My dearest Freya
I haven’t written to you in a while, your journey has been continued through my blog and I mostly write to whoever is out there reading your story. But today I found myself missing my imagined conversations with you and felt compelled to write.
I spend most of every day with you, my darling, and every day my love for you grows more and more. You are an inspiration to me, and you leave me awestruck. I cannot look at you without marvelling at how far you have come in such a short time. On Saturday you will be 6 months old. Just 6 months! It is hard to comprehend what you have been through, and I have to pinch myself to believe that you are still here. And you are still here, despite this nasty disease’s best attempts to reach a less favourable outcome. But despite the fact that you are doing so incredibly well, I cannot help the anxiety I feel for the eternity of fog that lies before us.
I read stories about KD all the time. Every day I see comments from parents of children who have suffered, or are still suffering at the hands of this disease. I feel the fear in their words. Sometimes, like today, there will be a post from a parent who wants to share the news that their child, so many years after KD, has had a clear echo, or is surviving against the odds and sticking two fingers up at Kawasaki Disease. Those stories are great, but they also act as a reminder that this never really leaves you. There are daily posts from parents airing their concerns about the perceived after-effects of KD; behavioural problems, anxiety, joint-pain to mention just a few. Reading those comments, I wonder what will become of you? I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse that you are so young? I will never know how KD shaped your personality because you didn’t have one before it got you. What I do know, is that it feels like I will have such a long time to wait to see the real long-term effects of the disease on your body and mind. I can be thankful that you shouldn’t feel any anxiety as a result of your illness. You have no idea how close you came to leaving us; you have already forgotten what KD did to you. I don’t think I will ever forget.
I want to though. I want to be able to live our lives without that dark cloud looming above our heads, threatening rain. I want to be able to flick the switch that will stop the last few months playing over and over in my mind like a DVD on repeat. I want to look at you and see your sweet, beautiful face looking back at me, not the lost little face that is etched in my memory. I want to muse about the future without the niggling doubt that there might not be one. And that’s not because I think you are going to die, because I know that you are doing really well sweetheart. It’s just that I dare not say it out loud in case I jinx it and set in motion a whole new twist of fate. It’s true that there is nothing certain about life, but mostly people go through life taking it for granted that it will last forever, or at least for a very long time. Of course, a life can be taken at any time, and it wasn’t in anyone’s plan for this disease to take you when it had its strongest chance. I had never thought about death as a real possibility before. Now I think about it all the time.
I know it will get better. I know that every day we move further away from the diagnosis is a day closer to healing. And I am sure when you have had your next follow-up appointments in November I will gain some more comfort for our journey. It seems like such a long time to wait, and I wish there were a way I could see right through your little chest into that heart of yours. That’s the cruellest thing about this disease. On the outside you look like any other baby; happy and healthy, with little rolls of fat on those chubby thighs of yours, and a rosy flush to your cheeks. You can do everything you should be able to; you can roll over onto your front (mostly when I’m not watching, cheeky lady), and you chatter away all the time (this has most recently developed into a high-pitched scream whenever I am not paying you any attention!) But in there, something is happening. Probably good things, maybe nothing, but something. It is completely out of my control, and is a constant threat and source of anxiety for me.
One day we will sit and chat about all of this, and you will laugh and tell me how silly I was to worry (don’t tempt fate, don’t tempt fate). Oh sweetheart, I am sorry for writing in such a negative way. I ought to be telling you how strong you are, and how great your life is going to be.
I went to see my doctor today. You came too. I was hoping you would stay asleep so I could keep you in the car seat with the rain cover on, acting like some kind of immunity bubble. I hated that you were there with me, in that place full of germs, but I felt that if I took you with me maybe the doctor would fall in love with you and advocate for you as much as I do. I want them to agree to prescribe your aspirin so that I don’t have to keep facing the battle at the end of every packet. I felt like if they saw you, there would be a more personal connection and they might fight harder. The doctor appeared unmoved. I told the Doctor that I believe I may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that as time goes on I am noticing some of the signs of an old ‘friend’ that I thought I’d managed to banish from my life. He asked what I had in mind, and suggested antidepressants. I’ve declined that for now, and asked to be referred for talking therapy.
I have so much hurt inside that I could lock myself in a padded room and just scream until there is nothing left. I am not what most people would describe as depressed (but then, how many people get that right anyway?!) I function pretty normally. I get up in the morning, shower and make myself presentable (in my humble opinion!) I change you, dress you and feed you, and I run around after your brother to make sure he is ready on time for the school run. I smile and chat to the other mums in the playground, and I genuinely enjoy seeing other people. I don’t cry all the time, but I cry a lot. It used to be that I just cried when I thought about all of this. Now I cry over a lot of other things too; like things I see or hear on the news. Yesterday, an 11-year-old boy in America shot an 8-year-old girl dead. That made me cry. I’ve started chewing my fingers again. That’s a sign of anxiety for me. And I’m angry and sad, and irritable and irrational all at the same time, which is exhausting.
It’s like my insides are all tied up in knots, and I feel like I am constantly holding my breath. I thought that writing about all of this would make it all better; that in some way it would be like self-help. It hasn’t worked out quite how I planned. I text my kawabuddy pretty much every day, and that makes me feel better because I know she understands how this feels. And yesterday we went to Nottingham to meet a lady who founded the Kawasaki Support Group here in the UK, and she still remembers how this felt for her 20 years ago. I think everyone else probably thinks I should just get over it and move on; that you are better now. You are here. I know I should too, but this disease is full of surprises and it’s like I am waiting for its next move.
The fact is that somewhere in between the 31st May and the 12th June my heart broke. I can’t say when the damage actually happened, perhaps around the same time that it happened to yours. What I do know is that, like yours, it is slowly repairing. But it remains broken. I have sought help to heal it, but accept that it may never heal completely and there will always be some small part that Kawasaki’s killed; the part that believed that I could protect you from anything.
I loved you from the very second you were born into arms that shook with fear that they might hold you too tight. I love you more today than I did yesterday, and I shall love you even more tomorrow. Your smile will help to mend our broken hearts.