It’s been seven weeks since I last wrote and it feels like the world is a very different place. I’m pretty sure that when I started writing a year ago if someone had told me we’d be here now, I wouldn’t have believed them. On March 23rd the UK entered into lockdown to stop the spread of Coronavirus. A virus that to date, has tragically taken the lives of more than 30,000 men, women and children in this country alone. Since then, other than for our daily walks and shopping for essential items (tin of paint probably not included) we haven’t been able to leave the house. We’ve been juggling DIY, home schooling and working from home (lessons are now delivered via Google meet and Microsoft teams). This has gone surprisingly well, other than a near miss where your dad almost walked out of the shower and into our bedroom before realizing I’d left the computer camera on during a lesson and an incident where as I was explaining how a transformer works you, Evelyn, shouted through from the toilet, “mum I’ve done a poo you need to come and wipe my bum ”.
I feel incredibly lucky to have the space we do, the garden is really coming along now, we have decking instead of broken bricks for a patio and it’s been nice to spend so much time together as a family. It’s wonderful to see the bond between you, Grace and your dad grow stronger each day, a bond that may have otherwise, taken many more months to form. You girls have started to play together and we’ve had some really good times out walking, spending time in the garden and eating together each day. But I’m also exhausted and finding that ‘me’ time is pretty hard to come by, the days blend into one and we seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time cooking and cleaning. You need eyes in the back of your head to make sure that you Grace are not eating stones, chewing dried up worms or sucking on a cornflake you found under the sofa from last week. Within seconds of being left alone you could be climbing the stairs, removing the soil for one of the house plants and scattering it delightfully around the room or giving the furniture a lick of paint that definitely is not needed. I feel guilty I’m not spending more time marking, I feel guilty I’m not spending more time playing or teaching you phonics and I feel guilty it’s your dads 40th tomorrow and the card still hasn’t arrived.
Each Thursday at 8pm we clap for the NHS staff and key workers who have kept this country running. You both love coming out and smiling and waving at the neighbours, especially Anne who’s memory is not what it was and tells you each week you have beautiful hair and asks you your name. Obviously Grace has no idea what’s happening but we’ve tried to explain a little about what is going on to you Everlyn. You know there’s some germs out there that can make people sick, you know the doctors and nurses are doing all that they can to make people better and the scientists are working hard to invent a medicine that will stop people getting ill. (Of course, they are under strict instructions to make it banana flavor and not like those yucky antibiotics you had last Christmas). To be honest a few weeks back I was getting worried about you, you’d had a few nightmares, chattered in your sleep about the virus and you’d stopped wanting to leave the house at all. But you do seem to be much better now, I think perhaps all of us have got a little more used to this new normal.
For the first time since my surgery we were back in the hospital. We sat in the waiting room and I flicked through women’s gossip magazines. It didn’t last long before I put them back down, which ever one I picked up there was alway a story about someone with cancer and unless it was clear from the headline there was a good outcome, I’d rather not risk scaring myself more than I needed too. We’d always wait for what seemed like forever to see the consultant, he took his time with patients, when you were in there it like you felt like you were the only patient in his world, something I truely appreciated unless of course I was waiting outside for my slot. In that first meeting we talked about how the surgery had gone and what they’d found. He explained most of the cancer had been removed during the first op when we’d hoped it was just a polyp. Luckily it had been growing into the space outside the cervix and not back into the tissue, the space they affectionally now called The Vault. Going forward I would return for checkups as an outpatient first of all every three months and then every six. In total I would be an outpatient for five years. In between appointments there were signs I should look out for and each time I returned to the hospital ‘the vault’ would be checked thoroughly and finally every two years there would be a smear. The first couple of years were the riskiest and if we got through those, the chances of reoccurrence would fall considerably. I was a bit concerned by the lack of scans, I felt surely I should be having at least few of these thrown in too for good measure, I mean how else would you definitely know it wasn’t hiding anywhere else? It transpired however that they just didn’t do them for this type of cancer, I still don’t know why, I guess perhaps it’s got to do with money but to be fair whenever I’ve been anxious about an unexplained symptom or pain they’ve always given me one just to make sure.
So that was it, a waiting game. I didn’t know what was going to happen next week, next month or whether I’d be here at all in five years time but I realized fairly quickly that the only way to deal with it was to take each day at a time. That’s not to say just because I knew this my mind didn’t wander, it’s a lot easier said than done and it was all over the place at times but I settled into a new rhythm. Each time I’d visit the consultant, he’d take a look and assure me that things looked normal, it was like pressing the reset button on my anxiety and for a while after that it was easier to push those thoughts to the back of my mind. Then as the weeks went by each niggle and ache would play on my mind and it would be harder to keep it at bay. But for now as I walked out of that first check up I knew that today, it wasn’t there, today I was cancer free and today I needn’t worry.
Tonight the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself was touch and go at one point as he fought the virus, is to address the nation and tell us which, if any, of our lockdown rules will be relaxed. To tell you the truth I’m more anxious about anything being lifted than the lockdown itself. I’m worried about how you Grace will go back to nursery and avoid getting ill again when you still put everything you see in your mouth, I worry about how you Evelyn will cope with the transition back to school and not being at home with us each day. I worry about the risk involved in me and your dad going back into buildings with hundreds of children, bustling through corridors, pushing open the same set of doors and eating at the same tables. I want life to return to normal, I want to see friends and family again, to go out to parks and eat in cafes but out there is the unknown and in here, in our little bubble, we’re safe. The nightmare of seeing you Grace on a ventilator is still so recent, seeing someone I love back there again would be unbearable. Whenever I try to think about how things might change and what next week, next month or the next year will bring I can feel the panic beginning to once again to rise up and take hold. So I try to do what I’ve learnt is best in uncertain times, instead I go back to focusing on today. Today we are safe. Today we have good health. Today we have each other. Let tomorrow take care of itself.
Forever & Always,