Pieces of Me

Bits and pieces of my life and of my heart.


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And then it was 3.

I am 3 years cancer free today. 3 years post what has to be the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. 3 years since the debilitation that was the surgeries and the toxins, the exhaustion and the fear. When I was sick I worried that I wouldn’t make it past 3 months, let alone 3 years so I am happy today. Quietly grateful. Respectful of those who have not been so lucky, and of those who are still in the midst of their own personal hell.
It can be tricky, this “after cancer” business. There is little to prepare oneself for how it feels, how it fits, how it confuses, how it requires us to hang on for dear life until the boat stops rocking. This does not happen immediately after the first clear scan. At least for me, this was not the case. I was caught in the middle of joy and panic, relief and fear, love and hate, admiration and envy. It is a tough place to be.
Expectations of others weighed heavily on me. Everyone has been touched by this disease. I defy you to find someone who hasn’t. Some of us live and some of us don’t. The weight of other people’s loss, for me, was huge. Guilt was strong in me. Survivors guilt, if you will. Navigating feelings of fear and loss, of anger and frustration was challenging for fear of being thought of as selfish for not being more grateful for having survived something that not all of us do. Who do you tell when you feel this way? What do you say without sounding ungrateful?
This was my permanent state of being for at least 18 months after this day 3 years ago. I felt like a horrible person. Of course I was happy, relived, grateful. Of course I knew others had not been so lucky but I was also scared, angry, lost, confused, my body recovering from the onslaught of abuse this disease requires to survive, and I have to say, it was the loneliest of times.
The good news about the passing of years is that it takes a lot of these feelings and makes them smaller, more manageable, easier to navigate. The fear lessens, the anger too. You have days that you do not think of your cancer, then these days can turn into a week, sometimes two or three at time. It is the loveliest realisation to have, these “forgetting your cancer” periods. They make you smile, feel fearless, grateful, blessed. You realise you are making plans again, about your life, your happiness and it feels good. Boy, does it feel good.
I spent the weekend with someone I love doing things that I love to do. I surfed, I swam, I ate, I drank. I tried oysters for the first time and met new people. All new things, new experiences. I had moments being rocked by the most unbelievable feelings of gratitude and joy. I made it.
I made it through the loneliest place on earth and I am finally feeling like I am back home where I belong. I am a different me, a more bloody tired me, but hey, I am here. I am here and I am present and I am loved and I am happy. I am so deeply grateful for getting the chance to keep on living and I plan to allow myself be reminded of this each and every day.
Happy 3 years cancer free day to Me.

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When your best isn’t good enough.

My son is 13. I tell him all the time that as long as he does his best he will be happy. Things will work out. He will be OK. I tell him this because I really believe it to be true. It is what I try to accomplish in all that I endeavour to achieve and I throw myself into whatever it is with all of my heart, all of the time. When something does not go my way or turn out the way I had hoped, usually I can retrace my steps and see where I possibly missed a bit or didn’t give something my full attention, and this I can always learn from, carrying it forward, improving all of the time. I teach my son this when he is disappointed with an outcome. I teach him to look at the situation, be honest about his effort and see where, if any, the areas that may need to be improved upon. Usually in both my life and in his this is enough. Usually upon reflection we can see what needs to be made better. Usually this is enough in dealing with the let down, and usually we can move on without any regrets.

Usually.

My son is 13. He has not had enough life experience to know what I know,to know how it feels, really feels, to come up short and have no idea why. I throw myself heart and soul into something, give it my very best shot and still come up short. Still lose out, still hurt, still end up on the wrong side of the street. Try as I may I cannot see where I tripped up, what I missed, didn’t see, didn’t hear. How do I prepare him for that? Will he think me untrue? After all, it is me who keeps telling him, and myself, that as long as you do your best all will be well. What happens if I stop believing this?

What happens when your best isn’t good enough?
How on earth do you reconcile yourself with that?


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Dear Son. In the blink of an eye.

 

Dear Son, 

I promised myself that I wouldn’t cry. After all I am not a school gate kind of Mum so I reckoned my joy at not having to do school drop offs and pick ups would well outweigh the sadness of my only child finishing primary school, and I was right, until today. Today I had to drop off some baking for your graduation mass and gathering after and one of your favourite teachers asked me how I was doing and I burst into tears! God, love her. I don’t think she was expecting that. To be fair, neither was I.

I remember the day that my boy began primary school. 8 years ago. 8? My, how time flies. Off you toddled with a back pack that was too big for your little body, waving away at me, blowing me kisses (you would NEVER do that now) and all full of wonder about what school would bring. I cried then, as I do now, but for very different reasons. That day, all those years ago I cried for the worry of it all. Would you like school? Would you like your teacher? Would she like you? Would you make friends? Would the other kids be nice to you? Would you be nice to others? And I went back to my car, not driving it anywhere and I waited. I waited for this little boy, the most important person in my whole universe, the one I loved the most to come back out and to tell me all about it. And you did.

In those early years you told me everything and I hung on to your every word. These days, the “pre teentude” days, all I get is “2 seconds” and “K” to most everything I ask you. It drives me bonkers but it makes me smile as this is exactly how it is supposed to be. You are exactly how you are supposed to be, a young man about to finish a huge chapter in your life and make the transition to the next chapter, which excites you and quite frankly scares the life out of me.

Back then I had to protect you from monsters at night and ease your worry about making the football teams. Now? Now it’s peer pressure and alcohol, smoking and girls! As I sit here today I fear that I was a lot better at the monsters than I will be about the girls! 

Another mother said to me on that first day at school all those years ago to enjoy it as it goes by in the blink of on eye. Watching my son toddle off to his classroom with your oversize school bag I thought her a tad dramatic as you were only 5 and sure, weren’t  you going to be in primary school until you were 12? Oceans of time, I thought to myself. Oceans of time indeed.

So, to my amazing, funny, bright, kind, loving, 3 worded son, I wish you the very best in all that you do. Enjoy these last few primary school days, as they will never be more innocent.  It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be by your side the last 12 years and I will continue to be there for the rest of them, if you don’t manage to suffocate me with all the bloody Linx in the meantime!

All my love, to the moon and back, 

Mum x