A Personal Story – Part 3

My wife Sharon has now had her radioactive iodine treatment and is safe at home reading whilst i type this blog post.  This post may shoot about a bit and i make no apologies for this.

The past 2/3 weeks has been an emotional roller coaster and one which i feel has taught me many lessons about life, love, family, friends and journeys.

Sharon went in to hospital to receive her treatment on Tuesday 2nd September at midday. We all went in to hospital including Ewan and Finley to make sure they were happy about what was happening. She came out on Saturday 13th at 3pm, about 9 days earlier than expected.

Ok, so what happened and how did we get on and what did we tell the kids and how did they manage during this difficult and emotional time?

Firstly, we decided to tell the kids everything, we decided to be open and honest about what was happening and what Sharon had – this was not our original plan but we went to a local cancer charity called “FORCE” which was amazing and humbling. It was after this we decided that the truth was the best way to go with the one exception “Mummy was staying in hospital the whole time” which in fact was not true as she only stayed in for 2 days the rest of the time she stayed at my mothers house and pretended to be at the hospital.  Sharon stayed at my mothers because of the increased levels of radiation she would have and she was not allowed near children during this period of time, hence she stayed at my mums.

We also decided to take Ewan and Finley into hospital the day before Sharon was due to go in so they could see where she was going to stay and meet the doctors and nurses who would be looking after her.  This proved to be a very good thing as it gave our eldest Ewan a visual understanding of where “mummy” was staying for the time she was not at home.

We also decided to tell Ewan that “mummy” had cancer and that it was to be removed and “chopped away” by the special drink, we did this because after reading a very good booklet, it suggested that should you tell a child that mummy has a sore neck, then it may cause them to think that the treatment she receives is what happens for sore necks, which may make them feel very anxious about that in the future, so the truth was best but told in a way that a 4 year old could understand – This also proved to be a very good thing to do.

We also spoke to the nursery head teacher about what was happening to ask for some additional support for Ewan and to help with distractions should we need it when i drop him off in the mornings, this also proved to be a great thing and we really appreciated the extra effort the whole nursery team put in to support, not just Ewan but me during the 11 days that Sharon was eventually away.

What i learnt…..

So many things, it is hard to explain and to really convey the emotional journey i found myself on, it brought back feelings i had when i was a child and doubts i have had about being a “good Dad” for my children. It also enabled me to reflect a huge amount of what is really important in life and who is important for me and my family to help us on our journey.

The doubts i had came from not feeling that my dad was really there for me and not really knowing or seeing what being a Dad was all about, I feel very let down around this but understand that my parents generation were very different and the world was a different place, however i am also aware that many of my friends growing up had “great Dad’s” and i envied what they had and tried to understand what i thought “being a great Dad was all about”. These doubts stayed with me and have held me back since becoming a father myself. The thoughts and concerns i had before sharon went in made me feel very scared about looking after the kids on my own for what was originally thought to be 3 weeks.  Now if anyone ever tells you that being a stay at home parent is not a job then they have obviously never done it. It was a very demanding job and one which i found challenging but very rewarding. The joys a 4 year old and a 2 year old can bring is unrivaled and i thank them from the bottom of my heart for helping me get through this time, as it was there funny jokes or silly dances that kept the smile on my face during the day.  I am such a proud Dad and i feel so humble to have such wonderful children, they are just pure inspiration. If only we could all keep that as adults, i am sure the world would be a different place.

The whole experience proved to me that i am a good dad, in fact i am happy to say a great dad,  although the reflections only came once sharon had come home and we were both trying to understand what we had learnt through this experience.

There were times when i would sit in the front room after putting the kids to bed and i would just cry, some of it was because i missed sharon so much some of it was because of what the boys had said during the day. Ewan would often come up to me and tell me “Daddy you are fantastic and i love you very very very very much”. It was so heart warming and it would get to me at the end of the day.

Another thing we decided to do which helped was that sharon had a phone in hospital so she phoned us up and i would put her on loudspeaker every tea time. The kids found this very funny to begin with, but after the first week Ewan got a bit tired of it and started to refuse to talk as he wanted mummy to come home. We both understood and we didn’t force him to talk, but sharon would still speak to him.  i just remembered another great thing that sharon thought of, before she went into hospital she bought the kids some books and some activity stuff and she wrapped them up and stuck old stamps on them. When sharon phoned up, she would tell them that she had asked a nurse to send the presents she had bought in the hospital shop that they saw when we went in.  This was excellent as they thought it was so cool receiving things from mummy in the post.

After the first week i had a great phone call with Sharon in the evening as i would phone her once the kids were in bed and just talk about stuff, however on one occasion i got very emotional and sharon said such wonderful things and reassured me i was doing a good job, this helped me so much and i thank her for the support she gave me whilst she was recovering.

Once sharon came home, and it was such a great feeling not just for me but for the kids to see mummy again. Sharon read me her diary and we both found that to be a very emotional experience but one which was very rewarding. Sharon is continuing her diary and she has yet to decide whether or not she will put this online or whether to write a reflective experience afterwards (more to come on this i suspect).   We spent the first 2 nights talking and trying to make sense of the whole thing and to try and give meaning to why this had happened. We always look for the positives in every situation, but it is often hard to do this whilst you are still in the process.

My lessons were unexpected in this process but we soon realised that we had both overcome the last remaining hurdles holding us back, spiritually and emotionally. We now both feel reinvigorated and we both have a huge hunger to learn and grow. We have also started to see our children as fellow explorers on lifes journey as we can learn just as much from them as we continue to grow.

The biggest thing i realised was that whilst i was going through this i didn’t feel any urge to learn, share knowledge or even speak to many people, it was almost like i went into an emotional cocoon, to emerge stronger and refreshed.

The only thing we didn’t expect to happen was our dog charm sat by the front doot for the first 4 days waiting for sharon to come back.  After all she is part of the family.

Some final thoughts in this post.

The journey has not yet ended, sharon has another scan in 3 months where we will find out if this treatment worked, but between now and then, we feel stronger, closer and ready to face anything that comes our way.

I am very proud of my family, i am very proud of my wife sharon who has been an inspiration since she found out she had Cancer and i am so happy that she is now seeing herself as i see her.

I am excited about what lays ahead, but am reminded on a saying that Master Oggway in Kung Fu Panda says. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, that is why they call it the present”. I am reminded to live each day as it comes and everyday brings something new to learn and share with people.

This will not be the last post on this subject but it will be the last looking back.

Thank you for reading this and as previously mentioned i do not expect any replies or comments on this post.


a personal story – part 2

Things have progressed a lot since my last post on my wife’s situation.

She has been to see her specialist who has informed us that she might not need radiotherapy which was good news, however she will require Radio iodine. This is the treatment which actually requires Sharon to stay away from the kids for up to 3 weeks, 4 days of that she will be in isolation within the hospital. The date for the treatment is 2nd September so only 4 weeks away until she goes in for her treatment.

One of the challenges this presents to us as a family is what do we tell our 4 year old son Ewan, who during the previous stages – sharon’s operation  – was affected quite badly by what was happening around him, as it was feelings he had never really encountered or felt before.

So our major priority this time round is to ensure that Ewan feels more informed about what is happening, what it means and how long mummy will be away for.  We started this communications earlier this week and he has made me so proud.

We had a plan of how and what we were going to say and Sharon started the process of talking to him on Monday.  This basically reflects the conversation from the feedback i received from Sharon:

Ewan, Mummy’s doctors have said that i have to go back into hospital

Why? Will you need a plaster on your neck again (he expressed concern and looked worried at this point)

No, mummy won’t need a plaster this time round (Ewan’s face changed to relief and started smiling) Well the doctors have said that, there maybe some very little pieces left, so small you would need a special magnifying glass to see them. Mummy will have to take a special drink, which contains a special medicine which will travel all around my body and when it finds the little baddies it chops them up like Kung Fu Panda.

Ewan then proceeded to make chopping noises and karate movements

However, it will also mean that mummy will need to stay in hospital for a long time, and will be looked after by the doctors and nurses. Mummy will even have her own room, so you could draw me pictures.

Ewan then started talking about all the different types of pictures he could draw. Ewan then said – Mummy, me and Finley (our 2 year old son) could bring our pictures into the hospital for you.

You won’t be able to come to the hospital as no one will be allowed to see me other than the doctors and nurses, BUT you could go to the post office with daddy and buy a stamp and then stick your pictures in a big envelope and then post them to me as the hospital.

Ewan’s face lit up and then got really excited about buying a stamp (Kids have the best outlook on life, i don’t think i have ever got excited about buying a stamp before)

The conversation then went on for a little while around this area, sharon mentioned that i will be staying home from work to look after him, Finley and charm (our dog) but he did not seem concerned initially about Sharon going into hospital.  We now just need to continue to the dialogue with Ewan about mummy going into hospital to ensure that the process continues.

The other interesting aspect to this whole event, is the response from friends and family.  What has been nice is to hear people asking how sharon is and how she is feeling etc. But also people are asking how i am and how i feel about the whole thing and how i am coping.

The hardest thing about this for me is the feeling of helplessness, i know i need to be strong for the kids and will be and it will actually be nice to spend some quality time with them during those 3 weeks sharon is away from home.

It is hard to really explain how i feel, but at present i just feel mentally exhausted and i feel very emotional most of the time. I often feel like crying when thinking about what sharon has gone and is going through, after all, the word cancer does trigger emotions based around loss. We are lucky that sharon has a treatable cancer. Most of all though this whole experience makes you realise the important things in life and not that sharon has been close to death, although the specialist did say something which worried me considerably. He did mention that if the cancer has spread and it could move to the lung next and that is not good. I felt like being sick when i heard that. It is a small percentage and is “unlikely” according to the specialist but they have to say these things in order to cover all bases.

On the whole though i feel grateful to still have my wife in good health and the 3 weeks she will be away will be nothing compared to the rest of our lives so it is an easy sacrifice to make.

The next 2 months will be hard and i will be sharing more, sharon has also decided to write down her thoughts and she is keen to share them through the web, perhaps via a blog or a website. Listening to her talk about how she feels and how she wants to get through this is inspiring to me and i only hope that her experiences can help someone else.

A personal story – part 1

Earlier this year my wife Sharon was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer in one of her Thyroid Glands, naturally it was a big shock to us all but we remained positive and hoped that the operation to remove it would go well and it would be fine…

Now I don’t expect comments on these articles because i am using this as a way to share and express how i feel, but if you want to share similar experiences then feel free to post.  I spoke to my wife last night and mentioned that i needed to blog about it to help remove a lot of the “over active” thinking i do.   My wife and I talk all the time (that is one of our strong points), but i am aware that there is only so much talking you can do and my brain thinks about this all the time, why, because she is my wife and i naturally feel feelings of helplessness and fear and loss etc and I love her.

The first operation went well, but they noticed after examining the removed Thyroid that the cancer had spread, so recommended that the second Thyroid be removed as a precautionary measure. There were a number of challenges to get through other than just the operation. the most emotionally challenging was how we managed the children, in particular our eldest Ewan who is 4. he is so connected to his mother that during the period Sharon had her operation and she was recovering at home, he struggled at nursery, struggled at home and we learnt a lot about how we should communicate we our kids. We decide the truth, perhaps not the full detail was the best approach

The second operation went well although they also removed two lymph glands which “looked dodgy” according to the surgeon. However after examining the second Thyroid they said that the cancer had spread further than originally thought, so would need to take further action.

We had ensured that we explained what was happening to “mummy” to Ewan and he was amazing the second time around, partly perhaps due to the experience of the first operation.

The biggest thing we realised was that in the beginning we told Ewan that mummy was going into hospital to get her “baddie” removed and mummy would be better when she come back home.

Now what we didn’t expect was what was really happening for him, let me explain:

  1. Mummy goes into hospital looking fine and feeling fine, after all she wasn’t going to die.
  2. Mummy has operation
  3. Mummy comes home with a very big plaster across her throat where she had a 7/8″ cut.

So what Ewan saw was mummy going to hospital OK and returning home with a big plaster, feeling very tired and unable to cuddle him or pick him up….This does not equate to getting better in Ewan’s eyes…nor does it to me.

So before the second operation we explained that mummy needed to go back in and when she comes back out, she would have another plaster and need time to recover but would be home and able to kiss and cuddle gently.  He was amazing, i am so proud as a dad.

Now the next stage, is that Sharon now needs to have a series of scans, which will highlight any additional cancers or not, but may result in Radiotherapy

Now on one hand this is great that the doctors want to be sure that they get rid of it as best possible, but when we found out what having Radiotherapy would mean, we were, well i was very concerned not just for Sharon, or me, but for the kids and in particular Ewan.

If Sharon does have to go through with radiotherapy, then she is not allowed near children for a minimum of two weeks, which basically means moving out of home for that period. Holy S**T!!  a huge emotional challenge for us all to get through, but we will.

Now this also means that Sharon has to rethink her life, (shopping, buses etc are not options) but it is only for two weeks and we are trying to remain positive and trying to have a laugh about it. I have already used the “Hulk” jokes and wondered whether she could make our allotment veg grow super sized or if she can see read minds or some other ability.

Just as important though, it means we need to work out a plan for the kids  – where will mummy go? We are keen to tell them that mummy is going to have special medicine and isn’t allowed home whilst she is taking it, but we don’t want to say she is close by as they will naturally want to visit.

So this is our current challenge and this is something that worries me daily. I will be blogging about this often so feel free to ignore them, i won’t take it personally.