This is a repost of a blog that I wrote in April 2016. It was a tough time. I can’t recall too much about this period apart from feeling extremely vulnerable and pretty scared. This was one of the first posts I wrote. I remember it so well. At about 9pm, after the kids went to bed, Mr Brown would scuttle off to shoot and kill people on the X-Box. I would sit and stare, unable to concentrate on the TV or reading. My emotional instability and worry about Felix prevented me from going out and telephone conversations were almost impossible as I could not cope with everyday chit-chat. I was at a loss as to what to do to stop my mind wandering … wandering to places I really did not want it to go.
I’ve always wanted to write. Surely this was the perfect opportunity? I had the time, I had the space, I had a focus. And so I did. I was desperate to try to make some sense of what we were going through. I couldn’t think clearly enough so maybe, through writing, I mgith be able to find some clarity in all of my feelings, emotions and thoughts. And that’s how it began.
Night after night, 9pm came round and the children would go to bed, my husband would shoot and I would type. Tip, tap, tip, tap. Then I started writing whenever I had chance. The children mocked as I typed with ferocity, trying to get it all out. Everything that had been locked away in my mind for the last three months now had an escape route. I couldn’t get enough of it and provided me with the therapy I needed at that time.
Little was I to know, that by outpouring my feelings and experiences of childhood cancer I would help other people going through tough times. Little did I know how, 18 months down the line, writing would still be an effective form of therapy. Little did I know that I would touch, and be touched by so many wonderful people by simply sharing our story.
For anybody considering putting pen to paper, do it! You can. It doesn’t matter what you write about, it doesn’t matter who reads it. All that matters is that it helps you make sense of this complicated world we live in.
This is the dichotomy I find myself in.
I had ruthlessly cleared the shed of tins of paint, broken but hoarded gardening equipment and a variety of plastic garden toys and made my way to the local tip. It was a bright and sunny Sunday morning, the tip was teeming with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. I proudly joined my fellow tippers and launched the bags over the wall with a sense of virtue and success. We nodded at each other and rolled our eyes as less experienced tippers attempted to dispose of their goods in the wrong area. Then it dawned on me. What on earth was I doing here, involved in this senseless, mundane activity, when my son had cancer? I had this sudden panic that I should be at home with him, enjoying him, loving him, laughing with him when instead I was here, surrounded by strangers amongst tons of rubbish.
Whilst the booklets and pamphlets had explained the ins and outs of life with leukaemia, there wasn’t advice about this. How do we combine a sense of normality with the enormity of having a child diagnosed with cancer?
The ‘tip’ incident did rattle me. I began to question whether we should be doing things differently. Should we be making the most of every minute, making life ‘spectacular’, cherishing every moment? Should we be aiming for a life which is ‘picture perfect’ and ignoring the everyday necessities? During the short drive home I had determined that no, life had to go on including the banal as well as the spectacular. We had to look at the bigger picture; the stability and happiness of the whole family. This meant trying our very hardest to raise our children to be polite, kind, hard-working and happy and to live a meaningful life. We had to continue with ‘normal’ life even if that meant doing a tip run and all the other day-to-day stuff.
So, as we carry on with ‘normal’ life and I am raising my voice and getting agitated with the travel insurance company, I smile at Felix. This is not a magical, memory making moment but it is life and a life that Felix is living and enjoying for all of its high and lows. During the phone conversation, he is learning that he has the right to complain if he is not happy with something and that there is no need to shout but to listen and assert himself calmly. He is also learning that people cry when they are angry as well as sad!
Felix does have a cancer diagnosis but he is still our beautiful 10-year-old boy. A boy who we still have the responsibility to raise to have a broad and balanced view of the world. A boy who understands that with the amazing things in life there are the mundane and relentless; without the mundane and relentless, we couldn’t have the spectacular and amazing.
The next time I go to the tip, I will take him with me!