For Next Year I Think I’ll Just Be Happy

Without doubt this has been one of the worst years of my life having lost my much-loved Dad following a devastating year of unbearable terminal illness. It’s hard to believe that his accident was twelve long months’ ago and he went overnight from driving the old folk to the supermarket to not being able to tie his own shoelaces. There have been so many enlightening lessons and although I always thought I was a strong person I clearly didn’t know what strong was until now.  I’ve met some people on this journey that have been like bottled sunshine on a very rainy day and some not so much. Whilst I cannot wait to embrace the New Year and hopefully a new start ultimately I will begin it a little sadder, wiser but a damn sight more fierce than the person I was twelve months ago.

What I’ve learned this year:

Karma does exist so even in your intensely frustrating moments you just have to sit back and let the universe deal with it

Fight for what you believe is right even if it takes every ounce of strength you have and then some

Learn to say no

People can be insensitive, selfish and will disappoint you so just appreciate and be grateful for the kind ones that warm your heart in your darkest of moments.

Don’t hoard beautiful things waiting for that special occasion to use or wear them; that special day is every day in which you are fortunate to walk this earth

Take some time to sit awhile with the elderly and infirmed and let them share their stories; you might just learn something!

Don’t leave words in your heart unspoken waiting for the right time; seize the moment and be bold for there will never be a perfect moment

Did a random act of kindness from a stranger on one of your bleakest days make all the difference? Then pay it forward; the world needs more of that.

Never underestimate the power of touch; hold a hand it may provide comfort to some lost soul facing their own struggles

Celebrate successes, special occasions and life, all with reckless abandon & joy for these will be the golden days you will remember for the rest of your life

Laugh as much as you can and whenever possible

Don’t be too proud to accept help

It’s good to talk so find a friend (two or four-legged) who understands the difficult road you’re walking

When it gets too much let it out and have a good cry, big fat shoulder-heaving noisy tears; you’ll scare the neighbours but you’ll feel lighter in spirit

Don’t side-line the things that make your heart sing because all of us need a tuppence-worth of happiness to add a little light to our troubled hearts

Sometimes you think you may never smile again and maybe you’ve forgotten how to but rest assured somewhere down the road the clouds will fade and the sun will shine for you again

Don’t pretend you’re fine when you’re not; there is no shame in admitting you need someone to help share your burden every now and then.

No one debilitating disease is worse than any other to each victim of Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Motor Neurone, Parkinson’s, Heart Disease, Strokes, they are all equally devastating and crush millions of families the world over. So for those still fighting their own battles have courage & faith, my friends; you got this!

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Some People Care Too Much, I Think It’s Called Love

At the weekend the old fella was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and we spent a tense couple of days not knowing whether he would pull through but when I rang the hospital ward that morning I knew when the nurse said he was sat up in bed asking for his breakfast that we had turned a corner. So later that day after my shift finished I drove to the hospital to check on him.

As is the case when I visit him of late, he dozes after a couple of minutes of conversation since his stroke so I sit there either reading, drinking or my other favourite occupation of people watching. I couldn’t help but notice an elderly lady sat by the bedside of a disabled man gently holding his hand and stroking his brow; the love and tenderness evident in every caress. This gentleman was unable to talk or control any of his limbs but it was evident that he knew his loved one was close by. A short while later, a nurse came in with a tray and demonstrated how to feed him through a tube. We caught each other’s eye as the elderly lady struggled to handle the feeding tube and smiled at each other in compassionate understanding.

As I got up to go and fetch a coffee from the vending machine as I knew that she wouldn’t want to desert her post, I asked if I could get her one. She fumbled around to find her purse and I assured her I had plenty of change from the car park ticket machine; frankly I was pleased to be able to do such a small thing for her as I have known the loneliness and sadness of a bedside vigil when sometimes just a kind word can make all the difference on a bleak day.

When I returned we started chatting; two strangers united in the responsibility of caring for a sick loved one and she explained to me that she had nursed her son at home for the fifty years of his life but said that sometimes he went to a day centre who were very good with him she assured me. She confided in me that after a fifteen week stay in hospital he would be returning home at the weekend which she said would save her two lengthy bus rides to the hospital each day.

“He’s my world” she said gently stroking his hair back from his forehead. Suddenly my burden no longer seemed all that heavy. This devoted mother’s plight had touched and humbled me in a million different ways.

I left the hospital that day a little lighter in heart feeling grateful knowing that there was still immense love in the world and that goodness does exist if you just know where to look for it.

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She Wears It Well

I’ve been incapacitated for the past few weeks owing to an acute deep tissue knee injury and sadly, I’m not the only blogger in recent months to have fallen foul of the curse of the crutch; Marianne over at East of Malaga, Rhonda at Fifty Shades of Gray Hair & Paula have all suffered various incapacitating injuries.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I was injured during some dangerous daring stunt such as abseiling or white water rafting but the truth of the matter is much more mundane that that; I slipped on the wet floor in the little girls’ room at work and managed to wrench my knee whilst performing the splits for the first and (hopefully last) time in my life. Who’d have thought I’d have been that bendy!

So I am currently modelling this slinky little number which is a bit like wearing a cricket batting pad and will probably make me more irresistible to the opposite sex (well those that like cricket anyway). It takes me about twenty minutes of hot sweaty wrestling to fasten all the hooks (a bit like a whalebone corset) and I feel like I need a lie down in a darkened room afterwards. I am still travelling into work every day on crutches via the local bus service, with my bag hanging loosely around my neck. I will admit to a couple of near misses with the automatic doors but I’m now a little wiser and can out-manoeuvre them. The medication has been knocking me out and one morning whilst still semi-conscious I thought I’d overslept so I dashed out to catch the earlier bus and arrived in work for 5.50am where I sat like Billy No Mates until my colleagues arrived at 8.30am

I’m not denying that walking at the moment isn’t somewhat painful and incredibly tiring but a girl’s gotta earn a living. However, as my bestie is about to grant us a royal visit, I’m applying muscle balms & ice packs, knocking back anti-inflammatory medications , and elevating the knee time permitting. And if all else fails there’s always Margaritas.

Have a good week my friends & let’s be careful out there.

Does my bum look big in this?

Does my bum look big in this?

The hardest thing is watching somebody you love forget they love you

Dearest Dad

I know you’re scared and if I’m honest I am too and more than a little devastated. As you have always said to me life is seldom fair and you are so right. Your stroke had been a bitter blow for the family but we have been so proud of the way you have dealt with your rehabilitation and will always be grateful to the medical team who have supported you throughout.

It was a truly priceless moment when you were able to sit behind the wheel of the car again for the first time in eighteen months beaming ear to ear with joy from regaining your independence which regrettably would be short-lived. I have been right here alongside you throughout the highs and lows and cheering you on from the side lines. It’s been a big learning curve for all of us and I think I’m a better and more patient person as a result. You have borne this struggle with grace and humility which is something many would have wrestled with. You have fought valiantly against all odds and overcome every challenge so it seems a cruel disappointment to ask you to do that again particularly as there will ultimately be no reprieve or happy ending this time around.

We’ve both known for some time that things just haven’t been right. A bigger and more fearful spectre has crept into our lives whilst we were busy focusing on your rehabilitation one which we both chose to ignore partly through fear and partly ignorance. We all quickly dismissed your forgetfulness as tiredness or a side effect of your medication. Forced smiles and pretence isn’t something that you or I can do very well for any length of time and inevitably we have had to face up to the consequences.

I’ve always thought that you need to roll with the cards you’ve been dealt but I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel a little dismayed at having my new-found freedom brought about by your recovery, snatched away quite so soon. As much as we would like to even we can’t beat this malevolent condition.

By the time you read this we will have started the process of tests again and yes there will be changes some good and some less welcome. There will, no doubt, be a few less than sunshine days when we will all rage with frustration but amongst them will be precious moments too. So let’s make these the best days of all filled with our favourites things; picnics, blackberry picking, kite flying and sitting on the porch watching the sky ablaze with lightning during a summer storm. Neither of us can change the future but we can make every cherished moment count.

So for now old fella, whilst this is just another setback along the road it’s a journey you won’t have to walk alone. We will always be able to smell the flowers and there’ll always be more dances but as with everything else in life we need to take this one step at a time just as we’ve always done.

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When Mother Knows Best

After watching one too many television programmes extolling the benefits of renovating your house on a shoestring, I grabbed the bull by the horns and decided somewhat naively that I would move back into the old cottage that I had shared with Serial Shagger and practise my limited interior design skills; after all they made it look so easy! Temporary insanity (I blame it on the fever) had convinced me that I could transform the fleapit into an oasis of sumptuous luxury using just a couple of rolls of wallpaper and a faux fur throw. Unfortunately, only two nights into the project I became ill with blinding headaches and nausea. I googled all my symptoms and became convinced that I needed to write my last will & testament pretty damn fast; a little bit of information can clearly be a dangerous thing! Obviously the plaster dust combined with the old horse hair used to bind the walls when the house was originally built had not helped my condition any.

So when my mother called she reassured me that I was not going to be expiring any time soon and I could cancel my funeral arrangements post-haste as she was on her way. So I shelved all thoughts of gifting my Yankee Candle collection to the local animal shelter charity shop for the time being. Arriving with her bag of tricks wrapped in a Marks & Spencer carrier bag, she laid all the items out on the table; Menthol Crystals (not to be confused with crystal meth), a rather dubious looking cough mixture (in the same coloured box as rat poison but minus the skull & crossbones logo) and the most important ingredient of all; a bag of frozen peas. Although to be honest it was peas & carrots picked fresh from Dad’s allotment at the end of the season and then frozen but you get the gist!

Protesting that I had no appetite,“Deborah, just listen to your mother” she sighed and filling a bowl with hot water she instructed me to put my feet in it whilst placing the frozen peas on the back of my neck. I have to admit that the throbbing pain in my head began to subside. The next remedy involved another bowl of hot water infused with a pinch of the menthol crystals and draping a towel over the back of my head I began to inhale one of the old dear’s “cure-alls” followed by the most popular one of all; a cup of tea.

Feeling substantially better I realised that as my demise was no longer imminent I now had to reassess the DIY situation because no amount of floating shelving or discreet lighting could transform my surroundings from dump to Des Res. This was going to be somewhat of a mammoth challenge and required a superhero in a red cape with blue “go-faster” stripes!

Choose Your Poison

Choose Your Poison

Sometimes The Most Important Lessons Are Those We Learn The Hard Way

As we celebrated the old fella’s birthday this weekend I can vividly recall the morning, one year ago when my Dad woke up complaining that he’d pulled a muscle in his arm but it was obvious to us all that something was seriously wrong. After a visit to the local doctor’s surgery he was despatched to the bus stop to make the thirty mile roundtrip to the hospital on a very stormy day lashed by gale force winds and torrential rain. When I returned from work I found my Dad soaked right through explaining that he’d had to ask the bus driver to retrieve his bus pass from his pocket as he was unable to and that was the first time of many that I was to cry tears of frustration that year. It’s hard not to when your old Dad who has always been so strong and self-sufficient struggles to even feed himself. Other times you laugh at your own incompetence such as when I accidentally locked him in the house with a lunch of bananas and sausage rolls completely forgetting that he would be unable to open them. I am forever trying to find ways to shave minutes off my day often falling into bed exhausted and I discovered pretty quickly that I’m not superwoman or a juggler so some things have had to change. Inevitably, it’s the things you enjoy doing the most that get sacrificed when you are under pressure.

It’s been a real journey of discovery and I have learned the hard way who my real friends are. Whilst many of my contemporaries are wrapped up in weddings, new houses and new families my life starts at five am when I’m awake for work and the rest revolves around hospital appointments, shopping, cleaning and repeating the whole process again the next day. You no longer have shared interests because you have very different priorities. They struggle to identify with your commitments as a carer and you constantly explain why you can’t just jet off with them on a much-needed holiday. Concerned friends soon stop asking when they realise you can’t fix a stroke with a couple of aspirins. Your hopes and dreams are parked and the life you imagined yourself having fades into the distance; this situation quickly becomes the new normal. Do I ever get resentful? Well of course, I’m only human after all and sometimes it’s hard surrendering your independence for dreary routine. There are no quick fixes here, no magic wands to restore mobility and recovery has been painstakingly slow but this is a marathon not a sprint.

There is help out there for those that are prepared to fight the system or are fortunate enough to have someone who is able to do that for them; for those that don’t no doubt they fall under the radar of our social services and struggle on alone unaided. In addition, gadgets enabling an easier life for those afflicted are ridiculously overpriced again taking advantage of the most vulnerable.

For those finding themselves in a similar situation if I could I’d gently take your hand and assure you that you’re not alone and that there is life after a debilitating family illness. Is it going to be harder than you imagined? Most probably! Will you have some really bleak days? Without a doubt you’ll feel incredibly overwhelmed, bone-tired and isolated but your sense of always finding the funny will get you all through. Will it get better? Definitely. It’ll be a big learning curve for everyone with both uplifting positive and desolate negative moments. You’ll lose friends but you’ll meet better ones worth keeping. For every hard-hearted dismissive jobsworth you encounter you will stumble across people who are like bottled sunshine. The old fella has made tremendous progress but we’ve learned to celebrate the little simple triumphs like seeing him pick up a knife. So why then don’t I just quit my job, buy a ticket and run away to Turkey? Because quite simply, he’s my Dad.

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

Not the best picture but this little one-footed fella dodges all the bigger birds every day to sneak a crumb when I’m feeding the rest and he reminds me that you can overcome anything.

For those facing the same struggles as our family if you haven’t already please try contacting the Stroke Association who are just amazing and helped us when no one else would.