When Poppy’s first intensive week of treatment had finished and we returned home she wasn’t the girl we’d taken into hospital. She had no energy or enthusiasm for anything. She only got up to eat.
She spent most of the days lying on the sofa, then would get up to go to bed. Heartbreakingly it was around this time that she told me in a very quiet voice that she “felt sad”. An emotion I’d never heard her express before, and yet again I felt so powerless to help.
We thought dejectedly that this is how she would be during her treatment. But what transpired was that she was actually feeling ill, she was just unable to tell us. After a six night stay in hospital and a course of antibiotics, she returned home and very, very slowly started to come around.
Things we’d taken for granted in the past were now massively encouraging signs. And this made us hopeful that we were starting to see our little girl return.
Whilst there was no running around as yet or the crazy Poppy antics of the past, we’d started to see an enthusiasm for her toys and games. It was so heart warming to hear that she wanted to do such a simple thing as play.
Our recently inherited dining table proved invaluable. It’s now became Poppy’s ‘workstation’. Activities she could do stationed at the table were the order of the day. Whole days now consisted of painting, glueing, play doh. Over and over, on repeat.
It was sometime in March when on a whim we decided to go to Sefton park and feed the ducks. We wrapped up warm and didn’t stay long, but whilst we were out it dawned on me that this was the first time the four of us had been out – other than to the hospital, since before Poppy’s diagnosis. I felt this small outing was, to me a ray of hope in what had been a gloomy time.
Gradually seemingly small things started to happen. Things that may have gone unnoticed to others as they seemed so insignificant felt like a change was taking place within her, and that progress was being made.
I’d taken Poppy to the shops in the pushchair and out of nowhere she asked to go to the swings at the top of our street. More than willing to oblige I prayed that this was some kind of sign that just maybe things were starting to return to normal.
If I think back to when I’d try and sneak past those swings as I was in a hurry to get home, I get so cross at myself that I’d denied her of those times. Looking back, what could have been more important than having some fun? What was the hurry? Had I wasted so many opportunities thinking that there would always be another time to do these things?
I know hindsight is a valuable thing, but I can’t help but feel guilty. That I’d lost sight of what really mattered as I got distracted by everyday life.
As the weeks went on I started to see more small steps being taken. Poppy wanting to play in her bedroom again. Or sleeping through the night after all the disturbed nights in hospital had messed with her routine. I started to see her interacting with visitors once more, and the clingy ways she’d displayed to me and Kevin started to go. Such innocuous things like wanting a bath, bouncing on our bed and climbing up and down the stairs by herself seemed like huge hurdles which she’d overcome. As ever, our Poppy had set the pace and done things her way and in her own good time. I shouldn’t have worried, but when you get a diagnosis of cancer you feel your life will never truly be the same again. Worrying becomes your default setting.
Here we are four months later and it’s remarkable how far she’s come. As I watch her playing and laughing, or even being naughty she’s a million miles from that sad little girl, who’s face was swollen from the steroids and couldn’t walk from the sofa to the table.
And whilst I’m not trying to say that all of her treatment has been a walk in the park, or we have it easy. She’s still facing incredibly big challenges for someone so young. But the little things which I’d taken for granted in the past now give me hope and I do my best to take the time to savour every moment and appreciate our daughter in every way.
One of the reasons I wanted to post about these little things is to show others going through a similar time that, despite difficult beginnings things really can get somewhat better. And, in the main because after that first trip to feed the ducks something a friend said to me at the time really resonates today…
Small steps are actually big ones in disguise.