I wrote this during half term, but haven’t found the time to edit and post it until now, so here’s an update on some of Poppy’s school experiences so far…
Tuesday 29th October 2019
Poppy’s achievements in her first half term of school have been astonishing – she is managing full days and has acclimatised very quickly to school life. As previously mentioned she has also learnt to ride her bike, and most recently restarted much longed for ballet lessons. To say we are surprised that she is capable of a full day at school followed by a ballet lesson is an understatement. I initially booked the taster session to let her find out for herself that it may be too tiring, but as ever, she has grasped the opportunity and been rewarded with the leotard, ballet shoes and twirly skirt she has waited 19 months for. A fact not lost on her, as in the car home she had the following to say: “Do you remember that I used to do ballet and then I got poorly and couldn’t go? That uniform was pink but this one is lilac and I love it even more. I love it 5 times as much!”
In one of my first blog posts, I remember saying that I hoped one day we would look back on Poppy’s illness absorbed along with other family memories, hoping that though it would be a part of our lives, it wouldn’t completely define it. The way in which Poppy started that sentence with “Do you remember…” fills me with hope that this will still be the case. As if I could have forgotten how much we thought had been taken from Poppy. And that’s the difference now. At the time of Poppy’s diagnosis, it was moments like the abrupt halt of preschool and ballet lessons that felt like a childhood cruelly snatched away. We couldn’t possibly have foreseen that she would make up for those moments and more, all whilst still undergoing active treatment. I sometimes think Poppy’s bravery does her a disservice as people don’t always realise what she continues to go through as she often does it with such a huge smile on her face! Around the time of steroids, I feel tearful daily walking her into school knowing how much she is achieving simply by being there. I had genuinely expected Poppy to manage half days at school at the most, and certainly wasn’t expecting her to go at all during steroids week. In her first half term of school, she has missed one morning and one afternoon session, and left one hour early on two other days one of which was due to a hospital appointment. Her attendance therefore stands at around ninety seven percent. A figure which when added to the total of two courses of steroids, two doses of monthly vincristine, daily oral chemotherapy, weekly methotrexate, a visit to clinic and a weekend stay in hospital for IV antibiotics is pretty remarkable.
Last Friday, Poppy came out of school muddy, wet and exhausted wearing her PE kit and her biggest smile yet. Her teacher asked for a word with me, and proceeded to tell me how proud Poppy had made her that day. It turned out the whole school had participated in the Daily Mile Big Day, and after receiving a dose of Chemotherapy treatment in hospital the day before and two doses of steroids so far, Poppy was determined to take part alongside everyone else! This achievement is right up there with some of our proudest moments, namely because of Poppy’s positive attitude, which is incredibly inspiring. We are so thankful to the school and her teacher, for giving her that opportunity and making it possible for her to join in. It would have been so easy for them to let her sit it out, but instead they treated her like everyone else and that’s exactly what we were hoping for when she started school. Opportunity is such a wonderful gift, and without it, we would have no idea how capable Poppy is.
It can be so hard to strike the right balance between making allowances for Poppy’s illness and encouraging her to challenge the perceived stumbling blocks in her way. Around the time of the school settling in sessions, I had a meeting with Poppy’s nurse and her soon to be reception teacher. I found myself wavering constantly between explaining how special she is but also asking them to make sure she didn’t feel different to anyone else! Poppy has always had a very good grasp of her capabilities, and will seek to rest when she has reached her limit. Therefore, the ball lies in her court, and we have always actively encouraged her to take opportunities, but listened when she has had enough or on occasion, when it’s simply not been the day for it. My fear with starting school was that decisions would be made on her behalf and also that she would be sent home at the drop of a hat, or rather the flop of a Poppy! I needn’t have worried, as the school have got to know Poppy very quickly and her recent parents evening verified that. Seven weeks which we are all very proud of. Full of hope and inspiration.
Now to half term holidays! And it’s already gone slightly wonky, with a hot Poppy in hospital with a temperature spike. The surprise tickets we have booked to see ‘The Stickman’ will still be used for a treat with Daisy and her first trip to the theatre no less. The reason for the surprise? Because we never quite know if we will get there! And this way, having known nothing of the trip, any disappointment is only shouldered by us and not Poppy. Of course, she’s likely to find out afterwards that Daisy went, but by then the moment has passed somewhat, and we’ll look forward to something else instead. Despite feeling disappointed that Poppy won’t be joining us, I am glad that Daisy will still be getting to enjoy a special time. Graham has gone in to hospital to stay with Poppy this time, in order that I can still take Daisy. It’s odd being the one at home, waiting for news and not really feeling complete. It gives me some idea of what Daisy and all the other siblings go through. They are often the forgotten ones in this and as such, I will relish the opportunity to spend some special time enjoying a treat with her tomorrow.
The hope is that Poppy will be out in time for a few days break away courtesy of Eva’s Angels, but as ever, her health will come first and what will be, will be. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping myself busy, attempting to pack for a holiday that I don’t know when or if we’re going on! x