Five Years

Dear Ma,

It has been 5 years, 5 years! Time, it seems, flys even if you’re not always having fun. A lot has changed, life has moved us forward even when we’d prefer to stay rooted to the spot.

I got cancer, can you believe it? I couldn’t but I got it anyway. It’s a weird one Ma, I spent a summer feeling incredibly close yet incredibly far away from you. I wanted to ring you on so many occasions and say “Shit, I’m so sorry, I never knew quite how tough it was for you.”

It’s a bit like re-reading a favorite book only to flip to the last chapter and find a completely different ending than the one you are used to. An ending that reveals a completely different take on the story. I admired your strength when you were going through it all, I truly did but I didn’t understand it. I do now and that’s broken my heart on a few occasions. Thank you for keeping going with treatment for as long as you did. I understand now, what a huge gift of love that was too us all.

I can’t lie, a certain mother/daughter competion kicked in and I need to thank you for that as well. There were many times (*cough*, after every treatment) when I wanted to quit but I think it became a point of pride – You hadn’t quit, so I wouldn’t either. You win hands down in the stoic stakes though. I was entirely more grumbly and grumpy than you were.

Ma, obviously I miss you and I missed you greatly over the summer but I did have a lot else on my plate. It was strange too, it was this massive thing that I had to negotiate without you. I felt I had to let you go a bit, I hadn’t experienced anything comparative with you, so I had no idea what we’d have done. I guess I grieved for you, another grief in a summer of them. I grieved and I grew up too.

I think you may have gotten frustrated with me while the chemo was on going. I wouldn’t entirely have blamed you, I was frustrated with me at points. Now, though, now I miss your counsel.

I wonder how you lived inside your head after the first time around. My head is like living with a funfair between my ears, which sounds more entertaining than it actually is. It doesn’t settle. I want to yell “STOP”. Riding this Ferris wheel is fun but I can’t actually think for thinking, if you know what I mean. Was it like that for you? Like being overwhelmed with the responsibility of living?

Did you ever think “fuck it I’m going to move to Hawaii or Nashville or Paris and open a cafe?” Did you ever feel that butterfly feeling of having settled for too long on one flower, when there are so many beautiful flowers around? It almost feels there are too many possibilities, that my whirligig self is frightened to pick. Is that living with cancer? Or is that just what living is?

Did you feel all powerful? I have this massive “roar” inside me always on the cusp of escaping. A and Dad are going to hit the roof when they read this, but sometimes I scare myself when crossing the road these days. I stare down cars. It’s an odd reaction to death. It’s not courting it but it’s not all together scary anymore. There are bigger things that scare me.

I respect myself too (it doesn’t sound it with the whole car thing, I know) but it’s like I’m a separate entity. I’m looking at myself through a window and that me, that me that got through all of last year, she’s a total badass. I strut! I’ve never strutted in my life!

It’s not all been cancer, cancer cancer though. The M’s have added another mini M to their brood. They are great parents, far more patient than you or I. Oh, you would be proud.

You’d be so proud of Da too. He is an epic human, I can’t even explain but I guess you knew, you married him. He is the best.

A. and I moved. It was a while ago now, not long after you died. We stayed in the same building and I like the fact you’d still know where we are. We’ve had our moments Ma but we’re doing O.K. I don’t know any other people our age who’ve gone through what we have, we weren’t unscathed but we grew up. I’m kinda proud of us. I love him because even on the bad days he can make me laugh, plus as you always advised, the dude is practical and pretty handy.

I don’t want to stop writing Ma, because it feels like I’ve opened up a little portal between us again and it feels nice but it’s time to let you drift a bit further off.

I miss you, I miss your hands, your soft, soft skin and your weirdly deep clavicles. I miss ducking into bed next you of a morning and chatting. I miss singing musical numbers in the kitchen and how we’d laugh when you would say “probably” in a weird voice, that I don’t even remember why you did but was our joke. I miss you when I work on a show I think you’d love. I miss you when things go right and more when things go wrong.

5 years, I couldn’t imagine it at one time but time plods on and I did survive.

I love you Ma. Always.





Growing your hair back from scratch is like carrying the cutest, rarest pet with you at all times. That lives on your head.

I think of this new growth as fur not hair at all. It has this minky colour, which is more blonde-y, grey-y , brown-y (it’s mink, that is the colour I just tried to describe-y) than I’m used it being. It’s short and thick and sooooooo soft, like a pelt of fur. I may be hunted and skinned at any moment.

I croon to my hair and rub my hands over and over, my now not bald scalp. Like my own personal talisman. A., so he tells me, gently runs his fingers over it while I’m sleeping. I don’t know how it feels to watch the person you love change from so many different extremes (I hope I never get to find out), but I’m sure I’d be pleased when they got their hair back too.

Some of my work colleges only met me for the first time as a bald, moon-faced creature. I didn’t have eyelashes at the time! I find it extraordinary that in 2 months I’ve grown approx. 1 cm of hair and more eyelashes than I have patience to count. The fact that I don’t feel I have the time to count my eyelashes, should tell you how drastically my life has changed again in the last few months.

People want to and like to touch my head, it looks so much like a velvet cap. I think it’s difficult not to want to stroke it. You see? Pet on my head. When I meet up with people after time a part, I automatically lean in so they can pat me. That’s weird right? I’m pretty sure I’ll stop this soon.

The touching of my head by others, often without permission, took no time for me to get used to. I was going to write that it feels weird and like a strange invasion of personal space but stroking my hair comforts and fascinates me, so I assume it does others too. It’s such a joyous time. I’m happy for people to share my joy.

I guess this may be how heavily pregnant women feel, though I read most women aren’t so into randoms touching their bellies. Are bellies more intimate than heads? Perhaps as you are growing a person not just hair….

As I’ve been told quite recently that conceiving a baby is not likely (we’ve got 2 chances and about a 20% success rate, each time); this is perhaps the only time people will feel able to randomly croon while patting a part of me, so feel I should embrace it.

See what I did there? I got all serious in a pithy piece about hair. I’m not sure how I feel about this information yet. It’s pretty fresh but obviously my subconscious it interested in discussing it.

So, so I went to see a specialist, who told me the news. I got pretty choked up, more from shock than anything. My first thought was; this would be so much worse if I’d always wanted children, if I couldn’t imagine my life without kids, I would be devastated right now but I’m not sure I do and I totally can, so just breath. Then I told A. and he took me in to work. I’ve not, we’ve not, had much time to unpack this whole thing yet.

I’m angry it’s another area of my life that I don’t get to control anymore. I’ve observed, even in the short amount of time since receiving the news, that people assume you want or are able to have children. I’m not surprised or feeling particularly outraged by that assumption but truth be told A. and I are some what ambivalent.

We also feel we are in the middle of a battle that hasn’t ended yet and finding this out is like losing a squadron. It’s not nothing but we have to concentrate on the whole battlefield at present. We can mourn later if that’s what we choose to do.

A. has been showing me pictures from magazines of older couples with lovely homes and wonderful bear sized dogs; he says that they look happy. They do look happy. We are very happy at the moment too and as we are ‘living in the moment’, I think I’m as fine as I can be.

Besides I get to carry around a pelt of fur, on my head, like a pet – not everyone gets to know what that feels like.