Hope and Courage

Somehow I managed to get through the two and a half weeks between my neck ultrasound and the appointment with the surgeon! It was an upsetting two weeks. I started off feeling numb, then angry, then just plain upset. Over the last three years I have tried be positive. I’ve kept on a brave face and kept going – because in all honesty I thought that after my surgery that would be the end of it. Never in a million years did I expect to be told my Cancer had come back! I mean, the fact I had been diagnosed with Cancer in the first place was pretty shitty, so for it to come back just felt like a really, really, bad joke.

I know it sounds extreme, but I couldn’t help thinking ‘What if I died?’ and I still think that now. I feel like before my son was born, it would have been something I could deal with. Somehow I’d make it through. But now I have this precious heart to love and protect and I have the strongest urge to survive. I know the most important thing in my life is that child and I plan to be here to see him grow up and have a family of his own. I didn’t realise the strength I could find when I had to dig deeper. I thought I had used up everything I had, but your children fill you with a kind of resolve that can move mountains. I will be strong – for him.

So onto the good news – well, as good as it can be! The Cancer hasn’t been detected in my blood. So although the growth is there, the surgeon feels that for now it can be left to my immune system to fight it. Sounds good apart from the fact I have a shocking immune system and seem to catch everything going! But I trust this surgeon. He looked after me first time round and I know he has my best interests at heart. What this does mean though is that in 6 months, 9 months or maybe even a year, I could find myself in the position of having to have further surgery and possible Radiotherapy. Not ideal, but a far better option than learning it had spread.

So through it all, I have had massive support from my friends and family. The people who really matter show themselves in your time of need. I’m hoping that this is the end of bad news for me. I feel like two miscarriages and a Cancer recurrence should just about be my lot of bad luck, for the year at least- so watch this space – I plan on winning the lottery soon!!

This is me…now

So, I started blogging as a way to deal with what had happened to me. I say happened to me, because I feel like it was something totally out of my control. I didn’t want to get Cancer. I didn’t plan it. But that’s just life. It happens to you whilst you’re busy making other plans.

A few months after I had given birth to my boy I found myself forgetting. There were great big holes in my memory. I couldn’t remember certain details about my life since just after I had my boy. Now I remember his arrival as clear as if it were yesterday. But I don’t remember his first laugh – I only remember it from the photo I took. I don’t remember him rolling over for the first time – but I have a video of it. Until he was about 11 months old there are (still) massive blank spots, filled only by the marvel of technology, where I have been able to take photos and videos and document his growing up.

I found this memory loss terribly upsetting. I felt like I had let him down in some way. How would I be able to tell him tales of when he was young if I couldn’t even remember it myself! I sought out counselling and was told that this was more than likely anxiety caused amnesia. I wanted to get to the root of the problem and talking my worries through with someone really helped. With that I decided to start a blog.

I had been thinking about it for a while and then one of my oldest friends actually started her own sort of mum-advice blog, and this spurred me on to be brave and put everything out there for everyone to read. The thought behind it was that if I could re-live that year, then I would remember it. If talking to someone else was beneficial, then talking (writing) to myself would surely help!

And slowly but surely I waded through the photos (somehow I had taken over 11000 photos in less than a year!) and I watched all the videos (less than a hundred of those haha) and I tried to remember. I used these photos to remind myself of what had been. I started writing and I faced my fears. The more I wrote the more I remembered. Telling the story helped me to get it all out. It was cathartic. It helped me deal with the pain, the anger and frustration. It made me remember the good times too and the support I was lucky enough to have.

I had used my blog to deal with my negative feelings and emotions. I had dealt with them and felt like I could conquer the world! Then suddenly awful things were happening again and I withdrew into myself. I couldn’t bring myself to share these things. I kept them locked away and I stopped writing. I felt as if no one would want to keep reading such heartache and sorrow. It was depressing and I didn’t want to share it.

A couple of months ago, I found the courage to write about my miscarriage. I wanted to work through these feelings and I felt like they had weighed me down long enough. I was pregnant again and I felt like this was it! So much bad stuff had happened, surely now was our time! I felt confident that soon I would have lovely happy pregnancy stories to share!

Less than a month later I miscarried again. It was a shock. I felt like one had been bad enough, but two was just so unfair! I was so angry. I am still angry. It was a Friday and I had started bleeding a few days before. I just knew in my heart that this was exactly like last time. By the time the midwives got me in for a scan the baby was gone. It was like it had never been. I was gutted.

We spent the weekend licking our wounds and then I had to pick myself up and head of to the hospital for my annual check up on my neck. I had an ultrasound scan booked to check that everything was ok, but it turned out it wasn’t.

The Sonographer has found an abnormality with one of my lymph nodes and wanted to do a test on the node to try and draw fluid from it. This involved sticking a needle into my neck and then moving around to try and locate the node, all whilst pushing on my neck with the ultrasound handset. Not the most pleasant experience I have to say! I kept a brave face all through the appointment. In all honesty I felt numb. How could something else have happened to me? How the hell were we going to get through this again?

1 in 4

It’s been almost 4 months since my last blog and a lot has happened in those four months. Mostly good things. Happy things. But one very sad, unsettling and definitely-not-on-the-happy-scale thing.

So first things first…I am now a MRS! It has been the happiest (albeit stressful) experience! We had the most magical time and the day couldn’t have gone better! The months of planning were well worth it and it was fantastic to have our nearest and dearest around us to help celebrate our love.

The theme was peach, and funnily enough that was the same colour scheme my mother had at their wedding, which was rather serendipitous. I made my own bouquets, name cards and favours, wanting a personal touch to compliment the hotel wedding. I had found the most perfect dress and felt like a princess! And to top it all off I was clearly marrying the best man in the world! It really was the best day!

Rewind 12 weeks…after months of trying, we had just found out I was pregnant with our second child! We were absolutely over the moon! We couldn’t wait to tell our friends and family, and especially as one of my close friends was also pregnant with her second and we were going to be preggy buddies again!

So we dressed our little lad in a T-shirt saying ‘I’m going to be a big brother’ and the family took absolutely no notice of it so we ended up having to point it out! But when they realised, it was happiness all round! This time was so different from the first time where everything had been tainted by Cancer and it felt wrong to be happy. This time we could do everything right!

The only difficulty now was the fact that I was due to walk down the aisle in less than 3 months! I decided a corset dress was the way to go, as that would give me a bit of room for growth and we set about finding the perfect dress! I tried on tons of dresses and ended up going for a totally princessy one! Not at all what I had imagined myself in, but it was the dress that screamed ‘this is it’ to me, so that was the one I chose.

I remember the day I picked the perfect dress, as it was also the day I started to lose our baby. I had felt incredibly bloated that day and had thought to myself ‘well at least I know the dress will fit in a few weeks when I start to show.’ I started to spot and felt cramps starting, but by that evening the cramps had gone and I thought my tummy had just popped as I now looked pregnant! I even sent a photo to my best friend telling her I was starting to show.

Over the next week, I continued to spot until one afternoon I saw what I call real blood. It was like I had started my period. I rang the midwife and they said if I was still bleeding the next morning to come in. The bleeding then slowed that night and by morning it was very light. I called the midwife again and they asked me to come in for an early scan. I was optimistic that everything would be ok, but as I sat waiting to go into the scan room I couldn’t stop the tears starting to gather in my eyes.

The sonographer started the scan, explaining she would have a look first and then tell me what she sees. What she saw was a baby there, in my womb, but without a heartbeat. She said she would have to get a colleague to come and confirm what she saw and left me to my thoughts. I felt like I was suffocating. The second sonographer came in and performed the scan and confirmed that our baby was no more.

I hadn’t brought my fiancé with me, as we never for a minute thought that this would be the outcome. I had to call him and tell him. I had to tell him that the precious little soul we had only just begun to love was never going to come into being. He was heartbroken. Two years before we had overcome my Cancer and gone through my pregnancy whilst fighting Cancer, and now when it was supposed to all be going right…it suddenly wasn’t.

Time for me

I’ve spent the last two years focused on my boy – I was luckily enough to be able to take 11 months of my maternity and spend almost every day watching my boy grow. Then I went back to work and was again very lucky in that I went to working only 4 days a week, giving me that precious extra day just me and him. We had play dates and snuggles and I spent the days just soaking him in.

Now, 2 years on and I feel like I need time for me. I feel like I need to have some uninterrupted time that is mine. So I have enrolled him into nursery for that extra day. This will give me one day a week where I have no call on my time. No baby to care for. No naps to work my schedule around. No baby, housework and sanity to juggle.

Before I had arranged it I was psyched! I thought ‘OMG I’m going to be able to have a bath and wash my hair in peace. Or paint my nails. Do the weekly shop. Or even get really daring and do the housework without a child attached to my leg!’ But the minute I got the email from the nursery saying yes there’s a space and he can start this week I wanted to burst into tears. The guilt I suddenly felt was overwhelming. How could I want to have time away from my boy? How could I even dream of putting him into nursery on a day when I don’t HAVE to work.

Am I being selfish, wanting time to myself? To pick up extras hours at work, or get my hair done, or just watch a film without the Toot Toot cars wailing in the background. Is it wrong of me to do this? Am I a bad mother?

I think of my friend who went back to work 5 days a week after only 9 months and how hard it was for her. How it almost broke her. And how lucky I’ve been to have this time with my boy. But I also think about how hard it is to be at this small little person’s beck and call and how for my own sanity I need a break from work and from being a mom, even if it’s just for half a day a week. To have a few hours where I don’t have to even speak to anyone if I don’t want to.

It’s his first day tomorrow and I have such mixed emotions I can’t even begin to decide how I feel…so I suppose only time will tell if I’ve made the right choice.

The ‘Mom Code’

Surely there’s a ‘Mom Code’ that we’re all supposed to be following? Kind of like the ‘Girl Code’. The unwritten rule of ethics that exists between moms. The ‘We’re all in this together’ mentality.

I’ll be the first to admit I was a little judgey before I had experienced motherhood myself. I naively thought that boisterous kids were actually just undisciplined – but karma has soon set me straight on that one ha ha. However, now I’m a mom (of a boisterous child) and I totally understand the stresses and strains of having this little whirlwind attached to you at all times…

So my question is ‘Should us moms be judging other moms?’ I’m not talking about the childless women…I get that they have no idea what it’s like and therefore will have their opinion, albeit an ignorant one. I’m talking about the other moms. The women who have had to endure the public tantrums. The women who have had their child throw up on them in the middle of a queue and had to abandon their shopping. The women whose kid will hit or push just because the other child is standing too close or they don’t want them to play with them. Or the ones whos’ kids just won’t share. We all know what it’s like.

My boy is fantastic at sharing. He makes me so proud how he will offer round his snacks or take another child a toy to play with and take turns. But then he’s also a hitter. He will smack you right in the face totally unexpected. He gets told no. He gets put on the naughty step. He gets made to say sorry by a kiss or a cuddle (or a casual lean on the other child if they’re not well known) as he can’t say the word sorry yet. I will ask him if he is ready to say sorry and he will sometimes say no and it will take a few minutes for him to say yes and then go over…what more can I do?

It’s doesn’t happen all the time, but today as I was paying for my shopping another mom and her child (looked to be around 5 maybe) came up behind us. I had my boy on his reins so he was standing quite close to me when suddenly I heard the other mom say ‘that’s not very nice’. I turned around and asked what had happened? She said he had hit her daughter. I straight away told him off and that he was to say sorry. He looked at me and then leaned towards the girl and I understood he was saying sorry. I tried to explain to the other mom that he was saying sorry in his own way as he isn’t talking yet but she just pursed her lips and looked at me with this displeased expression.

It made me so angry but I also just wanted to sit down and cry. Why the judgment. Why look at me like I’m a piece of sh*t mother and make me feel that way. Surely she’s been through the toddler phase? Surely she knows what’s it’s like? Just because her child is now old enough to know better does that give her the right to cast judgement on me? I expected to share a sympathetic look of understanding and be on our way. ? He’s not even two yet and he had said sorry so what else did she want from us?

So I suppose I’m wondering where is the solidarity of moms? Where’s is the support and the kind words? Where is the understanding? Is this ‘Mom Code’ a myth? You never know how fragile another person may be feeling. You don’t know what kind of day they’re having. So unless you can honestly say you’re child has never ever messed up or done something wrong, then keep your judgemental looks to yourself.

A time for reflection

So today is exactly one year since two things happened. Firstly I went back to work…and secondly my little one started nursery. Naturally it’s made me feel a little nostalgic – thinking back to simpler times – as I’ve found the last few months incredibly hard. I realise now that the things that came easily and that I thought I had nailed, such as my boy loving every bit of food you put in front of him, or travelling longer distances with no problem, could change without a moments notice.

He was…is…a happy baby. He absolutely ADORES nursery. From that very first day he’s loved being there and I feel proud that we have raised a confident and independent little boy. He will happily kiss me goodbye and wave me off without a moments hesitation. If anything it’s me who is left feeling a bit lost and missing him. Almost 2, going on 22!

In the baby room he played nicely with others or on his own. He would lie down happily to let the staff change his nappy and he would eat practically everything put in front of him. A few months in he got Hand Foot and Mouth and he refused to eat anything. He didn’t even want his milk. We regressed and started feeding him purée pouches as it was all he would have. Then after a couple of weeks he finally started to eat solids again.

However it seemed that the damage was done, as when a short time later he moved up to the toddler room he would eat literally nothing. We would pick him up in an evening with the same report every day of ‘he’s not eaten anything today’ and it started to worry me. When we got home he’d eat a jar of cauliflower cheese and a couple of pouches or maybe a bowl of cereal. I took him to be weighed and his weight was spot on. I was told not to worry, which is easier said than done! It’s true his weight was fine, but when your child is refusing to eat anything except puréed fruit pouches or cauliflower cheese it can get very stressful. Too much fruit and he got the runs and too much cauliflower cheese he would end up with stomach cramps and windy as hell! Throw in a bit of lactose intolerance and you have a difficult combination.

Then came the car sickness. At first we thought it was possibly because he was now facing forward, but even when we turned him back around he was still sick. Anything from 10 minutes into the journey to going a full 2 hours without being sick. There was no rhyme or reason to it – you just had to hope for the best! After about 6 months of it we finally had it down to a fine art of catching the sick in his blanket. This definitely makes for more stressful car journeys…take driving to Scotland for instance. He was sick 7 times on the way up. Seven!! I was ready to give up except short of camping on the side of the road there was nothing we could do but keep going. But then we had the trip back to consider as well and I can’t say I was looking forward to it. The brave little guy seldom complains and just sits there with his little face all scrunched up and waits for mommy or daddy to help him. It’s heartbreaking.

So I resigned myself to the fact I have a child who won’t eat…although again there is no rhyme or reason as today he may love beans, but tomorrow he will cry and push you away if you even so much as show him a bean. Same goes for blueberries, and bananas, and yoghurts…and pretty much anything. Even the cauliflower cheese was getting refused! Also I was resigned to having a child who gets car sick. But at least he plays nicely with others…

I honestly was one of those moms who think to themselves that kids who hit or push or bite (mine does all three!) are not disciplined and allowed to run riot and that is why they do it. It’s not. I mean there are kids out there who are left to their own devices for sure, but I have rules. I have the naughty step. My child will say sorry and give you a cuddle after his time on the naughty step. But he still does it. It makes play dates super stressful. You feel judged. You want to shout out but he’s not even two he doesn’t know any better! Or sometimes it’s their child who pushed first and because yours stands his ground he looks to be the bad guy as no one saw the first push! But you can’t say anything without looking petty so you just have to pull your child aside and tell them off and pray to God they don’t do it again within the next five minutes.

Luckily the biting seems to only coincide with teething spells and usually the hitting or pushing is only once or twice and then he seems to settle into what’s going on and play happily alongside his friends. Still the tension is there and you are on constant high alert. It’s almost enough to make you want to bypass play dates altogether!

So today my child ate a handful of snacks at nursery, and once he got home he proceeded to cry and roll around on the floor saying no to anything I suggested. He asked for juice…I made him juice…I handed it to him and he threw it down crying noooo juuuice. He then asked for a nana…I peeled a banana for him…and again he cried saying no nana noooo and threw it into the sink! I can’t seem to please him no matter what I do. I’d give up…but you can’t. You can’t quit. You can’t take a day off. You’re it for the next however many years it takes until they can look after themselves!

Sometimes I long for the days of a simple baby who only drank milk and slept through car journeys. Who woke like clockwork every three hours for a feed, but you knew it was coming and you were meant to be giving them a feed so you didn’t have to have that internal battle of whether your almost two year old should be having night feeds or not and if you could just find the energy to get through one night it may break the routine and he’ll stop wanting milk.

I thought I had it sussed! And maybe for a split second I did, but then everything changed and tomorrow it will probably change again. On one hand the first year is the hardest because you have no idea what you are doing. But the second year feels just as hard…yet by now you should know what you’re doing right? So for now I’m just trying desperately to cherish every moment. Every tantrum. Everything about this precious soul who is growing up just too damn fast…

The big C, bump and me

So it’s taken me a while to put what I have felt and been through into words…all the emotions I have experienced over the last two years have been exhausting and it’s taken a lot of focus and work to get to where I am.

We started trying for a baby 10 months before I was diagnosed with Cancer. It was earth shattering. Those words are ones you never expect to hear about yourself. Everyone will know someone who knows someone else who’s been affected by cancer, or personally know someone who’s been affected, but you never expect it to be you.

I was diagnosed in the beginning of June, after a operation to remove a lump in my throat. I had spent the previous year having various tests done, but the results had been inconclusive and so the only way to get a definitive answer was to remove the lump, along with half of my Thyroid. I was confident the prognosis would be ‘benign’ and I would go on with my life as planned. It wasn’t.

I could feel my eyes filling as the doctor spoke and it was the first time I had seen my mom, who was with me for the appointment, unable to hide the concern as she digested what was said. I could hear her voice crack and see the pain in her eyes as she tried to ask the doctor some questions. If the news was upsetting my mom, my rock, the woman who could handle and had handled everything life had thrown at her so far, then this was bad. I felt like I was looking down on myself and it wasn’t really me. I asked the doctor a couple of questions and then left, in a daze, tears running down my face. I had to wait for a further appointment and another operation to remove the remainder of my Thyroid and any lingering Cancer cells. I also had to stop trying for a baby.

I wasn’t sure what was harder to handle. I did what I needed to to cope, and that was to adopt an ‘it is what it is’ attitude. I took the approach that I was lucky. I had the type of Cancer that had a 90% cure rate. If I had this operation I wasn’t going to die. It had turned my life upside down but there were people who had it worse. So I told myself to suck it up and get on with it. I was advised to hold off on the baby thing for at least a year. I decided ‘ok, this means we can do all the things we would find harder to do once we had a baby’. We decided we would plan a trip to New York and we would build the extension on the house. I didn’t realise how badly I had wanted that baby until much later.

Fast forward a month…We were on the way to my parents house when something made me realise that I hadn’t come on my period two days before as usual. I put it down to the stress of the last month, but we stopped and bought a test anyway. We got to my parents, said hello and took our stuff upstairs to get ready for a meal out. I went to pee on a stick for what felt like the hundredth time, and like all those times before I expected a negative result. I hadn’t even finished wee-ing when the little blue line appeared. I went through to the room and waved it at my partner and promptly started crying.

It was all wrong. This wasn’t meant to happen yet. I had spent the last month adjusting to the fact that I couldn’t have a baby yet and now I was pregnant. I was angry, confused and worried. What were we going to do? We held each other and I cried. Then we went downstairs to tell my parents. We couldn’t keep it a secret with everything that was going on – they needed to know.

It wasn’t how I had planned it. Nothing was going my way and I was devastated. This was their first grandchild and I had planned to get them Granny and Grandpa coffee mugs to announce to them when we eventually got pregnant. It wasn’t meant to be such a bitter sweet moment, more bitter than sweet. It was meant to be one of the happiest days of my life and it wasn’t. There wasn’t joyful hugging and laughter, there was concerned looks and tears. There were so many questions surrounding what would happen about my Cancer. Would I still have the operation? Would the baby be ok? Little did I know there was an even tougher question coming.

I rang my Consultant the next day. He was very practical and direct and advised me that he would have to look at the risk to me and the risk to the baby. So basically if the risk to me was higher then I would be unable to carry this child. I had never even contemplated that that would be an option. How could I make the decision between me and my unborn child. I had to distance myself from my pregnancy emotionally and think of it in terms of ‘a baby would be pointless without me here to care for it, and if I couldn’t have this child then it obviously wasn’t meant to be’. I put everything I felt into a box and locked it away. I told him that I understood and I waited for his call.