Saturday, 19 December 2015

Twenty fifteen is rounding off to an end. It is 4am, a week before Christmas, and I am sitting in the gentle quiet as my family sleeps, reflecting on the past year.

I find that every year I do this, and I feel ready to see the back of each year and welcome in some good in the next. When I put down on paper just what this last year has entailed, it has been such a mash up of overwhelming emotion that I feel even more ready to just say, "see ya later 2015 - rock on 2016!"
Except the fact is, nobody knows what the future holds - what if next year is harder? Often when you reflect, you ask yourself, "how the hell did I get through that?" and you actually have no idea what made you keep on keeping on.

We've had some pretty majors happen this year. A year ago, my family was planning our Indian Christmas for mum who had missed out on her trip to India because the tumour in her brain had been found a week before she had been due to go, and then she had brain surgery the day she was meant to fly out.

A year ago, on the 23rd of December, we had packed up our house and moved to a new one.

In January, Eddie and I took the kids on our first overseas family trip and went to the NeSA conference in Adelaide.

At the end of January, my dad had his 60th birthday.

In April, we held our second Nevus NZ family gathering and met new friends we never knew we would have.

In May, my baby sister married her soulmate at their surprise wedding.

Two days later, we found out that the tumour had grown back in Mum's brain and she was told she had between 7-12 months without treatment.

At the end of May, we said goodbye to a dear friend, our elderly neighbour who had lived next door to us in the house we lived when Olive was born.

In September, my sister was admitted to hospital and had surgery for appendicitis.

The next day, my husband left for the trip of a lifetime to Tahiti with his mates.

That same day, my mum had her second brain surgery.

At the end of September, my husband left his job of 7 years and started a whole new career with my brother in law.

In November, mum underwent a 10 day course of targeted brain radiation.

Amongst all of this, we all turned a year older, Olive started at a new kindy, we've had celebrations, we've had feuds. We've had illnesses and we've had quiet times. Mum and Olive were on TV, people donated over $26,000 towards the melanoma treatment Keytruda for Mum.

And now we are in December, a week before the fat man in red turns up, and I am actually wondering how on earth I haven't yet found a grey hair.

To say that 2015 has been a roller coaster would be an understatement. Emotions have been running wild with all of us, and I find personally that the constant up and down of emotions is taking it's toll on me. I am exhausted. There is never any downtime as you get older, especially with young children, and that is taking it's toll on my body and my mind.

So I would like to make 'taking care of me' my New Years resolution. And I am starting early, by having my hair cut this morning and going out for some drinks tonight with some wonderful parents from the kids school. A year ago, I would have found an excuse not to go. No matter how much it appealed to me, my anxiety would have taken over and told me that it was too cold, I was too tired, the kids needed me, it wasn't fair on Eddie - anything to make me not go. And I wouldn't have.

But now that I have my anxiety under control, I am going to go out and I am going to enjoy the heck out of it. I am counting down the hours until I can leave!

We are going on a short holiday this Summer too, with good friends and their kids. Our first holiday over the Christmas break in many years as Eddie used to work through. I am really looking forward to it, and am grateful we can give this to the kids.

Olive has her dermatologist appointment in early January and I am not expecting any issues to arise. She is doing wonderfully, and we have no concerns.

Though this year has been more than tough, there are so many positives that have come out of it. I have made a bunch of new and awesome friends. My kids are gaining more independence and they are fast approaching the next chapter of their lives.

Eddie and I are stronger than we have ever been and our teamwork seems to be paying off, with each getting a bit more time out, and the kids respecting that both Mum and Dad deserve that.

I appreciate all I have, and am so grateful to all that everyone gives me - love, support, encouragement. It all makes my life richer.

And the best part? Is that on Monday this week we had news that the tumours in Mum's lymph nodes and lung have gotten SMALLER. And no sign of disease in her brain. Best present ever.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

What is it about the connection women have with hair? A vast majority of us have longish hair - or at least hair that is cut into a style, not shaved. Then again a vast majority of women remove all (or most of) our body hair. I remember shaving my legs for the first time in intermediate. I hid it from mum because she wouldn't let me do it. But all the other girls did it, so I should too right? I think I shaved my armpits as soon as the first hair sprouted and have done ever since. Girls shave/wax etc their bikini area much more these days than when our hippy parents were young.

In general (and yes I'm well aware this isn't all women I am talking about), hair on your head is long without a trace to be seen anywhere else - other than your eyebrows!

For some reason, the hair on Olives nevus has always been what has made me the most sad. In today's world, excess hair is often viewed as gross or dirty. Our logical mind knows this isn't actually the case. Hair is to protect our body. It's there for a reason.

The other day I got a text from mum. She has just last week completed her radiation therapy. The text read, 'my hair is falling out.' I felt a sudden pang. She's been doing so well, with very minimal side effects and has mostly just been going about life as normal.
This was another stark reminder of what she is going through. Mum seemed fairly nonchalant about the whole thing when I went to see her, but it was a very noted experience for me. She wanted the patch of hair that was falling out gone, so she sat on the floor, me behind her, pulling great wads of her hair out. To say it was strange is an understatement. Mum laughed to my sister that it affected me more than her, but it really did. It felt like an intimate moment where a brave, strong woman's body starts succumbing to the evil of the cancer. To sit there, softly pulling my mums hair away from her head where a big scar lies from her two surgeries was sobering to the point of wanting to cry. I didn't, because it also felt as though I was the only one feeling the sadness. My ma is so accepting of each step in her journey - to her it was just what happens when you put your body through such dramatic and harsh treatments. To me, it was a stark reminder that my mum has cancer.

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about this hair issue. About why the hair aspects of both mums and Olive's journey affects me so much. I don't know if I quite have it figured out but I assume it is because of the connection in my own head, embellished by society as I and other women have grown from young women to adults,  between hair and femininity. It has made me consider what I let my girls see - they've always wandered into the bathroom while I'm in the shower, have seen me shave my legs etc.
Inadvertently I have been teaching them the same thing I was taught by the world around me - that beauty and girliness comes from how you look. This simply isn't true. As I have re-evaluated this small part of life, I have come to the conclusion as I have many times before with other issues, that our children see us. They watch us, they learn from us, mostly subconsciously. It's not all about what you say. It's what you do that matters.

I am going to try and be more mindful with the messages I send my children with what they see. That's not to say I will stop shaving my legs though!