Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Leaving the nest, getting jobs, seeing old friends, crying....

It's been a busy week. After last Tuesday's blog, I continued to feel stronger each day, with a bit of appetite, working towards the weekend, when our son was due to go off to university. I was determined that I would be well enough to go up to Carlisle with him, even if I ended up sitting in the back of car, dozing for most of the journey. That was my target and everything was gearing me up towards that.

On Thursday morning, we got one of the few pieces of good news we've had as a family over the past several months - our daughter, Amy, was told she had been successful in her interview for what she describes as "her dream job". She had been interviewed on Monday of last week and the expected process was a second interview, if she gave a good account at the first interview. Instead, she got a phone call from the agency handling the recruitment to say she had the job and didn't need a further interview. It was fabulous news for her and for us - she will be living at home, so we get to see lots of her, and it's exactly the kind of job she has been wanting to get. Already she has taken over the dining-room table with files, folders and posters as she starts working on things before she has her official start date - that's my girl!

Every year, I help organise a conference for my professional Institute at Reading University. It's very dear to my heart: I have worked closely with my fellow committee members for quite a few years and I meet up at conference with people I only see once a year. Obviously, this year I haven't been able to play much part in the organising, although the committee has been fantastic about keeping me involved with all the details and even trekked out to Sweeting Towers to hold a committee meeting here so that I felt part of it. The conference took place from Thursday afternoon to Saturday lunch time and it felt strange that I wasn't going to be there, greeting arrivals, playing a full part in it, sorting out problems and generally enjoying the social side of it all. I felt a bit low on Thursday, thinking of what was going on there and wishing I were part of it. I was invited to any part of it I felt I could make, so we decided that, if I was well enough, I would go to the black tie dinner on the Friday evening and that Neil and Amy would come along with me. The committee were fabulous - they booked me into my usual room, got an extra bed put in for Neil in case we decided to stay the night, booked a room for Amy too and just made us so welcome.

The dinner was lovely, although I didn't eat much. I felt quite self-conscious about how I looked, because although the Chair of the Committee had told delegates that if I turned up, I would look a bit different as a result of my treatment so people were aware, there were quite a few new delegates there who must have wondered who this wonky-faced woman was, apparently holding court in the dining-room! However, once we all started talking, I relaxed a bit and really enjoyed the evening. After the meal, we watched the group presentations, which were themed on Dragons' Den - good fun to watch, but by about 10 o'clock, I was ready to leave but it was difficult to get up halfway through and make our exit, so we stayed till the presentations ended. Then came the very difficult bit - the most difficult of the whole evening, actually. Traditionally, after the presentations we have karaoke and traditionally I start off the karaoke. We went downstairs to say goodbye to people and next thing I know, our daughter is telling me that she has been ordered by loads of people to get me up to start the karaoke, so I end up with Amy, Kirsten and Rosanne, singing "Teenage Dirtbag" (I use the term "singing" in its loosest possible interpretation!). It finished me. I ended up crying and really feeling how different things are now for me - looking back at how I was the previous year, life and soul of the party, singing lustily and now I wanted just to hide my poor, ravaged face away and not have to see anyone. I was paranoid about having my photo taken and felt so exposed. I know I was amongst friends, but I felt terribly vulnerable.

Anyway, we left, got home just after midnight and went straight to bed. I say straight to bed, although I got very upset about  - well, everything really. It all just came out and poor Neil had to listen to me whining and moaning and howling. As always, he calmed me down and reminded me that I have him to support me through all of this and that to him, I am still beautiful. What did I do to deserve such an amazing husband? Of course, part of my sadness was because the following day we were taking Adam off to university and I knew I would find it difficult to say goodbye. I have been lucky to have had him at home for the past couple of years and because I haven't been working full-time, I have been able to spend quite a bit of time with him, so I knew I would miss him.

We set off about quarter to nine on Saturday morning and, with one stop en route for me to take my tablets, and got to Adam's Halls just after three o'clock. His Halls aren't on the main campus and, although we were a bit worried about this at first, on reflection and having seen his Halls, we think he's actually in a much better position. His Halls is in a converted brewery (!) and he is in a flat with four other people. When we were unpacking and getting him settled in, we saw two other flatmates - a boy and a girl, although we didn't say more than just "hello" to them. Neil and Adam went off to get supplies at Tesco's and I had a rest on Adam's newly made-up bed :-) We left him just after six and went to our overnight accommodation - we were booked into a lovely country inn about 10 miles outside Carlisle. It was a smashing little place - only five rooms and a lovely country pub and restaurant downstairs. Of course, no mobile reception so I didn't pick up till the next morning the message that he sent me saying he was in the kitchen drinking beer with a couple of the other housemates and they were getting on well! If only O2 had worked there, I wouldn't have fretted for the evening! Anyway, it was rather nice for Neil and me to have a meal together and I had a delicious piece of haddock, light, flaky and delicate and I actually ate more than I have in weeks. Great night's sleep (thank you, little white sleeping pill) and a hearty breakfast in the morning (or as hearty as I could manage) and then Neil and I had a stroll around the village and phoned Adam as soon as we got a signal to see if he wanted us to call in and see him.

He did, so we drove back to Carlisle and had a cup of tea with him and then walked to his campus so we could see where he was going to be every day. He had already arranged to do the walk over with his housemates later that day, so we already felt confident he was settling in and making friends. We bought a couple of bits and pieces he needed (desk lamp and some mugs, which stupid Mum had forgotten to pack!) and then we left him to it. By the time we got home and texted him to say we were back safely, he was meeting up in the courtyard with a whole crowd of other students and they were all off on a pub crawl - I think he's going to settle into student life just fine!

I feel very tired now. The weekend took an awful lot out of me. It wasn't just the busy-ness of the weekend: going through to Reading, going to Carlisle and back - but the emotional side of it that has worn me out. I feel as if I have taken a few steps backward in terms of resilience and energy so I am going to take it very easy this week. I go back to hospital on Friday and I want them to think I have made progress.

Still, our daughter has her dream job and our son is settling into student life - so there are lots of positives and that's what I need to focus on.


  1. *sends virtual energy-boost*
    And in the meantime, I feel I have been neglecting my tea-making duties. Sorry. The kettle is very much on, and the biscuits are in the jar x

    PS The best biscuits are hidden behind the bread bin!

  2. Mwah!! Big Hugs!!

  3. Recovering from major treatment, eldest getting a dream job, big emotional night out, launching your youngest into the big bad student world...any one of these would be enough to floor anyone. All at once, and really being there, full on, not just coping - and blogging so eloquently - crikey, amazing!
    Loved being with you all on Friday, missed you madly later, cos I can't sing without you. (Not sure I can really sing with you either :-))
    Thinking of you - sending hugs.

  4. Wow, huge things happening for your family. Big congratulations to Amy and to you for making it up to see Adam off. I hope you've had a lovely, easy week and have been taking everything very gently so you can get those energy levels restored. xxxx