For the first time in many weeks, last nights sleep was uninterrupted and deep. Having confirmation that Evelyn’s chemotherapy is working provided a much needed high that I am yet to fully come down from.
Waking up this morning, something felt different. For one I overslept; the alarm on my phone didn’t rouse me and I had to hustle to get to the hospital to relieve Caroline from her stag duty. It was only as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth that I noticed a change in my appearance. I was smiling.
Soon, I took the familiar route to the hospital and headed for the lift to the second floor. Luckily, Carolines grandma had beat me to the ward so any guilt stemming from leaving my wife alone fell away quickly. Evelyn was eating a breakfast of buttered toast and yogurt, the latter evident by the off white globs all over her face. She looked up and welcomed me with her trademark cheeky grin.
I spent half an hour catching up with my ladies before the first caffeine craving hit me. The trademark twitch to my left hand and sudden onset of heavy eyes told me that I needed to get downstairs for a brew. I offered to grab a drink for the ladies and headed downstairs.
The bacon looked crisp and tasty, the toast golden and buttery. I wolfed the sandwich down in less than a minute. At this point I realised that I hadn’t eaten a meal the previous night. The warm fuzzy feeling that encapsulated me must’ve made me forget about food, now my appetite had returned with vigour. I promptly headed back to the counter and ordered another sandwich.
Hunger beaten, a latte and espresso in hand I made my way back to the ward. I took the stairs this time; I’ve never liked being in a lift and the guilt of the second sandwich forced me to take the healthy option. Arriving at the now familiar doors I pressed the buzzer and stood by for the sound of the magnetic door lock releasing. As I waited I looked at the names above the door. “Williams and Kilburns ward” it reads in a curly and fun font. I’ve looked at these names many times, each time I wonder who these names belong to. As usual, by the time I reached the room that houses my girl, I’d forgotten all about the names.
We sat for a couple of hours, watching as Evelyn played with her toys and babbled away to us. She seemed to be in a fantastic mood, mirroring my own positivity. One of the nurses popped her head around the door to let us know that a local beautician was offering hand pampering sessions in the tea room. Caroline declined the offer, I think she feels guilty doing something to make herself feel good despite us trying to push her to relax for a few minutes. It’s a strange feeling – because our little princess is going through this tough time, it does make us feel very bad to do something that benefits only ourselves. It sounds silly I know but even something as normal as going into the city centre for lunch whilst Caroline’s mum looked after Evelyn filled us both with guilt. We sat almost in silence, pushing the food around our plates, eager to get back to our girl. We headed home after paying the bill. We managed to stay out of the house for just over ninety minutes, it felt like much longer.
We spent the rest of the morning cuddling and tickling. I wish it was possible to bottle the warmth I feel whenever I see my amazing daughter smile, it would pull me out of the worst depressions in an instant. Not long after Evelyn’s lunch of bolognese and cheesy crisps, Caroline’s grandma headed off to a hospital appointment of her own and we were invited into a music therapy session. These classes consist of around seven children and their parents sitting around a room holding various percussion instruments whilst the therapist plays nursery rhymes on a Yamaha keyboard. It’s a somewhat surreal experience, like something you’d see in a documentary about cults. I remember chuckling to myself at the thought as the therapist had the whole room (parents included) braying like donkeys during a verse of “Old McDonald”. Evelyn has always loved music of any flavour. As a newborn, she would only settle to the heaviest of rock and metal. As she’s developed, so has her taste. She’s now a lover of Motown and soul.
The afternoon passed slowly. I sat snacking on chocolate cornflake cakes and drinking espresso. It’s easy to lose count of how many coffees you’ve had, I’ve taken to keeping the empty paper cups on the table to serve as a reminder and stop me drinking too many.
Carolines mum and step dad dropped in at around 4pm. We took the opportunity to get some fresh air as well as an evening meal. There’s a Chinese restaurant around the corner from the hospital which I’d fancied trying for a while. We entered through the gold gilt doors, walked through the ornate reception area and waited to be seated. The food was fantastic, I couldn’t decide whether it was my own great mood making the meal taste great or if it was simply good food. Either way, we were soon contented and full. The guilt of leaving the bedside fully hit me after the soup but I made a conscious effort to keep eating and treated it as a celebration of Evelyn’s progress. We paid the bill and left, rushing to get back to the ward.
I took my time making sure I had everything required for an overnight stay at the bedside. Sugary drinks and snacks for myself and stacks of nappies, milk, bottles and snacks for Evelyn. It’s always worth taking an extra few moments to check that your provisions are in order and accessible. It simply makes the night easier for everyone and saves you the stress of having to find necessities in the dark. Not long after I’d completed my habitual checks, my wife and her parents left the hospital. Caroline has her best friend and a couple of bottles of wine as company for the evening. I truly hope she relaxes and has a good time. She deserves a break. She says the same to me when an opportunity to unwind is presented but the guilt always holds me back. I’ve never been a big drinker or party animal but I have always been social until recent events. Guilt is a burden that we bring on ourselves and like most demons, must be faced head on. I’m simply not ready to exorcise this one yet.
Evelyn has been very unsettled this evening, crying whenever I try to put her into the cot. I spent almost three hours standing and swaying with her to keep her comfortable and quiet. I’ve an album on my phone of the greatest hits on the Motown label. These tracks provided the soundtrack for the longest daddy-daughter dance session we’ve ever had. It is extremely frustrating and tiring to try and settle an eleven month old baby who is suffering with treatment related pain but simply playing some music and trying to have some fun turns a stressful situation into therapy, transforming a hard time into quality daddy/daughter time.
Evelyn dropped off to sleep at around 10pm, aided by paracetamol and oral morphine. As I lay staring at the ceiling, I feel grateful for what has been a relatively nice day. I’ve realised that as long as we keep moving through the dark forest, we will get ever closer to freedom. Happiness serves as an arbourist, chopping the thickest of trees down and clearing the path for us to push on. Today that lumberjack was with us and I’m going to try my hardest to meet with him every day.
Thanks for reading