Any fears I had about whether we had made the right decision for Poppy were alleviated as soon as she bounced in on her first day, and left in the same vein upon collection after a wonderful, happy time.
Since starting in mid September, Poppy has attended every session. Five weeks and she has loved every minute of it. Her confidence and independence have grown enormously, as well as her sense of belonging. Just like I’m trying to find my own way through this strange life we’re inhabiting, so is she and returning to preschool is something I think we all didn’t realise how much we all needed. She’s attending two short sessions per week, much less than before diagnosis, but it’s enough. Enough for her energy levels, enough for to belong and enough to give her new things to tell me about and amazing crafts to bring home!
Last week, I collected Poppy early for the first time and she stayed home the following day too. A bit of a bump back to ground, but a small one in the form of a careful reminder to take things slowly. A moment to hold each other close again and keep everything simple. On her very first day, I remember thinking that even if she only went for one day, it was worth it. To see her beaming smile, to see her delightful energy, to see her absolutely glowing with joy.
Upon her early collection, Poppy wasn’t unwell as such, simply exhausted. I’ve witnessed that again this week after seeing her falter her way around the park, wanting so much to play but not being quite able to summon the energy. In the end, she took a seat on the bench and watched as Daisy played. Such a grown up stance; I remain in awe of Poppy and everything she copes with. It’s hard to imagine the struggle of emotions she must deal with daily. A challenging age for feelings anyway, let alone the added ones which come from people constantly mistaking you for a boy or a much younger child. No harm meant of course, but the damage has been done as I see the hurt in Poppy’s eyes and her fading smile. A feeling of being different, when all we want is to belong.
Last week, Graham and I attended our first parents evening. Hearing her wonderful key worker talk about our Poppy made me feel really emotional and I did well to stem the tears welling in my eyes. I would be proud of Poppy’s progress and abilities regardless, but knowing she is achieving so many accolades, despite everything else going on in her young life makes me fit to burst at the hurdles she continues to leap over. That pride comes from how well she has settled in (the other children her age have all spent a year in the setting already so know each other well) to how well she is doing across the board of early years foundations. A real all-rounder and most admirably, a delight to spend time with. All things we knew anyway, but there is a deep feeling of pride in hearing those words from an unbiased viewpoint.
In those five weeks, Poppy has endured two courses of steroids (one course during her first week there) and often attends hospital or receives a visit from our community nurse before or after her preschool sessions. The last two weeks have been particularly challenging, with tired legs and an inability to fall asleep easily not helping to ease the building exhaustion. Poppy is also beginning to discuss pain more readily, something which she has previously rarely mentioned. I’m not sure if this is because she’s experiencing it more frequently or because she’s learning to articulate these feelings in a way she hasn’t before. Her extraordinary vocabulary continues to develop, as does her ability to keep us smiling with the beautiful ideas and phrases she comes out with. One evening recently, Graham told her he was popping to the garage to retrieve a load of washing from the tumble dryer, only for Poppy’s reply to be: “Okay, Daddy…have a look at the stars while you’re out there.” Oh Poppy, what a positive spin on the housework! We learn so much from our girls, from their ability to live in the moment to truly teaching us to appreciate the little things in life.
Tonight, Poppy was once again struggling to drift off to sleep, despite being extremely tired. After an extra bedtime story, she asked me to stay with her in her bed, which I did – wrapping my arms around her, snuggling together in her tiny toddler bed and breathing her in. She won’t always be this little, but I hope she’ll always find comfort in my arms. She was asleep within moments. I stayed for much longer, not wanting to let her go or wake her by moving. Eventually, I crept out and cried silent tears outside her room as I remembered those early days when I held her close each and every night of our initial hospital stay. It’s been several months since she last asked me to climb in with her and she has grown up so much in that time. As has Daisy, who has grown from a just turned one year old to a well on her way to being two year old. When we decided to have them so close together, it was at four and two years old that I often pictured them and I can’t quite believe that’s how old they’ll be in a few short months. Of course, I didn’t picture Leukaemia, but as we head towards the end of 2018 and I reflect back on the year gone by, I know that this will always be the year that stopped us in our tracks, but it was also the year of that never ending sunshine. Of some of the best moments of our life so far. Of holidays, of new experiences, of the powerful human spirit and unbelievable kindness. If we can keep seeing the light, I know we’ll all get through the dark nights together x