Hopeful

I wrote this in mid-July and forgot to publish it! A double post day, the next one is more current x 

Poppy has completed her settling in sessions at school and will make her next visit there for real in September! The uniform and name labels have been ordered and we’ll need to make a date to join the crowds in late August to buy the shiny school shoes that she has been coveting for the past year. Poppy has loved each session she has attended, to the point where she was disappointed to learn that the end of nursery is followed by the summer holidays rather than an immediate start at school! She even managed to attend on the final day of her steroids, which has flooded me with confidence for the start of term. They fall at the best possible time in September, giving her 3 weeks to adjust to life at school before being faced with that particular challenge. There is no way of telling how we’ll cope, and as each time can be so different and unpredictable, we’ll decide how best to manage when we get there. Poppy may be able to attend school at that time, and she may not, but as I’ve said before, what will be, will be! I feel that more than ever at the moment. The last few months have been life affirming for all of us, containing so many more adventures and healthy days than we thought possible.

The thought of Poppy starting school whilst still in active treatment has been the source of many of my tears since her diagnosis. I recall that being amongst my first thoughts when we were told the length of treatment in our first meeting with the consultant in Bristol. The others were the thought of her losing her hair when she had longed for long hair since she could first communicate that, and the cancellation of our upcoming holiday to France which would have been her first time on an aeroplane. We knew so little about Leukaemia at that time, that we had no idea about the different phases her treatment would take her through. I think when I imagined her starting school, I pictured a very sickly child, with no hair, constantly missing school to face treatment or the resulting side effects. It wasn’t possible to imagine the bouncing, happy girl smiling back at me today. The school sessions couldn’t have gone any better, and they have filled us all with confidence and excitement at a time when big changes lay ahead.

We received Poppy’s end of nursery report this week and I cried happy tears reading it. We have a brilliant photograph of her on her first day there, with a huge grin and a completely bald head, having just completed a gruelling 7 week spell of delayed intensification. I remember thinking that if she only ever attended that first day, it was absolutely worth it for the size of her smile. As it happens, Poppy has managed to attend two mornings a week when her health allows. I can’t imagine a better environment for her to have spent her pre-school year – she has absolutely thrived there, growing so much in confidence and ability. The proudest highlights of the report were reading about her sense of fun, lovely manners and kindness to others. However, I cried the most to hear how “Poppy moves well with pleasure in active outdoor play. She races after a hoop; balances along the stepping stones; climbs the ramp up to the slide and joins others ‘running the circuit’.” I know I say this a lot, but to read that just over a year on from her relearning to walk is truly remarkable.

On our recent trip to the seaside, we walked a National Trust trail and met a near 80-year old couple at the highest viewpoint. We all got chatting as we gazed out at the sea. They had a granddaughter the same age, also about to start school in September. They complimented the girls on their climbing ability, noting that they were even carrying their own backpacks. At that point, I recalled a time in the Lake District, before we had children, watching a young girl scramble after her big brothers and hoping that one day, we’d have happy, active children like that family. I’ve since seen that heartfelt gaze in another’s eyes when watching Poppy and Daisy around the campfire earlier this year. Sometimes words aren’t needed. We didn’t mention cancer and there was no need to. Our new acquaintances had already fallen under their spell; we didn’t need to pull at their heartstrings even further!

Last year it was only a matter of time before an explanation of Poppy’s illness felt necessary. Nowadays, it’s not the first thing we mention and often we don’t feel the need to let people know straight away. It’s by no means a secret, but what I mean is that Poppy is finding her own way in the world more and more and she doesn’t need the fact that she has cancer to lay her path first. She’s a bright, happy, loving, kind, active child. And she has cancer. More of an afterthought than an opening statement. That’s not to diminish what she continues to face, or to suggest that it’s an afterthought in our lives. It still remains prevalent – in the daily medication or a tactless member of the general public recently asking if she has cut her own hair off…

There’s also the recent covering of hair in her car seat which I felt in the pit of my stomach when I noticed it. It’s unlikely that Poppy will lose her hair again, but she is still receiving a monthly dose of Vincristine, which caused the original two losses, so it still remains a possibility. And if it does, I know we’ll all find a way to cope with it, just as we have found our way before. Graham reminded me recently that at the start of all of this, we reassured ourselves that as long as we all got out of this alive, that was all that mattered. Not everyone is so lucky, and we could never have imagined ourselves in the position we are in now, with a summer full of adventures to look forward to. We know there may be bumps in the road along the way but today is looking hopeful x

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