Dear Baby Girl
This Mother's Day I wanted to write you a letter about something very important.
You were two, I was 33 on the day of our girl's trip to the hospital; the day we found out Mummy had cancer. You weren't too fazed and it sort of rubbed off on me.
I shouldn't have had breast cancer - I don't tick the boxes. I even breastfed you and your brother in the knowledge that it could help prevent it.
A few days later a thought occurred. I was tearful on the phone when I asked the Breast Care Nurse if I could have passed it on to you either that way or any other. She reassured me, "No".
Being slim and small-chested, I had a full mastectomy on my right, removing five tumours. An inflatable implant was replaced. Inflation days were rough; a space hopper has no business wedged between your pectoral muscle and breastbone. I hope you won't remember the gaps when I was absent. It's a good job Daddy was hiding superhero potential under his bushel.
I'm sorry I couldn't carry you in those weeks post-surgery when really you still needed it. I'm sorry I couldn't help you climb at the park; you had to learn quickly how to do it yourself. I'm sorry I won't feel cuddles from you on my right side. I'm sorry I didn't know your shoe size or where that scar on your knee came from. I'm sorry I've been short-tempered. I'm sorry you'll never see my body as it was, I liked it.
You have helped me through an uncertain time in ways that you can't possibly know, thank you Sweetheart. Your penchant for telling me "You're lovely" and giving me a hug, can make up for even the grimmest of days. It's hard to deny you earnestly imploring me: "Come on Mummy, get up! I've got to show you sunthin!" (sic). It's been the best of distractions. Your warm little body stuck to me like a carapace. Would it be absurd to suggest that all cancer patients should be prescribed a two-year-old?
Telling you kids was the hardest; the words kept catching in my throat. With you there wasn't the difficulty of actually telling you; rather how. In the end I settled on "Boob bugs" that needed taking out. And they were Sweetheart - Mummy had a lucky, lucky escape.
You were fascinated about me having my head shaved, climbing up on my knees for a closer look. You are so proud of it, telling anyone that'll listen "My Mummy's got no hair". I'll admit it was a bit uncomfortable when you accused that lady of stealing my hair in the swimming pool changing rooms... but I agree it did look a lot like mine. She'd been trying so hard not to look at the bald woman with one boob.
On a rare wig day (renamed by you as hair hat) you complimented me: "You're lovely, Mummy, you're so... hairy." I laughed and said "Thank you". You sensed something in my laugh, you asked, for the first time self-consciously, "Is that not right?"
I said "Usually you'd say: "Your hair looks nice"".
You corrected yourself. "Your hair looks nice Mummy."
None of this phases you. On the sofa, you pull off my hat and stroke my head. I feel your genuine concern: "Is your boob sore Mummy?" "No Sweetheart", "Is your boob fixed now Mummy?" "Yes Darling".
My comforting thought throughout has been: Thank God it's me and not you kids, but not so for Granny. She has worked tirelessly for us all, she's been there for you and witnessed the worst of it while facing the thing we mothers dread. We will always be grateful.
Now you're three, I'm still 33 and two weeks out of chemo. There's a way to go but the future is bright. I'm a good reason for people not giving up the fight with cancer - we're winning!
In the future you must make sure you check yourself sweetheart, make sure you go to the doctor about concerns and make sure they listen, mine were dismissed originally. This hasn't been a journey to be afraid of; because of my wonderful family this unique time has been bittersweet, in no small part because of you my beautiful, funny, sweet Baby Girl.