Yesterday Evelyn you fell over. You did that thing when your feet go too fast for your body and you ended up head over heels as you ran towards me and Grace. The fact you still insist on carrying all three of your taggies with you everywhere meant you fell awkwardly and grazed your knuckles. We were on our way to a cafe and managed to stop the tears by distracting you with cake but part way through you caught sight of your knuckles and started again. This time there was no distraction, it looked painful and it obviously was. In between sobs you asked when it would be better and I promised that by the following day you probably wouldn’t feel it. When you woke this morning it had scabbed over and looked worse, I wasn’t sure whether the tears were going to start again but before they did you realized although it looked bad, it didn’t hurt anymore and then something else took your attention. Physical wounds are there for all to see and so when we have them people will often ask how we’re doing and find it easier to sympathize with that kind of pain. They usually have a more defined healing process, a beginning and an end, and although can be just as difficult to deal with at the time, they’ll most likely come with a rough time scale of when things will be better. Mental scars however are a whole other ball game.
Two days after the op I travelled back home lying on the front passenger seat of the car and feeling every bump. I could have left a day earlier but the pain in my shoulders was still there and I struggled to stay upright without feeling nauseas. Along with the catheter hidden inside my tracksuit bottoms I took home a bag full of drugs to help with the pain and anticoagulant medication to inject for the next 30 days. Your dad was to administer this each morning and to be fair made a pretty good nurse for all the fuss I made. He helped me move around, wash and dress for the first few days and took it all in his stride.
Grandpa arrived the following day to help, by this point I could just about get up the stairs on my own as long as I crawled on my hands and knees. Luckily having a catheter meant other than going to bed there wasn’t much reason to go upstairs, in fact I didn’t move much from the sofa for about a week. I binged crap TV while your dad and grandpa worked on the house next door. By the end of the week I could just about take a cup of tea round for them both and we even managed fish and chips in front of a bonfire one night, it was November after all.
After a week grandpa went back up north, I had my catheter removed and finally felt ready to get back out in public. We went for a curry with nana and grandad and had a nice evening before I ended up in the after hours surgery after developing a rather nasty bladder infection (just in case we weren’t dealing with enough already). Next grandma came down to help and I finally received the news from the hospital I’d been waiting for. I took the call in the front room before skipping back through to the kitchen where grandma was. She said afterwards that moment was the first time she’d seen a glimmer of the daughter she remembered since before the diagnosis. All the nodes were clear. No more treatment was needed. That was it, it was all gone. I was better. If only it was that simple.
Physically I healed as you would imagine any otherwise healthy 31 year old would. By the middle of December I was walking around normally again. My injections had finished and life as it had been resumed. Except it didn’t, I vividly recall going Christmas shopping at Bluewater and walking around in a daze. I had no idea what I was doing there. I looked at clothes and makeup but as much as I tried to I just didn’t care about them. What if the cancer came back? What was the point of buying new clothes? What was I doing here? We didn’t stay long. I desperately wanted to enjoy being back, to enjoy all the Christmas preparations, but I couldn’t. I’ll be forever grateful I didn’t need any further treatment but the fact I hadn’t meant that with the physical scars hidden under my clothes I didn’t look like a cancer patient, to the world I looked ok and I wasn’t ok.
My mind was broken. For the next two years cancer was the first thing I thought about every morning when I woke up, how my life had changed overnight and a weight bore down on my shoulders that wasn’t there before. Every plan we made for the future I wondered whether I’d get there. Holidays, hen party’s, weddings. What I would give for the freedom that came with not having that constant fear of reoccurrence and what that might bring. Each time I hear about someone who has been touched by this terrible illness, every time there’s a pain or something about my body I haven’t noticed before it’s still there pervading my thoughts. Sometimes it lasts a fleeting moment and other times it’s kept me awake for hours.
The human mind is such a powerful entity, achieving the most brilliant things but also holding the ability to ruin lives. I didn’t fight cancer, I had it and the doctors removed it. The biggest fight I always had was with my mind, the fight to stop it from spiraling, day after day. Each time it went to places of darkness to pull it back toward the light. To heal a mind is not an exact science, each one may require something different. To heal mine, I talked, and then kept on talking. To your dad, to grandma, to grandpa, aunty Sophie and many other friends and family all who helped to fix it slowly. I’m still getting there, I don’t know whether those anxieties will ever go away but my life is now definitely bigger than they are.
Seeing your child in pain either physically or emotionally is the worst thing a parent can endure but the universe seems to have a habit of throwing us these curve balls from time to time and we have no idea when they are coming. What I do know is that the best way to face anything will always be together with the support of those who love you. Know that we’ll always be there for you, to talk, to listen, to kiss those knuckles, stroke your head and hold you tight when you need it. Navigating this life can be amazing but it can also be bloody hard and a lot of the time we have no idea what is going on behind the smiles in other peoples lives. We need to do all we can to support each other, even when we might look ok, we must hold out a helping hand if we can and above all, be kind, to others and always to ourselves.
Forever & Always