So this week I have been a bit quiet in the world of social media. I’m still alive, I’m not in an alcohol induced coma, don’t worry. I’ve been a real life grown up this week.
I have been concentrating and working hard on something that means a lot to me.
When Ellis was discharged from intensive care at Great Ormond Street and back to our local hospital, we were picked up by two lovely men from St John Ambulance, because Covid-19 meant that the NHS has been stretched to its limit. The two men were amazing. They put us both at ease, one was even commenting on how cool Ellis’ scar is and making him laugh. They were genuinely nice people.
These men were volunteers. They did what they did because they wanted to. That blew me away.
In a worldwide pandemic, where most peoples first thought is to run and hide, these men had voluntarily put themselves on the front line.
It made me think about how unique my situation was. I had been in hospitals during the whole pandemic, I know the ins and outs of the hospitals Covid-19 procedures and I’ve lived and breathed a Covid-19 positive environment.
Just like Cancer, Covid-19 doesn’t scare me.
I could help.
With that along with my vastly growing skill set of mental health nursing and counselling I genuinely think it would be something I could use to give back.
So last month I signed up to enquire about volunteering for them.
And today, after a month of interviews, inductions and training courses I’ve done it. I have qualified as a SJA First Aider ❤️
Without Covid-19 I would be getting ready to go to events to provide first aid with an amazing team, but they have all stopped. SJA volunteers are being called on in hospitals, care homes, blood donation facilities…. anywhere help is needed. This is where I will be going.
I have had the most surreal time getting to this point. I have made some amazing new friends who have kept me sane during some surreal moments 😂 and reassured me on days like today where I have been terrified of failing.
I have ordered my uniform, ready for me to get stuck in.
2020 hasn’t all been shit.
It’s been the year where I lost everything, but gained so much more.
A year where possibly, I might have got a bit carried away with filling up my spare time…. working full time, completing my counselling course and now being a SJA First Aider.
But hey, it wouldn’t be my life if it wasn’t a tad bit excessive and out of the ordinary 😂
I’m happy. Happier than I’ve been in 9 long months. I’ve used the dark days and turned them into something amazing.
I am proud of myself and I’m not ashamed to say it.
And just like that after nearly 9 months of operations, chemo, hospital stays and much much more…. it’s over.
Ellis has finished his chemotherapy for Osteosarcoma.
I didn’t cry yesterday, I thought I would. But I was so preoccupied with making sure it all went smoothly that it didn’t really sink in. I will have a moment, I’m sure.
But, it’s finally over. We did it.
We looked cancer right in the eye and kicked it’s arse. AGAIN!!!!
Back in December when he was diagnosed, I never thought this day would come. I was terrified beyond words that he wouldn’t make it. He wouldn’t be the 55% to beat it.
The nights I laid awake terrified of what lie ahead, desperately going to my GP to ask for something to help me from spiralling. My first ever counselling session because I knew in order for the kids to be ok, I needed to be ok. The times I shut out friends and family because I was angry that they were carrying on with life, I was so jealous of that. My life was falling apart underneath my feet, yet others were allowed to be ok. The fears of my new job being ripped from underneath me again, as with everything in the devestating wake of cancer.
I have felt so angry during this. Why my son? Why my family again. Why the boy who never complains, who just gets on with it. Why my girls, who have not only had to be told their Mum had cancer, but their brother too.
I have felt guilty. This is the one that gets me the most. It’s my job to protect him, to protect them all. And I haven’t. I have felt guilty when he has broken down and cried. I have felt guilty when Iris has cried because she didn’t want me to leave her yet again. I have felt guilty that I haven’t had time to spend with each of them.
I have been in denial a lot of the time. Like if I can pretend it’s not happening, then it won’t be real. Even during Scans and tests at the beginning, I was telling myself it would be nothing and I was overreacting.
Cancer has tried to destroy us twice now. And twice we have fought back with every single ounce of fight.
As I sit here today, trying to digest all that’s happened I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude to everyone who has helped us get to where we are today.
To the nurses, physios, play therapists and everyone at UCLH, GOSH and QEQM. For making us feel so safe not only during chemo, but during the pandemic. The enthusiasm for their Jobs shines through and the passion and care they have for each and every child in their care is humbling. I will never be able to thank them enough for what they have done for us.
To my Mum. For being my best friend. She is the first person I called when the doctor phoned me, the first person I tell any new news too. She has soooo many grandchildren, but always manages to make each one feel special. She never judges and will always just listen to my rants and my pointless phone calls just to check in. She knows all the chemo names, all the meds and she knew the treatment plan as well as we did. She did one chemo stay with Ellis pre-Covid, to give me a break and because she wanted to help. The best Mum and Grandma ever.
To Ellis, for being the person who has kept everyone going. Not once has he doubted himself and his ability to fight it. He was up and out of bed the very next day after his operation, walking on day 2, walking up stairs on day 3 and home day 4. He was riding his bike (secretly behind his physios back) on week 9. He is resilient, tough and a real force to be reckoned with. He has inspired me to become better, to become less scared of things. I am in awe of him.
To Beth, for being so understanding. Not seeing her has been so tough. But understanding that we had to shield for Ellis to keep him safe helped me when I felt the worst. She has been the best big sister to Ellis, Lily and Iris and I am super proud of the beautiful, thoughtful woman she is becoming.
To Iris, for using this time to learn. She has struggled the most during this past year. She has learnt that she is resilient and she has been OK even when she was scared. She has learnt all about hospitals and what it takes to look after someone. She is empathetic and wonderfully inquisitive.
To Lily, for being Lily. She just gets on with things, takes things in her stride. She is not afraid to ask questions and will go out of her way to make me feel appreciated. She is always learning, always creating and always challenging herself.
To Glenn, for being my team. Scans, appointments, dates, travels… we’ve done it together. For looking after the girls all those times I couldn’t. For consoling Iris when she wanted me, for sitting with Lily on those nights when I wasn’t there and she couldn’t sleep because she was worried. For saving the day over and over again when transport let us down and when Covid meant you became our taxi, driving to and from London twice a week, unable to get out of the car at the other end.
To Gavin, for being the best co-parent and friend. Most families would give anything to have there relationship we all have. From the boys only fishing with you, Ellis and Glenn to spending Christmas Eve with me in a cold, dark hospital miles away from home making sure I was OK. For never making things awkward and for always putting the kids first. We’ve done it together and for that I will never be able to thank him enough. We have the luckiest kids in the whole world.
To my sisters, Hannah, Vicki and Sophie. For being there no matter what. For keeping Ellis going with the sweets, the homemade lasagne and at the beginning before Covid, sitting with him for me waiting for the nurse. For going out of their way to make me know I wasn’t alone.
To my friends. Oh my friends. They are all fowl mouthed, wine drinking, mums who have kept me sane! From the bottles of wine, to the tea, the cream eggs, the presents, the cards… but mostly the texts. The ones that simply say “thinking of you”. 2020 has given me my very own army. I love it. Thank you.
To the ladies I have met during Ellis treatment, Victoria and Hannah. You are both incredible. We have shared our highs, our lows, our frustration and every single milestone. You have kept me going with conversations that only other cancer Mums will understand. You are the strongest women I have ever met and this shines through in Dom and Phoebe. Just because we have reached the end, doesn’t mean I’m going anywhere. I am so looking forward to seeing both of them ring the bell when it is their turn. Friends for life.
To everyone else. Thank you. Messages from people I used to go to school with who I haven’t spoke to in years, new colleagues who have quickly become friends, you have all helped too. We have felt so supported and so loved. We really are so lucky. They say it takes a small village to raise a child and this has never been more true.
I am ready to get the end of treatment tests out of the way and close this chapter once and for all. I am ready to move forward. I will forever carry things I have learnt during this time, qualities in myself that I have carved and new found ways of making sure my wellbeing and mental health is the best it can possibly be. Life is good. It’s actually more than good. Life is just beginning and I am excited to see what I will achieve.
Whatever life throws at us next (and I’m sure it will) we will be ok. Because in the end, we always are.
Something I have been told lately by someone close to me.
Well of course I have, wouldn’t anyone?
Having faced my worst fears as a parent head on and still coming out the other side is pretty life changing. From that dark day in December when Ellis was first diagnosed to now- nearly at the end of his treatment has provided me with a huge shift in mentality.
Seeing what I have seen, witnessing my boy so close to death right in front of my nose will have a lasting impact forever. The way I process it is, if the worst had happened, if he had died that day in PICU, right at that moment I couldn’t have been anymore scared. I had reached my limit.
This was my 10 moment. The top of my scale.
When you have a life changing illness or condition, you get used to rating your fears and pain on the scale of 1-10. For questionnaires, for yourself, for doctors. Even in my darkest days of my treatment, I never gave a score of higher than a 9. The day I scored 9, was the day I heard the word “You have cancer”. I didn’t give it that score because I was scared for me, I gave it that score because I was scared for my babies. I was terrified I would die and they would grow up without me. I wasn’t done teaching them about the world, shaping them into resilient little people or telling them I loved them. I wasn’t ready. All that pain and I still only scored it a 9.
I was saving my 10, hoping I would never have to use it. But that day, I did. I didn’t realise until that day just how different 10 was from 9. It was a million miles away.
So from here, it has to get better. I have faced my 10 and I am still here. I am still me, just with a different outlook on life. I am a work in progress, evolving and learning. And I love it.
It has got me thinking about blame and responsibility. Two very different things, but too often treated the same.
The blame for this year lied with Ellis’ cancer. But it is not the cancer’s responsibility to determine how I react to it and how I move forward. That responsibility lies with me.
For the past month or so I have been putting lots of effort into making sure I am mentally balanced. I have been re reading an old favourite book of mine called ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k’ It was recommended to me a few years ago from an amazing friend who always has my back. 2-3am when I cant sleep, I know I can always talk to him. We studied Mental Health together 7 years ago, so he knew me just before my own diagnosis. There are not many people who I can truly say are my friend for life, but he is. And I am eternally grateful to him for being a friend and for understanding me on a level not many people do.
In the book, the author, Mark Manson, talk a lot about how life is easier when you actually learn not to give a f**k. It’s so true. Not necessarily about peoples opinion of you, but how you view the world, why you do what you do and generally makes you question yourself. I love that. With me, it has taught me that I am in control of my life, the situation isn’t. Things happen, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but ultimately I am in charge of how I chose to feel.
And this year, I choose happy. Despite everything that has happened, despite the fears of what still may happen, I still chose happy.
Does this mean I don’t care? No.
Does this mean I’m not scared? Absolutely not. I still have days where I cry because I am scared or days I can’t eat. It is still very real and current for me.
I am just not letting that define my life. They are parts of my life that unfortunately now will always be there. Every new pain, every new lump and bump with me, Ellis or any of the kids will always be a challenge for me, but I recognise that and accept it for what it is. What is isn’t is something that stops me from achieving my goals, from reaching for the stars and from fulfilling my dreams.
Life the way I see it, is like a game of poker.
You can be dealt the worst hand in the game, but still go on to win. You can beat the best of hands purely based on your attitude, your choice and how much you are willing to risk.
It’s how you play the game. That’s the secret.
I can’t change what has happened this year, I can only learn from it. Out of something so horrendously difficult, I have gained a whole plethora of influential experiences, which I am using for personal growth.
A very moany blog this morning and I’m not even sorry.
Most people we meet in the wards are so lovely, some I consider friends for life. But some- I can’t even think of any polite words to describe them as my brain doesn’t function on an hours sleep.
Some people are just so fucking rude.
There is a lady near us who for the past 2 nights we have been here has been literally shouting on her phone while its on loud speaker until 1-2am. She plays music on her phone so loud too in between phone calls. She is so rude to the poor staff about everything, I even heard her shouting at the lady who brings the dinner because it was not to her taste.
It is just us and another little girl and her Dad in our bay as due to Covid, they aren’t allowed to fill all beds, so we have a double bay to ourselves. First thing I thought when I was told this was ‘Oh this is going to be nice and quiet….’
The first night we all kind of put up with the noise. The glance across the bay the next morning to the Dad who clearly hadn’t slept either was evident at just how much this one lady was disrupting the ward. A chemo ward I like to add, where children need their sleep and peace and quiet. If they are not asleep, they are feeling rubbish and sick so still need to rest.
Last night I lost my shit. I don’t care for me, but when my son is feeling sick and tired because he is having chemotherapy and you are making him feel worse and stopping him from sleeping… big mistake lady.
I walked into her bay and told her to shut the fuck up and have some respect for the children trying to sleep. I was so angry at her, probably more than I should have been but as everyone knows I am bordering on the edge of insanity as it is at the moment. Plus me in pjs braless, after no sleep is not a pretty sight. I’m not sorry.
She pretended she couldn’t speak English and gestured that she didn’t understand.
She understood because she stopped.
Until 7am this morning when she started again.
Like I don’t even like anyone enough to phone them that much, she is obviously a nice person because someone must really like her to listen to that for hours on end.
The cleaners then decided to joint her shortly after shouting and laughing at the top of their lungs followed by a little boy running in and out of our ward thinking it was the best game ever. He now has a remote control car. Oh the joy.
It’s now nearly 9am, Ellis and the other little girl are fast asleep thank god.
Me and the Dad opposite are in a constant zombie state and have started finding things hilarious. Definitely due to insanity.
I feel so sick, so tired and not sure whether to laugh or cry this week.
I’m so ready for this all to be over now. I don’t even think wine will cut it today, I need a holiday. Or Phillip Schofield to whisk me away in a GTR and love me unconditionally and possibly stroke my head.
There is only so much shit someone can take, right?
As with all my blogs, this one is very honest and raw.
I suffer with Anxiety and I have done for as long as I can remember.
For me, anxiety is like being followed by a person. It knows all of your insecurities and uses them against you. Sometimes that person trails behind, but he’s always there, lurking in the shadows. Sometimes it gets to the point where he is all I can see. He’s huge. He towers above me pointing down telling me I’m not good enough, that I’m ugly and that everyone thinks I’m stupid.
My anxiety has stopped me from doing so much in the past, from job interviews to friendships and even trips out with my children.
Lots of my anxiety stems from my ‘Dad’ and his inability to acknowledge my existence. Years of not feeling good enough, years of being told I was stupid and years of desperately seeking his approval. Maybe that’s why my anxiety is personified. Maybe he is the person I fear the most, he is the person who wants me to fail. He isn’t even around anymore and he isn’t part of mine and my children’s life, but this anxiety still follows me around.
I spent a long time wishing it would go away, wishing it would leave me alone so I could carry on with my life. But that’s not how life works is it. Not for me at least.
I fight. I have to.
Over the years I have learnt that actually, its ok to not be ok. It’s ok to admit you are struggling and it’s ok to admit that although on the outside looking in, I seem like I’ve got my shit together. But I haven’t, not really.
I take tablets to help me sleep and to try to reduce my anxiety. I don’t want to be held back anymore by something that my mind is creating, but just because I created it, doesn’t mean I know how to stop it.
I tell my children every single day that they are amazing, they can do anything they want as long as they work hard. From the minute I became a parent I vowed that I would be nothing like him. I would fill my children with confidence, empathy and resilience.
I broke the cycle and it feels incredible.
My children know their worth and will stand up for what is right. They are confident, yet humble. I haven’t wrapped them up in cotton wool and protected them from the world, I have given them the right tools to go and explore the world head on, in whichever way they want.
Above everything, they know they are loved. So so loved, by lots of people.
As they are getting older it’s amazing to watch them mature into little people with their own personalities, morals and values. They are all so different but equally as amazing.
But as I watch on with awe at them, I feel stabs on envy.
Being that carefree and trusting yourself enough to make decisions for you, must be so liberating.
Some days I have a hold on life pretty well, some days I don’t. But that’s ok.
I have always used the gym as my escape. I’ve recently got back into exercise after a few years off and it feels incredible. For that short time, I am in charge. I am running and he can’t catch up. The first few times he tries, he keeps up the pace. But he doesn’t beat me. The more I push, the stronger I become and the weaker he becomes. I got to a point a few years ago where he didn’t even try anymore. Running helped me control the anxiety and made me stare at it in the face and say catch me if you dare, fucker.
I am aiming for that point again.
I know it will never go away fully, even with counselling and medication, but I can try my absolute hardest to make it feel not welcome.
It’s now a week since the worst weekend of my life. Things are a little calmer and life’s a little easier.
Ellis is home and is doing really well. He’s spent most of the time back at home eating sweets in his pants playing Xbox. Living the 12 year old dream!
The girls are incredible and it’s been overwhelming being back at home with them. Iris told me she missed my boobies the most- that kid is obsessed. We’ve spent quality time together having living room discos, watching frozen 2 and playing games. My heart is full ❤️
I’ve had lots of messages from the most amazing people in my life during this last week, which was really kept me going. The random “I’m thinking of you” or “You’ve got this” means more than I can ever explain. I have had socially distanced walks with a very good friend of mine, who no matter what, will drop everything to make sure I am ok. I’ve had another amazing friend (don’t tell her I called her amazing, she’s normally a dick head 😜) who has just been incredible. Texting even late into the night when she knew I needed someone. Making me laugh with her dickheadness and keeping me grounded. Those are the kinds of people that I couldn’t do any of this without.
It’s been hard. Harder than I can explain, but we did it. We got through it together. I can now allow myself to see the end. Things can go wrong very quickly, as last week has taught me, but without hope, what do we have?
The first thing Ellis said to me when he was diagnosed has now been the mantra to this enormous wave we’ve been riding. He said, “What’s the point in being scared, it won’t change anything” and he is right. We have all carried that with us since the beginning. Of course this doesn’t mean we haven’t felt scared at all. Of course we have. More scared that I can describe. The kind of fear that echoes though your very soul, destroying everything in its wake. The biggest fear a parent could ever imagine. But we have used Ellis’ words to help us back up, to control the fear. We won.
So the end is now in sight. Up until now I have been scared to fully allow myself to see it. But there it is. 2 more weeks of methotrexate and possibly a day of the dreaded doxorubicin and he is done! 7 months of the most intense roller coaster of feelings, over. And I am allowing myself to fully believe we will get there.
I know myself that life after cancer is tough. A lot of the time and especially for me, it was tougher than life with cancer.
So this time, I’m in control. I am choosing to be prepared for the last fight against this horrible situation. I have supplied Ellis with as much Information as possible around what support is available for him in terms of counselling etc. I can’t make him do it, but I can give him everything he needs to make an informed decision.
For me, I want to give something back. The individuals that we have met have been incredible. The passion in their jobs and the genuine care they have for us a family is inspiring and something that will stay with me forever. It’s reignited my passion for all things medical and helping people in their time of need.
I want to make a difference.
So on Sunday 26th July I have an interview to become a volunteer for St. John’s Ambulance.
I am aware I have 4 children and I work full time. I’ve been called mad, been doubted and tried to be put off the idea.
But I am stubborn and years of self evaluation know has given me the power to trust myself. I am going to grab the opportunity with both hands and give it everything I have.
When the treatment is over, the hospital stays are no more and we are all back to school and work it will be so difficult to adjust to. Being busy and focused on something for this long- for it to all suddenly stop…. that’s when it gets hard. That when your doubt creeps in, your mind starts to wander and fears rear their ugly heads again. I will not let that happen again. Not this time.
I am going to put every single thing that’s happened this past 7 months and use it for the good.
And I will absolutely smash it. Not because I’m arrogant and big headed, but because know I have the skills to really make a difference.
It’s currently 1.39am and I’ve just got into bed. I am in a parent accommodation next to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Ellis is laying in intensive care.
I don’t even know where to start. So bear with me.
Ellis was tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday morning. As well as being in the middle of chemotherapy for Osteosarcoma.
Today his temperature spiked. He was so angry at me, but I knew we had to go to our local hospital. We followed the normal protocol we are given, but making sure I mention 100 times that he has covid.
He arrived to an amazingly safe ward, the nurses were the absolute best. They made us feel at ease straight away.
The first obs showed that Ellis was still 38 but she thought the blood pressure machine was broken. No one can have blood pressure that low.
It was 78/38.
That’s as a low as a baby. Not my huge man child! They checked again…. and again and again. It started to get busier rather quickly from this point. His heart was struggling so it’s a good job we came in when we did.
Before we knew it, he was being whisked away to HDU with all kinds of wires coming out of him. In the space of an hour he had 4 antibiotics pumped into him, 2litres of fluids and an oxygen mask. He had two failed attempts at a cannula, because his veins were just non existent. I genuinely thought he was going to die.
They came in and told us he was going to be blue lighted in an ambulance to Great Ormond Street Intensive Care.
The wait was about 4 hours until they got there and during this time Ellis really started to perk up. He sat up and asked to go to the toilet. The nurses were discussing amongst themselves where to find a wheelchair from for him, because someone with blood pressure that low wouldn’t be able to walk. Meanwhile, Ellis was bowling around the corridor, into the toilet like a boss. No one could believe it.
He then came back and started eating sweets and crisps…. all the while his heart hasn’t improved. The Ellis charm that he is renowned for at UCLH and GOSH was in full swing. The nurses loved him! They even asked him to at least pretend to be ill when the ambulance arrived!
The ambulance came with 2 doctors in. The did. lots of obs on him trying to get a better picture of what was happening. She said his bloods were showing an infection of some kind, a bad one, but they don’t know where it was coming from.
She wanted to do an artery cannula, which is exactly what it sounds like. Ellis hates his wrists being touched or anything on them, so he started to panic. They normally do them under anaesthetic, but because of his BP they said it wasn’t safe. So she injected local around the area and proceeded to single handedly create the single worst moment of my whole entire life.
Ellis was in agony as she routed around trying to find his artery. He was screaming in pain, telling her to stop. His eyes were blood red and he looked terrified. There was blood splurting out everywhere, it was terrifying. She pulled the cannula out and apologised. There was blood on the bed, up his arms and on her visor.
All I had eaten in the last 3 days was a couple of bananas and some porridge. The sight of him absolutely terrified and the sheer volume of the blood took its toll on me. I fainted.
Not there and then, I know too well what it feels like so I recognised the signs of my vision going, my hearing going and feeling so hot I felt like I was in fire. So I walked out.
I left him.
I left him crying, terrified and needing me. What mum does that? When I came round I felt sick with guilt. How could I just leave like that? Why can’t my body work like a normal body just this once. I had to have some water and a fan before I could get back up.
Back in the room, Ellis was in bits by this point and due to covid I was having to sit the other side of the room and just watch. Until this time.
This time was even worse. She was digging around with this huge needle, ignorant to the fact his BP had shot right up, she was shaking and couldn’t breathe.
Not having that. Not my baby.
So I got up and covid went out of the window. I grabbed him, wiped his tears and told her to back the fuck up. He has had enough.
He lay in my arms sobbing in the way that only a toddler would. It was horrendous.
No one hurts my kid.
She sheepishly went out of the room to phone an anaesthetic to come and do it. By this time Ellis was inconsolable. There was no way I was letting her try again. Over my dead body, bitch.
Three professionals all in his room, all trying to persuade him to ‘try one more time’. Not happening. Not with Mamma Bear in your way. He was safe.
Turns out they didn’t need it after all. They can just monitor him.
We then got into the ambulance and were taken to GOSH- our home from home. The weirdly familiar smell and the font of the writing. I felt safe.
He was wheeled directly to Paediatric Intensive Care, which is called Dolphin ward. It was very surreal. A once full, busy unit… empty.
I had to wait outside while they settled him in and got him onto a comfy bed. The nurse with was lovely, her name was Grace. She told me that she would sort my accommodation out for me.
So here I am, leaning on the only coping mechanism I know.
I know most people won’t want to read this and see my blogs pop up and think ‘again?!’ So I wont be offended if you keep scrolling.
I wrote my last blog on how well I was coping and how resilience and positivity keeps me going. It gives me the strength to fight whatever is thrown my way.
Until today. I feel lost. I am terrified. I feel physically sick.
Ellis has tested positive for Covid-19.
My boy. My son. Not someone in the paper, not a story of a friend of a friend. My child.
The same child who has already been fighting cancer for 7 months.
I am beaten.
I can’t fight anymore.
I don’t want to have to fight anymore.
I very rarely get angry about our situation, but now it’s all I feel.
We were shielding for 12 weeks, not even going to a single shop. We have been so so careful and it still got us.
I keep racking my brain thinking was it me? Is is that time I went to the shop last week when the oncologist told us we could? Should I have checked on him more that he was washing his hands more? That time he pressed the lift button because he was being his usual stubborn self, I should have stopped him.
We all need to get tested, but until then I’m separating myself from everyone just in case. Glenn has come home from work to start the shielding all over again. Ellis is confined to his bedroom and I am in mine so we can have some kind of control over the situation.
I told the girls this morning, to remind them they need to be super careful and hygienic and not to go into his bedroom.
Lily is 10 and extremely empathetic. She just cried and cried. I just sat there watching. Do I hug her and potentially give it to her? Or do I sit helplessly. So I sat.
My heart feels like its been broken into a million pieces.
I’m scared that actually this time, things won’t be ok.
The laid back boy who never gets scared, is scared too.
Everything is blurred.
I have just spoke to UCLH who were incredibly lovely. They feel like family. We have to self isolate for 14 days and we have all got to be tested. If he gets symptoms, he can be treated at home unless he has a fever. If this happened, we follow our normal neutropenic protocol and head to Rainbow Ward.
So to all those people on the beaches and on the marches, this is the aftermath.
A family who have done everything right for the past 3 months. You have done this.
I am angry like you wouldn’t believe and I hate that. There is blame in this. There is fault.
People carrying on like nothing is wrong, all because they can’t see past their own noses.
I ironically had a conversation yesterday with a good friend about people going about their life and how I feel about it. I said anger is a wasted emotion. As long as we were doing as we should, we would be fine.
How wrong could I be.
My head is pounding, my eyes are sore and my heart feels liken it has been ripped out and stamped on.
I hate feeling angry and out of control. I hate that I’m helpless and letting the anger consume me.
But mostly I hate the fact its unfair.
What has my family done to deserve kick after kick. Every time I dare to feel in control or have the tiniest glimmer of hope, things fall apart.
I find myself seeing other families on Facebook and feeling so incredibly jealous. Why can’t that be us. Why can’t we just live like everyone else. Why have hospitals and tests become our norm.
Lots of my blogs lately have been about Ellis and his journey, updating everyone on his progress and what its like to be a cancer mum.
This ones a little different and back to my original blogs.
This is about me. Gemma. Not a mum for a minute, not a wife. Just me.
I’ve met a few new people over the last few months in different circumstances, but ones I consider friends none the less.
Talking about who I am as a person, what my fears are and my goals.
I was asked today if I had any regrets by one of these friends and my answer was no. This isn’t to say I have never done anything wrong, because anyone who knows anything about me knows I have more than my fair share!
But do I regret anything? Absolutely not.
Those hard times are the times that give you motivation to make things better.
No regrets, only lessons.
It got me thinking about resilience and mental health. I’ve read lots of studies on the relation between the two and used it to reflect on my own life.
Maybe the reason I have coped relatively well during the last 6 months is because of the shit thrown at me in the past. The blasé approach to cancer and operations. The confidence in my own ability to overcome and adapt.
I’ve been knocked down more times than I think is fair in my life, but I have always got back up stronger and braver every single time.
I grew up never feeling good enough. I sought praise from the one man in my life who was meant to fill me with confidence and set me up for life. The one man who still, to this day, I am not good enough for.
I fell in ‘love’ with the wrong kinds of men, the ones who made me believe I was special for that little moment, only to use it to shatter me all over again.
Being a mum awakened something inside me that told me I was, after all good enough and I can do anything I want. It gave me the confidence to fight for what me and my children deserve.
I wanted to do better not just for them, but for myself.
I was good enough.
At the peak of this new found strength I started to learn about reflection and self awareness. Something I had never though about. This was a turning point for me. I had to question myself on why I felt a certain way and what would I do different next time. It was powerful shit.
I learnt that the more you get to know yourself, the more you can trust yourself to make the right choices. And there comes the resilience.
I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013, right in the middle of my self exploration. It helped me to work through my fears and feelings. I knew I could trust myself, therefore I was a little less scared.
Again, this doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared. I was terrified. I think back to my darkest times where I cried for hours, mentally started to make plans for the children’s futures in case I wasn’t there. I felt anger, guilt, denial all the things you feel when faced with something like that. But I allowed myself to. If I was sad, I cried. If I felt angry I went to the gym to take it out on the running machine. I trusted myself enough to know that once I had felt these things and acknowledged them, I would be ok. Whatever the outcome.
I took all of this and used it for positive. I supported others going through similar situations, I started my blogs to make others feel less alone.
I owned it. It didn’t own me.
People use the word brave and I don’t really like it. Brave is a choice. Brave is deciding to get that spider in your room instead of sleeping on the sofa . Brave is choosing to laugh in the face of danger, even though every inch of your body wants to run.
None of my situations have ever been a choice. I have never been brave.
These past 6 months I have seen little snippets of myself in my children. Not my big feet before anyone comments. Especially you Karl. Dick.
I have seen them face fear head on, not having a choice but to fight it. And they have fought so bloody hard.
Ellis is renowned within his medical team for being laid back. The kid who just takes things in his stride. Cancer? Come at me. Weak heart? Bring it on. New lump? Mess with me if you dare. He knows that whatever happens, he will fight and that is what is getting him through.
The girls are the same. They talk through their problems open and honestly. They are learning that in a situation where you have little control, they trust themselves and their choices.
They are feisty little people who know their own mind and enjoy challenging themselves. They can do anything they strive for.
I lost my way a little while back. Isolation was in full swing and shielding had just begun. I wasn’t taking any time for myself. From everything I have trained in and studied, I know the importance of some time to yourself. But its very easy to get caught up in everything that’s going on around you and put that to one side.
When I was ill, the gym was my thing. To get onto that treadmill, into that zone. Headphones in, music up. It was my time for reflection and to clear my head. I went in all angry and came out at peace. Then ate a kebab. I mean, I’m not perfect, right?!
I love cars and driving, a naughty RWD would be my kind of medicine for sure, but a drive in a 1ltr Hyundai isn’t quite the same. So that’s that out of the question!
So lately I have been making a conscious effort to get back to it. I’m eagerly waiting for Boris to open gyms so I hit the spin bike again. I have bought myself a step counter to see how lazy I actually am. 55 steps in whole day was an achievement. Lockdown hasn’t been kind to my waistline or to my liver come to that, so I need to sort it out.
Yesterday was my first day of challenging myself to do 10,000 steps a day. Probably easy for most people for a self confessed cake addict with no thyroid, it’s bloody hard! But I did it and it felt incredible. Not so incredible this morning when my legs are aching every time I move.
I know I can be anything I want to be. Not because I’m good at everything, but because I know I have the fight. If I don’t know something, I will learn. If I can’t achieve something first try, I will keep trying. I look at a situation now and think “What is this trying to teach me” and “What is the solution to that’.
This week Ellis is having his chemo as an outpatient. We are staying in an amazing hotel hospital called Cotton Rooms, which is right next door to the Macmillan centre and UCLH. We no longer get to see our lovely nurses and Ross as he is not on the ward 😢 but this is incredible. Sorry Ross 😂
He is with other teenagers, rather than little children which is so much better for him as they all look like him! He is no longer the biggest one!
His actual chemo this week was methotrexate, which only lasts 4 hours. So he had that in the Macmillan centre sitting on a comfy chair surrounded by other teens. It’s lovely in there, the nurses are all so friendly and helpful. They talk to him like an adult which he likes. He has more control over his care too, he measures his own ph levels in his wee and writes down how much every time he goes. It’s so nice to see him owning it, rather than laying in a hospital bed in the dark.
After the 4 hours was up and the methotrexate had finished, he was hooked up to a fluid drip in a backpack, so he could go back to the room or do whatever he wants! Amazing!
With methotrexate he has to clear it all out of his system before he is allowed home, which normally takes 72 hours. So until Saturday we just have to pop back a couple of times a day to change the fluid bag.
No beeping machines, no obs waking him up, no awkward runs from the shower to your bed with no bra on. It is luxury.
We get breakfast in bed, a fridge in our room and an oven in the kitchen so we can both eat real food. I actually don’t want to go home!!
We saw a heart specialist on Tuesday for an echocardiogram and an ECG. The tablets he is on are already starting to work which is great. His oncologist wants to try him on one more Dexamethasone along with some heart protecting tablets and beta blockers. We are a bit apprehensive but she explained that the risk of the cancer coming back greatly outweighs the risk of weakening his heart further. She is having to chose between the two. Awful.
We trust her judgement, so that’s what is keeping us moving forward.
I told them about the lump in his leg and they sent him for an X-ray there and then. In the Macmillan centre, the lower floor is X-ray and scans so we didn’t have to go very far at all. Ellis doesn’t need his wheelchair for mobility, he only used it once after surgery! But due to his heart, he keeps feeling weak. We were coming back from the X-ray and he nearly fainted, so we had to borrow one from the ward. Ross to the rescue again!
It’s sad to see him back in a wheelchair after the amazing progress he has made. It’s amusing to try to push him without crashing and banging his leg, this thing is dangerous!
Dr Maria (his oncologist) cam to see us yesterday and said that something did show up on the X-ray, but they are not worried. My mind can’t even use those two things in the same sentence, but again, we have to trust her. She said she is going to monitor it.
I’ve been my usual non-adult self this week, it’s been comical. I forgot to pack sandals so only have trainers which also means only one pair of socks. I two-dayed them before realising there was a washing machine here. So I made Ellis sit in his pants while I washed everything I could find. After sitting patiently for the machine to finish, I realised I had left one of my socks out. The sole reason I did the wash in the first place. So I threw it in and washed it all again.
As I only have trainers, I wont be donning the Lily Allen look with the dresses I have packed, so I will be wearing the same two outfits all week. Washing in between as long as I don’t forget.
How I have raised children I’ll never know.
All in all it’s a pretty good week.
I have some really lovely friends who have kept me laughing all week, to which I am so grateful. Mainly them laughing at my dickeheadness, but I’m grateful either way.
Because after all, life is easier when you are laughing.