Today has been all about being thankful. Officially, it has been the Thanksgiving service of our beautiful granddaughter. Unofficially, it has been about much more than that.
When breast cancer decided to come crashing into our lives, my daughter and son-in-law thoughtfully decided they would wait until after my initial surgery and my chemo was completed before arranging their daughter’s Thanksgiving service. It is a big deal for them and something I am touched beyond words that they chose to delay until I was fitter than I would otherwise have been. As such, it has become something to look forward to, a bright, shiny event on the horizon that I have aimed for, knowing that its arrival meant I was on the road to recovery.
Having a day of celebration with my family, both close and extended, around me has been perfect. I have been so grateful for their support throughout the past months and for their fabulous food today. When caterers were proving to be a problem, they stepped in and it was sorted with great aplomb. To spend the day with them, with my granddaughter as the centre of attention, has meant the world. She has been an utter bundle of delight and joy.
And I am so very thankful. Thankful for my granddaughter; thankful for my family; thankful for their presence; thankful for their support; and thankful to my God.
As a final blessing for my granddaughter, I can do no better than the priestly blessing from Numbers 6:
24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
Scene: Kitchen, early evening amidst post birthday party debris.
Me: That was nice, wasn’t it?
Cap’n: It was. Very.
Contented sighs emanate from both parties
Me: The food went down well.
Cap’n: It did.
Me: Especially the chocolate coated strawberries.
More contented sighs
Me: D’you know what?
Cap’n: No, what?
Me: I really fancy some chocolate. Shall we eat the leftover dipping chocolate? It’s in the fridge.
Cap’n: Ah. I didn’t think you still wanted it …
Didn’t. Think. I. Still. Wanted. It. That would be CHOCOLATE we’re talking about, yes? The CHOCOLATE I was prepared to share. And yet he still lives …
You have got to love a birthday party. And I have recently discovered that there is nothing like a granddaughter’s first one. Especially when it falls during chemo. To have something so sweet, so good, so perfect to look forward to when feeling utterly dreadful has been wonderful.
My daughter asked me weeks ago if they could come and spend yesterday with us. It was the day before the actual birthday but to have the excuse for a party was delightful. And to know so far in advance that I was getting this opportunity was a treat that got sweeter as the day drew nearer. We settled on mid afternoon as the perfect time slot – opportunity for lazy morning for me, plenty of time for others to get here. It was to be the birthday girl and her parents, my son & his fiancé, my sister & my niece.
I spent all week planning food. Food that I could manage to rustle up that is. Websites were scoured. Recipe books poured over. Relatives consulted. In the end, birthday cake was made by doting aunt and I provided rhubarb & custard lollies (perfect for chemo mouth as it happens!), chocolate dipped strawberries with 100s & 1000s and blueberry & lemon cheesecake fairy cakes.
Balloons were blown up and banners displayed. Presents wrapped and cards written. Food arranged and drinks poured. And then I sat back and watched as the party girl embraced the occasion. It was perfect. She was a total delight.
Of course, like all long anticipated things, it nearly did not happen. My daughter rang earlier in the week to tell me she had just been diagnosed with a contagious skin disease. Cue panic phone calls to chemo team and many tears on my part. After much debate among themselves they decided that as said disease was already being treated, would be covered and was on an adult it was an acceptable risk for me to take in my current immunocompromised state. I had to promise to avoid all physical contact with my daughter and, if anyone else contracted it, to abandon all plans. Frankly I would have agreed to sell a kidney if that would have meant we could go ahead so these stipulations were fine.
Whether it was this or that it was a bright spot in an otherwise grim period that made the afternoon so sweet I do not know. I rather suspect grandchildren’s first birthdays are ever thus.
And in case you were wondering, that photo? Me. On my first birthday. At my Grandma’s house.
Yesterday turned into a bit of a social whirl, comparatively speaking. I had a fabulous friend come and visit in the late afternoon to catch me up on all the news. It was so good to see her. I feel hideously cut off much of the time. Fundamentally I am a people person. There are times I crave solitude but by and large I need people. Only no one seems to have told my wretched body that. Chemo is playing havoc with my social life. I just have so little energy it is difficult to get out and about, or even to consider galvanising myself into anything resembling action.
However, a few intrepid types have discovered the joy of face timing with me. This has proved brilliant. We set a time; make sure we are sorted with tea, coffee, whatever; then sit and chat as if we were across the table instead of hundreds of miles away. Ok, so there are a few more delays in the conversation. A few more ‘You’ve frozen’ comments. A few more periods of actually taking it in turn to speak. But on the whole, it is fab. And I am loving it. The only downside is my memory, never good, has become shocking. Which means there is every chance I can arrange a call, and then totally forget all about it. If I have done this to you, I apologise. Just wallop me next time we meet. Or harangue me by text.
Anyway, back to my social whirl of yesterday. Having had my lovely in the flesh visitor, I then had a flurry of phone calls (the Captain was out) – all delightful. And then, the cherry on the proverbial, I had a visit from a dahn sarf friend who was passing by for work! He came bearing ginger cake. Delicious sticky ginger cake no less. So obviously I now love him even more than I did. His wife is fine with this. For his wife is Chummy. She of the Up Yours Cancer Lunch 😀 And it is not everyone I am prepared to greet in a Taken My Bra Off for the Night state. Which obviously has far more implications now than it did before I became Lady Lopsided of Tilting Town. You try covering half an ample bosom while juggling coffee cups. Definitely goes on the Things I Never Thought I’d Do list.
Today, I have been paying for all the excitement. I had a fitful night’s sleep. Indigestion seems to be featuring somewhat – not sure if that is a side effect (though I know it can be) or just my usual. The sweaty, tingling head did not help and nor did the bizarre hair related dreams that ensued: being chased by tentacles of hair; giant plaits trying to smother me, you know the sort of thing. So today I have been wading through a fog of sleep deprivation with a side helping of nausea and indigestion. And I am still making far too frequent trips to the toilet. TMI, I know, but I did warn this would not be pretty. A visit from my daughter and her darling family perked me up no end this afternoon. My baby granddaughter tried on some of my chemo caps and looked fabulous in them. Such cuteness should be available on prescription.
Ok, so this cold has seriously outstayed its welcome. By Wednesday I had decided enough was enough: a weekend of leading up to it and then two days of snot surely meant I could be certain I was on the mend? So I carried on with all the plans I had made, secure in the knowledge that I was on The Road To Recovery. Shame no one told my cold that.
I woke Thursday morning feeling worse than ever. Ironically I had an appointment with my GP. All round the waiting room there are posters declaring Death to All who WASTE an Appointment for a Cold! Or something along those lines. I fluctuated between feeling I should have a bell and shout ‘Unclean, unclean!’ and holding up a sign promising I was not there about my cold. Given the wide berth around me, my fellow Waiting Room dwellers would have preferred the former. As it was, on entering her room, the first thing I greeted my GP with was not, ‘Hello,’ but ‘I’vegotacoldbutI’mnothereaboutthat!!’ We just needed to touch base prior the chemo rollercoaster begins. She was lovely.
After that, I went to bed in the hope of tricking this slimy virus into believing I am recovered. You see, today, I should have had a whole day of shopping and champagne and sisterly loveliness. We have had it planned for ages. And I cannot blame the cancer for raining on this parade. Well, I probably could if I tried hard enough but it would be a bit tortuous.
As it was, I still went. And it was still a day of sisterly loveliness. The Captain drove me over. She wrapped in a duvet and snuggled me down on the sofa with mugs of green tea steaming beside me. We still shopped but it was more of an online experience. We squeezed in a brief excursion for paracetamol, cough stuff and throat sweets and managed to come home with a cardi too. We are very efficient shoppers.
We continued with our journey to Oopnorthshire and I am now languishing in the ancestral home having maternal love poured upon me. Vicks Vapour Rub has already been mentioned but I think I have fended it off for now.
I had a bad night. Sorting out my pain control is taking more time than I thought so the night was long. With little sleep had. And then I could hardly move when it was time to give up on the pretence at sleeping. Turns out the plastic coated starch sheeted hospital bed had its bonuses: it moved continually. One of those new fangled pressure relieving mattress thingies that not only relieved my pressure, it also kept my muscles from seizing up. Handy.
So I started the day grumpy. And weepy. By 10am I attempted a nap. Just as I dozed off, the plumber working on our One Day Possibly A Kitchen (because I like to do my breast cancer & surgery with building work and no kitchen, how about you?) drilled a hole through mains water pipe. The Captain was out. Buying Soft & Comfy bras (mm mmm!) for me. The man is almost a saint. But he was out so canonisation will have to wait a while. My lovely Mum had to scurry around mopping up the vast flood while the stop cock was located. Of course, the part of the mains severed meant that water to the whole row of terraces was cut off too. How to make yourself popular with your neighbours. Now we are a few days back from where the day began on the kitchen. But hey, it could be worse, I could have cancer. Ah yes. That old chestnut.
From then on, every time I nearly napped, the phone rang. Or the door went. Or a drill started. And so on. But all was not lost. My fab sister came to see me and that saved the day from being a total right off. Between us we have come up with a pain plan which should help. And she nearly washed my hair. But fortunately remembered about the lack of water just in time.
Tonight I have more drugs. And am optimistic that maybe I will actually sleep. This would be good. I am tired of being tired. I am tired of waking in a hot sweat that has gone cold, leaving me shivering. I am tired of itchy skin. Twitching shoubsicle aside I am hopeful that the drugs will knock me out sufficiently for not only the pain to be a distant memory but for these other irritations to leave me unawares.
I had a bad day yesterday. I slept late and long which boded well but woke again with a sleep hangover (does such a thing even exist?). I guess it is no surprise that I was exhausted and more than a little fragile after the previous day’s marathon at the hospital, but that does not mean I was prepared for it. I was woken by the sound of five men traipsing around
the building site I mean what will one day be a kitchen. This was more than I could stand. On the whole, this building project has been ok. Yesterday it tipped into not being ok. Yesterday it was far from ok. Thankfully I could decamp and holed up with J. She snuggled me in a chair, tucked me up with blankets, plied me with tea, soup and tissues, and left me to it. Perfect.
When I returned home hours later, the builders had gone, cleaned up and all that was left was a newly plastered shell. It is beginning to look like it may one day be a kitchen. Perhaps washing up in the bath will not become a way of life. It is only a matter of time before I muddle the washing up liquid with the bubble bath or the flannel with the green scourer so let us hope so.
Today is going to be a good day. I am taking my Left Breast on a series of last outings. Today’s involves my sister. She is well practised in the art of accompany my breasts and I on outings. We are meeting at a champagne bar. In the morning. Get us. Where we go from there remains to be seen. But it may involve lingerie. Then again, it may involve just lots of bad behaviour. Who knows?
Later the Captain and I are going out to dinner. I will do my utmost not to behave too badly there. Although no promises can be made. Badly behaved or not, I am very much looking forward to day of friends and celebration.
It is a fortnight today since I first heard the words ‘You have cancer.’ Unquestionably that is a bit of a bad way to start any day. I still find myself reeling when I hear others use that word. Apparently it is ok for me to say. And I do. Quite frequently as it goes. But somehow hearing others say it in connection with me takes me aback. Each time, I do a bit of double take, I kind of want to correct them with a ‘Sorry, no, you’ve got that wrong,’ or a ‘Cancer? Me?? I don’t think so,’ or even a ‘Don’t be absurd!’ Hearing others say it makes it sound so much more serious than when I say it (and yes, I do realise how ridiculous that sounds even as I type it).
Being with my Mum this weekend inevitably meant hearing other people talk about it: my Mum; my Mum’s friends, my Mum’s church. And I have no problem with any of them knowing. Or talking about it. Or anything really. It is just a bit weird. It is even weirder realising that your eighty year old mother is actually fitter than you. That is not weird. It is downright depressing. There is something in the natural order of all this that has been disturbed. And I do not like it. I should be caring for her.
Who am I trying to kid? My mother is the last person in the world to allow anyone to care for her (not that we don’t try). Feisty, fiercely independent and beautiful in spirit and nature, she will fight for her right to care for her children till her last breath. I am enormously grateful she can support us the way she is doing.