Monday, 9 September 2013

Truth in Writing

Trying to explain to someone how you feel can sometimes be so hard.  You know how you feel in your heart, but it is so difficult translating those feelings into coherent words without perhaps sounding whining and unreasonable.  It is even harder to do when you are someone who is normally laid back and easy going.  Someone who prefers the easy life and likes to avoid confrontation.  Who fears change and detests upsetting those who you love.

Some things are so much harder to do now I no longer have my voice of reason, aka my sister.  She always helped me to see situations from a different angle.  She always understood where I was coming from, was always on my side and was always supportive and loving.  Not having that person with whom I had such a strong bond and connection makes big decisions and moments so much harder now.  I find it difficult to talk to others about my most important feelings.  Maybe because I abhor the idea of appearing weak or anything less than positive and decisive?

What I can say is be true to yourself and stand by your beliefs.  Make sure you know these feelings are true before communicating them as once said cannot be retracted.  Know what is in your heart.  Trust in your judgement and do not be swayed.  Do not be influenced by false endearments.

Putting things in writing assists me now in gaining the objectivity that is often now so elusive.  Writing is my therapy, my balm and my surrogate sister.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

One Year On

A few weeks ago my daughter Ella and I along with some good friends, took part in the annual Weldmar Hospice midnight walk.  Ella and I did so in Katy's memory.  Katy lived most of her life in Weymouth and had she spent her last years here, would undoubtedly have needed to use this local hospice.  The night was truly wonderful with nearly 1000 women marching along the prom wearing flashing bunny ears.  I know Katy would have highly approved!  This charity event raised over 100k for the hospice - an amazing achievement.  The 6.5 mile walk took just over two hours to complete.  I felt incredibly close to Katy during this walk and was strangely emotional when I crossed the finish line and was presented with my medal.

One year ago today I lost my best friend - my sister Katy.  I cannot believe it has been a year as it still feels so raw to me.  I don't feel I have touched the surface of my grief.  I still cannot mention her name without painful tears falling.  The pain is still excruciating so it does not feel like a year to me.  However, I feel like I can't show this pain in public.  Most people have forgotten about my loss and that is understandable as it is my loss and not theirs.  So when my eyes suddenly fill with tears I have to pretend I have a head cold or a problem with my lenses.  When I feel overwhelmed with grief I have to find a quiet solitude in which to hide my sorrow. 

I have been dreaming about Katy alot recently.  Random dreams of normalcy.  Of every day activities like bein gin a car together or going for a walk with our children.  These are wonderful dreams that feel so real and cause me to waken in a confused state not knowing which reality I exist in.  For a few blissful sleepy seconds Katy is still in my life.  I can understand why some people choose to live in such a half life because sometimes the reality is just too hard to bear.

I have booked the next week off work as I knew I would need to be away from the medical environment.  I have made sure I have lots planned - new oven being delivered today, trip to Southampton tomorrow, friends over for dinner Saturday then up the Nothe to try to catch the apparent meteor shower, camping with friends next week and a lady's day out in Bournemouth for shopping and lunch.

Keeping busy is the only way I know how to get through this time and to help keep the sad thoughts from my head.  I will smile and laugh and maintain the facade as usual.  I have been used to doing that for many months now, but this week will be harder than normal. 

I know that one day the pain will ease and I hope that day comes soon, as it still feels like my heart is breaking.

Katy I miss you every minute of every hour of every day.  You were taken so young, but I know that I will see you again one day.  Sisters forever.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Another Birthday...

So a couple of days ago I turned another year older.  I'm not a big fan of birthdays (my own!), but this one was particularly hard as it was the first one I have ever had without my sister.  Katy would always phone me and sing Happy Birthday  in a very tuneless and cheerful manner and she would always send me the best presents.  When we were young teenagers we both absolutely loved a series of French historical romance novels.  They were published in the 50's and we had owned some very battered copies when we were young, which unfortunately got lost amidst countless house moves.  One year, my sister spent a lot of time and effort tracing and tracking down these books.  They have been out of publication years and years ago, but Katy managed to find each novel - one by one from individual sources and for different prices and she boxed them up and sent them to me for my birthday.  That is the most thoughtful gift I have ever received and I will treasure those books the rest of my life.  It was the sheer effort that Katy put in to getting those books for me - the love she put into the idea and the joy it gave her every time she managed to get hold of another book for me.

Not having someone who puts that much thought into me any more is hard - very hard.  But, as I often say on here, life does go on and good things do happen.  My clever daughter passed her driving test first time last week, much to her delight and excitement and much to my pride in her accomplishment.  The same day Ella took her driving test, I went for a job interview and I was successful in getting it.  It will be a much better job with a lot more responsibility (and money) and I am ready for the challenge.  Scared but ready.  A lot of candidates were interviewed for the position and I was the one they picked so I do admit to feeling proud of myself and I know that Katy would be enormously proud of me.

The other positive at the moment is that I joined Slimming World 4 weeks ago and have already lost just over a stone in weight, which I am also very proud of and I know Katy would be very proud of me for that too.

Every accomplishment in my life is another step forward and another step closer to being happy again.  I am embracing the possibilities life is showing me and with every step I feel Katy is here cheering me on. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Power of Horses

Last night I watched a documentary on TV about an incredible woman in USA who had her face and hands ripped off in a horrific attack by a pet chimpanzee.  The programme followed this lady's amazing progress as she battled for survival then as she recovered and overcame her atrocious injuries, with a face transplant.  Years previous to the attack she was a rodeo rider.  She loved horses.  After her face transplant she said that she sometimes dreams she is riding horses and she exerted her conviction that she would one day ride again.

My sister was a very keen rider.  She was as a young teenager.  Every birthday, all she wanted as her birthday treat, was to go pony trekking.  She dreamed of one day having a horse of her own.  Less than a year before she died her dreams came true.  Katy had been competing at horse shows for the last few years - very successfully so - winning trophies and ribbons.  She initially leased her horse, Charlie and right from the start they were a match made in heaven.  Charlie was a naughty boy for most other riders, but he and Katy formed a special bond right away.  They both learned under their trainer, Matthew, both developing and honing their skills.

During Katy's treatment for her brain tumour, she visited the barn where she kept Charlie as often as she could.  Just to see Charlie and the other horses and visit with her friends at the barn.  After her surgery in October 2011 when I flew out to help look after her, I drove her to the barn so she could see Charlie.  The barn hands had Charlie all ready so Katy could groom him, give him his favourite treat of mints and just love him and pet him.  She was so overjoyed to see him and he looked overjoyed to see her.  He was a massive horse - as tall as I am i had to stretch my arm fully to brush his back.  But he stood there as gentle as a lamb for Katy, as if he knew that he had to be careful not to bump her head.

It all got too overwhelming for Katy and she laid her head on her arms, resting on Charlie's beautiful belly and just broke her heart.  She was so upset not to be able to ride her beautiful boy.  But it made her all the more determined that she would do so again.

So she fought like fuck.  She endured over 20 sessions of radiotherapy and received a standing ovation from the other patients on leaving the clinic after her last session.  And as soon as the Surgeon gave her the thumbs up, she was back on Charlie.  She told me once that the only time she forgot that she was ill was when she was riding.  Charlie was her therapy that worked.  That helped her to forget what she was going through and gave her sheer bliss and happiness. 

Katy did manage to compete again after her treatment.  She worked so hard with her occupational therapy to regain enough strength in her hands to enable her to ride again. 

A tree was planted at the barn where Katy spent so many happy hours, in her memory.  A tribute to her strength and determination.

My sister was an amazing inspiration to me.  She reinforced to me that life is so precious and that when we are strong, despite life's adversities, we can accomplish so much.

I like to think that Katy is somewhere now on a horse, galloping across a green field, filled with joy and peace.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The masks that we wear

Christmas this year was not something I looked forward to.  It was there. I couldn't avoid it. I couldn't spend it in bed with my head buried under the duvet.  I have children to think of so I had to make an effort for their sakes.  I dutifully put up the tree and other decorations.  I shopped for food and drink and presents, which I then wrapped in shiny gift paper with ribbons and bows.  I even managed to hold a party.  I smiled and I even laughed.  My smile was my mask, shielding the hurt and sorrow I felt inside. 

This was my first Christmas without my sister.  The first Christmas I was not able to speak to her, to exchange gifts with her, to compare shopping lists with.  To tell each other how much we love and miss each other. 

I have spent 2 or 3 fantastic Christmases with Katy since she moved to USA 14 years ago.  My family and I would travel out a week before the big day and Katy and I did the food and present shopping together and of course the tree.  I recall one memorable Christmas we went out to buy the tree and made the mistake of taking our children with us.  We ended up buying by far the largest tree available at the store, which we then spent many hysterically giggling minutes trying to stuff it into Katy's car - burying the children amongst the branches!

We would go to the Phoenix Zoo Lights event - the most spectacular and beautiful lit zoo including the wonderful 'dancing palm trees'.  Boxing day would be spent travelling North up to the Grand Canyon, giving us the opportunity to play in the snow among the pine trees.

But it is our childhood Christmases that stick in my head most.  When we were little, Katy and I shared a bedroom.  Christmas Eve we would excitedly go to bed and would take ages to get to sleep, trying to stay awake long enough to catch Father Christmas delivering our presents.  We never managed it.  Then before Dawn broke we would awaken and I still remember the thrill of feeling the weight of my Christmas stocking, now full, on the end of my bed.  One of us would whisper ' are you awake?' and we would attempt to be quiet while we emptied out stockings.  They would always contain a satsuma and some nuts among other goodies.

Our parents were strict about present opening.  Breakfast had to be eaten and cleared away before the whole family would then gather around the Christmas tree and our mother would hand out one present at a time.  This meant that the present opening would last for ages - right up until lunch.  Christmas lunch would be a veritable feast consisting of two different joints of meat with all the trimmings.  Crackers would be pulled and silly hats donned.  Then the afternoon would be spent playing with our new toys and games together.

Normal family Christmas stuff.  Just like millions of other people around the world.  I wish we had had more of them.  I feel so sad that I won't ever have another Christmas with Katy.  I realise the first year is always the hardest - each anniversary a painful reminder to be endured.  The first Christmas, birthday, etc.

With the New Year nearly upon us I am dreading New Years Eve.  For the past few years I have tried to be optimistic saying ' this year will be better', but sadly this has not been the case.  I'm finding it very hard to summon any optimism for 2013.  I'm not going to say it will be better.  I don't want to tempt fate.  I do not feel like going out to celebrate the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013.  I shall grin and bear it, as I did Christmas.  I shall put on my mask.

The hurt and sorrow aren't lessening, I am just getting better at keeping it inside.  And as time goes on I am hoping that slowly and gradually, the pretence will become the reality.  I am strong. I can do this.




Thursday, 1 November 2012

Silly social phobia!

I can not believe that almost 3 months have passed since I lost my darling sister.  I am starting to do more again.  To socialise more and to re-start my simple pleasures such as singing and swimming.  However, I still find it difficult to socialist in a group larger than about 6 people.  I start to feel anxious and upset.  During a close friend's dinner party last Saturday, I suddenly felt as if I was totally alone.  All the other people became quiet and blurred, their conversations a dim cacophony of random words and shrill laughter.  I had to fight my urge to stand up and scream.  I felt a white hot rage.  Fortunately I managed to suppress this irrational emotion and merely quietly left the room to spend several minutes crying bitterly in the cloakroom.

Previous to Katy dying I had never suffered with any social anxieties - indeed I was generally considered to be to be the life and soul of the party. In fact Katy always used to say I was a big fat show off!! Now, however, I find myself withdraw and become introverted in larger groups.  The party season will soon be here.  My office party on the 15th December I first declined when the email circulated.  But my colleague and friend, Lisa, put my name down to attend anyway.  Despite some misgivings I have decided to brave it.  Tomorrow night I am going out with my work colleagues for dinner.  There will be 8 of us.  Even this relatively low number of people is causing me some stress.  But I have to force myself to go to these occasions or I run the risk of becoming completely social phobic.

I have no idea why I am suffering with this weird anxiety but I am going to work through it.  With the silly season stomping through the dark evenings towards us, i need to brace myself. 

I am determined to be the life and soul of the party once more. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Getting in the Zone

My HBA1c has been completely up the wall recently (hardly surprising, stress induced).  I haven't exactly be taking great care of myself or taking much notice at all to be honest.  But I know Katy would be very cross with me so I have decided to get back on track health wise again.  I really do not want to have my medication increased or to go onto insulin, which is what the GP has said, so I have decided to try and lower my HBA1c myself through diet and exercise.  I also thought that losing a few pounds before the silly season starts would be a good plan too!

I used to do alot of swimming as a young teenager and have had phases through the years of swimming regularly so I thought I would try it again.  I have been going twice a week for the past 3 weeks and love it.  I had forgotten how enjoyable it is.  Gets every part of you exercised, which is obviously great.  But a side effect is also that it is also very therapeutic.  I swim up and down and after the first few lengths start to feel very relaxed.  I zone out and my mind starts wandering. 

I think about all sorts of things as I plough through the water - from my shopping lists to work issues to family.  I have been back at work again the past two weeks and am really enjoying being back.  When I went back previously I had forced myself to go, feeling that I ought to.  But I wasn't ready and in hindsight it was far too early.  But this time, I felt ready to go back and it feels good to be using my brain again and being with my great work colleagues. 

It has also been a bit of a strange couple of weeks as an estranged family member has been in contact.  It has made me think alot about how strange people can be and about what makes them tick.  I was unsure how to handle the situation and desperately wanted to ask my sister for her opinion.  It struck me all over again that she is no longer there to help and advise and now I have to think 'what would Katy do', instead of picking up the phone and asking her.  I don't cry every single day now, but that day I did cry all evening.  It is now different circumstances where it hits me all over again and I feel the pain of losing her all over again. 

I do quite often feel adrift these days, but when I am swimming it helps me to focus my mind and make decisions in a much calmer way.  I finish my sessions feeling much more serene and able to cope with what the day throws my way.

Whatever you do that helps get you into the zone, stick with it, as I intend to do.  Exercise is great for mind, body and soul.  Plus, when you have done some exercise you then feel justified in having a whacking great glass of wine!

Happy Friday everyone xx