Cancer and Christmas

Happy New Years.. It is hard to imagine but I have actually had one of the best Christmas’s ever. And the reason.. my family. We managed to celebrate together. I got to cook dinner, (with a lot of help obviously) Last night because my brother is home from Canada we decided to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary together and ring in the new year. We had an 80’s theme as my parents got married on the 14th of February 1982. They are an amazing couple and the best parents to all five of us. And very popular grandparents to the three grandchildren they have and the one on the way. I think a massive reason my siblings have such successful relationships and I with my friends is down to similar families in terms of morals and decency. This is also why we are able to stumble through the fog of cancer, illness and everything else life throughs at us and still be there for each other. Now we are not perfect, even last night I was possibly referred to as a dictator as I tried to run the show as usual… Flash backs to my brother in law in his wedding speech referring to me as HITLER… 🙂 I may or may not be a little bossy. I hope everyone whatever they did and whoever they did it with had a lovely new years eve and day. I met a couple of friends  for a stroll, sea air and a little picnic today and it was magic. Just what the head  needed but we were super safe, no hugs, kisses and keeping the distance. But just being in the presence of my girls improves everything. 

I woke the other morning with a stabbing pain across my abdomen and my lower back. Unfortunately this is becoming more regular than I would like. I shimmied myself to the bathroom but couldn’t go (too much information I know but my bowl movements are a direct indicator of likely levels of pain in a given day), crawled back to bed moaning and groaning hoping the pain would subside. I couldn’t even reach my medicine which was right beside me, my lovely sister had to get it for me. It was tear making pain. Then I get this ridiculous overwhelming feeling of guilt, guilt that I need help from the 33 weeks pregnant person, guilt that I take so much attention from the family and guilt that I can’t be the mam I want to be or that Séamus needs me to be. But then I dig deep and realise its not my fault, it is in fact nobodies fault. That is the thing about Cancer it doesn’t give a tiny f*ck about your circumstances, your age, your history, .. anything. It is a giant wrecking ball that destroys everything in its path.  

For the last few months I have been concentrating on Christmas. I think it is so important that I have something in the future to plan and look forward to, even if it doesn’t happen. I LOVE Christmas and not knowing whether this will be my last or not made me determined to make the very most of it. Séamus is building his own gaming PC and has been saving for some time and asked his aunties and uncles for money this year instead of gifts. I believe the Graphics card is the last outstanding item but also the one that is impossible to come by.  I am super proud of Séamus, his plan to build the pc and then the steps along the way. He has been very well behaved and very appreciative of everything sent his way. I bought him everything he would have liked but to be fare wouldn’t of asked for. I enjoy the gift giving any day of the week, Seeing true surprise across Séamus’s face made my Christmas. Now I know Christmas is not about physical things and is all about love and family. BUT this year I wanted to physically spoil him which I think I achieved. Biggest hit is Oculus Quest 2 VR (massive thanks to Sarah for bringing it home from Canada) and the AirPods. My personal favourite is Hogwarts Castle LEGO which I hope to make with him. Please don’t think I am boasting or that it is a competition. This is an exceptional year for us and I would not usually spend this amount. In saying that as the years have gone on I have spent more at Christmas because when he was small I had no budget and trying very hard to get Santa’s list filled. 

I have been a single mother for the majority of Séamus’s life. I have felt shame over it in the past but now I feel nothing but pride for how I dealt with the having a baby by myself. I see the support my sister and best friend have from their husbands during their pregnancies and have no doubt this will continue and grow as the babies arrive. When I compare this to my experience it could not be more different. But I would do it all over again every single time. Single parents have a hard job, they are the baddy, the goody, often the Mam and the Dad all while trying to be as good as the next mam/dad. It can be a lonely place to be and don’t kid yourself we are aware of the things people say wether with words or just with looks. I know I heard more than once I got myself pregnant. Now … How have I not got some kinda medical achievement award? No matter how it happened it is the best thing I’ve ever done. Since I was diagnosed I have major guilt over this.. It would have been better if I never had him then to put him through this shite…. Then I get a grip and think how lucky I have been to have him. Séamus is the best person I know, He has a brilliant sarcastic sense of humour and brightens anybodies day (well not in the AM, he is NOT a morning person). When I begin to feel sorry for myself, When the pain is bad or when I just feel like I’ve had ENOUGH I find Séamus steal a hug and remind myself of his shitty load and I reset myself and muster up some positive energy to get me through. 

The picture below shows my house when seamus was about 5 or 6 Look at that smile 🙂 . You will see there isn’t much going on in terms of decor or high end electronics in my house. This came up last week as a Facebook memory and I laughed and said something like ‘The state of my house’ to myself. Then I took a second and I remembered how at that time. I would meet my friends for a drink and steel a couple of vodkas in my handbag because I had no money left. I would have done Santy shopping, and left myself virtually nothing after bills. I recently read a story about period poverty and how it is a real thing and you know initially you think how can that be a thing…. But then I think back to my own past and IF I paid all my bills on time I would permanently be a minus. The goal was to permanently try and balance the books just long enough to keep myself out of hot water.  I remember one year Séamus lost a tooth and I forgot to get cash out and was heading to bed when I remembered I had no cash. I got so upset and felt like a failure. Then I texted a neighbour who’s son was in Séamus’s class at the time and explained the situation and asked could I borrow a €2 coin for the tooth fairy. Of course Susan said yeah and she probably never thought of it again. I felt like the world was judging me for not being better prepared and having to borrow €2 until I got the the shop the following morning. I was ashamed that Susan would think I had no money blah blah. blah.. anxiety spiralling out of control. So period poverty isn’t too hard to believe really particularly when I often found myself so broke I was too embarrassed to tell anyone even family back when I was working, studying and running a house on nothing. I suppose I just wanted to highlight that because I don’t think people share these experiences and then everyone thinks the other half are living some unachievable lifestyle when really for the most part people are just fumbling along living their best life balancing the books one day at a time…. Doing their best which is all we can do. And that all mammies and daddies deserve a round of applause and it would be nice to think of the single mams and dads getting a little extra round of applause. You know when John passed away and left Séamus with just me as a parent the support from the state equaled a grand zero. This still remains by biggest bug bear and had I not been unwell I think I would have fought harder. A couple could be married for year have a child or children and then be separated for years and unfortunately one could pass away, this child will get supported from the state. A couple could get married have babies and unfortunately one parent could die and their children get supported. BUT my son loses his father and because we never get married he never got supported. WHY? Genuinely? Does his tummy need less food, feet less shoes?? I am extremely fortunate that I took out life insurance some years back and now that he looses both parents he can get orphans allowance. (I hate that word) But I feel that every time we allow a policy stand that cherry picks children from society to be taken care of we let them and our future children down. God that was a lot of talk about single parenting apologies if of no interest.

Anyway as you know us Rushe’s do nothing by half.. This year my brother Eoin came home with his partner Laura and my Niece Saoirse and Nephew James for a month from Canada. We followed all the rules. They got negative tests, quarantined etc…. Then days before Christmas Saoirse got brought to the Dr on call, they thought it was viral but sent for covid test as a precaution but the Dr really didn’t think there was anything to worry about… then yeah you guessed it.. the test was positive. This was super scary for Saoirse’s mam & dad obviously, then for the rest of us… I lost the run of myself and was hysterical. It took me a while to settle. It was nobodies fault, We have zero clue where the covid came from. The entire family was tested twice and nobody else got a positive result. It was scary to think that when I am seeing virtually no-one, doing nothing and covid still knocked on our door. What was strange was I felt like I was going to die… from Covid, like I felt scared to die imminently. Cancer hasn’t had me so scared but covid did. Our plans for a family Christmas were over but at least we were all healthy. I also had a scare as I got a fever and ended up in A&E in the Mater which was scary. I had to go in by myself and there is a tent set up for covid but kinda felt like a war scene. Dramatic much? Anyway this was all in the lead up to Christmas. Christmas Eve Eve my pain was at about 100 out of 10. And I thought Christmas was set to be ruined. But I was surrounded by family and dug extra deep for some reprieve. Christmas Day was just fantastic I ate, slept, relaxed, even managed a glass of wine and I got to cook dinner which was something I really wanted to do but didn’t think I would be fit to. It was the first time I’ve had Christmas in my house as my parents house is bigger and better suited for us all but Séamus asked if we could have Christmas at home and we all agreed. It did involve the fridge being moved in the sitting room to make room but sure there are worse things 🙂 I wanted to give a massive shout out to everyone who was so generous in the run up to Christmas I got gifted a Turkey and Ham from Tuites, and many many other gifts. 

It is a very challenging time for me mentally a lot of the time and the messages of support I get mean the absolute world to me and really really really give me strength to continue this battle. This coming two weeks is set to be challenging and as I continue to think about my future clouded in fear please continue the candles and prayers I feel them. I have a scan on Monday with the results at Chemo on Thursday. This will determine if my cancer is reacting to the chemo regime in a manner that we can continue with or do we need to go back to the drawing board? Then the following week I have scans to get some radiotherapy to help reduce the pain. This scares me a bit I think because I really though it would cure me last time and didn’t but it did give me time.. Anyways if I could have a mention in your prayers and some candles lit they help. I still carry around gift I got for my last battle to help keep us all safe. 

I just want time. I will take all the pain (Thank god for pain medication including the marijuana kind) medicine and undertake any challenge if it give me any more time with my family. I often have thought how will they know?.. Followed by a million crazy notions to do with Séamus.. he is 14 and I have so many hopes and dreams for him to be happy, loved and cared for I just need to be ok with the fact that it won’t be me physically holding his hand (as if he’d let me anyway 🙂 ) but from wherever I end up I will always be sending love and instruction to those caring for my baby. 

Lots of Love

Eileen xxx

PS As covid remain, post Christmas, post new years blues can set in. so mind each other but most importantly mind yourself. boobs, groins, penis’s, CHECK EVERYWHERE and get smears and any other programmes that exist for your age group get involved. It didn’t work out for me but it did find the cancer… Look at your loved ones and think if I get treated for abnormal cells I can have 90% chance of survival to see my family grow old.

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