Tuesday of this week (my day off) I found myself experiencing a vague feeling of unease and restlessness. I struggled to focus on the tasks that I had intended to complete that morning.
This caught me by surprise. Although this time last year I struggled to even get out of bed on my days off work, recently I’ve been coping quite well and my concentration and attention span have been relatively good. This progress has been a huge relief to me and it’s been nice to feel a bit more like the me that I used to be.
However, this past Tuesday was different, I was struggling to concentrate and I wasn’t sure why. In desperation I decided to vacuum the house. I’m not exactly a domestic goddess but I find vacuuming quite calming.
Gradually my thoughts started to come together. It is mid-term. The children are off school – my teenage son didn’t even stir in his sleep while I vacuumed under his bed! This time three years ago, right in the middle of mid-term, Leah had her first ever admission to our local oncology/haematology ward.
In January and February of that year (2013), three good friends of mine had been pleading with me to meet up with them for a good catch up. I kept putting them off as I was worried about Leah’s health, although she did not as yet have a diagnosis.
Finally on the Wednesday of mid-term week I agreed to meet up with them for a meal. However, as I lifted the last spoonful of my dessert to my mouth, Horace phoned me to say that Leah wasn’t well. Within two hours Leah and I were in a single room on the Sperrin Ward. This is the adult Oncology/Haematology ward of our local hospital. I had never set foot on this ward before. Apparently they had never had a patient as young as Leah before either. It was only a few weeks after Leah’s fifteenth birthday.
On our way to the ward, Leah had spied several health promoting posters on display in the hospital corridors. She used her mobile phone to photograph these posters for inclusion in her GCSE coursework – she never missed an opportunity!
On the few previous occasions when I had been in hospital with any of my children, we had always been on a Children’s Ward. It felt very scary being on a cancer ward with my young, as yet undiagnosed daughter, even though the facilities and standard of care were excellent. This was a world that I didn’t want to have any part of.
A few weeks ago I made arrangements to meet up with those same three friends later on this midterm week, not realising the significance of that decision. Thankfully we aren’t meeting in the same place as we did in 2013, as I would find that too upsetting.
I cry most days, but yesterday as my emotions bubbled up to the surface they felt really overwhelming, so I tried to stuff them back down again. First I ate chocolate – I seldom eat chocolate but I do keep an emergency supply.
That didn’t numb the pain, so then I remembered the Magnum choc ices in the freezer and I ate one of those too.
Nope, that didn’t work either. My emotions were clamouring for space. I’ve quoted this line from The Fault in Our Stars before as I think it’s so good:
There are times when the pain that we feel (for whatever reason) must have its way with us. I’m a massive fan of Brené Brown and I love this quote from her book Rising Strong which I’m currently reading:
Someone once described child loss to me as being like a wound that scabs over but never really heals. Sometimes when we are least expecting it, we have an experience that knocks the scab off that wound and leaves us raw and bleeding once again and there is absolutely nothing that we can do except to find a private space and shed those tears. Then we have to wait once again for the wound to scab over.