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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The Palace of Earthly Delights

This is a Bolton week.  This is the week for Ellie’s second dose of chemo. As we feared, it’s made her feel very nauseous, despite apparently super-efficient state-of-the-art anti-sickness medication.

So I’m in loco parentis.  One of my duties was to take the boys to what Ellie cheerfully calls ‘Grief Club’.

‘Once upon a Smile’ supports bereaved families in all kinds of ways, practical and emotional.  The children often have fun together – and appreciate being with other young people who share their unwanted feelings of raw emotion and grief.  Yesterday they were at the Trafford Centre, so I had an hour to waste there while the boys got competitive on the bowling alley.

‘Waste’, because shopping is no kind of therapy for me.  And the Trafford Centre is a château, a folly, a temple to consumerism.  Just look at this.  Look at the kitsch statues, the faux gold, the marble, the sweeping staircases and the wannabe classical fountains.  And this palace, which dates from as long ago as 1998, is merely a home to the likes of Marks and Spencer, Boots, Next and Paperchase.  I got crosser and crosser as I thought of what fun I’d be having if instead I was at a community market, chatting to the locals.  And I was cross with myself too, for feeling so holier-than-thou.

Perhaps the Trafford Centre wasn’t built with me in mind.  The boys had fun though, which was the entire point of the excursion.

Snapshot Saturday: a heartfelt wish

This week’s WordPress photo assignment challenges us to share a wish.

Seokbul-Sa Temple, near Busan

I have chosen an image of the cheerfully optimistic and colourful prayer lanterns we saw so often suspended from the ceilings in the Buddhist temples of South Korea to illustrate our family’s wish, which will come as no surprise at all to regular readers of this blog.

We’d like my daughter Elinor, aka ‘Fanny, the Champion of the World‘, to be cancer-free by the time her twin boys become twelve.  Then they, and we can truly celebrate their birthday, shadowed since they were eight by the cancer firstly of their father, then of their mother. It’s chemo-time at the moment.  Not much fun, but all in a good cause.

It’s everything to ask.  But surely neither greedy nor unreasonable.

 

 

A cancer-free horizon

A third Christmas with cancer as an unwelcome guest.  Regular readers of my blog know my son-in-law died of cancer after living with it for two tough years.  Regular readers also know that his widow, my daughter, got her own cancer diagnosis only weeks after his death.  Regular readers have read some of her feisty, angry, witty pieces about this wretched disease. They know that her initial hopes : ‘Breast cancer is NO BIG DEAL’ vanished in the face of evidence of more and larger tumours.  She faced more invasive tests and scans.  Friday was results day.

A month ago, news that she will need a mastectomy, probably six months of chemotherapy, and perhaps radiotherapy as well would have pitched her, and all of us into a pit of helpless gloom.  Now it’s a reprieve.  Now we can face 2017 hopeful that after all this she will live, will see her twins grow up, will continue to be an important part of the lives of all her friends and family.

I don’t feel like glibly heading this post ‘Snapshot Sunday’ as I usually do. But this week’s theme, ‘New Horizon’ is relevant.  My daughter – all of us – have a new horizon to work towards as her treatment seeks to return her to a cancer-free future.

Ellie and the boys' dog Brian dashes towards the horizon in Anglesey in August, just before Ellie's diagnosis.
Ellie and the boys’ dog Brian dashes towards the horizon in Anglesey in August, just before Ellie’s diagnosis.

In Praise of My Tits.

No words from me. Just this, from my daughter.

Fanny the Champion of the World

I’m quietly proud of this photograph. It was taken on holiday when our boys were about four months old, and I’d asked my husband to get a picture for posterity. It’s never been in the family album, but not because I care if people are offended by a photo of my tits doing the job they were designed for (hell, I’d tandem feed anywhere – once, I even propped up the children against my nipples on the window ledge of an overhead walkway at a service station on the M6, having fed them earlier that day during church communion.) I didn’t give a shit as long as the boys were nourished, but I simply couldn’t bear for anyone to look at the photo and think I’d chosen the hideous fabric on that sofa.

I’ve blurred out my face – not because I’m embarrassed, but because the two little generic-looking blond…

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Living in a Box.

It’s my daughter’s birthday tomorrow. No, not that daughter. Not the one we’ve just visited in South Korea.

The other one. My Bonfire Night ‘Remember remember the Fifth of November: Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’ baby. The one whose twin boys find their way into my posts from time to time. The one whose husband died of cancer not seven months ago. This will be the first birthday in years that she can’t share with him.

She could do with him by her side more than ever at the moment, because she too has now been diagnosed with cancer.

Her blog has the byline ‘Recently widowed. Swears a lot.’ If that’s going to bother you, don’t read it.

But I suggest that you do look at it, and get an insight into what it might be like to be widowed, young, and have cancer.

Fanny the Champion of the World

Who in their right mind looks forward to cancer treatment? Me. I need a break. I can’t physically find the time to fit everything in, and the idea of lying in a hospital bed waiting to get my cancerous bap sliced open and stuffed with silicone, saline or pig fat is suddenly not without appeal. I’ve come a long way in a few weeks – before, the idea threw me into a blind panic, but I’m so tired, and so ready to accept offers of babysits, dog walks, and help around the house, that I give up. I’ll trade anything – even my left breast – for a good night’s sleep and some time off work and away from the boys, who are in the throes of grief for the third year running. They’re sapping every last scrap of energy I have, and testing my patience to its limits. I adore…

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I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

I want to share this post. It says more about raw grief, and about sustained love through good times and bad than anything I have ever read. The writer has asked to remain anonymous. But if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know very well who wrote it.

See if you can read it without it making you cry. And when you’ve read it, you might want to read some of her other posts. Maybe not all at one sitting though, they’re scarcely escapist reading matter. Oh … and ignore the swearing. The writer has plenty to swear about.

Fanny the Champion of the World

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We went to a party on Saturday night. It’s not the first time we’ve been out, the boys and I (or indeed I on my own,) since D-Day, and although I mainly want to stay at home curled up in a ball, I know it’s A Good Thing to go out and I need to make the effort. We need to socialise, and I’m determined that my hubby doesn’t just slip into obscurity, and become some legendary bloke who we all vaguely remember. No. He has a name, and we use it often. Still, I’m pretty selective about who I feel up to partying with, as the fixed social smile often gets wiped away by tears. For the most part, the small talk I used to be so good at makes me feel a bit nauseous, and I don’t want people to ask how I am because they won’t like the…

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