“Get plenty of rest” people keep telling me during chemo. If you’re one of the approximately 10,987 people to impart this gem of advice then you may have noticed the hollow laugh it was greeted with. As a mum of, what can only be described as an 18-month-old Duracell Bunny, my stock response is “no chance”. Any mum of a toddler will tell you, you don’t get to sit down while they are in your care. You are way too busy stopping them from a) knocking themselves out whilst leaping from the dining room table b) electrocuting themselves by playing with plug sockets/wires c) taking away the dog’s will to live. Being treated for cancer while a mum to young children brings with it a unique set of challenges.
People keep expressing their surprise that I’m continuing to work through chemo but as I keep saying – going to work is actually easier than running around after a child all day! And I only have one. Hats off to all you ladies who are going through this with multiple offspring, you are Superwomen in my book.
Tips and Tricks
I do try and rest when I can, usually when Fred is having his lunchtime nap. Other tricks include toys that don’t move, so you can slob out next to them while he merrily plays – the play kitchen is a good one. His newfound interest in TV also comes in handy, I can get a good 5 minutes’ peace with the latest episode of Bing or Fireman Sam, even if I do find them INCREDIBLY annoying on the 57th watch. Sometimes, I have to let poor Bodie the dog take one for the team and get climbed over while I sit down. Afternoons out with my NCT gang are also pretty helpful as I can let him go feral, running around with the other toddlers whilst I sit back with a coffee having a goss!
My main piece of advice would be to get yourself one of these:
Steve has been the best. I know he loves a lie in but he’s got up every day with Freddie, so I can rest in in the mornings. All the extra time he’s spending with him is very much confirming his place as #1 human in Freddie’s eyes. I do find it difficult to contain my FOMO though when I can hear them both laughing hysterically downstairs, like they are right now, watching the rugby together. Sometimes resting is just not as much fun as playing with the lads.
Our family have also been amazing. So, if you’re lucky enough to have a great support network then use it. Gran and Grumpy and Grandma have been brilliant at taking him off my hands when I really need a break.
Living with a germ factory
The other issue with being a mum to a young child whilst having chemo is that they are little germ factories. Freddie has pretty much gone from one snotty-nosed cold to the next through the winter. And as you’ll have learned from my earlier blogs, germs and chemo do not mix. With your immune system shot you need to be careful not to pick up any bugs that could turn into something nasty. At first I thought this would mean putting myself and/or Freddie into quarantine for months on end. But my oncologist was sanguine about it. When I sadly asked her whether chemo meant no more snotty kisses from my beautiful boy she said, NO! There’s very little I can do about having germs around living with a toddler and a big muddy golden retriever so her advice was to just do a lot of hand-washing.
So that’s what I’ve been doing and so far, so good. One plus point to mention is I’ve hardly had to change any nappies, as if Steve or any grandparents are around they do it. There’s got to be some upsides to being poisoned on a weekly basis right!?
Love will get us through
As exhausting as it can be having chemo and looking after a toddler, getting his daily dose of energy, joy and positivity is the best medicine. Every time he bestows a snotty kiss or gives me a tight hug around the neck to say goodnight and late at night when I creep back into his room to watch him sleep (the only time of day he is truly still) I feel stronger than ever. I will get through this for you Freddie.