March this year was unsettling and unnerving with so many memories of last year and the horror that unfolded before we had time to process what was happening. Scrolling through photographs on my phone, I was met with joyful photos and memories of early March 2018. Those photographs suddenly seep from home into hospital and it’s the speed at which that happens that still chokes me to this day. It was so fast. There are no photographs showing a gradual illness occurring, only heaps of laughter in the snow just a few days beforehand.
I found it really hard to look back on the photographs in the weeks building to Poppy’s hospital admission. There is so much joy and laughter in those smiling images; we were all completely unaware of what was about to hit us. The oblivion we are encased in is hard to look back on – I almost want to jump into those photographs and warn us about what was to come. Although, would a warning have helped? Would it have changed anything? I quit my job on the 19th March, two days before Poppy became unwell. I made that decision completely independently of what was around the corner, only knowing that I didn’t feel ready to return to work after maternity leave and wanted to spend more time with the girls. I have certainly had that this year, although of course not in the way I could have imagined.
The juxtaposition of images of life with and without cancer in our lives was hard to look back on and think about. The strength of feeling triggered by an anniversary or milestone is remarkable. Throughout March this year, I couldn’t stop myself from looking back on what we were doing last year, before any of this all happened. But when the photographs catch up and I began comparing cancer now with cancer then, I suddenly felt an immense sense of pride. At how far we have come and how much we have achieved. At the sense of spirit we still retain and the many, many joyous adventures which we have managed to have across the last year. We’ve added even more to that list since my last post, spending the last few months engaged in celebration and grabbing every opportunity we can to expand our lives and love the life we’re living.
We celebrated reaching a year of treatment so far with a trip to the Cotswold Wildlife Park. We have an annual pass and have spent many happy days there – you may recall it was our destination of choice for our first outing with the double buggy which so many of you helped to fund. Poppy’s illness may have happened quickly, but so did the speed at which people near and far rallied around us. We have been very humbled by this experience and will be forever grateful to everyone who has helped us and continues to light the way for us.
Following our day at the wildlife park, complete with sunshine and a picnic, we spent the coming week at Lydstep Beach, courtesy of the Kids Cancer Charity. So close to the beach that we could hear the waves from inside, we spent a lovely week soothing our souls with daily swimming, walks along the coast and adventures galore. Early nights refreshed us all and it felt good to reflect on our year gone by and feel the weight of this milestone drift into the distance. I will however be wary of reading the guestbook of a children’s cancer charity next time…the sobbing which ensued drowned out the waves around us! So many stories, so many families, so many not as fortunate as ours.
Last year, we spent Easter weekend in Bristol Children’s Hospital. Easter Sunday was significant only in that it was the first time since being admitted that Poppy was allowed to leave the hospital. After eight days inside, we were allowed a precious hour to leave the hospital grounds and head to a cafe across the road where Poppy ate a cinnamon bun and upon learning where we had come from, was given the owner’s Easter eggs to take back to the hospital with her. This year, Easter weekend was spent in technicolour – the glorious weather contributing to a weekend full of family, friends and huge heaps of fun. Our second visit to Blenheim Palace and it was just as special as the first. They put on such a good event, and had everything the girls could have asked for…sunshine, a picnic, a park, face-painting, dressing up, fairground rides, mini golf, archery, stilt walkers, bubble displays, ice cream…it’s safe to say we enjoyed ourselves immensely! The girls rated their day two thumbs up, which is actually two forefingers up in Daisy’s case, who rather adorably hasn’t quite mastered it yet! I would definitely agree with their review.
That isn’t even the end of our fun! One more trip to tell you about and that was our first family camping festival last weekend. The road test of our new tent and our first “tenting” adventure as Poppy has rechristened camping. The Festival of the Sea in Freshwater West, a truly beautiful stretch of coastline in Wales and the site of a National Trust Farm campsite. Activities ranged from live music to open air theatre and family yoga, to the simple pleasure of running around a field with a Frisbee and a new friend in the form of our 7 year old next door tent neighbour. The sun shone, the sea sparkled and the marshmallows toasted around the campfire, complete with acoustic guitar and the coming together of people around songs and story-telling. Poppy was invited to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and did so beautifully, while Daisy charmed everyone with her “la la lahs”. They were the only children present and excelled themselves with their buoyancy and zest for life. They got so much out of camping and I hope it will be a family activity we enjoy for many years to come.
Now here comes the whisper…this has been Poppy’s longest spell of wellness, her longest period without an unexpected hospital admission. Last time I said it had been a while since we were in hospital, we ended up in that very night! So I’ll say it quietly, but the last few months have given us the breathing space to get on with living life. To embrace the fortunate aspects of the past year and snap up the opportunities to spend quality time doing things we love together. Time has sped up since I stopped counting and comparing the days from last year, so much so that another milestone is now on the horizon. 21st May 2020 will mark the end of Poppy’s active treatment. I say that carefully, as there is potentially more to come after that date, as certain medication will continue for several months afterwards but the daily oral chemotherapy we administer at home will certainly come to an end that day.
We are just days away from being a year away from the end of treatment. It may still be a long way off, but it certainly feels in my mind at least that we will be beginning to count down towards that monumental day in our family calendar. There will only be one of each month left to come…one June, one July, one August. September will mark a new milestone, a different one and for once in our lives a non-cancer-related one. Poppy will be starting school at our first choice, local village school as one of 15 children in their reception intake. Much to our delight, the ponytail she has been hoping for before school starts materialised this week, with plenty of time for it to continue growing. Daisy will have her own milestone in September and will begin spending two mornings a week at the exceptional nursery Poppy currently attends.
Plenty of adventures to be had before all that begins though! x