Last Christmas I did a yearly wrap up, reflecting over lessons learnt during one of the hardest diagnoses of my life. I promised myself I would do this each December.
This year, cancer has definitely taken a step back. It is no longer at the forefront of every thought. No longer do I feel a low-level anxiety simmering, threatening to break through my resolve to not ponder what my reality might be if it has spread. To be honest, I rarely think about it at all. The New Year marks the two-year anniversary of having the melanoma removed. This is an important milestone for me. The melanoma I had was invasive locally and the doctors were unable to tell me whether it had spread further. That means Gary and I have been part of a bizarre waiting game, checking each month for lumps and bumps. My consultant told me that most secondary Melanomas rear their ugly head within two years of diagnosis, which is why, for melanoma, it is the two-year mark, rather than the five-year mark that is important. No signs so far!
The fact that I choose to even make a brief note about cancer belies the fact that it really does not play a big part in my life anymore. This year has been so much bigger than cancer. And I rejoice in that. In fact, dare I say it, but the last few months of this year have felt ‘normal’ to me. My former energy has returned and I am no longer exhausted. This is primarily due to my incredibly special mother in law.
In September we went on holiday to Northern Ireland and we stayed with Heather and Tom, Gary’s mum and dad. I had mentioned (a couple of hundred times) to Heather how tired Gary and I were, after the past two years. B2 had stopped her crying and was sleeping through the night but it seemed as if we hadn’t quite caught up. Heather took note and made it her goal for those ten days to ensure we did nothing but rest. Can I tell you how special that was? The children got up early each morning to the attentive care of their Granny and Grandad, whilst their parents slept in. We did nothing all week. No sooner had we worn clothes, they were washed and dried and folded ready to rewear! We were cooked for, cleaned for and all we really did was relax and slowly return to our former selves.
They didn’t know it, but this was a turning point for us. For the first half of the year I was questioning whether I could continue to home school. I really wasn’t sure I had what it takes. The later half, because of the love and attention of these two incredibly precious people, both Gary and I faced our family life (school and all) with renewed vision, renewed hope and renewed energy. Tom and Heather – thank you so much. Truly, you will never know how much you helped us both this September, at a time when we needed it the most.
Life is rather good right now. In the inevitable ups and downs life throws out, currently we are enjoying an up. We have been so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who, when we are unable to continue on our own strength, carry us, help us, and await the return of our former vigour, which in turn enables us to be there for them. Isn’t it wonderful how reliance on one another strengthens bonds and relationships? We do not have to always be strong, we do not always need to have it sorted; we can be weak and we can have lives that are a little messy at times. It is, I am sure, reflective of every life on this planet.
As I look back on our year, which I can do easily by studying past posts on my blog, I can see that my son has grown from a boy to a young man, navigating the often tumultuous waters of adolescence. I pray continually (and believe) that he will emerge, relatively unscathed. I am very proud of how he is handling life and work; I am thoroughly in awe of the plans and enthusiasm he has for his future. And yet it has been very difficult watching him, on occasion, being hurt by life; but then I can see how much development and maturity is taking place because of those hurts.
And my older girls. One growing into such a wonderful, thoughtful and mature young lady, always there offering to help or to make cups of tea and basically to care for anyone and everyone. And the other. A little younger in maturity but with just as much potential, so full of life and completely and utterly in love with her baby sisters. Gary and I have a hard job sometimes, knowing at which point we need to allow her to simply be. She has such a special uniqueness to her personality, quirky in every way, which neither her daddy or I want her to lose; and yet we must, as her parents, seek to teach her personal responsibility, accountability and how to work hard and well. All the while she needs much encouragement, affirmative love and cuddles. This parenting business is heart breaking sometimes, because the love I feel for my children means I don’t want them to struggle or be hurt. The stakes get higher as the children get older and the simplicity of their youth is disappearing quicker than I am able to get a handle on.
My two younger ones remind me constantly of the wonders of childhood. Their innocence, their frankness and purity. B2 has grown into such a little personality this year, a real force to be reckoned with and a sense of humour to match. What a joy she is. And her older sister, so caring, patient and kind. A5 is such a lovely child. She has been sidelined by her sister so frequently in her short life, and yet she seems to understand, always asking calmly if she needs more attention or more cuddles. She is very thoughtful (and methodical in that thinking), understanding much a five-year old shouldn’t.
I thank God everyday for the blessings of my family and friends. And my prayer for next year? That He will give Gary and I the wisdom to guide these amazing five little beings through each day. To love each one as they need to be loved. To know when to be firm. But equally to know when to back off and let love be enough. I pray that He will teach me how to let go of each child, knowing they will be safe in His loving arms. And I pray for a peace and contentedness for each one of us. To be thankful for all we have been given, to use it wisely and for other’s benefit. And most of all I pray for healthy minds, bodies and spirits. For another precious year together.
I will be taking my customary three weeks off blogging until the new year. I do this for the same reason I try to switch the computer off at weekends. For my family. Blogging is great fun. You get to talk about all your news, without any interruption at all! Also you come in contact with some really cool, like-minded people (you guys!). But, it can also be time-consuming. And over Christmas I don’t want to be giving a whole heap of time or in deed thought to what I might write, I want to be living it up with those I love.
I hope you all have a very special Christmas this year, full to the brim with those you love.