Virtual friends who feel like IRL friends.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have great friends IRL (in real life or in red leggings as a funny friend prefers to say) who in turn have great friends I have got to know via their social media platforms.

I have not met any of them personally, but our interactions on social media over the years makes it feel like we know each other personally. And in many ways they are more family than family some times. Some of my best friendships started on a blog or on FB and it feels like I have known those people forever. One blog friend came to visit me in hospital with her daughters (and that is how we met for the first time).

And for all the ugliness and narcissistic mess that social media is, I love the bit about “meeting” people via friends.  I have grown to like their families, pets, extended families. Laughed with them,  grieved with them, celebrated with them and shared their disappointment.  Thank you for being my virtual friends and I am honored to share your journeys in this here life.  Here’s to you Debbie BH, Meggle, Sankie, Lize, Sanet, Camilla,  Suki, Tracy B, Tania R, PT, Jennifer, Corneel, Phillipa, Sumanda, Diane, Tracy E, Liz Heenie, and of course Ling Shepherd.

 

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One was 40 last year and going for a mammogram was on my “now we’re 40 checklist”.

For some inexplicable reason, at my very first job, all new employees were sent for mammograms and chest X-rays back in the day. I was 19 and it was excruciatingly painful and the technology was medieval. Two HEAVY steel plates. Bugger. Damn and Arse.

It’s fair to say I was not looking forward to the 2nd mammogram of my life. Not even the most roughest man-handling back in my riotous youth or breastfeeding (sore nips, teething babe) can compare to this.

And while I was waiting for the machine to be prepped, I of course went THERE. “If they find a lump, I will book a mastectomy AT ONCE. I don’t want chemo. I don’t want IT to spread. They have done their job (gave me the best goddamn fun a girl could have and it fed my gorgeous baby), so OFF with them. I know, right?! Drama much?

The actual squishing of the boobs was not sore AT ALL. New technology and all. But what was deeply distressing, was the sight of my boobs as they were being squished. It was enormous (think skottel braai) and flat and looked nothing like I remembered. And afterwards, they just hung there rather limp and defeated.

My boobs used to be my pride and joy pre Thomas. I suspect my dad or people who know him reads my blog so let’s just say “my girls” were of great benefit to me back in the aforementioned riotous youth and when I look back and reminisce about their surpassing splendor, I want to sob.

Good news, I am lump-free in the boobage, lumps everywhere else thanks to FOOD and WINE, but where it matters, there are no lumps to be detected.

PS: If you are over 40 and have not been for a mammogram yet, because you think it will be painful, take it from ole wussy here, it’s not. And you should love your boobies enough to check them monthly AND to go for a mammogram as recommended.

PPS: If we’re ever camping and the person who was supposed to bring the skottelbraai forgot, I’ve got it covered. I reckon my “skottelbraais” can make breakfast for 10 pax easily. 🙂

 

The man of the house

We love watching nature doccies with Thomas and this Xmas holiday was so chilled (I desperately needed to rest, we had no money and PH came to play) so reading and vegging is all we did.)

One of the most recent ones we saw was Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry’s Last Chance to See. It retraces the steps of Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine 20 yrs ago when they travelled the world in search of endangered animals and wrote the book this doccie is based on. Extraordinary. Fascinating. A must watch. And deeply distressing to see how the numbers have dwindled to the extent that some species are now critically endangered (they number in the double digits globally). 😦

One of the doccies we also saw, covered the politics in a pride of lions. From the impossibly cute cubs to the day the young lions challenge the alpha male for the right to mate with the lioness(es).

Much like the situation in our house at the moment. We have an alpha male and a young lion trying to find his feet. Boundaries are being pushed. Limits are being tested and voices are being raised. Me? I stay out of it, unless Elton taps out and tells me to take over.

Back to the lions, we see the cute cubs, we love the cute cubs and we ooh and aah. Both Thomas and I are broody for kitties. We get to the show down of young lion vs Big Papa and Thomas goes: Daddy, that’s going to be me and you when I am older, eh? I’m going to want to be the man of the house and we are going to have to have some sort of challenge. Said with a big grin. Long-suffering Elton nods his head and says yup and  starts telling Thomas about teen rites of passage and I decide to shut this dominance talk down at once.

Me: Thomas?
T: Mama?
M: You know they’re fighting to have sex with the lioness, right?
T: Yes, I know.
M: So guess what the man of this house has to do with this lioness?
T: MAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUWWWWWWWW!!!! *dry heave* *dry heave*

And that, folks, is how you parent like a boss and shut down any patriarchal ideas your 8 year old may entertain.

You’re welcome!

Comfort…

I don’t really know Rochelle at all, but reading this email (and her previous ones) she is obviously incredibly special and strong. Elton is blessed to have her J

A very good friend of mine ( I would say bestie, but it sounds empty and juvenile) sent me this mail from someone who knows Elton. It was in response to the latest update on Elton’s condition.

And it hit me right in the feels. And the fact that it came from someone who doesn’t really know me except as Elton’s wife made it all the more comforting. I know all our friends feel the same way [they tell me all the time :-)]. But it felt really, really, really  good to read that.

It is the words of comfort from friends that comforts me when I want to give in to the emptiness I feel when I think of PH. When fear fills my heart, my lungs and constricts my ability to think straight or even breathe.  When I am not feeling incredibly strong. When all I want to do is to RUN. When all I want is my mommy to tell me it was all a bad dream and that I’m awake now. It is in those early mornings when the house is quiet and it’s just me and the dogs that are awake, that I grab onto the comforting words of our friends and hold on for dear life. Because if I don’t the men in the white coats will have to fetch me.

Suppose what I am trying to say is, don’t ever apologise for saying what feels to you like empty words:
“I am sorry and I’m here if you ever need to talk.”
“I don’t know anything about this PH but it sounds kak, please help me understand more as I want to know what is happening with Elton.”
“You guys are my some of my favourite people and when you hurt, I hurt.”
“I love you and I love your boys, please let me help you.”
“I love you guys, please help me understand and how can I help.”
“You guys are always in my thoughts.”
“I am lighting candles for the 3 of you, ( Vanilla :-)) and sending out positive vibes, and holding thumbs for you. Thinking of you in this time.”
“How are you guys feeling after the latest news?”
“You guys ok? You’ve been quiet.”

These are just some of the words spoken and sent by our PH village. Words that might sound empty to you but it helps to fill the hole that PH blasted through our little world.

Thank you is all I can say. Oh and keep ’em coming. There is only so much comfort a sleepy dog can give you at 3 in the morning. xxx

 

 

 

 

Back to reality I go

Guys? I turned 40 last month and on the 1st of February this year I made a decision to consciously uncouple from Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). I was heading for 40 and just finished the latest round of going through all of the tests the medical aid and medicines council need to help us beg for them to pay.

The news of wrong arterial pressure readings knocked us further sideways and I needed to uncouple for the sake of my sanity. Also, I had a desperate need to celebrate. And celebrate I did. #Oneis40 was my hashtag and I owned it. After 4 months of glorious uncoupling with wanton excess and indulgence, I now need to go back to tricky terrain.

Another round of tests await. Another round of having to go to the various medical bodies with begging bowl in hand. The double dosage of meds we were trying based on his new arterial readings has done nada in the last six months, so we have to go back to the drawing board. The drawing board that has loads of fab meds — in the US/Europe — but just two in SA. The weakest two. The runt of the litter, so to speak.

First on the agenda will have to be a heart catheterisation to definitively establish the pulmonary arterial pressure. Based on that, doctor will have to decide which meds to try next. Milpark hospital up north has been doing some great work with PAH patients and have helped patients get their hands on the super IV drugs we don’t get here easily. We might have to move the husband to Jozi but first things first… get into that heart and see what the real deal is.

So, yes it looked as if things were going fabulously well in our little world, but that was just because I was in deep denial and taking a break from carer wife-ing. That little break from PAH did me a world of good. Perspective and all that. I feel renewed. Energised. Bracing for what comes next.

Aluta Continua!

 

 

 

Where was the mother???

You know those moments as a parent where you turned away for one second and something bad happened or almost happened? Yup, I know we all have one or two.

I had one of those moments that haunts me to this day. Four years later and it still haunts me. Nothing bad happened. But it was SO close.

Our almost horrible incident: We were at Rhodes Memorial, he was 4. Thomas was running on the upper part of the monument on the right, closest to the parking lot. I was taking pictures of him running. Laughing at him playing peekaboo with me by hiding behind the pillars. I didn’t see the big drop at the end of the platform. A drop of about 15 metres with trees, gnarly roots and bits of granite foundation at the bottom. He was running for the edge and I didn’t register that there was no wall to stop him as I was standing on the steps. He somehow managed to stop himself before vaulting off the edge but I was paralysed with fear once I realised what could have happened.

When that horrible event happened in the Tokai Forest in March, it brought a lot of things to the surface. We used to go to the Forest regularly before it became too long a walk for Elton. Thomas used to get impatient with us and we would let him ride his bike ahead of us and I would try to keep up with him and shout for him to stop if I felt he was too far away from me. In my head the threat was always a horse kicking him, an unleashed dog attacking him or him drowning in the stream. Someone grabbing him in the forest wasn’t really high on my list. Then that horrible event happened and people asked why was  Franziska Blochliger alone? When I heard the full story about her running ahead of her mom, an icy hand gripped my heart. That could have been my child. Thomas went ahead of us so many times. I know what I go through every time I relive my almost horrible incident.

Most recently the Cincinnati Zoo thing happened and again people asked how was that boy alone for long enough to slip through the fence? Again my inner torturer reminded me of how I was watching Thomas all the time when my almost horrible incident happened and yet it almost happened.

Thing is, parenthood is effing relentless. You have to stay woke every second. There is some measure of peace when they’re asleep, but that’s when you start worrying about other things. And thanks to my almost horrible incident, I know better than to ask where was the mother? Because that mother is me. I was right there with Thomas, I was watching him. And it almost happened anyway.

I am a bloody good mom. I can handle this. I am woke. I am certainly not careless. But kids are fast and they want to explore and things happen.

Is Thomas always just perfect?

No. No and No.

I have been asked this question a lot lately.  A. LOT.

Parents who see him at school. Parents who have him over for play dates. Parents who see him playing whatever sport he shares with their kids.

And the answer is a big NO.

When I told him about parents asking this question, he smiled and said. No. I do have my moments, as you say.

Being asked this question always leaves me fumbling for an answer. Of course he has his moments and when I vent to mommy friends, they get to hear about it. But I suspect people think I’m just telling tales and that Thomas Barrish can never be revolting.

He has been doing the Stroppy Sixes, Sevens and Eights for three years in a row now. It has been testing. It has not always been fun. So we chat about things, we bargain, and yes, dear members of Thomas’ fan club, sometimes we even resort to bribery.

But I think there’s a Calvinistic/Victorian gene somewhere in his DNA that keeps him from being revolting outside our little circle. When he was little and started noticing people’s differences (handicaps, etc) I used to drill it in him to not point and stare, but rather make a note of what it is he wants to ask and ask us when we are alone or out of ear shot of the person.

I don’t know if the “don’t ask embarrassing questions about people in company” has morphed into “don’t embarrass yourself in company” but he seems to be pretty good at containing his emotions and outbursts. He is quite private. (Mama, you can take this pic, but please don’t put it on the internet. OR Mama, I know what I just said was really funny but please don’t tell your friends on the internet.)

Maybe that is why other parents only ever get to see the “perfect Thomas”.

And then there’s the “perfect at any sports Thomas”. Thomas is very sporty and he likes anything that involves a ball.

Again the “Thomas just does so well in everything” came up from some parents and coaches. Here all the praise must go to Thomas. We have always encouraged him to try everything once and if he finds something he loves, to go for it. He found soccer from an early age and if you saw Thomas on his school playground in Grade R, 1 and now, you will always see his soccer ball. Some parents even call him Soccer Thomas to differentiate between him and the other Thomas in his class. He plays soccer every single day. So of course he will be good at it. Practice really does make perfect. He also does a lot of cricket in season, ditto tennis. He’s a powerful swimmer and does the most beautiful dives but doesn’t like swimming competitively. (I can swim. I won’t drown. Please can I stop swim lessons now?)

So he’s not “just perfect at any sports”, he works hard and he plays as much as we will allow . . . (cue meltdowns when he gets called in or told we’re going home).

That being said, he is pretty awesome most of the time and we think he’s pretty cool. But he is not perfect all the time, trust us. 🙂