Pieces of Me

Bits and pieces of my life and of my heart.


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Not Asking For It.

When I was 17 years old I was sexually assaulted.

I was young and I was looking for someone to like me. I spent a lot of my teenage years looking for someone to like me. I felt very unlikeable. Lost even, and I did not know what to do with these feelings. Nobody taught me how not to feel lost. I really wish they had.

The night it happened I was among school friends. We were celebrating the boys school victory in their rugby match. We were drinking. I was drunk. We all were drunk. My assault happened in the stair well of a night club. My assailant a well known member of the rugby team. I said “No”. I didn’t at first. At first I was delighted that he was flirting with Me. Me who felt so unlikeable. It was good and then it was really bad. Bad in a frightening, can’t breathe, I said No, get off Me kind of bad. He didn’t listen. He won. I lost.

The shame is the very worst thing. I didn’t know it then but my shame for that night shaped my 20’s, and not in the best of ways. Shame can kill a person. It nearly killed me.

He told his friends, my friends what happened. Well, he told them what he wanted to say happened. I was called a “Slag”, a “Fat Slag”, a “Slut”, a “Whore”. I remember hiding in the bathroom stall afraid to go to class. I remember hearing my friends talk about me like I wasn’t there. I remember also wishing I wasn’t there. I just wanted to disappear, and in so many ways, for so many years I tried. I tried to make myself go away. The shame got bigger than who I was and it swallowed me whole.

I never told anyone back then what happened to Me. I believed what I heard other people say about Me. I believed I “deserved” it. I believed it was my fault. I believed I was a slut, a fat slag and a whore. There was nobody to tell me any different.

Why write about this today? I work with vulnerable young people. Sometimes their stories mirror my past. Sometimes their experiences remind me of a life once lived, a pain once felt, a shame once worn. The sadness in them reaches the sadness in Me. The story may be theirs but the pain stays the same.Their story may change but the narrative hasn’t moved. When you are sexually assaulted, when you are raped,you are put on trial. You. Not your assailant. Only you.

You who were drunk, who wore a short skirt, who walked down a dark alley, who took a lift from a friend, who didn’t say “No”, who did say “No”, who screamed “No”! You are the slut, the whore, the “asking for it girl”. You are responsible. You are to blame.

I don’t often think about that night anymore. Except when I do. Now I feel nothing but compassion for the lost girl I once was. My shame is no more. I learned that it does not belong to Me and I have handed it back to where it came from. My shame serves me no purpose anymore. I cannot change what happened to me all those years ago but I try and change what is happening to others now. The lost girl in me grew up to be a fierce woman, with a passion to facilitate change. Change in myself and change in others, so when I come across a vulnerable young person in the work that I do and their story resonates with mine, I can listen, I can soothe, I can be a safe place, and I can teach.

Teach that No means No! Teach that being drunk, wearing a short skirt, walking home alone, is not some kind of code for being sexually available. Teach that consent matters. It matters more than anything. I wish that someone had taught it to me, and more importantly to the 17 year old boy who didn’t listen to Me when I said No.

If we don’t teach it, who will?

 

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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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Bonnie and Clyde.

When I was sick with cancer I had this fear that took up residence inside of me. This fear kept me awake at night for months not being able to sleep without the light on. I couldn’t breathe. My heart would beat wildly and I would allow my mind go to the places that none of us like to visit. What if I died? Who would love my boy? Would I be missed? Have I been happy in my life, really happy?
The further I got from my first all clear scan, the less I felt this fear. Life is good that way. Time does heals most things, you just have to wait it out.

Last night this fear returned. Full force. My heart is still racing, my light is still on and I feel vulnerable. My sleep was broken, my dreams scattered and as much as I love to run, I just cannot make my legs work.

Fear is a bitch. Anxiety too. Together they are like the Bonnie and Clyde of my feelings. All go, all passion, driven, focused, never giving in. Even in the light of day they stay, taunting me, laughing at me, filling my head with all kinds of nonsense.

When I was sick I wrote. Blog after blog. It was the only way that I could calm myself, purge myself, help myself. After I was sick life happened and I needed this purging less and less. Why is it now that this fear returns? Someone close to me is sick. Sick how I was sick. Maybe her fear is becoming mine? Maybe the all clear bubble has burst? Maybe this is normal? (God, I pray to be normal, whatever that means). Last night sucked. It sucked big. My Bonnie and Clyde causing all sorts of trouble. To me, to my head, my heart, my soul. “Just breathe”, I keep telling myself. Whatever you do don’t forget to breathe…

Writing helps. My heart beats a little slower. Breathing too, it calms the nerves. I know exactly what it is I am afraid of. I have always known. Maybe a post for another day. Today I just want to ease the fear. Today I wish it to take a back seat so that I can be loving, kind and patient with those I love. I wish to get the most out of my day, and somehow get these legs of mine to work so I can do the best thing I know to rid myself of these feelings. I need to run. I need to move. I have been able to outsmart Bonnie and Clyde before. Why not today?


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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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This cannot be our way.

So here’s the thing. I don’t care much for Joan Burton and her politics. She has, in my opinion, launched what feels like a personal attack on lone parents this year, of which I am one. I also don’t ever pretend to know a lot about politics, so if you have mistaken this for some kind of political broad cast, then I would stop reading, now.

What I do know a lot about is people. Mostly because I am one, and a lot to do with my education and the work that I do for a living. It is my job to empower, to lead by example and to do my very best to facilitate change in young people who have been let down, by their parents, their schools, society, and very often themselves. I believe completely and utterly that each and every one of us has this responsibility no matter what the job we do and no matter what number, or not number of kids we have.

Those of you who know me and who take the time to read the words I throw together will probably have figured out I only do this when something is bothering me. It’s like my 21st century diary. I have, and will always use written words to explore my feelings, to make sense of them, and in return make sense of myself. What I find most challenging is making sense of others but today I am going to give it my best shot.

During the summer I had a run in with Irish water meter protestors that left me scared and anxious for weeks. This happened on my own property, in front of my son with only one neighbour coming to my assistance. I was verbally abused by ten grown men old enough to be my Granddad and physically shoved by one of them. They claimed to be “peacefully protesting’. They deemed it fit to speak for me and refuse the installation of my water meter, bullied and scared me back into my own home when I chose to stand up for myself. These men roared obscenities at me and took photos of me on mobile phones without my permission. I was a woman on my own without anyone to protect me, and it scared the pants off me.

Yesterday in Jobstown a much grander version of this happened. Like her or not, a woman was held hostage in her car while an angry, aggressive mob refused to give her passage. I cannot imagine how frightening that must have been, for anyone at anytime. It could be your Mother, sister, daughter, friend neighbour. It could be you. It most certainly could be me. Again.

Is this how we deal with things now? Is this where our anger leads us? Off down a path of no return with our children and grandchildren watching, taking note and keeping score. Is this what we really think will bring about change? Really?

We are all hard done by in this country of ours. We have been savaged by our governments and we have a right to how we are feeling, yet it pains me to see what we are becoming. How was what happened yesterday, or what happened to me a “peaceful protest”? Have we become so numb to the violence and destruction that is pumped into our homes on a daily basis that we have now reached the same place? Violence begets violence. Hatred the same. Surrounding a car with people inside and flinging bricks cannot be something to celebrate. Can it?

Where will it end? When will people feel like they have gotten their pound of flesh? When someone dies? When our children who are following our lead are the next ones out of the gate? When?

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. What I do know is that we, the Irish people, full of saints and scholars are better than this. Much better. And I hope and pray that this ends before it’s too late. Before our actions cannot be reversed, and from what I can see of late, we are closer to that than we think.


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Breaking the frame.

When I was training to be a psychotherapist there was a term that was frequently used by those who trained me. “Breaking the frame”. This is used to describe when something intentionally or unintentionally is done by the therapist that does damage to the therapeutic relationship. Say you had a client coming to you who you knew to be angry by the way they carried themselves, the way they spoke, looked,by the way they made you feel. Say this client believed themselves to be the very opposite of angry, almost angelic. They were completely unaware of their anger, or just too afraid to deal with it. Try as you may to create space for the anger the client came week after week unable to have the awareness that the anger was the one thing blocking all other things. This can take it’s toll both on the client and on you, the therapist, hoping each week that the space you create will be enough. You speak about what goes on for yourself in supervision in the hope of doing no damage to the therapeutic relationship you are trying to maintain. Sometimes this is enough to hold the space. Sometimes working on yourself allows the client to move forward, and then sometimes it is not. Something happens either to you or to the client, and the anger that has been floating around comes to the surface and all hell can break loose. Your client, depending on how much they have the ability to cope with their reality, may in some cases never return, or it can be the very best thing that can happen, outing their rage and giving them a whole new perspective.Either way this is a huge risk. Either way a lot is asked of client and of therapist, with neither knowing the outcome. This is called “Breaking the frame”.

Last weekend a frame in my life was smashed into a million little pieces. This frame belonged to a loved one, and it belonged to me. We have both held this frame very tightly since I was a little girl, neither of us daring to break it for fear of what may come to pass. The thing about holding onto something so tightly is that sooner or later it will crack under pressure. Nothing, or no one can sustain pressure forever. The break came in the blink of any eye, so fast neither of us noticed it had dropped, and when it smashed into a million little pieces neither of us could take it back up off the floor and put it back where it belonged. That’s the thing about things we break, they are never really the same after we glue them back together, and worse than that, sometimes the breaks cannot be fixed.

I am sitting here today with all these broken pieces sitting in my lap and I have no idea what to do with them. “Put them back together”, some might say, but do I really want to restore the frame I had? The frame that was held so tightly I could barely breathe for most of my life. This is where the courage comes. The courage required of both parties when the frame gets broken, and in this one person may have more courage than the other. I cannot know what my loved one will do, all I have is my side of the street. What do I want my side of the street to look like? Will it be scattered with broken frames, or will I choose to have it clean and clear?

I know which one I will choose. I am weary of frames that take too my of my weight to bear. Maybe this is the freedom I have been been seeking lately. Maybe it is time to let go. Let go and have the courage to break more frames. As scary as it is maybe this is where my happiness lies.


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If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.

On Monday morning I was verbally abused and shoved by members of a group campaigning against water meters. All men, on my own property. To say it was a frightening experience for me and for my son who witnessed it would be an understatement. In my life I don’t know any man who would treat a woman this way, let alone stand back and watch while other men did. There were about ten of them, all fully grown men with, I imagine, wives, daughters and granddaughters at home. I have been wondering ever since how they might have felt if they happened upon a gang harassing a loved one, all on her own with nobody to save her.
I have been through pretty much every emotion imaginable since then. Fear, anger, sadness, despair, some all at once and some by themselves. I have spoken to my friends, to my family members, to the garda, work colleagues, and even to a radio DJ about what happened trying to take my power back and trying to make sense of it all but to be brutally honest my account of what happened that morning, in most people has mustered what I would describe as a “half assed response”, with one of these people telling me they thought it was “hilarious”.
Hilarious to whom I now wonder? Not to me, or to my son but there you go. I worry that most people go through life not really caring about things unless it has happened to them. I wonder am I guilty of this with someone else? Chances are I probably am.
I have been deep in thought and in tears since last Monday morning. What makes some of us care and some of us, not so much? What is the difference between those of us who take action and those of us who do not? Those of us who stand up for ourselves and others and those who don’t.
I am currently trying to decide whether or not to press charges against these men. These men who frightened me, who have made me feel less than safe in my own home, vulnerable as a woman living on my own with nobody here to protect my son and I if they get angry and come back. I have been through a lot in my life but nothing like this. How do I teach my son to stand up for himself and for others if someone is hurting him? How do I do that and not stand up for myself? I have sought people’s opinion, some helpful, some not so much. I am always left with the reality that it really is every person for themselves, as nobody can decide for me. Nobody can feel for me, take action for me, move forward for me.
I am scared. It is a horrible way to be and I don’t know what it is I should be doing to lessen the fear. If I don’t press charges I fear that I am weak and am not setting a good example for my son and each and every one of those horrid men win. If I do press charges then they will know I did and they could come here and scare me again. It really is a horrible way to be when you don’t know which is the right thing to do and the only person who can decide is me.
I have three quotes that I go too when I am in a bind and cannot find an answer. One of these applies to now.
“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” I think the anything in my case is the fear that has been with me since Monday. If I don’t stand up for myself I will still feel afraid but yet, if I do make a stand a whole new load of fear may come crashing down around me.
I don’t normally ask for help when I write my blog, as writing it is really all the help I need but today that won’t be enough. What would you do the ease the fear? I would be really grateful for any thoughts you may have.


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Two Years Cancer Free.

When I was sick and having my treatment I often had days like today. Days where I sat and thought about things and days where I spent most of it on my own. I like being on my own and then I don’t. It depends on how I am feeling, what is going on in my world and what it is I need to get done. When I was sick, on days like today I would spend a lot of it sitting on my couch and looking out my living room window watching the world go by and hoping against hope that all the poison pumped into my body and all the surgeries and all the days spent in isolation would be worth it. 

And they were.

Two years ago today I got my clear scan. I got lucky. Lucky with the kind of cancer I had and lucky that the treatment for it worked. That’s all it really is you know. Luck. A throw of the dice, a crap shoot, fate. Whatever you wish to call it I got it and I am and will be forever grateful for that in honour of those who weren’t so lucky.

In the movies people who get cancer and whose treatment works always have some kind of revelation. Some massive Oprah Winfrey light bulb moment. They have it, and it fundamentally changes who they are. It makes them eternally happy. Eternally kind. Eternally brave, unselfish. They seem to no longer have a care in the world, and life as they know it has been changed for the better. When I was sick on days like today I thought this would happen to me too. I fantasised about the future new me and I was awed by her magnificence.

Real life, as we all know is nothing like the movies, so I am sad to say that magnificent me does not exist. I have not been transformed into a patient, humble, benevolent being and for a long time this made me sad. Like finding out there is no Santa when you believed there was for so long. Like Dorothy discovering the Wizard behind the curtain. The disappointment was palpable, and then it wasn’t.

When you have cancer and then when you don’t it takes a really long time to free yourself from the fear of it. It seeps into your bones and gets comfortable. It isn’t going anywhere until it decides too and absolutely nothing at all that you can say to it will make it go away. For months afterwards I slept with my light on at night because I was afraid of dying in my sleep. What a light would have done to prevent that is anyone’s guess but it made me feel less afraid. Every twinge, cough, pain, splutter was a death sentence. Somedays I could not breathe. This fear made me irritable, uneasy, impatient and I would imagine difficult to be around for those who love me. Where was my Oprah moment I wondered, and the more I did the sadder I became. I felt guilty for being the person whose cancer went away. When someone I loved lost a loved one I cried for them and then I felt relieved that it wasn’t me, and then I felt guilty for feeling relieved and the fear came back. For a long time my cancer free life was rife with these feelings and the more I tried to stop them the worse they became to the point that I thought I was defective in some way as I seemed to be the only person not grateful for not having cancer anymore. The after bit of having cancer? For me, in a lot of ways it was harder than the having it and that was something I was not at all prepared for.

Luckily, like most things all it takes is some time. Time away from whatever it is that stops a person dead in their tracks. The more time further away from it, the less it hurts. The less it confuses. The less it angers, the less it saddens and I am happy to say that I am just like everyone else when it comes to this. My time is healing me and on days like today I can really feel it.

My life is not perfect today. I would like a lot of things to be different. Some in my control and some not so much. On days like today I can feel the difference that having cancer has made to me. I am quieter in myself. In some ways nothing short of a miracle as I never really did quiet well before. I have a trust in something that I didn’t have before. In what I couldn’t tell you except to say that it’s like a knowing that all will be well. Like I have enough, or I have exactly what I am meant to have for now, and on days like today when I have worries it is a lovely feeling. I try to be kinder, more patient, more loving. I don’t always get this right but I am always aware now when I don’t, something I missed on a regular basis before. The fear is leaving me. I sleep with my light on very little. I breathe deeper. I smile more. I try not to push myself and I try not to fight. Two years on and I feel like I am coming around. I am different. Not in the way I expected to be but in a better way. A softer way, a quieter way and on a days like today the difference between now and then makes me smile.

So. Here is to many more years being cancer free and to many more years not having to sleep with my light on.

 

 

 

 


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Happy with my health care, and my boobs.

It’s not everyday that you will read a blogpost praising our health care system, so sit back and enjoy because today is the day.

I presented with chest pain back in November. It bothered me, (I thought I was dying), so I went to my doctor. After a thorough examination and lots of questions, she, not I, concluded that I had costochondritis, inflammation of the cartilage that sits in between your ribs and breast bone. It mimics heart problems and hurts like a mofo. I was prescribed anti inflammatories and told it would clear up in due time. And so it did. 

Because of my experience of thyroid cancer my doctor decided as well as the meds to send me to CUH, the hospital where I had received my cancer treatment and care. Here I was referred to the Breast Care Unit to be seen by a consultant who specialises in, well, breast issues and stuff. Referral was made the end of November and I was seen January 17th. Very speedy by anyones standards. It should be noted that due to the financial hell a cancer diagnosis brings, I no longer have the privilege of private health care insurance, so my care is in the hands of our very stressed out public system.

Anyway, because my pain cleared up, and because I have become really good at not sweating the small stuff anymore I put my impending visit to the breast clinic to one side and went about my days, which I may add have recently begun resembling the days spent before my whole cancer business, which is rather nice. January 17th rolled around and off I went, on my own. Again.

You would think I would have learned my lesson by now!

Always bring a person!

Boobs were given a good feel. Consultant was very happy with what he felt (I know!), and just because I am a woman of a certain age I was sent for my very first mammogram.

Hands up which of you has had one! Mother of God, they were squished within an inch of their lives! In a bunch of different ways and angles. No stone left unturned kind of thing, no boob either. Because I have spent so much time as a guest of this lovely establishment my thoughtful consultant discharged me and told me that my doctor would ring me if there was any need for concern and happily sent me on my way.

I have to say I honestly did not give it another thought until the following Tuesday, January 21st, four days later,when I received a letter with an appointment for today, January 27th, only 10 days after my mammogram, for an ultrasound and repeat mammogram at 9.30 am. To say I was taken aback is an understatement. When you have already had cancer and all the tests and the biopsies and the waiting,oh God, the bloody waiting , you have this fear that sits ever so presently inside you and taps you on the shoulder if you so much as cough, so you can imagine the almighty punch in the arm that it did give. Even my 12 yr old son, who probably has the same fear, noticed my reaction to the letter and questioned what it was I was reading. God love him. I wonder if it is something he will ever overcome.

Anyway. I tried not to panic. I tried to keep it all in perspective but I couldn’t help fear why it was I was being brought back in, and so quickly, when I thought my boobs were OK. With my thyroid cancer I was a newbie. I was freaked out of my head and had no idea what to do, who to ask, what to ask. This time? This time I thought, screw this, I am not waiting until Monday to find out so I picked up the phone and rang the hospital and the care I received from the wonderful nurse who took my call could not have been better. She listened to why I was calling. She pulled out my file, spoke calmly and clearly and told me exactly why I was being brought back. No passing me off to someone else, no telling me to wait until Monday, no telling me not to be worried, she just told me the truth. You really can’t beat the truth. Not when it comes to your health.

I had breast surgery when I was 23 yrs old and because of this I have a significant amount of scar tissue. Scar tissue can cause calcification, and I had a lot of it in one of my breasts. It is rare for this to be cancer but nonetheless it can occur and there was enough of it to concern the consultant. So, that is why my presence was required this morning and why the nurse told me it was important that I show up.

I tried not to worry over the weekend but I did anyway. I had thought the lump in my throat had been nothing either and look where that had gotten me.

This time I enlisted the help of my best friend. She cleared her schedule and told me she would meet me there.

Those of you who know me well know how hair obsessed that I am, and part of this affliction is my addiction to hair spray. It is safe to say that I contributed to the hole in the ozone layer over the years. I have to have it on my hair. 3 or 4 times a day even! If I was stranded on a desert island and did not have hair spray I would not survive. Bear with me, this is going somewhere! 

Saturday I ran out of hairspray. This never happens. I coped on Sunday by not leaving my house but the thought of not having it on Monday was too much so I rang my bestie and asked her to bring some with her to the hospital. Yes, I am that bad! She happily obliged.

My appointment was for 9.30 am. I walked through the door at exactly that time. The radiographer was waiting for me. I was brought in and my boob was subjected to the squishing 3 more times. After the first x-ray she studied my film very closely. She wasn’t saying much of anything. Decided to shoot it form another angle. Still silent, and then another. Upon finishing the third she looked up and asked me if I always wore my hair down. Yes, says I, thinking it an odd question. By any chance do you use hairspray? Um, ya, I said, wondering where she was going with this. She then wanted to know if I had used some this morning, to which I replied, no, and explained the lack of it at home. She told me that she had to show the film to my consultant who was next door waiting to do my ultrasound and she promptly left. I was shown to the waiting room, back to my friend who had a can of hairspray for me in her bag. We must have looked like two giddy school girls when I told her that my mammogram results had something to do with hairspray. Two minutes later and the lovely radiographer came back laughing to herself. Turns out it wasn’t calcification at all. What had shown up on my film from 10 days ago was hairspray particles that had fallen on my breast when my hair had been moved. This was absent today as I had not used any! No ultrasound needed, I was free to go but not before we gave the doctor a laugh as I pulled out the can of it out of my bag. To say I was relived would be a massive, huge, gigantic understatement because I am only just feeling back to my old self since I first noticed my tumour 3 years ago.

The F**king hairspray! Ladies, be warned. Do not use before a mammogram!

Lastly, to get back to why I wanted to share this with you in the first place, it must be said that the speed and care and attention that I received from the breast clinic was second to none and no matter what else is going on with out health care system and how broken it may be I am left with no doubt whatsoever that if something had been wrong it would have been found and taken care of in record speed. It really does make me feel a lot better about this country we live in and I know these days this is sometimes hard to say.

Suffice it to say, I am not cured of my hairspray problem. The first thing I did was spray the shit out of my hair, and the second? Why, I bought myself a new can. Rome wasn’t built in a day, y’know!


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HALFWAY UP THE STAIRS.

 

 
 

When I was a little girl I was terrified of death. 
Terrified that something bad would happen to my parents and that I would never see them again.
Gone forever.
And ever.
I could never wrap my 7 year old head around it. And so, at night while my parents watched TV, I would sneak out of my bedroom and climb halfway up the stairs and sit and wait.
I would wait for them to make a noise. Any noise. It mattered not.
A cough, a laugh, a bit of conversation.
Any or all of it brought comfort and the knowledge that for that night anyway my world, and the people I loved the most were safe.
Sometimes my Mum heard Me.
She didn’t like finding Me on the stairs. She thought I was being defiant and always sent Me back to bed with a cross word and no comfort. Things were different back then. Children were to be seen and not heard and most definitely not to be found sitting halfway up the stairs at 10 O’ clock at night.
My 7 year old brain, or heart for that matter could never find a way to explain that it was not defiance that brought me to the stairs, but a terrible fear of loosing them.
Of never seeing them again.
Forever.
And ever.
My son is 11 and only recently has he begun to feel this fear.
Maybe it is the left over emotions of his Mum having cancer. 
If I felt the fear of my own demise, then I can be pretty certain he did too. I am all the parent he has. I am his whole world. 
His rock.
His fortress.
His safe place.
I am his home.
I knew something was bothering him for weeks but was unable to coax it from him. I see now that he was trying in his 11 yr old brain and heart to find a way to tell me about it, as I had so desperately tried all those many years ago, sitting halfway up the stairs.
Last week his words and his emotions came together and he gave me access to the very soul of him.
He cannot wrap his little head around the finality of death.
Where do we go? 
What do we do?
Why does it happen?
Will it be dark?
Will you be there?
I can’t be there without you. And on and on the questions came. On and on the worries spilled forth.
I couldn’t breathe.
I didn’t know what to say. “Mummy is afraid too”?
I held him close and for a very long time I said nothing.
Then I remembered what it was I was looking from my Mum all those years ago that she was unable to give me.
I took a deep breath and looked him deep in his sad eyes, and began to tell him my story.
The story of the little girl who had the same fears and the same worries that he has now, and how she sat halfway up the stairs for all those nights standing guard.
And I held him close.
I comforted him.
I nurtured him.
I heard him.
I loved him.
Death is certain for us all, this I know for sure. I am no less afraid of it today than I was back then.
I just think that as adults we have more skill in living in the moment, or maybe we have to much to be distracting us.
Having cancer will bring the worry closer. It did for Me anyway.
For a long time during, and even now I find myself wondering if I have done all the things I want to do. Been all the places I wish to see. Said all the things to loved ones unspoken.
If I died tomorrow would I be happy with the life I lived?
I know one thing for sure.
My greatest joy, my greatest happiness, my greatest love has been my son.
The thought of being parted from him forever takes my breath away, but I cannot live with that worry on a daily basis. Instead I am comforted and happy in the knowing that I have become the kind of Mum, who upon finding my son sitting halfway up the stairs in fear of something happening to Me, can pick him up, put my arms around him, and tell him that no matter what happens my love for him will never, ever die.