A moment in time
I'm standing beside you. You speak but I cannot hear, everything begins to blur, I feel myself falling, the sensation of the cool night air on the tears rolling down my face somehow comforting. I try to pull myself together for your sake, but I'm lost in my own grief. The noise of the city drowned by my mind, screaming to block the pain.
It is at that very moment, when all around me disappeared, when colours turned to grey, when silence took the sounds, that my heart shattered with a force so great, it can never be whole again. Even in memory today, that moment remains grey. There are gaps I cannot fill, timelines all askew, I'm with you then I'm home, and yet that cannot be.
I yelled and screamed, I kicked and punched, I cried for you and me. I even stopped dreaming. I got angry with the sun, the moon, and the stars - how dare they shine brightly mocking me. I tried to understand, find logic, or even sense where there is none. I thought about the injustice of it all, and found solace in darkness.
When my daughter came into this world, I promised her I would always love and protect her. With a heart full of joy and a future full of possibilities, it never occurred to me that I may not be able to fulfill that promise. When she was diagnosed with a anaplastic astrocytoma - a high grade, malignant brain tumour - two years ago, my world fell apart. It was as if everything I'd known, everything I believed in, every ideal I held was suddenly disproved. I spent my days and nights crying, howling with pain, engulfed by sadness. I don't know how long I stayed in that state, and there is no definitive moment I can recall, that snapped me out of this stupor. One minute I was absent, the next I was sorting through overdue bills and notices.
I realised I had to go back to work but it was difficult explaining the twelve months gap in employment. WheneverI mentioned I had taken time off to care for my daughter through her chemo, and, let's face it, for myself, I could hear the door shut. I heard enough poor excuses to write a book, some didn't even bother making excuses. My favourite was "we're not a charity, we can't afford the risk of employing someone like you". Yeah ok, and I don't work for halfwits, guess we're even. I was told by recruiters not to mention cancer, make something up, anything but that. I refused.
Christmas neared and the job market dried up. The house went on the market, and I started to sift through Seek again. I held on to the belief that someone out there would understand, that there was a place where the word "cancer" didn't make people run in the opposite direction or cause embarrassment. Between January and June 2016, I submitted 2000 job applications and attended three interviews. After a year and half, I now found myself with two offers to consider. Against all advice from well meaning friends, I took a project management role with Peter Mac and never looked back.
learning to smile again
I was given the opportunity to work with the cancer research department and some amazing people. I learned a lot about what the research department does, what it means to be a scientist, the passion, the sense of urgency, the humble geniuses who can't understand what the fuss is all about. I began to see things differently, I began to see hope. Real hope, not just for my daughter, but for all the children, the mums and dads, brothers and sisters who need a voice, someone in their corner. It's a hive of activity and yet it is one of the most peaceful places I know.
I began to send my daughter the daily digest on cancer research and breakthroughs.She posted them to her facebook cancer support page and watched the optimism spread. People began emailing her asking for the next instalment. I smiled, truly smiled for the first time in over a year. I wondered if anyone takes the time to thank you for what you do?
Well, I will. Thank you for the great that you do and the great that you are, and thank you for teaching me to smile with a broken heart.