This is another blog from number 1 daughter who writes so brilliantly. Things have moved on since she wrote this and I have written but not posted some rather dark blogs. However, there is more cheerful news on the horizon which I will be sharing when I am not so tired.
Since we last spoke, you have been in hospital and had a lumpectomy and your lymph nodes removed. You jiggled a plastic cup of red stuff rather cheerfully on Skype last night which has a long tube attached to your armpit. You have been sleepy and dealing with the highs and lows that seem to strike you once the shock is over. I think. I have no idea.
I think you will agree with me when I say, rather irritatedly, that people think all cancer sufferers are the same. It is a common disease, I agree, but if I hear about your close or distant relative one more time, you I fear will be off my Christmas list with a big black stripe across your name. It is not really your fault - rather an automated response mechanism that peculiarly ricochets out of one’s mouth when they hear the big “C” word. Almost like a “please leave a message after the tone” voicemail. You know it’s coming. Beep off.
No it is not the same. Not when it is your flesh, living blood, the most precious and sacrosanct figure in your life (+ 4 other family members), this fragile, yet strong, beautiful thing - my mother - who requires me to hold all my dreams and hopes dear. The very pinnacle of everything you look up to. And this nasty tainted thing (for there is no synonym for the word cancer) has quite literally and viciously kicked the walls down.
You call me the drama queen - you are probably right. Sorry mother.
I am at the stage now where cancer is no longer a word which is lodged in my mouth uncomfortably and uncouth. I can say it without a thick swallow. Just about. I can also be rational and logical for a sustained period of time (most importantly, at work) without needing to breathe fresh air, look up at the sky and say “Why God?” I can stop after two glasses of wine. I can talk quite companionably, laugh out loud, complete a gym session without telling my Personal Trainer to bugger off. Life has gone on. I have half-heartedly gone along with it.
We are now doing the waiting game. The waiting game consists only of a set of dice and it’s a few days before we see which numbers are up. We sit tight - patiently and impatiently - a perfect synchronicity of opposites in play. In the meantime, I revisit and revisit the past.
Last week I was at home and I was stupendously proud of myself for not cracking every time I looked at you. On the last day, you and I went to Helperby to track down an old gravestone which belonged to the ancestor of my godfather’s mother in law - Granny Annie. We sat in the car quietly, clear blue skies and a breeze squeezing itself through the window. Country lanes and fields running past. Birds were probably singing. We did not talk of trivial things - only the important, but we gave them the air of normality. We talked of marriage, family, friendship, life after cancer (for yes, extraordinarily, you have planned that far ahead). The strangest thing which I am still dwelling on, is that you told me that finding out I was deaf was worse than being told you had cancer. It was such a incongruous statement to me. “Me - Deaf. You - Cancer” - it has replayed itself in my head as broken English between two foreigners.
I have no memory of when you were told, nor any understanding of what it is like to be a parent but I can tell you this. I would choose having a mother like you over being able to hear in a heartbeat. Being deaf has taught me the reward of hard work. Being deaf has taught me to be humble and to care about all human beings - the strong and the weak. Being deaf has given me an edge more than any disadvantage I face. Being deaf makes me cherish what I have rather than mourn what I don’t have. This attitude, zeal and sense of life did not come from being deaf but from your conviction that I could have the sun, the moon, the stars and more if I had the confidence, conviction and determination to go and get them. We all know the saying ‘life is a rich tapestry’ - another of those overused cliches - but I truly believe that my life is more enriched for living with broken ears.
When we are little, we don’t know what words mean. After a while, we are told by our parents a ball is something you can bounce. A door becomes something you open. When you grow older, you learn that a ball is also a sphere. It can be made out of different materials. When we are even older, we question the validity of those definitions - is a ball always something you can bounce? Do you always open a door? When I was little, being deaf meant that I couldn’t hear. And that was ok. You told me I had these magical toys in my ears called “ear bugs” that made my ears better. When I was a little older, I realised that being deaf meant that I could do some things but some things I would find a little bit harder. And that was ok too. When I was even older, I questioned the validity in everything you had ever told me - mainly because I was a horrendous teenager - except for one thing; what being deaf meant. Because you had sold me on its meaning from Day 1. Being deaf didn’t mean that I was any less than anybody else. If anything, it made me all the more special. And I have clung, rather egocentrically perhaps, onto those magical words because they reward me with the confidence, conviction and determination to reach for the sun, the moon and the stars. As you want all your children to do. You did it.
So I suck at this waiting game and I don’t know which way the dice are going to fall. But I do take strength from the past. I hold certainty in the way you dealt with all your hurt and pain in other matters, because you did right. You came out strong and you came out on top. I know this because the rest of us have followed you.