The Hardest Thing to Write
Five years ago, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. I was right in the middle of a divorce and navigating a new life as a single mum with these four beautiful children of mine. None of my babies had ever really ever been unwell until that moment in children’s emergency. I had never even thought of children having cancer. But at that point in my life I had a fearless independent soul and I took the challenge on with vigor.
Ava was going to get better. That was it.
We went through that intense treatment doing what we needed to. At the end of her main treatment, I reconnected with my first love and we quickly became a family wrapped up in love, happiness, and wedding planning. The thought of cancer left us. We were empowered by her winning the battle.
In 2013, we took the kids overseas for the first time to Bali. We had our dream wedding overlooking the ocean, and our friends and family marveled at how blessed we were to have come so far. A month later, Ava and I went in for her regular monthly checkup. They kept me waiting for so long, and my mama instinct kicked in. I sat in that room where they were meant to tell us everything was OK and see you next month. That was my safe haven. But this time, they were telling me something was wrong and her blood showed a relapse.
I remember her little eyes watching me intently to see my reaction. She didn’t really understand what was happening. I tried to be calm, but my whole soul inside was screaming and the air left my body. Fear took up residence in my heart that day without my knowing it at the time.
When you go through a relapse, it’s different. The hospitalization is intense and the fear of losing your little child suddenly becomes very real. I had to make so many decisions on her behalf, and I’m forever grateful to my husband, who never left me alone for one moment and always had a hand to steady my knee or big arms to wrap us all in.
During this time, I always had something to worry about. Would she ever smile again? Would she talk to me today? What were her blood counts today? Would we find a donor? Why wasn’t she eating? When would she want to walk again? Would we go to transplant? Were my other children coping?
Our world became a bubble of treatment and immune suppression. Sign this, hold her down, mask on, don’t kiss her on the face, sterilize everything. I remember a chart of medicines, purple gloves, endless isolation, intensive care, that room with the radiation machine, her pale face and fragile body that struggled to walk now.
I had no energy left for anyone else. I became detached from normal life. Things like cooking dinner or homework didn’t even register on my radar. I was hurting so badly inside that I couldn’t feel close to my other children. How do you go for coffee with a girlfriend and talk when how you feel inside is so wounded and raw?
Sometimes, if I got a night off, I would drink way too much, just so I could sleep without dreaming. So I could pass out and just forget for a while.
As we progressed through treatment and she came home, there was still more to worry about. Did she have a fever? Did she look different? I learned how to assess if her white or red blood cells were low just by looking at her. I could judge a fever by a kiss on the forehead. I woke frequently at night to a feeding machine beeping because she stopped feeding herself. Or to just check she was OK. I would watch her sleeping and will all the health and healing I could towards her.
Ava’s treatment progressed well, and she regained her beautiful sparkle. Today, she is vivacious and funny, with a fearlessness only a cancer warrior could possess. It’s a part of her past, but it is not who she is. My daughter had survived cancer, but I was left with the nightmares of the battle. This was so hard for me to reconcile, considering my daughter had been gifted her life back. But I had stopped wanting to hope for anything—and life without hope is tragic.
I was left with an anxious soul, and I knew I had to cure that just as Ava had been cured.
I had gone from being a fearless, independent, happy, earth mama soul who believed the universe had my back to frightened, wounded, and oh so fucking tired. I had let fear rule my life, and I realized it was time to OWN that. Once I owned that fear, it stopped owning me. I looked that pain in the eye, and instead of running from it, I faced it and sent it love. It didn’t happen all at once; it took a daily practice of gratitude, faith, kindness, and self-love.
I tell all my clients BE LOVE in this world. Because when you are love, you get love. Love is the only thing that heals, but it needs to come from ourselves.
I got some counseling so I could stop being scared of what the past had done to my life. I stretched my comfort zone and traveled again. I trusted other people to look after my babies and stopped trying to do it all. I stopped worrying about what other people thought of my actions. I trained my body and pushed my mental limits. I started creating moments of success and triumph in my life to replace those feelings of panic and anxiety. I looked at myself in the mirror and loved me. I stopped expecting perfection and just gave myself a break. I told myself I rocked and that felt so damn good. (Makes me smile even as I just write that!)
Joy and sadness will always touch our lives, and all worry does is steal our time. When I owned my fear, I realized that all the hours I spent worrying about the people I loved and what might go wrong was missed opportunity in actually being with them. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I’m good with that now. I love my little world and all the people in it. I count my blessings. I’m thankful for new chances and a patient family who never let me go.
The universe absolutely has my back. I see that, as it has brought me here. To this space of absolute love, gratitude, trust, and alignment with who I am in the world. To this space of appreciation for the moments. Exactly where I need to be.
Previously published: https://www.invisiblecrown.com.au/single-post/2016/03/30/The-hardest-thing-to-write