I had the pleasure of bumping into an old friend this evening at a local, well-known supermarket. I had bribed the boys with the promise of sweets to cycle to the shop so that we could enjoy the last of the evening sun and I really fancied a glass of Prosecco, but the fridge was bare. Anyway, as we were discussing who would go in to the shop and who would look after the bikes, I was pleased to see a friendly face walk towards us.
As the kids dived into the shop and conversation progressed, it transpired that the last time I had seen this lovely lady, at the same said supermarket, I had been somewhat preoccupied and desperate to leave as soon I could. I don’t recall this event at all. A couple of days later, this lovely lady heard about Felix’s diagnosis and put two and two together. I had needed to leave the unscheduled encounter as soon as I could because my son had just been diagnosed with Leukaemia.
It was lovely to see her and, as is her lovely nature, she treated the kids to some quite massive bags of sweets. For me, it brought to light how far we have come in the last six months. I can remember those early days, often wearing sunglasses to take my youngest to school because by eyes were constantly filled with tears. There were the regular trips to said supermarket to stock up for whoever was at home or for whoever was staying in hospital with Felix. Then there were the emergency food trips to try to fulfil Felix’s steroid cravings or wine for me and Mum to help us sleep. It was so wonderful to note that this trip to the supermarket was a stark comparison to those dark, early days. This evening was filled with laughter, sugar and fizz; a complete opposite to when I last saw this lovely lady.
There is a significant change in where we are at. We are able to go out as a family again and do most things that we used to do. The only problem is that we have almost forgotten how to do it. We have spent so many months being slaves to the regime of treatment that we have forgotten what ‘freedom’ in a sense feels like and how to manage choice. We are so very used to having a treatment schedule, being told when and where to be and when there is no treatment, we are waiting for results or further plans. This has made planning anything almost impossible. However, we are starting to get a sense of free will again but we are sometimes finding that we are sat, waiting around, for someone to tell us what to do.
Inspired by another local family whose life has also been intruded by leukaemia, we have filled a pot full of fun. In this pot, the kids find a variety of easy, free and accessible trips that we can do spontaneously, as a family. It is hoped that this will help us rediscover a sense of freedom and adventure that we have lost to hospital appointments, chemotherapy regimes and blood results. Whether it is a walk by the river, a spot of crabbing, spending pennies in the arcade or going for a cream tea, the lucky dip will hopefully encourage us to stop waiting around for someone to tell us what to do next.
It still surprises me how brief encounters or discrete happenings continue to add another level of understanding about what it means to have a child with cancer. It truly is a complex old thing. So, here’s to enjoying some good old traditional past-times and finding freedom again.