On the way home, whilst talking about Theo I felt my chest fizzing. At first I thought it was ghost limb syndrome. Shortly after, the pain started to rise up and we had to pull over and fumble around for the meds. Once I could talk again, I said “Of course those little babies have been delivered to me four-hourly over the last four days. I’m going to have to get my head around what I need to take when.”

“It’s the only job you’ll have, Sambo. Mum and I are going to look after you for a while yet.”

“Well Ted, I do want to contribute where I can. I’ve been thinking about the jobs I can do. Prepare an easy meal. Make tea. Do some ironing. Read to the kids. Put the girls to bed. I’ll be fine, so long as I don’t raise my arms above my head, have anything press against my chest or bear weight on my arms.”

“And you can manage your pain.” He looks at me dubiously.

My time at home so far has made a mockery of my expectations, limited though they were. This makes me sad. It’s one thing surrendering to others’ care in hospital, quite another doing the same at home. And having my kids there, yet being unable to do much compounded my sense of helplessness.

I spent much of the day reclined. I did manage to read the girls a few stories, interspersed with barked instructions on where I can and can’t be touched. Meals were magically made, nappies were changed and I am supremely grateful for this, but learning to receive help and letting go of control will be an ongoing struggle for me.

One thing I couldn’t wait for was the reunion with my baby. I think I missed him most of all whilst I was in hospital. After all, he and I have slept together every night for eighteen months – nine inside me and nine out. The nightly act of curling around him and pressing my thumb and forefinger over the dimples on his fat starfish hand never failed to light me up. While he was happy to sleep with Ted while I was gone, I knew sharing the bed post op was not going to work. He is strong now, and squirmy and could easily hurt me in the night.

But I’d reconciled with that and had adjusted to what the doc said was possible, i.e. that while I can’t pick him up, I can have him placed on my knee. Both Theo and I had face cracking smiles when he was put there but before I could even reacquaint myself with his smell, he nuzzled into me, which pulled at the tape on my stitches, causing white poker agony. He was whisked away again. I don’t know what was more painful, my physical reaction or the look of bemusement followed by indignity on his little face. Then, surprise, surprise, tears from us both. He gave me those pissed off cat, fresh from the cattery looks all the rest of that day.

I’ve had a long list of negatives to contend with in the last month, and they vary in gravity. Least problematic are the numerous financial and logistical compromises our family have made. Middle tier annoyances are the aesthetic adjustments Ted and I need to get our heads around and attending amendments to my identity, plus the whole medical/hospital/’pain management’ experience. While top of the pain pops are the whole mental onslaught living with cancer brings (‘brave’ as I seem) and the permanent loss of physical sensation in my breasts plus the loss of my nipple, I am deeply mourning my independence and the inability to give and receive affection to Ted and my children.

Particularly Theo.

Thank God that’s only temporary and when these scars have heeled, I’m going to smother those poor people each and every day for as long as they’ll let me.

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