End of Part Two.

New beginnings for Ellie and her boys. A special day.

Fanny the Champion of the World

Today marks 1172 days since cancer came into our family. 1168 days since my husband and I walked through the doors of this hospital, hand in hand, for the very first time.

Those doors were the last thing my husband saw of the outside world, before being wheeled into an ambulance and brought home to die. He said, at that point, that a bag for life would probably be an unwise investment.

Today, 463 days since my husband died, and 343 days since my own diagnosis, I walk out of the same doors once again, on my own, to the outside world, for what we all hope will be the very last time. To freedom. To our children. To countless more days.

Here, they’ve given me the most precious gift – my life, wrapped up in a metaphorical box with a bow, when my husband couldn’t even begin to pick…

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A Picture of Denial.

More even than any of her other posts, I think it’s worth re-blogging this one from my daughter, my still beautiful daughter. Read and take note.

Fanny the Champion of the World

I spoke to a friend the other day. A friend who was deeply upset, because one of his friends had left it too late to check himself out… and now has a cancer which can’t be cured. We don’t yet know how long he has. It’s heartbreaking, and more so because it could have been avoided.

In the meantime, I’ve been receiving – for two bloody years – requests to put a heart on my wall, or an eight ball as my status, or to accept the challenge of posting a black and white picture, or a no make-up selfie, to raise awareness for cancer. Well, challenge accepted. Here’s my black and white, no make-up selfie, no hair selfie, no boob selfie, and no husband selfie. Our most recent portrait together, a few weeks ahead of our fifteenth wedding anniversary. ❤️

You don’t raise awareness of cancer by putting little…

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Election Day Special

A few months ago, I joined a writing group, a U3A (University of the Third Age) writing group.  It’s turned out to be the best fun.  We’re quite a mixed bunch.  Most of the group write fiction, and a couple have novels on the go.  I don’t.  Paul can turn out a haiku at a moment’s notice, and John’s turning his life story into a hefty memoir.

Imaginative and inventive, Sheila leads us in a range of exercises that are both fun and challenging.  Who know that a discarded shopping list in a supermarket trolley could take our minds in such different directions?

At the beginning of every session, we write.  Just write, maybe using prompts Sheila has devised.  This is what Paul came up with the other week.  What better day to give it a wider audience than UK Election Day 2017?

(Wikimedia Commons, from geograph.org.uk  Walter Baxter)

Dear politician

How deep your pockets?

Empty, though, of words

But filled with promises unfulfilled

And crammed with oily silver

Slipped there from your greasy palm.

And

Who do you have in your pocket, politician?

Surely a hedge-fund manager

And a city banker or two?

Maybe some chums from school;

An expense claim form?

For fake responsibilities

Carried out in fake locations

By numerous fake relations?

Tomorrow’s speech there too?

To massage the masses,

Written in a back room

By the spinners of dreams for the working classes?

I wonder if, at the very bottom of this cache,

Remains, from your possibly innocent youth,

A nugget, a trace, a sliver of the truth?

Paul Finch

On a shop in Herne Hill, 2016 (Wikimedia Commons, JWS Lubbock).  No prizes for guessing who I’m not voting for.

Happy Birthday, Dear Chemo.

I’ve found this most recent post from my daughter the hardest of all to read, because we’ve seen at first hand the boys’ anger and fear over their mother’s cancer. I doubt if I could have found it in me to reblog her thoughts if we hadn’t been in Bolton this last weekend.

We were there because Ellie wanted to be at her annual professional conference overnight. Voice overs work in the main alone, so theirs is less a conference more a knees-up and a chance to bond. Her colleagues have been unendingly supportive and helpful since Phil’s death, and she spent the weekend being hugged and loved.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the boys were doing their own thing. Twin Number One got invited for a sleepover. Twin Number Two wasn’t, but elected to come shopping and bake a cake with me instead. Then he too found himself off playing footie with his mates and being invited to spend the night at a friend’s house.

Suddenly, we were only babysitting the dog, who required a long, energetic and healthy walk on Sunday.

Perhaps it’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Ellie was happy. She had a much needed break. The twins were happy. They had time away from each other, and they could see their mum was OK.

It’s chemotherapy again on Wednesday. But it’s the LAST ONE. However bad it might be, it’s THE LAST ONE. Then there’s radiotherapy, which will tire her out. But that’s the LAST TREATMENT. She’s booked a family holiday for August. Perhaps they can dare to hope that this is the year when cancer finally pushes off and leaves them alone.

Fanny the Champion of the World

My relentless positivity is waning. The dark thoughts are setting in, and becoming far harder to shake off than the last few eyelashes which have long been sobbed into a snotty tissue. I have two children who miss their father, but I miss him too, and if it weren’t for them, perhaps I wouldn’t have bothered to fight this at all. In fact, I think I resent the fact that I can’t just say fuck it and join him, wherever he is. Because I do have his beloved children, though, and no family nearby to bring them up, I don’t have a choice. But, Christ, it’s hard – especially when the two children you’re doing it for are not helping you to row upstream, but are standing on the riverbank, chucking rocks at you as you try to do it alone.

They’re eleven. Nearly twelve. And they’re about as much…

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Blue Lights and Red Lipstick.

It’s been a while since I shared one of my daughter’s posts with you. A tough situation has just got tougher. She’ll get through it, and she’s kept her sense of humour, if not her hair. But it’s hard.

I don’t normally re-blog twice in two days. Exceptional times, though.

Fanny the Champion of the World

I don’t like to do things by halves. If you’re going to have cancer, you may as well do it properly, so I’ve been in hospital these last few days with neutropenic sepsis. Much to the disappointment of our children, who were out playing a football match, they missed a very dramatic ride in an ambulance as I was rushed off to A&E (but not before I’d left a present and card on the kitchen table for one of them to take to a birthday party that afternoon, because, you know, motherhood.) Like most women, I’ve always been fearful of having my jeans whipped off by a handsome paramedic on a hairy-leg day, but the chemo has sorted out that problem for me. My blood count had dropped so low that the common cold I caught last week could very well have killed me, but hey – at least my…

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Scrolling Back.

I knew I couldn’t let this day pass, unrecognised. This is the day when, exactly a year ago, my son-in-law Phil died. I want to remember that. But I also want to remember how proud he would be of the way his family has made a go of their unwanted new lives together, despite the grief, the empty place at every family gathering. Ellie’s successfully relaunched their business: the new website went live late yesterday. The boys started at high school, and are doing well – they’re sporty and busy. Ellie’s out to prove that she’ll see her own cancer kicked conclusively out before the end of 2017, and she’s got the bald head to prove it. Brian the dog declines to grow up,and recently ate his bed – again. Luckily, he’s lovable with it.

Phil would be proud of all they’ve achieved. I am too. They’re doing well. But there’s still a Phil-shaped hole at the centre of their family, and I guess there always will be.

Fanny the Champion of the World

Death in a digital age is a funny old business. On Facebook Memories, a photograph has just flashed up to tell me that three years ago today, we were on a family day out to Liverpool, which we all enjoyed, save for the gnawing feeling in my stomach that my husband’s difficulty swallowing was not good news. Two years ago this week, or so it tells me, our little family was on a wonderful holiday, which we’d booked to celebrate our wild assumption that the whole shitty cancer thing was behind us. One year ago this week, my husband was lying in a hospice bed in our sitting room, dying.

Messages, wall posts and photographs have popped back up on my phone from this day last year. We’d told our wider circle of friends, through Facebook, a few days after my husband had been given a couple of weeks left…

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January 20th in Washington, Wakefield and Bolton

We’ll all remember 20th January 2017, the day Donald Trump took his oath as President of the United States.  No comment.

The 20th January was special within our family too.  It was the day my son Thomas celebrated his 40th birthday.  Really?  How did that happen?  Is it forty years since my son kicked and chortled in his pram, his simple world revolving round milk, sleep, fluffy nappies (no disposables then) and besotted parents?  Now he’s a besotted parent in his turn.  And nobody much remembers that it’s forty years since Jimmy Carter became President of the United States.

Thomas is no longer newborn here. All those colour photos got so faded. But here he is in his splendid woolly bear coat that I crocheted for him- all by myself
Thomas is no longer newborn here. All those colour photos got so faded. But here he is, nearly a whole year old in his splendid woolly bear coat that I crocheted for him- all by myself.

Unexpectedly, 20th January turned out to be even more special for our family.  It was the day that my daughter Elinor, having seen off her husband to cancer nine months ago; having been diagnosed as a cancer sufferer only four months after that; having had one operation that failed to dig it all out; and having had a mastectomy only the week before last was declared cancer free.  She’s got preventative chemotherapy and radiotherapy to face still, and breast reconstruction.  But she’ll be fine.  And that was more than we dared to hope only a few weeks ago.

Thomas and Elinor explore Glastonbury Tor, getting on for forty years ago
Thomas and Elinor explore Glastonbury Tor, getting on for forty years ago

This makes 20th January a Red Letter Day for this family.  Even Donald Trump can’t take that away from us.

Donald Trump was inaugurated in Washington DC.  Thomas was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire.  Elinor lives in Bolton, Greater Manchester.