Stop the ride I want to get off...

Monday, March 07, 2005

you’re so brave…

Am posting this in hopes it will help anyone who is faced with a friend in similar position...

The number of people that have said that to me. When Daughter was diagnosed with cancer and we were in that twilight zone. Not knowing what exactly it was she had, numbers being thrown at us. Meeting endless Doctors, Nurses, Counsellors and other patients and parents. To get home and be told “You’re so brave.” Or “I don’t know how you do it?” was wearing at times. Worse still were the ones who rang up to tell us how devastated they were and then would break down in tears. Hubby stayed in hospital the first few days and I was dealing with all this at home as well as trying to help a very worried little boy understand why we were all in such a state. Whilst not really knowing what to tell him, we hadn’t met the counsellor for that yet. I was falling apart inside and yet feeling as if I had to be strong for all these people. Finally I lost it and fortunately I lost it not with one of the devastated but with the friend who was propping me up. She took control, set up a phone tree and took the devastated in hand. Calling them all up and arranging for them to call her for information.

Another friend took to dropping round meals and wine. She took piles of washing and it returned clean and ironed. Which was a bit of a shock, I never iron . The first silver lining. Another friend would pop in each day and just clean up, little things and very mundane but until you are in this position you don’t realise what a big help they are. One mum took charge of my son, saying it wasn’t fair him having to be picked up by someone different every night and she virtually adopted him. She’d hand him back to whichever of us got home that night all ready for bed and a happy boy.

But brave? Were we brave? No, bravery is a choice made when faced with danger or fear. We had no choices, we just had to get on with it. The first five days were hell, and then they dropped a real bombshell on us, “Oh we think the biopsy will show a bad histology we think her chances of survival are 5%.” This was not helped by the nurses and Doc looking very glum and the Consultant sniffing the whole time.

I had to go home with son on the train, friend was with me but I sobbed at the station. She was dosing me with Bach’s Rescue Remedy, I’m sure it’s the brandy in it that helps and not the flower essences . Sitting on that train with all these people going about here normal day was surreal. I took Son to bed, had a long cuddle with them, then curled up on sofa with two friends and a big blanket and waited for hubby to get home. He arrived home after midnight, Daughter had taken ages to fall asleep.

I will never forget that night. This man who I had leaned on for everything fell apart in front of me and wailed. I’m welling up now just remembering it. I hope I never have to see it again. We talked and talked, cried and cried and then we began to reason. What were these numbers anyways? Who was to say our daughter wouldn’t be one of the 5%, in fact dammit she was going to be because we wouldn’t believe anything else. We had a duty to carry on as normally as possible, so she was ill but she didn’t have to live life as if she was going to die. Hubby went off to bed, but I couldn’t face it. It was a weird night, I rang my best mate who lives in the US and she talked with me for an hour or so. Thank heavens for time zones, always a friend awake somewhere in the world when you need them. About four am something strange happened, there was an electrical storm and I sat and watched it. It seemed to echo how we felt.

That morning hubby headed off at 6am to the hospital, so he’d be there when Daughter awoke, and I realised I wasn’t scared anymore. It was like a switch had clicked across in my head, it was going to be tough but we were not going to believe the worst. For Daughter’s sake we were going to believe the best case scenario. It was only then I did something brave, I went into hospital with an overnight bag and agreed to stay in with daughter. When this all started I had a severe phobia of hospitals, it took everything I could muster to stay. Now that was brave!

Of course this game is never simple… two days later we got the biopsy results. The Consultant was beaming, he handed us a sheaf of paper and said “It’s alright it’s the good histology, 95% chance of cure, here’s the standard treatment protocol.” We tried not to fall over in dead faints. She still had cancer, but he was smiling, so I asked “Uh you seemed upset the other day you kept sniffing.” He looked horrified and said “Oh no, I had a cold, you didn’t, I’m sorry I didn’t think.” Mummy and Daddy collapse in little heaps in the bad news room, they gave us half an hour to recover.

Soldiers going to war are brave, fire-fighters running into burning buildings, that’s brave. Holding out your hand for another needle is brave. Not running off and hiding in the toilet when they produce your chemo that’s brave.

More to follow… this is a long story.

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