Harriet had coped really well in the first few weeks of George’s diagnosis as she had been revelling in explaining exactly what leukaemia / cancer is… I kid you not. She liked to draw a bone with healthy cells inside the bone marrow and then coloured over with another pen showing what cancer does when it takes over. She’d then go on to show what chemotherapy and steroids will do to help George and that losing his hair is all part of killing off the bad cells. She’s amazing!
Oliver became a little quieter on the matter and would randomly ask for statistics and percentages of cures and relapse – typical Oliver!
More recently Harriet seemed to become more emotional, having huge tantrums and flying off the handle at the smallest of things – more so than her average meltdown ratio. I, in turn, started worrying I wouldn’t have enough “being strong” to stretch. Although a lot of this behaviour is to be expected, I admit I’d not prepared myself emotionally to deal with it. I’ve been focusing on physically cracking on with day to day life and making sure I was well informed on George’s leukaemia treatment. It’s harder than you think trying to get through a day making sure everyone has eaten, is clean and dressed and is where they need to be on time when you’ve learnt that a child has cancer. And that’s just simply functioning!
On an emotional level, Oliver and Harriet I felt had drawn the short straw, they needed lots of attention and weren’t necessarily receiving it. Oliver had started to pick up on my heightened stress and was taking it upon himself to deal with Harriet saying things like “do you not think mum has enough to deal with Harriet?!” He had started becoming quite protective of me. He suddenly grew up overnight for all the wrong reasons.
I had realised that whenever we’ve had visitors it’s always been about George, of course it has, people want to see how he is. I’d be giving our latest visitors the low down on his treatment and Harriet would be interrupting to show a cartwheel, a picture or getting overly giddy and putting on baby voices. I can hear myself now telling her to go and get on with something else while i’m talking or to stop interrupting – it’s heartbreaking to think how that must have made her feel.
Since then though, and on a more positive note, the last few weeks we seem to have made some progress following a family session with Psychological Services at Alder Hey and some counselling. It felt good to gain an understanding of what the kids’ interpretation of things are and how completely normal their behaviour is given the circumstances. We learnt coping stategies and talked about ways for the children to share their feelings. I think the psychologist needed a psychologist herself by the time I finished “offloading” the life story too… ha ha! (I was one to one at that point!).
Both Damien and I have since been making a concious effort to give that extra bit of time and patience with all three children. Harriet is her Mother’s daughter and we’ve both benefited from taking a few deep breaths before reacting to a situation.
Harriet has helped us create some Chores Lists whereby each of the children are allowed a friend round for tea if they get their jobs done in a week – she’s loved controlling that and bossing everyone about. It’s win-win for us with Oliver emptying bins and the dishwasher and Harriet hoovering. Even Damien and I have jobs and rules to adhere to like “No mobile phones at the table”, “7pm is boardgame with kids time” and “make time for yourself once a week”… I’m not sure Damo would appreciate my time being a girly weekend in Tenerife once a week (nor would the bank!) so i’ve just gone to Clubbercise this week – highly recommended for burning calories through laughter and dancing without rhythm in the dark!
We’re only 9 weeks in to this and we’re not about to get too complacent with over 3 year’s treatment ahead. With the meltdowns reducing, the kids friends’ coming for tea next week and a calmer, happier atmosphere at home, it’s safe to say, we’re in a much better place than we were. Here’s to the next 9 weeks! and to the mums at hospital that hugged me through tears when you didnt even know me, you were right, it does get easier xxx