Survive and Thrive – April Dore

Dear Billy,

2019 is a year that has lots of memorable dates for various reasons, but the most important of them all was the 19th September, the date you were born.

I have always felt my sickness and hospitalisations throughout my pregnancy and my diagnosis took away the joy and happiness I should have felt when I was expecting you, but towards the end, everything focused on my cancer diagnosis.

I have felt guilty so many times for lots of reasons, I had to have chemotherapy whilst pregnant with you,  you were delivered 5 weeks early by caesarean, I couldn’t breastfeed you – even though I had done the breastfeeding classes before being diagnosed. I was so ill during chemotherapy, I was either in pain or didn’t have the energy to get out of bed to give you your bottle during the night/day, or take you out to mother and baby groups or visit friends with you. I suffered from neuropathy – I couldn’t wash your bottles, or close the fasteners on your babygros. After my surgeries, I couldn’t hold you for weeks, I did get the sneaky ones in though, and we loved them.  I cried so much, middle of the night, but mostly in the shower – it was where I was alone and it all came out. Leaving you to do chemotherapy, my surgeries and my radiotherapy was so incredibly hard and something no parent should have to do. But I did it for you, you always gave me the strength and determination to get there, get through whatever had to be done, and rush home to see your beautiful smile, amazing blue eyes, bouncy curls and get a big squeeze!

I found out about the Marie Keating Survive and Thrive programme from a wonderful lady I follow on Instagram – she too had been through a cancer diagnosis around the same time and we messaged over and back. I signed up for the programme and it was the best decision. I met some incredible ladies and gentlemen, who will be life-long friends, as well as Helen and Paul – unbelievable course givers. And Fiona for all the incredible organising.

We went through our stories, and each one I cried. Life has been so cruel to all of us, but this programme is about thriving. As I write this, we are heading into week 5, and I have grown so much from the last 5 weeks. Whilst I know I have never been alone through this, and I was never scared to talk about my diagnosis, I know that what I am feeling now is normal. I have learned skills to manage situations, feelings, emotions, anxiety, pain, unknown pain, fatigue, fear and guilt. Some days are easier than others, and some days are incredibly hard. I have learned to plan things, accept things, find the good in things, and most importantly make time for me, make time for you and me, make time for dad and me, and make time for the three of us – the three musketeers.

Week 4, I said I will never be the person I was before. And I won’t.  I am the new me, your mammy, a fiancée, still a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to lots of wonderful people who love us all very much. During the pandemic and my treatment, I went through the motions, did what had to be done, I survived, it is now my time to thrive, thanks for Survive and Thrive.

Raising you has been the distraction I needed to get through this incredibly difficult time. While I know you have been too young to realise what has happened, including a pandemic, the Survive & Thrive programme and you have made me focus on the future.

I promise to look to the future, create wonderful memories, show you the world and continue to love you for the wonderful little boy that saved me – thank you. <3

Love you to infinity and beyond,

Your mammy,