I keep an eye on various tags related to cancer and there are always new ones popping up on the feed. Other young (ish. Heavy on the Ish) people like me, mothers and fathers of small children, still reeling from the shock of their diagnosis. Just starting to navigate the way their life has changed in such a short space of time. I don’t know if any of them will find my blog or even be in the mood to read past the blathering about how much fun! we are having and how happy! we are. But I hope maybe at least a few might stumble across it. I mean my writing isn’t great. They may well regret it. And I DO talk quite a lot about nothing. My life really isn’t especially interesting to anyone except me. But I was there. In that place. Not very long ago at all. And it was royally shit. And now I am here. And life is good. I don’t assume anything about the future but I look forward with optimism and the knowledge that we can get through whatever life has in store. Even when it feels like we can’t, we do.
I read a lot of people feeling angry about being called brave during this time. I think I actually wrote a rant about this at some point. But now, on the other side, and looking back, I do feel I was brave. I am proud of myself for getting through that. Whether it was stoic and optimistic or weeping and wailing and complaining the whole way is irrelevant. Whether you beat it or it keeps coming back is irrelevant. Showing courage is being brave. And what is showing courage? The ability to do something that frightens you. Being brave. No one chooses this fight, no one wants it. But we fight it as best we can. Sometimes better and with more grace than other times. But we keep going, one foot in front of the other, picking ourselves up after each scan, each test and needlestick, blood samples, MRIs, the indignity of paper knickers and gaping gowns, intimate procedures, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, changes to our body, skin, hair, mood. It’s the one thing we all win on! You don’t even have to do it happily to qualify! You can scream and shout and be furious at the world and suffer the treatments gracelessly and with no humour whatsoever. You are still facing it, the SCARIEST SHIT EVER. And you might not feel brave now but I hope one day you can also look back and celebrate your strength in the face of adversity.
That was all I wanted to say, really. I have no idea if this even pops up on anyone else’s feed but if anyone stumbles across it and it serves to buoy them up during this really hideous time, well that’d be great.
While the Web and blogosphere fills up with back to school themes here in Spain we have another 2 weeks to go. The summer holidays here are SO LONG, the kids break up around 20th of June and go back 12th September. Almost 3 months. 3 MONTHS! It is such a long time. This year has been a really good one. Partly because I have had less work than usual ergo less stress but also because after last year I have taken extra care to relish every moment and I have. I have struggled too, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the demands of work, the kids, the house, and how everything continues on despite this massive thing that happened and which continues to roll over quietly in the back of my mind. I don’t dwell too consciously on whether my cancer might come back but I can’t fully forget about it either. H and I were talking the other day about the kids, speculating about them as teenagers and that scary little voice wondered if I would be here to see it. I don’t talk about it to anyone, not even H, because I know they would just tell me not to think like that, be positive etc etc and I don’t need to hear that. I am positive and I don’t think like that. Often. But it’s there. And I can’t entirely ignore it. I don’t know that I should. I have never been more aware that we only have today. Only today to live, to love, to make memories, no one is promised anything else. And holding on to that has helped me to revel a bit more in the little moments.
Not that it is all sweetness and light and perfect idyllic family life. Ha! The kids are cranky and bored and despite a great summer full of fun activities they are tired. They are craving the routine of school with the predictable days and weeks that tick over one the same as the other. God, aren’t we all? They are getting nippy with each other and little scraps are forever springing up. Y particularly is just tired. He can’t stop having fun and it’s getting too much for him. But. Then we have moments like yesterday afternoon when I got home from work and took them to the beach with a friend. Where the light was long and golden and the water was wavy and perfect for crashing about in inflatable donuts and boats. The water was so warm and we played for ages. As I watched their happy faces, grins from ear to ear, as they bobbed about on the surf, laughing their heads off, I tried so hard to mentally capture the moment. Thinking ‘keep this moment, hold it’. So many little moments we forget only to, MAYBE, remember one day when someone else prompts us, or otherwise lose them forever. Being out in the waves, jumping alongside I couldn’t take a photo but it was like one of those golden memories in Inside Out. The image of their faces beaming inside a golden orb rolling down to core memories, lighting up family island. Of course like many a real family day (vs a pinterest family day) it was followed by tantrums and fights and overtired tears (Y I am looking at you) But it seems to be to be the standard price we have to pay, and on balance it’s worth it.
Summer you have seriously been a beauty. We have splashed and dived and rolled in sand. Made sandcastles, floated on donuts, played football and frisbie on the sand. Had parties until late, laid outside until 1am to watch shooting stars, complaining and giggling and fighting under blankets on the sand. Visited family and friends and had them visit us, gone to new places. Gone out in boats, canal and sea, jumped on trampolines, jumped off rocks, climbed trees, hit up the Waterpark and kissed and cuddled and shouted and fought and made up, cried and laughed and loved loved LOVED it all.
I had every intention of regularly updating this blog through the summer, chronicling these long hot days and planning things to keep the boredom away but so far the summer is flying past and I have barely had time to pop on and keep up with blogs I follow, much less post anything of substance. Work is not incredibly busy but I am full time until the end of October so busy or not I am in the office, putting in the time. H also works a lot in the summer and when he has a job on he is out from dawn until after the kids go to bed. We all notice his absence hugely, I am sure I have mentioned this more than once but he really does keep everything going, always. The three of us alone, we cope for about 5 days and then after that it all slowly starts crumbling. I find it so hard to keep up with the house and the kids and work on my own and it really stresses me out. Seeing as more than ever this year one of our main aims is to keep life as stress free as possible he is trying to keep the jobs short but it is not always possible – when you are freelance and working in a seasonal industry you need to grab the work while it is going. Having said all that, we are having a blast. I think we are. The kids are at home when H has no work on but they have had a couple of weeks of summer school (more like day camp than school). Loads of their friends go, they play games, swim and seem to have a load of fun at the time BUT although they went last year and had a blast this year they have been more reluctant. Maybe because it was a bit old hat, maybe it just wasn’t as fun, but they moaned and moaned each morning as if we were sending them off to a 9-5 job rather than splash and play fun. Actually I think at least partly they have just been really tired and like any sane person were not really feeling like happy clappy jumpy excitement at 0900 in the morning. I feel you kids, I feel you. BUT life is real. We need to work, you need to go to childcare, your life could be a million times worse. I know more than a few kids who spend their summer being looked after in stuffy apartments by elderly grandparents. In contrast kids, is it really so bad? IS IT?Let’s reflect, and consider:
*quick note: The fact that it has taken me several hours just to download, rotate, rename and edit the photos from the last month or so should give an idea of how much we have been up to. And that I evidently take FAR too many photos, obviously.
There was a lot going on in July. Apart from various excursions around our home island and outings with friends we had several trips away. One of my sisters lives in Singapore; luckily she gets work trips back at least once a year and we went to visit them the Christmas before last so we haven’t gone too long without seeing each other but when she lived in London we saw each other every few months and I never, EVER, stop missing her. So with 2 weekends free between her work obligations I made a very un-‘me’ decision to go to London to see her, just the two of us, for a couple of nights.
Yeah, ok, the pics are fairly unremarkable. In my defense I was far too busy walking and chatting and hanging out to take too many pictures. And I already have more pictures of London than anyone really needs. But you get the idea. I was there. It’s London, you know what it looks like. No cute snaps of photogenic kids this time so, moving on…
The following weekend I went back with the kids to see my parents, also in the UK, and to catch my sister again on her last weekend before she went home. The timing of my sister’s trip landed quite fabulously on my mum’s 60something birthday so we organised it so she could have all 3 of her girls, and 2 of her grandkids, with her to celebrate. It was so special; the last time we were all together was 2014, so although it was a little extravagant to have 2 trips to London 2 weekends in a row, I TOTALLY justified it to myself. And anyone who would listen long enough. Repeatedly.
We got back from the visit to my parents a day or two before one of my very best friends arrived with her family to stay with us for the week. The weekend after they left was H’s 40th birthday which we celebrated with family and friends on the beach until late. It was absolutely perfect, he didn’t stop smiling all night..
and then – I sprang a surprise holiday on H and the boys – we left for the north of spain the wednesday after the party. He was very surprised, as were the kids. I was more than a little proud of myself for sorting it all AND sitting on the secret for weeks and weeks. For years we have talked about travelling around our home country more but usually all of our holiday time and budget is taken up visiting family and friends in the UK. Yet there is so much we want to see and we really, more than ever, want to start making little spaces in time for the four of us to get out and explore together, just us. Summer is brutally hot here and a perfect time to visit the much cooler, greener north. Last year we celebrated 10 years of marriage and we always thought we would do something special to celebrate. As it turned out I had to do chemo and radiotherapy instead. Them’s the breaks. But now I am fine! and H was turning 40! The stars were aligned. It was absolutely fabulous and worth it a million times over. I think this will deserve its own post.. watch this space.
And in the little moments in between all the other madness:
I feel knackered just thinking we did all of that! It has been such a busy month but so full of family and friends and laughter and joy and love. We spent a lot of money doing it all, not particularly money we have to spare. Usually I am very sensible and cautious and all those other adjectives that can also be translated as BORING but which help us to stay on the straight and narrow and (mortgage aside) largely debt free. It can be stressful juggling our accounts especially with the very unpredictable nature of H’s work and the total lack of work for at least 3 months of the year. So I don’t spend money on big things very lightly. But one of the things my experience of the last year (tl;dr: cancer) has taught me.. (and YES personally I feel it has taught me a shitload; not a universally popular opinion but it is mine and is genuinely how I feel) is the impermanence of things. Not like I didn’t know it before. But now that concept is really REAL to me. I am hyper aware of the uncertainty of tomorrow. Maybe that fades over time, but in a way I kind of hope not. Because I truly think it is a blessing to actually really feel like all we have is the here and now. Of course I plan and hope and dream for a long future. But I want to live NOW. The old me probably would have decided to do only one of those trips to the UK. But my sister lives so far away, I see her so little, in the scheme of things what is a few hundred quid to spend a weekend alone together? My parents won’t be here forever, what cost is it really to let them have all three of their daughters together for a day or two? I don’t think we can remotely understand how nice it is for my parents to have us three all in the same place. Even being a parent I can only imagine the silence and emptiness when my kids eventually leave home and the joy to see them when they return. And even then it is only something I can imagine in relation to my own kids, I find it hard to actually connect that with how my parents feel about me. But they do. My mum cries for days after we leave, and this birthday, as it turned out, she needed the lift more than ever because our darling sweet cat, Sonny, died, only a few days before we arrived. He was originally our cat but for various reasons totally irrelevant to this story he moved in with them about 2.5 years ago. And they loved and adored that cat like a little prodigal son. It was, is, really sad. And I am so so glad we were there to scatter his ashes and hug her tight.
So now we are in August and the summer is halfway through. In another 5 weeks the kids are back at school. I am not sure we have ever had a summer go so fast. So far it is everything I hoped for. At some point there will probably be a post about this dammed heat and how hideous it is and how LONG the summer is and WHEN WILL IT END WILL THESE KIDS EVER GO BACK TO SCHOOL?! But for now I am flying high on the bliss that was July. It truly rocked.
to sign off,a harpist’s song from 1400bc that I saw when we were in the British Museum in London. So apt.
“Follow your heart as long as you live!
Put myrrh on your head.
Dress in fine linen,
Anoint yourself with oils fit for a god,
Heap up your joys,
Let your heart not sink!
Follow your heart and your happiness,
Do your things on earth as your heart commands!
When there comes to you that day of mourning,
the weary hearted (Osiris) hearts not their mourning.
Wailing saves no man from the pit!
Make holiday, Do not weary of it!
And finally. To my darling Sonny. You were an absolute legend and a total weirdo. We all adored you and you will have a place in our heart forever, you should have grown very much older, we all feel cheated that you went so soon.
don’t judge, we all have fat times
(no he didn’t die from being massively overweight, he slimmed down rather a lot after his ‘troubled time’ – ssh lets not talk of it)