I can remember reading a while back that people who write blogs about cancer tend to go a bit quiet when the patient is on Maintenance. Meaning that after the intense beginning and working through your thoughts, things are some what calmer in the later stages of treatment.
This has definitely been true of this blog. Apologies for the radio silence. It has certainly been a while.
I wish there were some great reason, that we’ve all been incredibly busy doing exiting things, but the truth is that we’ve been getting on with life. And, to be honest I shouldn’t really apologise for that.
I was initially going to write that nothing much had been happening but something struck me this morning when we dropped Poppy off at nursery, something extraordinary has actually happened…
Our Poppy’s back.
To try to explain what I mean, is to say that we’ve got a happy and healthy child who despite still being on treatment for Leukaemia is playing with her friends, and running around happily. In short she’s doing exactly what any four year old should be doing. Without having to feel rubbish or miss out as she’s in hospital. I genuinely never expected this yet. I don’t honestly know if I expected it at all.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what happened or when. But, over the last month or so the change in our Popster has been incredible. The shy and quiet little girl who wouldn’t look at anyone when they spoke to her, let alone think about speaking to them, has morphed into a cheeky, happy chatterbox. The confidence she has around people is something I never thought we would witness in Poppy.
She is hardly ever quiet these days. She seems to skip everywhere. She’s getting a bit mischievous and is fiercely independent. In short she’s doing what children her age are supposed to be doing.
She had a bit of a tantrum yesterday and I found myself wondering what on earth could have caused it. It wasn’t steroid week and she wasn’t tired from chemo. I even questioned if her bloods were getting a bit low till it dawned on me. There doesn’t have to be a cancer related reason. She’s just being four.
That was a bit of a revelation. I suppose we’ve got to adjust our mindsets too. She’s not always going to be this fragile little thing who needs special treatment, or kid gloves. Far from it, as yesterday’s paddy would attest.
Others have noticed and commented on the change too. Her nursery teacher came and told me how she has come out of her shell in class, how she’s interacting and playing happily with the other children. It was news in the early days of nursery we never thought we’d hear.
Family members have also witnessed the change in Poppy. She trotted off to her Auntie Karen’s the other week without so much as a glance back in my direction. My brother and sister in law were in the UK this month, and couldn’t believe the change in her. Poppy actually sent me back in the house so she could spend some quality time with ‘auntie’ Matthew by herself. When previously they’d have counted themselves lucky if she gave them as much as a frown.
Even other parents at nursery have noticed the transformation in her. As my friend put it, it’s like we’ve got a different child.
I don’t know if I ever thought we would get our pops back. I’d imagined an almost watered down version of the little girl we had before cancer came along. Presumably it has changed her? But, perhaps the only advantage of her being ill when she was so young, was that she’s still young enough to grow. To develop into the person she’s always meant to be, despite being ill. Rather than because of it? Or, perhaps you just can’t fight fate / genes/ whatever and nothing was going to hold her back and stop her being who she was always going to be?
When your child starts treatment for cancer, you are essentially handing them into the care of others. Which is difficult enough as it is, but you wonder who you’re going to be handed back at the end of it. It skews your version of events, this isn’t how a childhood is supposed to be. I think I’ll always feel bitter about what I feel she’s missed out on. But as we’ve mused in the past, Poppy doesn’t really know any different. Perhaps in her mind all children go to hospital and play with toys there? Like another rite of passage.
The version I knew of Poppy before she got ill seems so far away now. She was still practically a baby. She was tiny, still in nappies and I was still using a pushchair when I took her out. These days she is obsessed with using the toilet, never shuts up and wants to go everywhere on her bike. Her most used phrase is “I must do this all by myself”. And it’s great. But getting to this point in her time line is blighted by what she’s gone through in the meantime. And yet, when I look at her she doesn’t look ill. I don’t ever forget what she’s got going on, but it’s not the first thing I think about everyday. And I certainly never ever thought that would happen.
I hope she’s not defined by what she is going through. She’s so much more than a cancer patient. First and foremost she’s Poppy. She’s a daughter, a granddaughter, big sister to Oscar and little sister to Zain and Bully. She’s a niece, god daughter and a friend. She’s the girl with the cheeky grin incredible hair again.
I don’t want to sound blasé or as though I’m taking it as a given that everything will be alright. But, when I see Poppy doing as well as she is doing then it’s impossible not to feel positive and start to believe that the end may finally be in sight.