I whispered this to my husband on Mother’s Day…
Our daughter had made a lovely card. Pink, with flowers made out of wrapped cardboard on the front. Loved it.
Then I opened the card…
‘I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t have you’
Cue brave smile and big hugs (not to mention wildly blinking eyes).
You see…for the last six years I’ve been in and out of hospital with borderline ovarian cancer. Three major operations and two minor ones have taken a toll on us all. The last was the most shocking…the cyst on my liver was an implant from the ovarian cysts they removed during my emergency hysterectomy.
Our girl has grown up with me recovering from surgery. Grown up in a house with whispered conversations, with concerned neighbours dropping in with food, with the vicar ‘popping round’ for a glass of wine. Not to mention surprise visits from her Canadian family; who, last year arrived in waves. She’d never spent so much time with her adored Uncle Christopher. We thought she was so busy she’d not really see how ill I was.
I’ve explained everything as simply as possible. ‘My internal bits don’t work properly and need fixing or taking out’, ‘something is growing where it shouldn’t, so it needs to come out’, ‘scarring has formed, so some bits are attached that shouldn’t be, so I’m in pain and need surgery to fix it’.
Since it was borderline, rather than cancer ‘proper’, I’m lucky. No chemo, no radiotherapy. Just cut the cysts out before they turn into something much nastier. Hospital appointments are part of our lives…every four months for me, but also for her due to reflux. For the moment everything is fine – no sign of anything returning, so we’re feeling pretty confident. We always did our best to keep up the appearance of normality…as much as you can when using a walking stick to get to school.
On the surface she seems fine. Doing well at school, surrounded by good, solid friends, hobbies she loves. I thought we’d weathered it all without her understanding how serious things might have been…we’d hidden our concern behind activity as we waited for biopsy results. Busy, busy, as we waited to find out if it was really really bad news or just our version of nasty and exhausting.
But now I wonder…do most 9 year olds write that in a Mother’s Day card?
Those words haunt me now…because it’s what my husband and I discussed late one night when we weren’t feeling strong. How would they cope without me?
Maybe I’m reading too much into this; or maybe we’re not as clever as we think…