The letter to my children

To my son and my daughter,

I am going to do everything I can to overcome this cancer and spend the next forty or fifty years with you. To this end, I am having poison pumped into my body that steals my energy and my hair. I am having parts of my body cut off and moved around. I am sending myself into menopause at the age of 36. I am depriving myself of the option to give you more siblings. And I don’t care about any of that. I’d do it as many times as it took.

But there are still no guarantees. I might do all of these things and die anyway. And that’s the part I’m struggling with. Because you are too young to understand any of this, and you don’t deserve it. It isn’t fair that I love you so fiercely every day and yet there’s a chance that you’ll lose me and never remember me at all.

If that happens, there are some things I’d like you to know.

I didn’t always know I wanted you. I thought I did, but I was self-absorbed when I was young, and a part of me wanted to keep my easy, uncomplicated life, in which no-one shouted my name in the darkest parts of the night and no-one screamed into my shoulder in the middle of the afternoon. How foolish I was, to think that there could be anything better than this. I am thankful every day that I chose this life.

I don’t always feel that I’m a natural mother. I try hard to get it right, to balance the love and pride and disappointment I show you. I am trying to steer you without dictating what or who you should be. But sometimes, I’m tired and frustrated and angry, and you bear the brunt of that. I hope it won’t do you harm.

I don’t care who you love. I hope that you will find good, kind people to love and to share your lives with. What they look like or what they believe in or what body they live in is irrelevant to me. You will get hurt along the way. It won’t be as easy to fix as it is now, when a kiss is usually enough to make you feel better. Don’t let it stop you from trying again. Don’t hold back or give less than your whole heart, when you find the person who deserves it.

I hope you will always cherish each other. My sister is the greatest gift I’ve ever had, and I hope you will feel that way about one another. The love between you now is strong and pure, and I know there will be years when you find things to dislike or struggle to get along. But I feel sure that you can get back from there to where you are now, and I hope you’ll care enough to try.

I have given you a wonderful father. He might be sad or angry sometimes. He might shout and do things that you think are unfair. There is so much love behind every decision he makes. And there is fear, too. He wants to keep you close and safe. It might mean you’re not allowed to do something you really want to do. There are worse things than that. Try to understand.

I want you to always act with kindness. I may never know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Whether you’re musical, or athletic, or creative. What I know is that being good and kind are more important than being clever or strong. And you have it in you to be those things. It’s easy. Try to do something every day that makes someone else’s day a little better.

I love you. You will make mistakes, and they might be serious. You will do the wrong thing. Sometimes you’ll do the wrong thing over and over. You’ll say things that are hurtful. You’ll let people down. You’ll take something that rightfully belongs to someone else. I hope you are punished appropriately for these things, by others and by yourselves. I love you anyway. It all comes back to that.


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