It's been a year since I started writing this blog, and what a year it's been! When I started writing, I was in a really dark place. Life had lost all meaning for me and I really couldn't see a light at the end of a very long dark tunnel. We were just entering another lockdown, and I can honestly say I'd never felt quite so alone as I did back then. Writing the blog has been extremely cathartic and has helped me in many ways. Writing my feelings down has helped me to overcome the dark times. I've written more than I've submitted as some stuff is just too personal to put in the public domain, but for someone who has hidden her feelings for a long time, the release my writing has given me is huge.
I quite often read back over my previous ramblings, and I'm encouraged by how far I've come. With the help of the RTT hypnotherapy, learning to set boundaries, and practising mindfulness, my mental health has improved significantly. I still have dark moments, but they are no longer having the impact on my life like before. A few weeks after starting this blog I started my other "jokey" blog and my Facebook group which has given me so much pleasure and fun. I've made some amazing friendships and as I've said before I could never have imagined what I could have got from a daft Facebook group.
My group has just under 1200 members and still continues to grow. I'm still receiving messages to say how the group has helped so many people going through rough times, and the sense of achievement is fantastic. I've met with a few members already and have been invited to spend time in some amazing destinations like Australia, The Norfolk Islands and Florida with some members I've got to know well over the past 11 months. Maybe next year I'll get there. One of my members who lives 3800 miles away in Manitoba, Canada, is coming over to visit in the New Year and I can't wait to finally meet him in person after many months of messages and calls. These people, who I would never have met if not for the group, have helped me more than they will ever know.
We have just had the 5th anniversary of my husband's death, and last year was the hardest it had ever been. It's always a tough day and as it's bonfire night the sound of the fireworks for a couple of weeks before always seem to highlight the day. I was a little emotional on the day itself, but so much better than I was a year ago.
The following day, my friend came down from Cheshire, and we went to see Portsmouth play at Fratton. I hadn't seen him since August, and it was the first football match I've been to since the pandemic started. After that, we ventured into Southsea for drinks and a meal. We had such a great day and night. I seem to have done more since July than I had in the last 2 years. I went to Victorious a couple of months back and saw Madness. I've wanted to see them for years, and I was not disappointed. It was amazing and for me meant I could finally dance again. Well, I use the word dance lightly, I threw myself around like a Looney for hours and struggled to walk the next day, but it was worth it. I've been to a couple of belated birthday parties for friends who turned 50 during the pandemic and again danced, laughed and thoroughly enjoyed mixing. I've a concert on my birthday in a couple of weeks at the O2 in London, as a present from my daughter and her partner. It will be the farthest I've travelled in a long time, and I'm looking forward to spending the time with my daughter. One of my friends has organised a group of us to go out the day after to celebrate my birthday and I cannot wait as I did nothing for my birthday last year.
I'm a sociable person and finally feel like I'm getting my life back. Work is going well. I can now work from home 3 days a week and the office the other 2. This has helped give me a great work/life balance, and I've found at my age I appreciate that more than ever. I've started dating again and have met some nice guys and had some lovely days/evenings in good company. Only one has ticked all the boxes, but he lives 150 miles away. Typical! It's early days; I'm enjoying getting to know him, but I have found that I've built some pretty big walls up to protect me, and they are a little too solid at the moment, so for now I'm enjoying the single life. What is meant to be, will be.
Well it's been 10 days since I put fingers to keys and thank you if you took time out to read it.
When I wrote that first piece I was back to my lowest. I felt very despondent and alone. My thoughts were extremely dark and unhealthy. No matter what life has thrown at me I have always had my humour but even that abandoned me. Laughter is so important and I seemed to have forgotten what mine sounds like.
November always used to be such a fun month for me. Bonfire night, birthday celebrations and Christmas not far away. I was always like an excitable child at this time of year. We would have Bonfire parties with our neighbours and good friends. They were always so much fun for the children and grown ups. We would BBQ, the children would play and the adults would talk, laugh and sing badly. The guys would sort the bonfire and let off the fireworks (apparently that's a man's job along with the BBQ 🙄) - very happy times indeed!
My husband always had a thing for fire and fireworks. He wasn't a pyromaniac or an arsonist (although he was caught as a child trying to build a bonfire in his Nan's front room). Normally so chilled out, relaxed and quite reserved, he wasn't one for getting excited about Christmas or birthdays but he did love Bonfire night. So it's quite ironic that this is the day he passed away.
He became ill in February 2016. Just pain in the right side of his chest he didn't grumble or complain but he did take himself off to the doctor which was unheard of for him.
He was given an x-ray, painkillers and sent home. As the weeks went by he was getting worse, the painkillers did nothing to ease him. Back to the doctors, stronger pain killers, still they didn't help. More weeks went by, I was incredibly worried he was getting worse. One night at the beginning of April the pain was unbearable for him, his skin was grey and his lips were going blue. I called 999.
He had 12 further emergency admittances by ambulance from April until the end of May. He was initially told he had an infection and was given co-codamol. He was mis-diagnosed again in the beginning of April.
I went into fight mode. I knew this man better than anyone. He was ill and in so much pain, he was on a morphine driver and about to be discharged from hospital with no answers. I logged a formal complaint with the CEO of the hospital. (I also refused to leave the hospital until I was heard). It worked! They phoned the following day. There had been an oversight, somebody had not read his x ray correctly. An emergency same day appointment given. After numerous scans and tests we saw a Respiratory consultant who finally gave an opinion on what it could be. Cancer!
A shock but finally we were getting somewhere. He could beat this. I had 3 years previously and he was much stronger than me. We just needed to get results and get a plan of action.
Again the weeks went past, the pain couldn't be managed at home so at the beginning of May he was admitted yet again. He came home for our son's 12th birthday then back in hospital the next day. They had him on some pretty heavy pain killers, morphine and ketamine yet nothing was giving him relief. Things got so bad I moved into the hospital. A camp bed in his room was where I slept for nearly a month.
Why is it the worst memories are the ones you can recount second by second, blow by devastating blow? I can remember every detail of that day. The day we were told he had Mesothelioma (a terminal asbestos caused cancer). The day my world changed forever.
We had met 22 years earlier. I was a guarded 20 year old who had been through an extremely abusive relationship for 7 years and was in no way looking for a new one. He was gorgeous! Tall, dark, handsome and oblivious to it. He had no idea of the reaction he would get from women when he walked in a room. He had the most beautiful blue eyes and his smile could make my insides turn to jelly (really cheesy I know, but so true). We got on amazingly. We would sit talking all through the night. Laugh, joke and wind each other up in the funniest ways. Every night after work for about 3 months he would ask to take me out. Every night I said no. On December 8th 1995 that changed and we decided to give it a try.
It worked! We were just a normal couple. Happy, in love and having fun. He proposed about 9 months later. I said yes but we never set a date. We didn't need to. We loved each other. We were happy as we were. The kids came along, we owned a house, we both had good jobs. Life was good.
I loved our little family. I also looked forward to the future when the kids were grown and we could enjoy time together again. In the blink of an eye all of that was taken away. In the length of time it took for the consultant to give the diagnosis, our future vanished. I was destroyed. My strong fit gorgeous man was dying.
I don't think I've ever talked to anyone about how I felt that day. So many feelings and emotions. I felt that I had been picked up, spun round and dropped on my head. I didn't cry at first. I think I was numb with disbelief. In total denial. I was not ready to accept there was nothing they could do for him. I was not prepared to lose the man I loved, the father of my children, a man who still had so much life to live. I had never given up or quit on anything before and I certainly wasn't going to now. Fight mode kicked in again.
I didn't know what to do. All I could do was hope. Hope for a miracle, a chance, anything. The consultant mentioned a trial, yes, hope! It was being run by Guys and St Thomas hospital in London. I would have to move up there for the duration (several months) but that was ok. He was from London. All his family were there. Yes! Finally a solution. My mind was running at a million miles per hour. (I cannot even comprehend what was going through his head). Before we left the hospital that day I had already mentally packed and had it straight in my head what we were going to do. That was so much easier than trying to process the other outcome.
This was going to work! We were going to beat this!
He needed chemotherapy to slow down the disease as they wouldn't accept him on the trial if it got beyond a certain point. We just had to be patient and wait. And wait! And wait! The weeks dragged on. He was in so much pain. It had already broken 2 of his ribs. He was on so many heavy duty drugs but nothing touched that pain.
We were advised by the hospital that if we wanted to get married we needed to do it ASAP. A special licence was granted and in June we were married in his room at the hospital in our jeans and T-shirts, with our children, family and my best friend there. It was perfect! The nurses had put banners up and came in and threw confetti. The dinner ladies bought us a cake and a bottle of wine and the consultant bought us our only wedding present. A set of Mr and Mrs mugs. It didn't matter that I didn't have a dress or a party. All that mattered was us. We spent our first night as man and wife in separate beds which did make us laugh. Despite what was happening we somehow managed to keep our sense of humour although it got more warped than usual on occasion.
He was finally allowed to come home with The Rowans Hospice taking over his pain management. They were amazing. I can honestly say I would not have survived without them.
Chemo started at the beginning of July the first of 6 doses. I still don't know why it took so long to start. If only they had started it straight away.! We knew the trial was our only hope and even if accepted there was no guarantee of success. But hope kept us going. He was taken in to The Rowans for pain management. It was during the second stay he had his third round of Chemo and was sent for a CT scan. The results were devastating. He could not be accepted for the trial. They wanted to try radiotherapy to give us time but all hope had gone. After I left him at the hospice that night I cried like I have never cried before. I felt physical pain and was violently sick. I wanted to scream but the children were in bed, I couldn't wake them. Oh no! How on earth do we tell them? I have never before or since been so scared. I was sitting alone in our house. Everything looked normal but nothing was. The next morning I opened a letter. It was dated the day before the scan. He had been accepted on the trial. I tore that damn letter to tiny pieces, burnt it and never spoke of it to him.
He had radiotherapy several times. Another scan confirmed it hadn't worked and I think that was the point when he accepted what was happening to him. This strong, beautiful courageous man broke down and sobbed. Not for himself but for our children, his mum, our family and for me and all I could do was hold him. I felt utterly useless. After that he declined quickly. He went back to The Rowans and on the day of our eldest child's 18th birthday he begged the doctors to end it. He couldn't take the pain anymore. He was exhausted. With no hope he had nothing left.
They sedated him just under 2 weeks later and on Saturday 5th November 2016 just as the fireworks started the man I loved passed peacefully away.
We have just had the fourth anniversary. So why after four years has this year been so hard? My daughter said it was harder for her this year than any other due to what is happening in the world and in part I have to agree. Since last November I have had my first relationship since losing my husband, it started so well and recently ended so badly. I've been through a change in my work environment (like many others) to a complete change of job and with a few hiccups in my home, health and family, everything has snowballed. I cannot wait to see the back of 2020.
After sending my first ramblings I opened up to a friend, I held nothing back (this is still new to me, telling people how I honestly feel, not just pretending to be ok). He was shocked and saddened to know I had been feeling this way. Even when he last saw me two days before lockdown when we were drunk dancing in my kitchen he had no idea. I hid it well. I guess I am tired of hiding it now. It's exhausting pretending you are ok when you really are not. I'm a pleaser and a fixer by nature and I don't want to worry people or make them miserable with my troubles which is why I keep it in and let it fester. Although very unhealthy.
I have made a plan for the next two weeks. I am lucky enough to still be working so keeping busy isn't an issue. I am getting my daughter's old bike and this weekend I will be wobbling around the local parks and cycle tracks (I may need stabilizers, it's been about 28 years since I last rode a bike). I have lost nearly a stone in weight in the past month, not through diet, and I am determined it will stay off.
I have also started to write down everyday 2 positive things from what has happened that day and when I feel low I look at those as a reminder life is not all negative.
One of my favourite songs is November Rain. It played on the radio today whilst it was extremely miserable outside. The song holds many good memories for me, as well as being played at my husband's funeral. In many ways it's such a sad song but there are two lines, 'Cause nothin' lasts forever. Even cold November rain. I smiled as it played thinking of good times and the irony of how cold and wet it was outside. I am taking the positive from those lines. The bad times won't last forever and the weather will eventually improve.