In October 2015 the intensive cancer treatment planned for Esther, according to the standard protocol used internationally for the type of tumor she had, finally came to an end. After 9 long months in and out of hospitals we were very relieved to see the end of it, although we still had to continue with her maintenance treatment and regular hospital visits. I was concerned because I knew very well that sadly even though far from pleasant and enjoyable, Esther’s cancer treatment was keeping the “monster” out of sight and Esther safe. Obviously she couldn’t have chemo forever and whatever was possible to save her was now done, so we had to keep “dancing in the rain”, taking each day at a time.
Esther adapted so well to her treatment that she wasn’t particularly debilitated by it. She was beaming and flourishing, growing up fast and if it wasn’t for her lack of hair she looked a normal and healthy 3 and a half years old girl. Nonetheless she was obviously glad that she didn’t have to stay at Birmingham Children Hospital or wake up early for radiotherapy at Queen Elizabeth Hospital anymore.
The weekend of 10th October Esther, my husband Simon and baby Alice spent 3 nights at Center Parcs in Longleat and had a fabulous time cycling in the woods, exploring all the play areas and taking part in a few activities. Esther had a bandage on her right arm, left burned and a little aching from the radiotherapy treatment she had just completed, and had her CVC line (or “riggoli”) was still in, so obviously we couldn’t use the Paradise Pool area, but we had a great time nevertheless.
During the following autumn months we tried to get back to some kind of normality: Esther was well and happy, her hair started to grow back, my mum left to return to her life in Italy. I was still on leave from work, planning to go back in January 2016. We spent the days going to parks, play areas, walks, we visited some of our extended family in England. Esther went to her nursery “Little Squirrels” most of the mornings and she loved spending time there doing preschoolers activities with her little friends.
Because of her maintenance chemo we had to keep her CVC in and each week we went to the children clinic to our local hospital (Worcester Royal) for her to have a maintenance chemo drug. This was quickly injected in her CVC each time and it didn’t happen to give her any side effects. She also had to take an oral drug at home every other day, have regular blood tests to check her numbers (via her CVC of course) and have the CVC flushed weekly by the nursing team, either at home or at the clinic. This was nothing compared to the intensive chemo treatment we had completed that summer and it definitely was an happy time for us.
Baby Alice was growing up fast too, now starting to interact a bit more and it was lovely to see the two sisters together: they adored one another and Alice little face lit up when her big sister was around, singing her songs, giving her cuddles, playing with her… They definitely had a special bond and I believe they will always do in some way.
We spent Christmas 2015 at home as a family, it was the best Christmas of my life. Esther got a toy pushchair for her baby dolls from Father Christmas, that she absolutely loved, we had a lovely lunch perfectly cooked by Simon and my parents were over visiting. We went back to Center Parcs, in Sherwood Forest this time, for 5 nights over NYE. It was such a blessed time! Esther could go to the Paradise Pool this time, and although she couldn’t fully swim because of her CVC, she loved going down the slides and splashing in the pool with her baby sister. The forest was beautiful and it was fun to cycle around with Simon pulling the girls in bike trolley. We had meals out at restaurants every day, spent a fun NYE singing and dancing in our cabin waiting for midnight (no, Esther didn’t make it… she went to bed at 11 pm)! We made the most of it and I am so grateful to have such nice memories to cherish.
Although I was happy and relived that the hardest part of our cancer journey was behind us, I had an odd feeling, like that this was not going to last… Perhaps all the cancer mums have this strange feeling too, I don’t know….
On January 3rd we drove back home, exactly one year after Esther started her cancer treatment a BCH. The following week I went back to work and Alice and Esther started to regularly go to Little Squirrels together. Soon after that Esther started feeling unwell, but I will tell you about this in another post.