Christmas is so often about the gaps, the ones we try and mask with tinsel and hope that the dim light of the tree means we can’t see too clearly what is missing: the people we have lost, the life that we ordered.
You never think it will happen to your family until it does.
Suddenly we were locked down. Our holiday was cancelled, Fred’s central line meant he could no longer go swimming. We were not allowed to travel anywhere more than 30 minutes from our hospital. I carried a thermometer in my handbag to check for temperatures.
The thing about tsunamis is the bit before the wave. A monumental rupture happens, hidden underground, miles away and unseen – but the wave doesn’t come straight away. First there is the drawback. It’s the moment where all the water gets sucked out to sea, where the power builds. It’s the part where the fish are left flapping on the beach and no one can quite work out what’s going on. And it’s the part that people see.
How we talk about children’s cancer matters. It’s easy to worry about saying the right thing, the wrong thing, and often people end up saying nothing at all, which is the worst of all. The language used usually involves wars, battles, fighting, bravery. In many ways it’s odd. We never say a child lost their battle against an articulated lorry, but cancer it seems is up for the fight.