Darkness and light

by Veronica on June 24, 2014

in Cancer, Grief, Headfuck

Five years ago, we clustered around a bed in a palliative care ward, waiting. Holding hands, talking, but mostly, waiting.

It didn’t take long in retrospect, although the hours felt interminable, waiting for the next breath to come, the death rattle heavy in the room.

Until the next breath didn’t come and it was over. Months of appointments, of waiting, of saying goodbye over and over, culminated in one sharp moment when it stopped.

And then we all breathed again and had to go on without her. She stopped, but we failed to stop with her, and the hole of her leaving grew bigger as we missed her.

The first sign: wild ducks fleeing, circling frantically overhead like a crowd of mismanaged school children, no one sure where to go next. They hide in the trees and fall silent.

Not a bird in the sky, until we look closer, and see them, circling. Hunting maybe, or courting.

Round and round the eagles go, my eyes spotty from looking up at the bright sky, a cup of tea warm and heavy in my hands. The undersides of their wings glint gold in the sunlight, bright enough to make my eyes tear up as I look away.

We watch until they disappear over the horizon.

The crows return first, flying over, cawing their life loudly. Then the sparrows. A rosella. Our neighbours pigeons.

Life goes on, even with the shadow of death hanging over us.

Forty minutes to make three kilos of soap. Twenty minutes standing outside. Ten minutes reading. Today is broken up into blocks of minutes as we count down.

For a moment, everything will stop.

And then I’ll draw breath again and on we’ll go, into our sixth year without her.

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Cancer can go fuck itself

by Veronica on April 11, 2013

in Cancer, Grief

If I was any kind of popular blogger, I’d be doing something called vagueblogging today. It would be all woe is me, I’m all sad, things are hard, love me please. But I’m a crappy blogger and I hate vagueblogging and vaguebooking and any kind of vagueness that doesn’t come with an excuse of I was awake all night with my baby/kitten/goat/lover.

(That’s a goat, OR a lover, not a goat lover, because that’s illegal.)

It’s my grandmother’s birthday today and I am all woe is me, sadness and dark. She would have been 68, except fuck cancer. Fuck cancer, man. Cancer is a bastard thing, tearing families apart and leaving wounds in its wake.


Fuck cancer.


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It feels a bit like sacrilege for a chocolate lover like myself to suggest that I don’t enjoy the holiday that encourages gifting of chocolate, but I don’t. I don’t like Easter.

Once upon a time, Easter was right up there as my favourite holiday, tied with my birthday and Christmas. As an older child, my Grandmother used to rent a beach house with a few of her friends and we would spend the Easter holidays on the beach. I have fond memories of communal Easter breakfasts of hot cross buns and waking up to find the house scattered in chocolate.

Inevitably, some years, Easter would land on my Grandmother’s birthday and we would celebrate doubly, often with seafood, family, and the never-ending supply of Red Tulip eggs. There was laughter and love and a general joy in the celebration of all things chocolate.

Then came cancer, and the slow slide down into death. Watching someone die is both more and less dramatic than you think it’s going to be. There is a privilege in witnessing the passing of someone, along with the inevitable realisation that the moment will be forever imprinted upon your brain.

Now Easter just feels like the beginning of my season of Sad. The slow slide down, remembering how we passed these moments four years ago (celebration, love, laughter, the knowledge of death hanging over our heads) and how we passed the moments to come.

Sometimes it feels like my sadness is an honour. It is an honour to love someone so much that the hole they leave in your life will never be full again. But sometimes my sadness is a weight, a giant millstone around my neck, reminding me that we’re missing someone, that she is missing everything and that nothing will ever be the same again.

I don’t like Easter anymore, because all I can remember is the Easter before she died, and all I want is for the next three months to pass me by quickly, filled as they are with painful anniversaries.

Tomorrow, the Easter Bunny will bring my children eggs and chocolate and their excitement is not quite enough to soothe my shattered soul. I will sit with them and eat chocolate, and I will remember exactly what we’re missing this holiday.

Easter will never be the same again.



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On Leukaemia and shaving my head.

by Veronica on February 10, 2013

in Blogging, Cancer

When I was in hospital with Evelyn a few months back, I spent some time in the parents room, hastily drinking a too weak cup of tea while she slept the deep sleep of a baby traumatised by needles and seizures. I met a lot of parents in that room, all of us with that same look on our faces, part hope, part despair.

I remember one mother, her almost four year old son had just been diagnosed with Leukaemia. She’d had to move down to Hobart from Burnie, leaving the rest of her family behind, so that her son could have the treatment he needed to survive.

It’s for families like hers that I am shaving my head. The Leukaemia Foundation helped her find housing and are supporting her through her family’s journey.

When I was in Primary school, one of my best friends was diagnosed with Leukaemia, which she went on to beat. Blood cancers impact on so very many Australian families and the Leukaemia Foundation does their best to support them.

In another month, I won’t have very much hair left. It’s a small price to pay to help raise money for families who need the help that your donations will provide.

I urge you, please donate. Even if you can only afford $2 – that $2 might buy a mother a cup of coffee when she needs it most. It will provide help, support and counselling. It will provide financial assistance. It will be useful.

If you can’t afford anything (and trust me, we’ve all been there) then you can support the Leukaemia Foundation by sharing my page, by promoting this, or by signing up to shave your own head, or colour your hair.

See? My hair is long and shaving it is scary! Make it worth my while and donate. DONATE. Please.


Photo by Amy, who did a great job.

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I haven’t felt like writing the last few days, which is unusual for me.

Amy has been back at school after the holidays and Isaac has responded to the routine change by becoming increasingly rigid with his wants and needs, whining lots, screaming lots and being generally very high maintenance. Not to mention the middle of the night wakings, where he insists that it’s morning and he needs to watch cartoons on the couch.

Last night he was screaming at 3am because I wouldn’t do what he wanted. That was fun.

I’ve been faffing around on twitter, and throwing in a little bit of facebook here and there, but aside from having my ire raised by Mamamia, all I’ve felt like doing is curling up in bed with a book, or crappy TV.

A lingering virus I thought. Exhaustion maybe. Pregnancy, probably.

And then I realised that the last time I was this pregnant, my grandmother was dying. I was spending a lot of time in and out of hospital appointments with her, radiology and oncology and waiting rooms. Coffee and cake while we learned to read CT scan reports and afternoons spent at her house while we discussed the probability of her death.

On Sunday, she will have been dead for three years. I will be 30 weeks pregnant with a baby she will never meet. My daughter barely remembers her and my son does not remember her at all. I am left with my memories and the remembered feel of her very soft, very dead hands.

Parenthood and grief are remarkably similar when it comes to time passing. The days are long; the years are short and at this stage, I am left looking back over the last three years and wondering where the time went.

We lost the first year in a haze of shock and pain, grief and angry abusive family. We sold her house, portioned up her possessions and struggled through. Some bridges will never be mended, some words never forgotten. That is what I remember of the first year.

Where does the time go?

I thought I was doing okay, but apparently I am not and it’s okay to say that.

Grief is grief is grief and missing someone does not go away, which is both fortunate and unfortunate.

It’s hard to miss someone this much, Internet. So very hard.



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