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Part 15. Altruism.

God it’s been been a doozy of an emosh one. That’s a shit sentence. Don’t care. As I lie here in my bed looking very much the patient, typing away at stupid o’clock in the night/morning, my body is both exhilarated and completely exhausted by everything that’s passed in the last 2 weeks –  oh and probably some chemo too.

I seem to have had a natural writing hiatus since my last, fairly lengthy, blog culminating in the news that I am a BRCA2 mutant, and that my cuz was about to bravely shave and donate her hair. It’s only been a couple weeks but I haven’t been near my laptop.

My last blog was kind of happily called ‘the half way mark’. That was actually Tuesday (8th May), in terms of number of chemo treatments remaining. I now have 6 to go having moved to the weekly regime in order to manage the new drugs. The last couple of weeks have felt hard and weirdly uplifting – as though things have reached a psychological peak.  We’ll see about that I guess what with there being a lot more of this jooouuurney left! When I say the hard, nothing will beat waiting for results, being diagnosed and telling my kids. But recently I think my brain has needed to filter the vast amount of information, settle and reset. I’ve worked (gone to work) every day other than treatment days, done the school runs and the packed lunches, the sibling diplomacy and the day-to-day mum stuff, and spent the bank holiday weekend at home with my girls and family celebrating N turning 10. I’ve needed normal and a little less cancer noise. This hasn’t been conscious but my brain and body seem very adept at steering me towards what I need. Pineapple being a great example. Fuck I love eating pineapple at the moment. Anyway, the point is, writing has been my sense-making tool, but writing itself requires energy, and all my energy has been put in to functioning and getting my head around what comes next following the BRCA news. Here I am though, writing, and it feels good!

Since part 14 I’ve had chemo rounds 4, 5 and 6 (big dose, little dose, little dose), all of which have gone well and have so far involved manageable side effects. As ever I had very good company, T-Dad, Hattie and Mum. Each took me, chatted with me, loved me, sat silently, made me laugh, made me cry (happy tears!) and, in T-Dad’s case, took lady bump selfies and stuck me in a converted camper van to be in nature the following afternoon! Because the rounds are now weekly I suppose I’ve been quietly assessing how I manage this new routine and what the new drugs will do to me. If it stays like this (please gods), I’ll be ok. I have June 19th – the final round – firmly in my sights with the horrid nagging fear that some bastard virus or something will try and stand in my way. I’m doing everything I can to prevent that from happening!

Another reason for this settling period, I think, is that my mind was quite blown by Zoe’s brave shave. The day was so full of passionate support, love and laughter, and lots of close family, that I found myself utterly immersed in the magic of it. I laughed hard that day and was caught up in the theatre of Zoe’s radical coiffure, snipping one of her 10 inch braids myself, then playing hairdressers with Di’s pro scissors for a bit, before taking on the clippers. But the weight of what Zoe did that day caught up with me. It was pure altruism. Her words to my mum, which will stay with me always, were that with two very young kids and no spare cash she is doing what she can do. And as she said that her eyes filled with tears. Hers was a selfless act that made everyone in the room that day have an even deeper respect and love for our Zoe and I suspect none of us knew that was possible. The moment Zoe and I embraced with my bald head revealed against her newly shaven (perfectly formed) head, emotion washed right over me.

This altruistic act, an act of real love, has got me thinking about our capacity to give our time and energy (our hair!) to people who need it. It’s made me consider what I can and will do that isn’t work or my children – the two things that have been my reason for not volunteering or giving that little bit of time to a neighbour for a cuppa or to do some chores. If anyone needs to give back / pay it forward now, it’s me. Well maybe not right now, but when this is done! I know I would do for my friends and family what they are doing for me, but some of them are showing another level of commitment that’s made me sit up and pay attention. People’s capacity for love and care is astounding and I am taking note.

I really don’t want to sound preachy, honestly, it’s not my style, but I was recently asked by a friend what would help her newly diagnosed sister out the most, also a single mum. The small stuff can really be the big stuff. It’s the things that you might have to ditch a bit of pride over, like the laundry being done and family meals being prepared, someone else cleaning the loo and putting the bins out! This stuff getting done means what little energy one has can be focused on maintaining health, earning money and being mum. Top priorities. So if there’s someone who would benefit from some help with the day to day, or bigger stuff, go give them a bit of your time or energy. Doesn’t necessarily need to be someone going through a big life trauma, it could be your older neighbour or some time with a charity. It’s genuinely very powerful stuff for the person receiving the help and will undoubtedly make you feel good! But you know this already. We all do. It’s just that so many of us are just too busy being caught up in ourselves and our busy lives. Time to look up and out folks!

We are wired to love and that’s really what it’s all about. Altruism, acting with selfless concern for the well being of others, is love, isn’t it?

The film of Zoe’s #bravetheshave will be available soon – it’s bloody amazing thanks to the wizardry of Kev Keiley! 

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