We as a family are indebted to the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children for their help and support. We have once again benefitted from one of their amazing therapeutic short breaks at Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, Co. Down.
I’ve previously written about our trips to Daisy Lodge in Daisy Lodge, Back to Reality, Parenting Teenagers, The Gaping Hole of Grief, and in A Haze, a Daze and a Maze.
On Tuesday 30th April 2013, when Leah’s Haematology Clinical Nurse Specialist at Altnagelvin Hospital told me about the NICFC and suggested referring us to them for support, I had no idea what that support would look like.
Initially we were allocated a Specialist Worker. Our Specialist drove the 70 miles from Belfast to meet with our family and we warmed to her straight away. Our initial contacts with her were of the “getting to know you” variety, as she assessed what our needs were and explained to us what help was available.
When Leah and I returned from spending 14 weeks in Bristol, traumatised from all that had happened, our Specialist was there to support us. Within days she pulled up in her car and took Leah and I out for afternoon tea in a quiet location. The cafe had a gift shop attached so we browsed there too. After so many weeks of sickness and hospitalisation, it felt abnormal to be doing normal things, but it was very helpful to be doing them in the company of somebody who understood our journey and who could support us emotionally.
Leah was immune compromised and unwell and she had to spend a lot of time at home in her bedroom. Our Specialist understood how boring this would be for a teenager, she talked to Leah to find out her interests and started her on jewelry making. Our Specialist provided the materials and Leah was able to make gifts for some people that Christmas.
Then, during the 2.5 weeks that Leah spent in ICU in Belfast City Hospital before she died, our Specialist spent time with me, in the hospital cafe, providing me with emotional support and giving me time to talk.
Leah in December 2013, three weeks before she died
It’s very difficult to be a parent when you’re grieving and your heart is broken – potentially every family member becomes ‘lost’ and isolated in their grief and sadness. It’s very difficult to do things together as a family when the very act of doing so is such a painful reminder of the one who is missing.
Coming to Daisy Lodge as a family has become a vital part of our healing. When we are there, the five of us sleep in adjoining rooms so we are constantly in close contact.
All meals are provided so there isn’t the distraction of shopping/preparing food/cleaning up – we are there simply to enjoy each other’s company.
While staying at Daisy Lodge, parents and adult children are offered a complementary therapy session (massage/reflexology), to ensure maximum relaxation. There’s usually an opportunity for the Mum’s and older girls to get their nails or makeup done as well.
Always, in the background, the therapeutic specialist staff are available to listen and to support. There are optional group activities that all the family can take part in. It really helps to know that on all occasions you’re in the company of people who understand; whether you are interacting with the other families staying there or with the courteous and compassionate staff.
This past weekend our girls played board games in our bedroom on the Saturday morning – that would NEVER happen at home.
Saturday afternoon all five of us went for a walk at Tollymore Forest Park, when we are at home we’d be doing well to even get two family members agreeing to do anything together.
At Tollymore, Simon and Miriam displayed a newfound interest in nature photography!
We chatted, we ran, we laughed, we remembered, we healed another little bit.
Then we (minus Simon – his computer beckoned) headed into Newcastle for Maud’s Ice-cream – it was yummy!
After a delicious evening meal back at Daisy Lodge (we will be rolling home) Miriam, Rachel and I put on Lush face masks and then they both gave me a massage as one of my Mother’s Day treats.
After this, Horace and Rachel headed off to use the sauna downstairs.
Later on Horace and Simon played a game of pool together. I was feeling very relaxed (!) and said that I would just lie in bed and rest my eyes for a little while. I must have been very relaxed because I fell into a deep sleep and had the best night’s sleep that I’ve had in ages. I didn’t even hear any of them coming to bed.
Sunday morning (Mother’s Day) us mums had a choice between getting our makeup or our nails done. I already knew what I wanted. Leah loved painting her nails and she used to paint my nails too. I seldom wear nail varnish since she died. Getting my nails done would be a special way of remembering her on Mother’s Day.
Each mum also received a gift bag of treats. I waited to open mine until I was back in the room with my girls. Rachel and Miriam gave me a Yankee Candle. I love candles.
Then there was just enough time for a relaxing bath, with one of the Lush bath bombs that my eldest gave me for Christmas, before heading down for dinner.
Sunday lunch, as always, was truly scrumptious.
Sadly after dinner it was time to pack up and say goodbye – Rachel back to University life in Belfast and the remaining four of us back to our home where our two younger children rapidly became their usual monosyllabic selves and retreated to their
caves bedrooms absorbed in their electronic devices. However, I feel so rested and relaxed and I have lots of happy memories and gorgeous photos.
The Cancer Fund for Children support:
- Children who have been diagnosed with cancer
- The siblings of a child who has been diagnosed with cancer
- The parents of a child who has been diagnosed with cancer
- A child whose parent has been diagnosed with cancer
We as a family very much appreciate the fundraising efforts of so many people who have walked, swam, ran, cycled, abseiled, done parachute jumps or given their loose change to support the Cancer Fund for Children.You are helping to bring healing to families whose lives have been ravaged by a cancer diagnosis.