I was aware of the first anniversary of my cancer diagnosis looming, of course, but the week leading up to it was a busy one. We had a series of friends visiting, and things were a bit chaotic. The day itself was a Saturday. We had three friends staying, plus a three-month-old baby. I took Joseph to a birthday party in the morning, where I made the mistake of pretending to be a monster and chasing a group of three-year-olds around the multi-level soft play structure, and then spent the rest of the party being asked to be a monster again several thousand times. On the way home, we called in to see my sister. She’s moved from a hospital in Leicester to a care centre in Loughborough, which is much closer to home.
And then, in the middle of the afternoon, I escaped from my life for a few hours with two friends with whom I love spending time. We drove ten minutes and ended up a million miles away, at Ragdale Hall spa, where we chatted on loungers, lazed in the outdoor pool and sweated in the steam room before heading off for blissful treatments and a lovely dinner. Living so close to Ragdale Hall, I go there every chance I get, and I never want to leave.
Back when we booked this particular trip, I imagined I’d spend the time away from my hectic daily life reflecting on the past year, but I didn’t. I just enjoyed the peace and the company and the luxury of it all. It’s funny, there is reflecting to do, and it’s important to process everything that’s happened and to feel lucky and sad and worried, but I do it every day. While I’m cooking dinner or bathing the children or walking to playgroup. I don’t need to set aside time for it. I’d thought that day would feel different, somehow, but it was just a day. I hope there’ll be many more like it.
A couple of nights ago, I was reading Joseph a bedtime story and there was a mention of things in life that can hurt you. ‘What can hurt you?’ he asked. I didn’t know where to start, or what he was ready to hear. ‘If you get poorly,’ I said, after a pause. ‘Like stinging nettles,’ he said. ‘They hurt a lot.’ He’d fallen into a patch of stinging nettles a few days before, and they were much on his mind. ‘Yes,’ I told him, ‘like stinging nettles.’ I’m glad the things that have happened to me and Rach didn’t come to mind. He’s been shielded from the worst of it.
He asked me a while ago about what had happened to Rachel. I told him it was called a stroke, and a few minutes later he referred to it as a hug. For him, the word stroke is a positive one, meaning a gentle touch, a bit like a hug. In time, he’ll come to understand the truth of it all, of course. But for now, it’s ok by me that he thinks about it all in this way.
Elodie continues to behave nothing like a premature baby might. She’s tall and strong, and although she can crawl, now, she doesn’t want to. She’s trying to walk with our help whenever she can, and she often stands for much longer than she should with no support. She’s in the process of having settling-in sessions at the nursery Joseph goes to, and will be starting there properly in a couple of weeks.
After an initial failed attempt to find the ports to inject saline into my breast implants, I’ve had two successful ‘inflations’. The process isn’t much fun, involving two doctors, an ultrasound machine and a big needle. But the breasts are starting to look and feel a little more like they should. And the next inflation will be my last.
Things feel calmer, on the whole. There are still appointments to go to, blood tests to have, medications to take. I don’t feel it’s all behind me just yet. Perhaps I never will. I feel changed. On good days, I’m positive about those changes, and on bad days I feel like a lot has been taken from me and nothing has really been gained. Rachel said the other day that all this is a test. I don’t know about that, but I’m proud of how we’re fighting, how we’re winning.