This week I have been reminded, once again, how lucky I am to have two happy, healthy children who both have their whole lives stretching ahead of them, full of opportunities, excitement and hope. They frequently drive me up the wall, around the bend and back again but I find it hard to be cross for too long when they hug me/ crawl on me/ smile at me or when Catrin says “I love you, Mummy” and Bethan just points at me and says “Mumumumumumma”.
From the instant I knew I was pregnant with Catrin, The Fear has never left me. I’m sure that most parents feel it…the constant nagging worry that something bad could happen to your child. I used to have recurring nightmares in which I dropped Catrin as a baby out of a hot air balloon and kept seeing her little face disappearing from view as she fell and I would wake up in a panic with tight knots of terror in my belly, followed by the relief of realisation that it was just a dream.
This week I received an e-mail (along with all of my colleagues) from the head teacher of the primary phase of the school where I work. It regarded a little girl from Year 3 (the class for 7-8 year-olds). Ten weeks ago she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and has been through a horrendous course of chemotherapy which has not worked. Her doctors now say that she needs a course of radiotherapy immediately…a specific treatment which is not available in the UK, but which is available in the USA. The NHS have agreed to fund it…but that involves a delay of 8 weeks while the paperwork is processed. This little girl does not have 8 weeks. The school has decided to do what we can to raise as much money as possible for her to help fund her treatment and many people have donated in the past 2 days (her parents have set up a fundraising page with more details about her condition and situation here: http://www.gofundme.com/h3rouk
When I read the e-mail, I was angry that red tape and paperwork could possibly cost a little girl her life. Why couldn’t the treatment take place straight away and the payment made later? Of course there are procedures to follow and other patients who also need treatment urgently, but that doesn’t lessen the frustration that she is waiting for radiotherapy when she needs it right now. I can’t begin to imagine how her family feel…their lives turned upside down in the space of 10 weeks and the urgent need to ‘do something’. Words to describe their emotions probably don’t exist.
I hugged my daughters a bit harder today and held them a little bit longer. My parental fear will never leave me but is only realised in my nightmares…I will always want to protect them no matter how independent and ‘grown up’ they become. I watched Catrin giggling and shrieking in excitement this evening on the eve of her 4th birthday and Bethan trundling and exploring the house in a troll costume made out of towels and felt the familiar knot of love for them, coupled with The Fear. Tomorrow they will wake up before the sun rises, tell me it is ‘morning time’ and then jump up and down on me until I get up and make breakfast for them, accompanied by the irritatingly squeaky and inanely jolly Granny Murray on CBeebies. Catrin will be brimming over with anticipation and happiness when she opens her birthday presents and I will probably be late for work as she will want to open every last one and examine each gift in detail before opening the next.
However, in the back of my mind, I will remember that other families will experience a very different start to a new day. And I will not take my luck, love and family for granted.