My birthday girl

17 years ago today, a tiny little new born baby entered the world. She was named Rochelle and from that moment on became my pride and joy. It’s been about three days of festivities since she had her birthday party at the beach club on Friday with a bunch of her friends, but today was obviously of the most significance. When I was diagnosed with my breast cancer, she was only 6 years old. I thought at the time that she wouldn’t be affected by my illness due to the fact that she was still so young, but I was soon to learn that you can never underestimate a child’s perceptiveness. I found out about my breast cancer a month after my 7th wedding anniversary and three months before Rochelle was due to start school. By the time she entered grade1 is wasn’t long before I got a call from her teacher asking me to come in. As I mentioned in one of my previous entries, she had completely shut down and would not communicate with anybody and had to start regular sessions with the school counsellor.

Roch 02

Rochelle today, at her 17th birthday party.

Since then, she has gone from strength to strength and has learnt not to internalize her feelings and emotions. Needless to say, the journey since then has not been an easy one. Since my initial diagnosis our family life has swung like a pendulum between years of stability coupled with a sense of happiness and normality to a blur of utter shock, despair and endless hospital visits. This is basically how all three of my girls have been raised.

This has been an endless source of inner conflict for me. My husband and I have always had a rock solid marriage and the girls have been raised in a peaceful, loving environment and there is the logical part of me that of course knows that all of this is not my fault and all completely beyond my control. Yet there is still the sense of frustration, anger and injustice that engulfs you on some days and then the sadness and heartbreaking pity that you feel for your children the next. Everybody has always told me how strong I am and how well I’ve handled it and been able to juggle cancer treatments along with raising my children, but it’s been anything but easy. Rochelle and Arlise are now fine, but I now worry about my youngest Clarice who ironically enough being the strongest of the three personalities, is actually the most emotionally unstable. I have to watch her like a hawk and even at the age of 14, when she starts to have nightmares and I see lots of tissues lying on the floor around her bed in the mornings, then I know that the depression has hit her again and that it’s time for another heart to heart.

But for now…today, I just feel so lucky and privileged to have made it to yet another one of my children’s birthday parties. Yes, there have been several moments when I have been paralyzed with fear, wondering if this is it. Today I went and bought a bouquet of flowers for Rochelle and presented them to her in the parking lot at school. We also took her out to dinner tonight. I tell her everyday how much I love her, but today I made her feel extra special. You never know what tomorrow may bring.

Like they say, cancer of any sort is not just the individual patients disease, it is the entire family’s. That said, my girls have not had an easy time of it, but one thing I do know for sure is that they are growing up to have an extra insight into how meaningful and precious life really is, which lets face it, is a rarity in young children and teenagers. Despite everything I am pretty sure that they will grow up to be strong, wise and independent young women, treasuring and making the most of every day that lies ahead of them.

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