Clever hey? Che-mother-apy. The word ‘mother’ sandwiched smugly into the poisonous cancer treatment word like the two are supposed to work swimmingly together? Like one wouldn’t make sense without the other. It’s like they’re meant to be a part of one another. Well let me tell you something… they’re not my friends. It feels at times wholly impossible to be in chemo recovery AND build dens in the lounge for the imaginary snow leopards that live there. Not to mention when your son’s school calls to say that he’s successfully run into a concrete post and you have to take him to hospital..but you’ve only just left hospital yourself. Then two weeks later he gets a strange rash which means another trip to the dr…whilst not touching him because you’re immune system is shot to bits. The fun doesn’t end.
(Left: Archie’s black eye Right: Archie’s weird rash)
However, there are some similarities between the two though which makes me ponder whether the word che’mother’apy wasn’t just a slip of the old biro. For example…
- In BC years (Before Children / Before Chemo) you were your own boss. Your diary was yours. Then overnight your life is hijacked and you’re no longer able to do anything solely for you anymore. For as many medical appointments and procedures that are scheduled there’s a matched number of feeding times, kid’s parties and homework duties (incidentally all can be equally painful but necessary).
(left: Me in chemo Right: Me 10 years ago feeding my son)
2. In your prime BC era your chat was more about your interests like shopping and nights out…now the main thing people talk to you about is your new world.
(Pictures: Left: My new NCT Friends and their babies. Right: My chemo buddies)
3.Your diet changes in equal measure and everyone has an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t be eating. ‘When you breastfeed, eat plenty of curry so the baby gets used to spicy food’ ‘Stop eating too much red meat…it can cause more cancer’ (nonsense obvs).
4. You make new friends in a whole new world. A world so far away from the one you knew.
(Pictures: Left: My midwife team who delivered Archie. Right: One of my amazing chemo nurses)
5. You suddenly feel like you have to be more sensible and responsible (yawn) and drink less (double yawn)
6. You feel like your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. You have no control over the huge unsightly changes taking place (post baby saggy tummy / bald head / scarred body )
(Pictures: Top Left: My tummy post baby. Top Right: My boobs after having first baby..yes they’re nappies which soaked up the excess milk I had. Bottom Left and Middle: My hair starting to fall after 1st chemo session. Bottom Right: My scars and bruising where chemo port was inserted)
7. You get sick more often (thanks chemo and thanks germy kids)
8. They’re both designed to bring out the best in you but it’s often very hard to see
9. Both can keep you up at night and you’re constantly knackered
10. You WOULDN’T and couldn’t live without either
Now I know i’ve said that chemo and motherhood shouldn’t go together but the similarities are strong right? As impossible as it seems i’m slowly starting to learn that the two things combined, like the che-mother-apy word itself have been the exact cocktail of life learning that I needed.
Without wanting to sound too earnest i’ve never before been so acutely interested in making a den in the lounge. Never before have I said yes to eating pizza in front of the TV (yes i know, i’m too anal, but my velvet sofa is beautiful as it is without cheese grease on it). Never before have I asked the kids what they dreamed about last night and then turned it into a song for them (no i won’t share it – chemo has taken my Adele-esque voice which I honestly promisely used to have). These little things, these teeny tiny things have been brought to me by my cancer treatment. Being so debilitated and made to feel so wretched has only allowed me to do small things with the kids but I can see the benefit of it in their eyes and mood. Chemo has stopped me going to soft plays and play farms where i’d normally go, ignore my kids and catch up with other mums (don’t get me wrong…i still want to ignore them
loads sometimes…my cancer hasn’t made them angels) but it’s like i’ve gone back to basics. Sometimes I can only lie down or sit but I can read stories, talk, watch, listen and to my three nutters that’s everything.
And yes it’s a blimin ridiculous challenge when it’s the school harvest festival and the food I have to buy and donate makes me want to spew, or a football match I have to stand on the sidelines of and my bottom is like Niagra Falls, or a halloween fancy dress day at school and chemo brain has made me completely forget. This isn’t a moan but what it reminds me is that life has to go on and it’s still going on and it’s so worth going on for. So bring it on che’mother’apy. You’re like the worst and best thing all rolled into one. Yeah you kill me but you remind me of what I love about life. So every cloud and all that jazz wazz.
MY ADVICE ON COPING WITH YOUNG KIDS AND CHEMO
*Keep a diary of your recovery pattern after your first chemo session as this is likely to repeat itself throughout your course. Use this as a guide on when you can achieve playdates / birthday parties / helping in class etc.
*If you have an important event with your family (like a birthday/wedding) then speak to your oncologist about postponing or delaying a treatment if it means you can do it without feeling ill. I did this for a funeral and it meant that I was feeling well enough to go.
*Don’t make the mistake I too often did and fight the bad days. I learnt to give in to them in the end because sometimes I couldn’t do anything except rest. Mentally it can make yourself feel worse to try and struggle through a situation when really you should be in bed.
*Keep talking and explaining your treatment to your children so that they understand why you’re sleeping more or why you’re losing your hair. Depending on their age it should soon becomes their normal. My kids are 9, 7 & 5 and they adapted fairly quickly.
*I found my kids needed me more emotionally so I massively cut corners on cooking. I bought a fair amount of healthy precooked meals so I wasn’t stood in the kitchen too long.
*Luckily my children were all at school so I was able to sleep/rest during the day meaning that I had a bit more energy for when they get home. If your children are pre-school then see if a friend or relative could help you out (sounds obvious but us parents often don’t like asking for help).
*We kept a chemo chart on the wall with my 16 chemo sessions marked on it. Each time I came home from the hospital the kids would put stickers on tick off the next session. They used that as a reminder of when i’m going to be through the worst bit.