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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It’s a dog’s life

Brian explores the woods.

I’ve been in Bolton this week.  It’s week eleven of Ellie’s chemo treatment.  Five more to go.  This type of chemotherapy works in three week cycles, and week one each time is usually particularly tough.  So I went over to do a few in loco parentis duties.

Extracting the boys from their beds in the morning, and re-inserting them there at a reasonable time each night count as challenging tasks. Ben doesn’t do mornings.  All the other household stuff I can take in my stride.

There’s just one task that was never part of my life before this year.  Walking Brian, who’s no longer a puppy, but not exactly a mature and restrained adult dog either. I don’t think I’ll ever be a real dog fan, but I did enjoy being exercised by this particularly amiable and boisterous dalmatian.  Where to go?  Through the woods and round the reservoir?  Yes please! Or across the extensive parkland just over the way there?  Yes please!  And can we go, NOW?  Can’t wait!

Go Brian!

Two hours might mean four or five miles to me, but ten or more to him as he dashes ahead, back and forth.  There are grasses and herbs to nibble; a river to ford; interesting smells to investigate.  There are regular doggie chums to greet, and others whom he’s never met.  Will they want to play?  Brian hopes so.  He surges up the steep paths beside the river bank.  He leaps into muddy pools.  He fords the river – once, twice. He looks for branches to lug about for a while.  And he sprints, zooms, bolts and bounds ahead, back, east and west.  His joie de vivre is infectious.

Once home, he flops gratefully down, pleased to be left alone to doze for a while.  It’s a dog’s life.

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.