"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.