“It’s lovely to see a ‘wee’ man like that in the morning” I was as usual a little over sensitive and this comment struck me as unsympathetic as they come, I’m standing with my bald pale baby in the Cancer Centre. Really is it lovely?
It was day eight out of twenty at radiotherapy and I’d took a massive step in bravery for me as a mummy. I’d came alone.
To be honest I think I was testing myself and in my own way I felt like if I could get through today it would be like sticking two middle fingers up at cancer. Paul had started back to work, we had done everything together up to then but we had bills to pay and he felt he could juggle both like the superhero dad he was. He would try to come to radiotherapy in the morning and then he would go back to work. Today though he had a meeting and much to everyones protests I decided I could brave it on my own.
My baby was showing how resilient and strong he was so I had to do the same. Didn’t I?
We had settled into a new ‘routine’ and although his belly always growled at him that he was hungry, it had got easier to starve him. He was suffering the full effects of treatment now and most meals would stay in his stomach for minutes before he would vomit the contents of his stomach uncontrollably everywhere. My precious baby was worn, he was paler, lethargic, he slept A LOT (mainly in my arms) and he had no energy for play or ‘normal’ development. The guilt I felt as always was overcoming I was the one driving him to treatment and it was the people he trusted the most who was inflicting this harsh regime on him. Today being alone made all my feelings raw.
I’ve never been someone who felt so much hatred and angst towards the world but I felt justified in being angry after all everyone was preoccupied with their own journey. The cracks were starting to show, I was exhausted trying to be the perfect mummy to Nate who was requiring so much care and attention, alongside dividing myself in two so I could pay Alfie the love he deserved. Not only had the bags under my eyes rapidly grew but I even found my ability to hold a conversation was limited.
I painted on my best face though, no one wants to see a mother on the verge of a mental breakdown and I could do this. I was his mummy and I felt like I needed to show him I had this on my own.
I always searched in the faces of everyone else as I walked through the cancer centre. I selfishly searched for their emotions. Could I see their journey, their pain and their fear? When they glanced back did they see the pain in my eyes? Could they feel my fear? Most importantly to me I always searched for their hope and I often wonder did they notice the hope and dreams that I pushed in front of me tucked happily into his pram. Did they know that he was fighting a war? Could they see what a brave warrior he was?
It strangely became easy to watch Nate being put to sleep on my knee. Three, two, one and he was out, I gave him his usual kiss and left the room. It was harder to hold it together by myself but like I’ve said before we were surrounded by the most beautiful souls from the Childrens hospital who came specifically to look after Nate everyday. I always felt their warmth surround Nate and that always helped me to be strong. Today was no different I knew they could feel my pain that little bit deeper, I was so much more exposed without Paul by my side and the pain of what Nate went through I felt could be seen on my face. How had our life changed so much that all this was becoming okay?
When he woke as usual I got him dressed then took him to the café so I could persist to force food onto him, in general at this stage eating had begun to be difficult for him. A couple of mouthfuls would always suffice my want for him to be nourished but I always knew that within a few moments it would land straight back up into my skilfully cupped hands. It was only 9.30am and I was already being faced with a vomiting baby. Alone.
It was difficult but us mums can pull some seriously skilful tricks (even if I do say so myself), I could cup one hand enough to manage what felt like 3litres of vomit while dodging between rubbing his back to make sure he didn’t choke and grabbing around ‘one hundred’ wet wipes to start cleaning up. All I have to say is thank goodness for nurses and kind passers by who are always quick to lend a hand.
On a ‘normal’ day we would then head home but today instead we moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children. There Nate had waiting for him a six hour infusion of chemotherapy followed by a three and a half hour blood transfusion. It seemed really unfair that he would have to receive both radiotherapy and chemotherapy but I knew it wouldn’t help if I protested this is what needed to be done so I had no choice but to agree. The decisions and rules were being dictated by cancer.
I can never describe to you how it feels to watch those chemicals flow into your babies veins but in short it hurts. The hurt starts to numb and become dull with every treatment and every hour that you watch go by, but that feeling of pain in your heart never leaves and that kick in the stomach when you think hard about it is deep. You say a prayer each time hoping that it is doing good in killing any cancerous cells and hoping that in turn it isn’t causing an permanent marks on even an inch of his innocent pale little body.
The blood transfusion on the other hand is always welcomed with open arms, it gives him a beautiful rosey colour to his cheeks, the pinkest little lips and an extension to his tired smile. His energy levels rise and I always feel like his eyes become a little fierier as he gets the fight to be a little cheekier. Nothing will ever beat seeing your lifeless warrior regaining his strength. I should really guilt anyone reading this to make sure they sign up and give blood, I never knew how thankfully we would be to those who do donate and I never in a million years thought we would be in the position of needing it at all, never mind regularly.
Nathanaels treatment plan meant that this would happen for three days in a row. It was tough and mentally draining, I proved to myself that I could do it alone but those 9 and a half hours after radiotherapy were horrible. Nates restricted movement meant that I had to carry and tend to his every desire.
I soon realised I didn’t need to prove to myself that I could do it alone with Nate, he needed me to be strong and trying to be brave was only asking for trouble to my mental, physical and emotional state. He was showing everyday his strength and resilience but he was starting to become fragile, it wasn’t a test of bravery or parenting skills that he needed to see.
Nate had the most devoted daddy and when he wasn’t able to make it he was surrounded by the most amazing team of family and friends who also wanted to give cancer the middle finger and help out.
Thankfully Paul made it the rest of the sessions and together we got Nate through what we thought was the worst week of treatment imaginable for our baby but what we didn’t realise awaiting for us was the damage all of this was having on Alfie at home.