Christmas is on it’s way

Today we have been making preparations for Christmas. Yesterday I bought a few items to make the house a little more Christmas like. The first thing I did this morning was to put up a few decorations.

In previous years we spent Christmas together at the house I shared with my husband. My sons and their partners would visit either just for the day or for a couple of days.

Last year was my first Christmas living with Mum. We didn’t have a tree. Mum hasn’t bothered in recent years other than her wreath for the front door and a Christmas candle bridge for the dining room window. I left all my decorations behind when I left.christmas 2019

This year although we are getting together with my sons and families for lunch on Christmas Eve. Three of my sons will be visiting us for Christmas morning before going their separate ways. My little grandson who will be almost 20 months will be here. I know he is still too young to understand what is going on but I want to make it nice for his visit.

During the morning we both set about filling gift bags for various family members. Mine are still upstairs but we now have a crowd of festive bags in a corner of the room.

Do you have family traditions that you always follow on Christmas day?

There have been times when I have wanted to change things about but my sons have been very resistant to any change.

The day usually begins with Bacon rolls for breakfast. (I’m not sure how or when this began). Once everyone has assembled either from bedrooms or arriving from else where. Snacks are available for anyone who wants them. While the turkey is cooking we gather round for the distribution of gifts. It generally falls to my youngest to hand out the gifts. It starts out being one at a time but gradually speeds up. Once everyone has opened all the presents and the wrapping have been disposed of there is time to chat and catch up on everyone’s news before lunch is served. Now that my sons are all adults there is no need to find batteries for toys. I think that will soon change again.

After lunch the chat continues until someone decides it’s time to start playing board games. The Queens speech is watched even if we are still eating at the time. In the evening there are sandwiches, mince pies and Christmas cake if anyone has room.We watch Eastenders either before or after I become chauffeur depending on timings.

This year things will be different as we are having our big meal the day before. We will probably have a nap in the afternoon once it is only us and possibly just one of my sons.

 

1995

At the start of 1995 I lost my father. He had a heart attack and died just a month after his 55th birthday. I can’t believe that was almost 25 years ago. In March I discovered that I was pregnant again. I already had 3 young sons (it hadn’t been my intention to increase my family). This baby was due on 16th December (my father’s birthday). Of course we told the boys that this baby was a gift from their Grandpa. This year, 2019, my father would have been 80 on 16th December.

Because I had had two babies by caesarean section, plus I also have a propensity to have big babies, it was decided that I should have this baby by elected caesarean early to prevent the chance of an early labour.

So it was that, early on the morning of Friday 1st December 1995, my husband drove me to the hospital where I was booked in for the birth of my fourth child. In those days we didn’t routinely know the gender of our baby before we met in person. Having 3 sons I was convinced that if this child was another boy I would suffer from postnatal blues. I had asked to be sterilized during the birth process. I enjoyed pregnancy but felt that I shouldn’t put my body through any more pregnancies. This decision meant that if I had another son I knew I would therefore never have a daughter. I love my sons and don’t regret having any of them but I knew that in later years I would have no daughter to do girly things with. My life ahead would be football orientated. (Which it was).

I remember being prepared for theatre and telling the nurse that I don’t want to do this. “I know about dirty nappies and broken nights, I don’t want to do that again.” Laughing she told me it was a bit late for that now. I was then wheeled out of the room leaving my husband behind. Although I was having an epidural he wouldn’t be joining me, as my third son was being dropped off by Grannie, while she went off to a meeting having taken my elder sons to school. It was his turn to look after our young son.

It wasn’t long before I was given my 4th son. It was a day before we had a name for him. He was a healthy 7lb 7oz even though he was 16 days early. Although he wasn’t the daughter I had hoped for I loved that baby boy from the very second I met him all slippery and red.

I have now had 24 years of love for and from that boy. I feel very lucky to have this child (now an adult) in my life. I do love all my boys more than anything or anyone else (except my grandchildren). However this boy and I have been through some challenges together. He was only 5 and not long started school when I was told that I had stage III cancer. His father had told our boys that “Mummy is going to die” Obviously I didn’t. Then a few years down the line my marriage collapsed. This little boy of mine refused to go to school most days saying that he was ill. In time it was discovered that his reluctance to go to school was because he was scared that if he left my side he would lose me.

You see although I had filed for divorce from my alcoholic emotionally abusive (now known as Coersive control) husband. We were still living in the same house. I had moved out of the marital bedroom and slept on the sofa for months. My husband had made many threats to my life. This little boy only 9 years old witnessed things a child should never see. He wanted to protect me from the kitchen knife that was being used to threaten me with, among other things. He was the one who wiped my face clean after his father had spat in my face.

Once their father aka The other parent had moved out of the house, life calmed down a little. As my boy grew older he was afraid that he might turn out like his Dad. I knew that just the worry of that meant that he wouldn’t. He is a very caring lad. He worries about everything. The 5 years between the other parent leaving and our divorce being finalised and me meeting husband number 2. My four boys and I were happy even though life was tough.

Then I met husband number 2 and moved my baby boy away from his friends. He was not happy. It didn’t help that 2nd husband was a very reluctant step father. He didn’t make life very pleasant for my two younger boys who were living with us before going to Uni. I felt very guilty for everything my little boy ( a strapping 16/17 year old by then) had been through in his life. He was very unhappy. When he finished college he went of to University in Southampton. By the second year of Uni his anxiety problems had become so extreme that he was often sick in the mornings. I spent many hours trying to give him a sense of peace so that he could cope with life.

18 months ago he left Uni and moved into a flat with his girlfriend. He tried to find work to support them both. He did have interviews and even job offers but his anxiety problems got in the way. He was so unhappy, he desperately wanted everyone to be proud of him. He wanted to be able to support himself and his girlfriend. Finally last winter he got a job that he was able to keep hold of. He didn’t enjoy it and the travelling was a problem but he kept going even though his hours kept being cut. I am please to say that they are both now working in places that they are happy in and the pay has increased for them both.

Throughout everything that my boy has been through he has been there for me when I need support. I know that all my boys love and care about me. This young man just gets me. Maybe it is the many many hours we have spent talking things through. All the time I have supported him. It doesn’t matter what the situation he can vocalise my thoughts and feelings as though he can see inside my head. I will and do do anything I can to make his life better for him.

A few days ago I told him that I am lucky to have him in my life. His reply…

“We are all so lucky to have you in our life. We could never neglect you or allow anything to happen to you without the best care we can give.”

How could I not love this young man. I am so proud to be his mother.

Happy birthday sweetheart. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Enjoy your evening with your friends.

Here’s to a great future for my lovely son

Lots of love Mum xxxx

Joe

Early days of motherhood

I have been reading a book about a ‘Mummy Blogger’. In this book an aspiring writer is thrown into motherhood sooner than she was prepared for with the early birth of her daughter. She begins writing a blog about life with her new daughter. I have reached a chapter where she describes being incredibly lonely once the first visits from family and friends have dwindled and her husband is back at work. She spends a lot of time speaking to her husband on the phone whilst he is meant to be working.

Reading this has got me thinking about what it was like for me as a new mother for the first time. I had moved from Kent to Hampshire and was staying with my parents for the first few months. My father was commuting weekly between Hampshire and Kent for work. The father of my baby had been made redundant from his job. He hadn’t decided until my son was born whether he wanted to be a father. He was splitting his time between Kent and Hampshire until he found a job in Hampshire. I was alone all day Monday to Friday while everyone else was working. I didn’t know anyone locally, I didn’t have access to my own friends. This was in the days before mobile phones and even the internet . My days were revolved around my little baby boy. He was one of those babies that doesn’t want to sleep.

When he was 4 months old the three of us moved into a bungalow about 5 miles from my parents’ house. If I thought I was lonely before the loneliness was about to increase a notch. Now I found myself living in an old farm house with no neighbours. We had fields on two sides, woods on the other side and a Household Waste site across the road. My only access to a phone was the Public Telephone five minute walk away. I had no transport as my son’s father was using it for work. At least I had had my mum to talk to in the evenings and weekends before but on the plus side I didn’t need to worry about my baby crying now. I was the only one who heard him now.

Life did improve when I started working in a local DIY store down the road at weekends. My baby would be with his dad and I would be with other adults. I made a couple of friends who also had young children/babies. I’m trying to search my memory (this was 31 years ago). Both these women lived at the other side of the large village/small town. I walked everywhere in those days but I don’t think I would have walked that far. Maybe I did. More likely they came to visit me more often. Later in my son’s life I had the use of a car so I could drive everywhere but by then we had moved again to another village 3 miles from my parents’ in the opposite direction.

This little boy of mine now has a two month old daughter with his fiance. Although they also moved shortly before the birth of their daughter, life is very different now. Contact with family and friends however far or near is at the click of a button. With the wide use of digital photography and mobile phones I am able to watch the progress of my granddaughter (and my 18 month grandson in London) from a distance.

What are your memories of those early days of parenthood?

The cost of surviving Cancer

In September 2001 I got the great news that my cancer was gone. I spent the next 5 years worrying that it could come back. I tried to live each day with a new sense of awareness of my surroundings. I felt that I had been given a second chance at life. I would no longer let life pass me by.

I should be celebrating that for 18 years I have been free of cancer. I am incredibly lucky that I survived stage 3 cancer. I am very grateful to have had the chance to watch my 4 sons grow up to be the amazing people that they are. I have a fabulous grandson who has just turned 18 months. The weekend before last I watched and was happy to be involved in the marriage of my grandson’s parents. 5 weeks ago I was lucky to become the Granny of my first grandaughter. I have so much to be grateful for.

Yet life is not all rosy. I get quite angry when I hear of women who decline to be screened for cervical cancer. They have no idea what is in store for any woman who develops cervical cancer because they did not get screened.

It isn’t a case of being diagnosed and having the tumour removed. Most women have to go through Chemotherapy which brings it’s own terrors. I don’t know if I am lucky or not that it was decided I wouldn’t have chemo. This treatment can cause a degree of hearing loss. I was already wearing 2 hearing aids. To compensate my radiotherapy treatment was increased. I had a daily dose of radiotherapy for 6 weeks plus 3 days of internal radiotherapy. I would recommend that all women take up the chance to be screened and avoid having this treatment if they can.

When I was given the all clear I was told that a very few people suffer long term bowl problems because the radiotherapy treatment was so close to my bowels and bladder.

I can now say with absolute certainty that I suffer from long term problems. I am not able to eat a normal diet as any fibre in my diet leaves me running for the toilet. Over the last 18 years I have had many accidents. On top of this I have had to make frequent visits to the toilet as my bladder was not what it should be. Over the years my visits to the toilet became more and more frequent. Unlike other people I would run to the toilet where I would remain for rather longer that is normal for others. There was no gushing for me but a trickle. It could take me a good ten minutes or more to make sure that it was safe to move.

I have under gone many scans and other tests in the past few years to find out why my bladder was not behaving as it should. I have had bleeding from my bladder for about three years now. Cameras have shown that the walls of my bladder have radiation damage. For the last 6 months, since having a severe kidney infection (I am prone to these), I have experienced a constant dripping. I don’t often get the urge to go to the toilet but I have to wear the largest incontinence pads I can get. (Believe me they are big). I have to spread a folded towel on my bed in an attempt to prevent my bed becoming soaked in the night. Even with these huge pads I experience leakage. It is not a pleasant thing to feel urine running down my legs even when wearing these things.

I cannot wear the clothes I would wish to wear. I have lived in black trousers for many months so that it isn’t obvious to anyone else that I have these leaks. Anyone who knows me know that I like to wear skirts/dresses more than trousers. I am only 5’0″ but overweight which makes it difficult to find trousers that fit.

Last week after yet more scans and x-rays involving dye being pumped into me. I now have a diagnosis. My bladder is so damaged that it cannot store urine. I also have a fistula which has connected my bladder to my vagina. The reason I have a constant flow is because it is leaving my body through my vagina. I now have major surgery ahead of me leading to the rest of my life with a stoma and bags to collect my urine.

I have to say that I am pleased to be alive after my cancer. I am now able to enjoy my family. However my survival has come at a high price. My quality of life is unfortunately much less that I would like.

So please make sure that if you are a woman you take up all opportunities to have screening. No just for cervical cancer but also breast cancer etc. If you are a man then make sure the women in your life go for tests. It only takes a few minutes. It isn’t pleasant but it is so much better than going through the treatment and the problems that follow.

Stepping back

Right now I feel as though I have stepped back two years to when I was ill for 4 months. I have very little appetite, it is an effort to eat even a slice of bread. Consequently my energy levels have plummeted. I find myself feeling cold particularly my upper body and spend hours in bed sleeping fully dressed with the duvet tucked under my chin.

Not so long ago I was prescribed some tablets from the hospital to help with my bladder problems. I didn’t know if it was a coincidence but at the same time that I started taking them I started getting the painful shivery flu like symptoms that I used to get when I had  kidney infections. After a few days I stopped taking the tablets to see if that helped.

I went to see the Dr, she confirmed that no infection was present. I was advised to wait until I felt better then start taking the tablets again. At this point I had also been struggling to eat properly for maybe a month or so. Some days have been better than others.

On Sunday 31st March I took one of the tablets again as I was feeling better just a little on the weak side. By the evening I was feeling not right, by about 9pm I was having the painful shivery symptoms again. Luckily I wasn’t working on Monday but felt so bad that I again spent most of the day in bed. By Tuesday it had worn off a little. I went to work as usual (Tuesday is normally the quietest day of the week). I loaded up my car then went home or an hour to rest before doing the first part of my round. After an hour I had to go home again for a break. What I would do in 2 hours took me 4.

On Wednesday I went off to do my work knowing that I would have to keep going home as I had done the previous day. Because of my feeble state I left about 18 parcels behind I knew I didn’t have the energy levels needed. Again I went home had a rest before setting out again. After an hour I went home. I repeated this pattern, apart from my sorry state my car decided to play up. Each time I tried to restart the engine it was getting harder and harder until it decided not to start at all. I still had an hour’s worth of parcels to deliver. I phoned RAC and was told it could be upto 3 hours as the rush hour was about to start shortly. After waiting about half an hour I tried the engine again and it did start although reluctantly. I managed to limp my car home. I wasn’t going to risk it stopping.

I thought it only fair to let my field manager know what was going on. I wasn’t due to work the following day, plus my car was booked in to the garage for a safety recall. Funny how in the days leading up to going into the garage my car had started playing up, overheating light flashing, If I turned the heater up I was suddenly plunged into fog.

Anyway I decided that I needed to take Friday and Saturday off so that would give me Thursday through to Tuesday to build up my strength again. The stress this gave me in trying to find someone, anyone to cover my round for a couple of days was more than I needed. I told my field manager that because of my health I had decided to give up my round. We had a chat later in the day and I will not be doing any more parcels until I feel fit enough. When I feel up to it I can go back and do one or two days when I want to. For now my priority is to get better.

In this past week I have done nothing for my Avon business I am a week behind with putting out my books and I have a few boxes that I have yet to unpack and sort for my customers. Now that I am not doing the parcels for the moment, I am determined to catch up with my Avon.

I think that when I was ill 2 years ago I just let myself get swallowed up in it. This time I am adamant that I will fight it and get my strength back sooner rather than later. I have to be strong enough to make the journey to see my son and grandson next weekend and again on 27th for his first birthday.

I took my car out for a run to try to clear the fuel blockage. It was really noisy today, I was just starting to think about pulling into a layby. Just then the oil light came on. followed quickly by a clunk, there was a cloud of smoke and the car cut out just as I reached a slip road. (my first and only piece of luck). It took an hour and a half for my rescuer to arrive with his RAC van. It took him less than a minute to decide it was the Cam belt. So my car was towed home. He wasn’t able to get it near our home so he left it in a car park further up the road. This looks like it will be an expensive problem. By the time I had staggered home from where my car now is I was as white as a sheet according to my Mum. The poor RAC man had to put up with me retching all the way back.

Update

As it turned out I was too ill to leave the house for 2 weeks. My car was towed to a local garage where the damage was assessed. It was going to cost almost as much as I had paid for the car to get it running again. In my state of ill health I couldn’t think about it so made the decision to have my car scrapped.  I now have another car, one that has 5 seats instead of the 7 my previous car had but the boot is big enough to accommodate my mother’s pink wheelchair. I have not gone back to delivering parcels. I am doing Avon but barely have the strength to be out for an hour at a time. I sleep a lot too.

I am frustrated that I have not been able to step back into the life I had before falling ill in the spring. I am now in a routine of quiet companionship with my mother. I am now officially her carer. This was not something either of us could have envisioned a year ago. It would be easy for me to say that I am not going to carry on doing my Avon, I’m just too tired but I am continuing because it gets me out of the house, meeting people, getting some exercise and fresh air as well as a small income. I am gradually increasing my business, I’m definitely a tortoise not a hare. It allows me to pay for my own fuel, phone bill and buy gifts for my family without having to ask for a hand out from my mother.

Dark cloud on a sunny day

I’m looking out onto a sunny day and not feeling the joy this would usually bring. Anyone who knows me would say that I am a naturally happy and positive person. Throughout my life I have suffered from depression although not so much in recent years. I have mostly managed to keep it at bay.

I think my whole life has been one long struggle. Poverty, living with not one but two alcoholic husbands. (yes I know one is unfortunate, two is foolish).

18 years ago I was starting the journey into treatment for stage 3 cancer. I was given the all clear in September 2001 a few days before 19/11. it was still another couple of months before I returned to my part time work. It took time to build back the strength to do more than just the basic requirements of family life. I remember very clearly the words of my Macmillan nurse telling me that a very few people have long term bowel/bladder problems following the treatment I had undergone.

I think that after all these years it is safe to say that I am one of these few people. I wasn’t aware until two years ago when I was so ill that I was literally housebound in agony with no appetite. My cancer treatment had made me prone to kidney infections. I had suffered repeated bouts of flu like symptoms, pain in every part of my body and a shivering fever. What scared me the most was the drastic weight loss and the frequent passing of blood in my urine. After many blood tests, ultra sound scans, CT scan it was decided that the cause of all these symptoms was a severe kidney infection.  A course of strong antibiotics and forcing myself to eat again I began to get better. The next year and a half I have managed to stay reasonably healthy.

The last few weeks I have felt unwell, I was getting those flu like symptoms again. I have been struggling to force myself to eat for a few weeks and the blood in my urine has increased from being once or twice a week to multiple times a day.  I never know when the blood will come but I always know when it does because passing water becomes very painful. (it makes me want to cry). I don’t have thrush or cystitis both very unpleasant but luckily not problems that I have had to deal with for years. However as I sit here now I have a pain in my urethera. I don’t know how to describe it other than a feeling that I have a holly leaf wedged inside me. I have been to see the Dr, I don’t have an infection at the moment. The flu symptoms have subsided. On Friday I had to take a day off work as I had a severe stomach upset which left me on the loo for hours. When not on the loo I was sleeping.

I was trying to force myself to eat to get back my energy but scared to eat because my bowels were playing up. Ever since my cancer treatment I have suffered with bowel problems. I can never be confident that my bowels won’t erupt with little or no notice. It makes being out of the house very dangerous for me. Yes I really chose the right job for me. Being in my car for hours on end delivering parcels. There have been days when I have had to make a mad dash home for the loo. I don’t always make it.  It has been bad enough for all these years but now that I my bladder problems have increased over recent years it is getting me down. Following a recent urodynamics test (which wasn’t very successful) the registrar tells me that my bladder has damage from my radiotherapy back in 2001. Cheers I had worked that out.

This has been my life for so many years now that I don’t remember what it was like to have normal toilet functions. I find it both physically and mentally distressing every time I need the toilet. It must be wonderful not to have any worries or distress when sitting on the toilet. I just don’t remember.

All this added to my recent bout of being unwell has led me into a dark place. I don’t usually allow myself to wallow for long but this time I feel myself being dragged under. I know I have things to do and people to talk to but it all seems as though my life is too much effort. I have my estranged husband calling me with messages saying that he needs my help. I can’t help him I have my own demons to deal with. If it wasn’t for my four sons and their growing families/partnerships I just wouldn’t bother getting up each day. I just want to give in to oblivion. I know I won’t, I have my grandson and another grandchild on the way to think about.  If I am honest though I am fed up with my life.

To make life even better within minutes of posting this I fell. I missed the bottom step of our stairs, flinging myself and my laundry into a heap on the floor. Surprisingly my ankles were fine. However I did have incredible pain in my feet. I later discovered the my left big toe is bruised and I had some painful swelling on the side of my right foot. Having wrapped my foot in a towel and some frozen sweetcorn, the swelling subsided. Now three days later my right foot is only painful when knocked but my left big toe is still painful but I am able to walk on it fairly well now.

I have just been reading about PRD Pelvic Radiation Disease Pelvic Radiation Disease

This is new information for me. I had no idea that what I have been dealing with for the last 17 years is a common condition for those of us who have had radiation treatment for Cervical Cancer. Had I known about this sooner I would have made more noise about it with my GP. Instead I have lived with it believing that nothing could be done.  Over the last couple of years I have had various tests and screenings for my bladder problems but never for my bowel problems.

Yes, I am grateful for the treatment that I had which has enabled me to  continue with my life and watch my sons grow up. However I would certainly say that these apparently not so rare side effects of radiation treatment have affected my quality of life.

Relationships

Since leaving my second alcoholic husband a year ago I have been living with my mother. I have gone from being in a large 4 bedroom house where I ran everything from the cooking cleaning, finances etc. I have been running a home for over 30 years (my eldest son is now 31). Over that time I have accumulated a collection of kitchen things.

Moving in with my mother I left the majority of my things behind. I have one medium bedroom plus I have taken over the two seater sofa. The kitchen is about a quarter of the size of the one I left behind. I never thought I would miss doing the weekly shop, but I find myself walking around a supermarket thinking about what I could buy/make. There is very little room in the cupboards or fridge ad freezer for me to add the things I would buy. It has been a challenge going back to live with my mother after all these years of running my own home.

I love my mum to bits and we have always been very close. I am very grateful to her for allowing me to move in with her when I left my husband. In the last year it has become apparent that her need for my help (in small ways) has increased. I don’t now feel I could leave her on her own again.

It would have been easy to become stuck in a way of working and caring but not living. However last summer I joined my friend in her Avon team. I didn’t want to do catalogues, my plan was to work solely online which I could do from the comfort of home. I very quickly gained about 50 customers (not online). After a couple of campaigns I also decided to become a Sales Leader and build a team of my own. Before Christmas I had recruited 12 people into my team (with varying success).  I am now on a mission to recruit more team members. I am keen to help others enjoy the benefits I have found from being in this Avon family. Not only am I earning extra money, I am making new friends, loving all the products. I have never had so many perfumes. Designer handbags, jewellery.

Joining Avon was a great decision for me. I has given me a life outside of my work and living with my mum.luck for her gift set

http://www.earnwithbeauty.me.uk

Since writing this post I had a spell of being housebound by a bad kidney infection which left me unable to do anything for 2 months. During this time my mother had 3 falls in 3 weeks. Possibly due to her doing more of the things I had been doing for her. Anyway in the months since the spring she has become less mobile and now relies on her 3 wheeled walkers whilst in the house and a pink wheelchair for the few occasions when she leaves the house. She has now made the decision to give up driving and has informed DVLA that she no longer needs her licence renewed.

I am now her Carer. Together with my small Carers Allowance and the money I earn through doing my Avon I do have a little bit of financial independence. Since being ill I have been unable to go back to work delivering parcels. I still 5 months after recovering from my illness not got much energy back. Running my Avon business has prevented me from becoming a recluse. It forces me to leave the house most days. There are days when I just can’t face it.  I can only manage about an hour before I need to go back home for a rest.