The fifth chemo

The night before my fifth chemo, Elodie put in her best night’s sleep in weeks. And of course, Joseph somehow got wind of this and gave us his worst. At 3am, I woke up to find him sitting on the floor at the foot of our bed. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked. ‘I’m just watching you sleep,’ he replied. It would have been terrifying if he wasn’t so cute and cuddly.

So because of that, I started the next day feeling pretty tired, and the session was a bit like the last one. Hard. I came quite close to giving up on the cold cap, but my stubbornness kicked in. I didn’t want the times I’ve worn it to be wasted. So I did my best to distract myself. It’s hard to concentrate on reading when the brainfreeze headache is at its worst, so I put an audiobook on instead. And then I tweeted the author, Caitlin Moran, to thank her for the distraction, and she sent a lovely message back. And so I got through it, one long minute at a time.

The next day, Paul went to Moscow for a week with work. It wasn’t great timing, but my mother-in-law came to stay with us and helped enormously with Joseph and Elodie. Nursery runs, night feeds, the lot. I slept in a couple of times, and it made all the difference. One evening, Joseph wouldn’t stay in bed. And after I’d spent half an hour taking him back to bed calmly, I fell apart and cried. It’s just too hard, sometimes. The smallest thing can break you. But another day, I had a free cancer-friendly massage and facial at Ragdale Hall, and I was restored.

The day Paul returned, it was his birthday. Paul’s mum made cakes and Joseph decorated them when he got back from nursery. Together, they put up bunting and balloons. Joseph practised saying ‘Surprise!’ I asked him a few times whose birthday it was. ‘It is Daddy’s,’ he said, ‘but he will have presents for me.’ He did. Russian dolls, a hat and an aeroplane toy. Chocolate for me. I was over the post-chemo nausea and the tiredness was bearable and we were all back together. ‘I love Elodie more than anything,’ Joseph said, for the hundredth time. ‘More than fire engines?’ I checked. ‘No!’ he shouted, indignant at the very thought.

In the final week of the cycle, I ate a lot of cake for Macmillan. There seemed to be coffee mornings everywhere, and I was more than happy to donate money and eat brownies. Joe was, too. During chemo, I’ve lost and then gained weight. Unlike after my first pregnancy, I was back in my jeans after a few short weeks, but I’ve been eating constantly, which is probably down to the steroids. However, I was told in no uncertain terms not to consider dieting while going through chemo by one of the nurses, and I’ll be having surgery that involves reconstructing my breasts with fat from my tummy in a few months, so it seems pointless to worry about it. For the time being, I’m having my cake and eating it.

Some mornings, Elodie wakes up before Joseph, and we bring her into our bed for sleepy cuddles. When Joseph appears in the doorway and clambers in, we remind him that she’s there and to be careful. If she cries, he strokes her tummy. ‘It’s ok, Elodie,’ he says, ‘we are all here’. I’m not sure whether he’s picked it up from Paul or from me, but I am touched every time he says it. Because it is the most important thing, and he says it to soothe her. We are all here. Together.

Tomorrow, blood results permitting, I’ll be having my final chemo session. I’ve made a chocolate crumb cake for the nurses, who’ve been so wonderful and kind. It feels like a big and important step. For some people, this would be the end, but I have quite a long way to go yet. Still, it’s a milestone, and I’ll be treating it as such. Next step, more surgery. But first, a break. And I’m ready for it.

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