“Dear Bern, this is for you”

Since we haven’t been able to speak all week, and I know you’re an avid reader of the Benny blog, this post is for you, dear Bern.

Every week is busy when you’re a temporary ‘single parent’ with four little kids. But in an otherwise quiet week on the leukaemia front, Wednesday was the big day we’ve been working towards. We headed to The Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick for Benny’s lumbar puncture operation (chemo injected into the spine).

Our new Team Benny, as loyal as the last, was right behind us. Kerry and Kirrily were flight advisors; Kirrily dropped the boys to school; and Uncle Peter and Auntie Sue picked them up, gave them dinner, got them ready for bed and hung out until I arrived home at 8pm. In Sydney, Cecily kindly chauffeured us between the airport and hospital, and whisked Lizzy off for a day of Auntie-niece fun.

I still find it difficult asking for help, but I need to reframe. Cecily had a ball having some unique one-on-one time with Elizabeth and everyone Canberra end enjoyed getting to know Fred and Alex. The new-found cousins have all taken a shine to each other and had lots of fun and crazy antics.

The day went really well, but it’s nice to have it under our belts.

Canberra airport is eerily quiet, check out the picture, there wasn’t a soul in sight. We got through check-in and security and had boarded the plane in a trice. It felt quite old-fashioned walking out onto the tarmac to jump on board.

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Elizabeth was more of a nuisance on the 45 minute flight than she was on the 24 hour flight from London to Australia, but I forgive her because she pulled out all her angelic charm for Cecily, who captured some great shots of our beautiful little Miss.

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The 5.30am start, drive-by drop off of the boys, dash to the airport, take off and touch down, grabbed breakfast at the airport, and screeching tyres to the hospital paid off. I arrived at the ward reception at 10.05am, just five minutes late. Stop the clock. Now I only had to wait another 90 minutes to see the consultant. Not that is mattered. We had to wait until 1pm for the operations list to start anyway, so what the heck.

The hospital doesn’t have the bright lights glitz and glamour of The Marsden, or its free-roaming Disney Land charm. I was pleased that Cecily had Lizzy. It would have been tough keeping her happy in the small, busy waiting room and later contained by Benny’s bedside on the shared ward pre and post operation.

It was lovely having Benny to myself all day in hospital and equally wonderful to give Jacky a big hug after 3+ years. She worked on a Muhammed coming to the mountain premise, and dropped by the hospital to say hi. After all, I wouldn’t set foot out of there all day.

Our new consultant, ‘Dr Toby’ is lovely, and really good with kids. He had already decided to keep Benny on the same UK protocol. Although I would have loved to cut out the quarterly lumbar punctures, monthly chemo in hospital, and steroids every four weeks, I felt comfortable and agreed with his decision. As I suspected, this Phase is slightly more intense than the Australian regime to balance out a slightly less intense schedule in the first four Phases. All up, whether you’re in Australia or England, you get the same level of treatment. It’s just delivered differently. To change treatment plans half way through, could cause problems down the line, so it was a no-brainer to stick with what we know.

The operation when well, and the procedure a carbon copy of the UK’s. But no a la carte menu of food to choose from post op??? Duh. (We certainly were spoilt at the Marsden). Benny didn’t mind, he was famished having been nil by mouth all day and he hoed into the limp hospital sandwiches as if it was caviar.

After discharge, it was a big rush back to the airport to catch the next flight. Time was short and I raced through security with a kid under each arm. After legging it through the airport, I arrived at the gate puffing and panting, only to find I the flight had been delayed. Result! In that extra 20 minutes I caught my breath, sorted out the kids and was able to board with a semi sane head. Another mother (minus her kids) took pity and helped me out with the bags and the kids. We befriended each other (yay, another friend) and swapped numbers. As it turns out, she’s the wife of our school deputy headmaster. Small world.

The trip was nostalgic. If you ever fly into Sydney, sit on the left hand side of the plane as you get some amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. This always evokes memories of nerves and excitement having packed up my UK life to emigrate to Australia. It was January 2007 and by December that same year, Bern and I we’re married. Best decision of my life. Later, after a round trip of the hospital, desperately trying to find the right exit, I stumbled across the maternity unit – I hadn’t realised it was part of the same building. This is where our parenting journey began. Who knew that carrying that precious small Fred bundle home would be the start of such an exciting life adventure.

So all in all, it ended up being a Grand Day Out. The icing on the cake was that the car hadn’t been stolen, despite me leaving it unlocked in the airport car park all day. Sorry Bern. I promise to look after your brand new pride and joy better next time.

Hopefully you’ll have forgotten all about it by the time you get home from Korea next weekend.

Photo: Ready for take off at Canberra airport.

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