“Don’t worry, I am going to kick it’s ass”
Those were the first words my sister said to me after her diagnosis.
Let’s rewind a couple of weeks. As some of you may know, my job requires me to work unsociable hours (to say the least)! Meaning time spent with my family is limited, we often pass like ships in the night and this would be considered normal for us.
What wasn’t normal, was the amount of times I would get home and my sister had been or was in hospital. I often wondered whether it was the hypochondriac in her taking over, but the more and more she went the more concerned I became, as did everyone else.
I managed to visit Ashleigh on a Saturday where she was filling me in with all of the ‘scary’ illnesses they had thrown at her so far. The optimist in you always deflects the possibility of such illnesses becoming a reality of course, and I would often find myself telling Ashleigh – “not to worry, you will be fine”, even though every time I spoke those words I believed it that little bit less myself.
Another week and a few days went by, and still Ashleigh remained in hospital and then it came. Friday 20th July, when fortunately, I was working from home. I can remember it so clearly, I was typing away and thinking – I would literally rather do anything rather than this Premier League Report right now……… Be careful what you wish for!
My phone started to ring, it was Dom, quite strange considering although we had been best mates for over 10 years, we very rarely call each other.
Dom: You need to ring my mum now!
Me: Why? What for?
Dom: I don’t know, just do it!
And so, I did just that…
Tavia (Dom’s Mum): Lewis, its Ashleigh, she’s got cancer.
There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for those words, I was in utter shock. The next hour is a blur to me, still to this day. I got in the car and set off driving home, not sure what to expect, I didn’t even know if anyone was there? Quick stop off on the way to throw up, again probably the shock and there I was, at home on my own pacing up and down the bottom floor, just waiting for the rest of my family to return home.
I would be lying if I didn’t think about the worst, it’s natural to do so. But the next words I was to hear changed my outlook on the situation completely and impacted me more than I could ever imagine:
“Don’t worry, I am going to kick it’s ass” – as we both stood there holding each other not wanting to let go.
Yes, that was my wonderfully brave, strong, amazing sister. I won’t give her too much credit, she did have a mini breakdown ten minutes later, but I suppose we can let her off considering?
Seeing all the sadness that followed that day, the family members upset on the phone, the friends breaking down in front of Ashleigh and my Mum and Dad in pieces, brings me to the reason why I asked Ashleigh if I could write a piece for her fantastic blog.
Receiving the news, you have cancer is bad enough, and like I myself have confessed, makes you think about the worst (if you let yourself). Something that I hated seeing Ashleigh go through, would be people visiting getting upset and break down in front of her, which if you are reading this and thinking ‘I did that’, don’t worry you weren’t the only one! Every time this happened, it got the cogs turning around in Ashleigh’s head.
Why is everyone so upset?
Is the situation that bad?
Maybe the worst is actually coming?
That day I made a promise to myself, I would never let my sister see me upset, I would only let her see me in a positive outlook, as that person that she can talk to and know that when I say “everything will be fine” I mean it, and I think she appreciates that.
Therefore, my first piece of advice to anyone going through a similar situation is; you must be the one that is positive and provide that little bit of normality in a life that is no longer normal, and that person will appreciate that and you more than anything.
Be the one that she/he wants to pick up the phone and text when their down, or call you when its all got too much for them, although on that point, Ashleigh once did call me and when I answered her first words were: ‘thank god for that, I am having a break down and you’re the third person I have called and first to answer’! Hopefully I was promoted after this incident!
Just to mention, I am not saying that it is all sunshine and rainbows by any stretch of the imagination. For the first week admittedly when all my family were asleep, I would even wait for Katie to fall asleep before I would let all my emotions loose and cry myself to sleep. It is ok not to be ok – but at the right time, and in front of the right people.
Maintaining this outlook on an awful situation takes a lot of strength, but you owe it to that person to show it as it is nowhere near as tough as the battle they are currently fighting. Prepare for the unexpected, the random phone calls, the outbursts, the arguments – you are going to face it all, but if you can be one of the people who they turn to in their time of need, you know you are doing it right.
The past few months (as strange as it sounds) have seemed normal, apart from Ashleigh now having less hair than me and yes that is tough considering my extremely fast receding hair line! We laugh, we joke, we do things that normal families do, and we are getting through this, together.
Before I finish, I would just like to speak about the other day, Ashleigh’s ‘half way point’ consultation, where we found out how her body had reacted to chemotherapy so far, it was tense to say the least (as you’d imagine). We all marched into the consultation room as the hospital staff followed us with spare chairs thinking ‘what the hell is going on’ – I almost felt like saying ‘sorry, we come as a team!’ and the moment that followed I will never forget, a feeling I don’t think I have ever experienced.
The nurse began to explain the news that Ashleigh’s Lymphoma Cancer was shrinking and that was it, I was off! I stuck by my guns and said I wouldn’t let her see me cry, therefore I tried and tried to hold back the tears, of absolute joy I may add!
I was doing so well until we were sat waiting outside Marks & Spencer’s with Ashleigh inside collecting her prescription and I burst out into tears and with my mum stood next to me asking what was wrong, I simply just said ‘I am just so happy, its great isn’t it!’ and of course as mothers do she asked me if I wanted a hug – come on, I’m 26 and in public, who wants a hug off your mum? So, I kindly declined her offer to save myself the embarrassment!
And here we are, Ashleigh is doing great, and importantly her support network are there for her every step of the way. Whether it’s a friend bringing round frozen donuts, or a boyfriend sleeping on an air bed every night, or a Mum who goes to work late every morning to make her daughter breakfast to start the day right, or even a sister-in-law that conquers her fear of needles to have the flu jab – everyone is there every step of the way and everyone is positive. Which is what that little warrior needs and deserves right now.
Keep on fighting our kid, we are all so proud and we love you more than ever!