Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ink Tree and Chagblood

I sounded so sure yesterday, didn't I? Last night long hours of fear chased me around and through and away from dreams and I find myself wobbling again. Reconstruction would mean so much more recovery and set my eventual hysterectomy back at least six months more than having a simple mastectomy. What, said my frightened mind, if I get ovarian cancer in that six months? What if I died because I didn't want to wait a few years to have foobs? What if my girl lost both her parents before she was five? How could she recover from that, ever?

And I know, I know, now that it is light (ish) and I have had a couple of coffees, that the chances are so very small... but my love is so very big and the fear changes size and shape too fast for me to keep abreast. (But not enough to stop me sneaking wordplay into otherwise serious sentences.) It is a very unmerry-go-round.

Nonetheless, it has created a wonderful thing. When I put the link to yesterday's post on Facebook, my friends started commenting with offers of help and, due to a misremembering of my blood weirdness (I have ITP which means my platelets are low), one even offered me her rhesus negative blood to have on standby while I have my surgery! Which, amazingly, prompted other people to list their blood type in case they could do the same! This has become known as Chagblood - the latest in a long, successful run of community ventures. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of my people and feel the gratitude running through my veins.

Meanwhile, my last few evenings have been spent doing this, which I recommend for stilling the mind.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Happy Birthday Pickle

Pickle is four! This year she definitely wanted a proper party, which she hasn't had before. I hired the local hall and she carefully made invitations.

When the big day came, we were both slightly overexcited. I sang happy birthday at the exact minute she became four and she was very proud. Then the present-opening began.

Having failed to make a tape dispenser whistle,

Pickle had more success with her new 'binocliers'.

And then the party. In a frenzy of performance anxiety, I'd planned lots of games, but actually the children spent more time playing with balloons than anything else.

We played musical chairs (with joint winners who squeezed into the final chair together) and pass-the-parcel and then feasted. All food groups were represented: sugar, salt, jelly and fairy bread.

When they were quite stuffed, I brought out the cake. I can take no credit for this fantastic creation - it is the work of our good friend Davepops and his gang of helpers. If you're planning to be an astronaut, this is the kind of cake you want:

We sang and blew out the candles

...and then it was back to the balloons. There was a great turnout of dads, some of whom wisely lurked close to the food, some discussed dogma and humility in the context of science and religion (or something like that)...

while others took a serious beating.

Eventually we got everything cleared up, party bags distributed and friends sent smiling home. We locked the big old door with the very impressive key

and went home for more presents and a cup of tea.

I am so glad Pickle had a great birthday. Of course that's what she deserves - what all children deserve - but also I have today decided to have reconstructive surgery after my double mastectomy and that will entail some serious recovery time during which I won't be able to be with her like I normally am. A few days in hospital (still trying to cope with that idea); a couple of weeks of lifting nothing heavier than a kettle and mostly needing to rest; then many more weeks, until three months in, before I can start to live my normal life and lift my plumptious wondergirl into my arms again. Basically, a lot of sacrifice for Pickle and a lot of help needed from my family and community who I have already leaned heavily on over the last couple of years. But then hopefully I will have a body I'm happy with and can focus on creating Pickle and I a joyful future.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Moments of happiness in the long time of waiting

"Mama, I wish Dada could be here just for Christmas." This, whispered in my ear at the busy table on Boxing Day, almost broke me. But this girl's Dada is not for Christmas any more than he is for life - unless you count the trees he is growing into, which we do. Despite this one rip of the heart muscle, Christmas was much less painful than last year. At one point, humouring my mum by joining in a stupid flute-tooting game, I laughed so much I had to reel back from the edge of hysteria - the kids don't need to see that. Pickle had lots of fun with her grandparents and cousins and could barely keep her eyes open for her bedtime story.

And far away a small boy had his very own name on his bedroom wall - a complex commission involving much research into sword design, which was unexpectedly fascinating:

The flowers each represent a member of his family - a really lovely addition and a fun contrast to the weaponry.

In January I finally saw my mastectomy surgeon, expecting to be 'allowed' to make a decision about surgery and be put on the waiting list. But no. What I got was a physical examination which, because my wonderful friend, neighbour and brewer-of-healing-tea was there, caused giggling rather than trauma. The surgeon was checking whether I had sufficient 'resource' (my new favourite word for fat) to create foobs (fake boobs) with my own flesh. Stomach: "There's nothing there," he said. Yes! Feeling smug, I turned around and he started kneading my back (when did it last get a really good scrub, I wondered). "Oh yes, we could make you a good pair out of this." What? How do I have so much more back than belly fat? Is that normal? At this point I'm topless (I'm discounting the preposterous 'cape' which only highlighted the nudity underneath) and he mentioned the possibility of using buttock fat. "Oh, she doesn't have a bum," said my friend, thus saving me getting my trousers off and earning herself extra Kettle Chips. Then clothes on for the statistics and the discovery that I can't be put on the waiting list until I've seen a clinical psychologist who, if she's worth her salt (? I don't know - my Nana used to say it), will diagnose me with chronic stress caused by waiting for surgery. But then I go to my online BRCA forum to complain about how looong this takes and there's people on there who can't have the surgery at all or are considering mortgaging their family home because their insurance doesn't cover this. And I remember how desperately grateful I am for the NHS which gave my husband 30 more years than he would have had, rescued me when I ran out of platelets and housed us both so we could be with Pickle while they helped her through her first 3 weeks. I'm still spending some of my nights running scenarios where I don't have the surgery quick enough and Pickle's orphaned at 4, but mostly I'm just trying to trust it will turn out okay and distract myself with other things.

Like hunting down every clothes moth and its spawn in my house. Grrrr. I'm coming to get you, you beautiful flutters of dust and writhing hole-makers. I've got cedar oil and I'm not afraid to use it.

And life modelling. Tomorrow will be my first time for years and I'm quite looking forward to it, if we can get the room warm enough. I went last week to draw and although most of what I produced made me cringe, theree was something which pleased me about this one:

And looking after Pickle, who's recovering from Slapped Cheek (not 'a slapped cheek' - please don't write in). Here she is, snuggled up with Bill, Thomas's dad:

Looking at this photo I am reminded again how grateful I am to all the good men and heartful fathers in Pickle's life. You give her something I can't and I just don't have enough thanks for that.
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