One of the first things I thought after getting my diagnosis was, I have to tell my family about this. My parents and my sister, Rachel, knew I was going in that morning to get the biopsy results, so I knew they’d be waiting for a message to say that everything was ok. We decided to call at Rachel’s house on the way back from the hospital, and all the way there, I tried to come up with the right words to tell her. And I couldn’t. But when we got there, she opened the door and I didn’t have to tell her anything. She just knew.
I phoned my parents’ house once we got home. Dad picked up. I said ‘I’ve got cancer.’ I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I was thinking about how I’d feel if it was Joseph. There are things that are harder than being the one who’s ill.
Once my family knew, I wanted to tell everyone. I sent messages to a few friends, then more. I couldn’t stop. I just wanted everyone to know, so the telling part could be over. But it’s never over. Since then, I’ve told people every day. The women who work at Joseph’s nursery, someone who was giving me a massage, the people I’m doing freelance writing work for. Nurses, midwives, receptionists.
The good thing about the telling is the incredible support it’s led to. I’ve had cards, flowers, endless thoughtful messages. A mindfulness book, a Wonder Woman biscuit. Friends with young children of their own and no free time have offered to come, to help. Rachel, who’s also pregnant, brought her maternity leave forward to spend time with me. I’ve been touched by the kindness of the people I love every day.
Now that the surgery is imminent, I’ve been trying to tell Joseph. I want him to understand that I won’t be able to pick him up for a while, but we’ll still be able to cuddle. He seems to grasp it when we have the conversation, but when I bring it up again, it’s gone. He’s just learned The Very Hungry Caterpillar by heart, and it’s taking up a lot of space in his little head.
He reaches his hands up above his head, puts them on my bump. ‘Carry carry,’ he says. And even though he’s heavy and it’s getting hard to carry him anyway, I do it. ‘Remember I can’t carry you next week,’ I say. He tilts his head to one side, looks serious. ‘No,’ he says. And then he asks for a snack or a story, and forgets again.