I dream that I am with my family. The location changes, sometimes we are at home, sometimes we are at the beach, sometimes we are with friends, sometimes we are in random places...
But no matter where we are, a war breaks out.
I mean full blown war. Invading soldiers with big guns, bombs dropping, people screaming. Devastation and heartache on a massive scale and I have no choice but to fight.
I realise what has happened, and my only purpose becomes to protect my children, to keep them safe, no matter what, which, believe me, is much easier said than done...
In my dreams I am not a true threat to the enemy... I am just a Mother trying to do what I can to protect my babies, they are soldiers trained to kill. They are fighting with weapons that I cannot use and I do not understand, they are trained and armed and equipped... and I am just a mother trying to protect those I love the most. I am outnumbered, out maneuvered, and out skilled.
They are dropping bombs and shooting at us and using gases and munition that I don't have... and I cannot fight back. I try to hide, but they find us. I try to run but they stop us. I cannot protect my children, I cannot protect my babies...
Those I love are harmed and I wake up.
At some point in the last week or so I have come to the conclusion that this is somewhat symbolic of my life.
My life is a war and I spend it trying to protect those I love the most. I try to protect my family, my children, my parents, my siblings... I try to shield them from this war...
Only this is no dream. I cannot just wake up and have the enemy fade away into a memory.
Just like in my dreams, I cannot see what I am fighting, I do not understand it and I don't know how to arm myself against it...
And just like in my dreams, those I love the most are the ones that are being hurt.
We are fighting so hard to give our other children the most normal life that we possibly can... and most of the time I think we are doing ok... but every now and then I see a little glimpse of the hurt that I think they try and hide from us, and it just breaks my heart.
We try hard to make sure that the girls get to do a lot of the things that their peers do. Both girls do dancing. Jessica does Highland and Ballet. Isabella does Ballet lessons and she's just started Gymnastics, which is something she has wanted to do all year.
We make sure that we don't miss sports days or dance recitals and we try to do normal things like play dates and birthday parties.
Most of the time we manage to keep things under control, and most of the time I think they are relatively happy and stable girls... but every now and then something happens, something slips in my carefully structured world and it all goes to pooki!
There wasn't a lot that we had planned for this weekend, but one of the important things that we had been looking forward to all week was attending the birthday party of the daughter of a very special friend today... something that both my big girls had been really excited about all week.
Yesterday, she had her routine bloods done, and they were all completely tanked. Her neutrophils are the lowest they have ever been, her haemoglobin is low again and she is bordering on needing a transfusion. Her pain tolerance levels have tanked, her 'happy drugs' don't seem to be working, and all in all she is just having a really really bad time of it. She hasn't coped with this last round of chemo at all.
Now, normally this wouldn't be such a big deal. Any other time one of us would bundle the girls into the car and head off to the party while the other stayed here... but today... I don't know.
Perhaps it's the fact that I was up most of the night with her crying and unsettled and I am running on almost empty today, so not totally confident with a long and lonely drive on the highway.
Perhaps it's the fact that the look on her face, her skin so pale, her eyes so dark and sad... it all just cried to me that I needed to stay here, with her, where she could see me and I could make sure she was ok...
I don't know what it was, but today I just couldn't do it. I couldn't pack them up and take them to a party an hour and a half out of town, not when she was so unwell and so unhappy.
Tonight my sister had a party at her house, and again, I just couldn't bring myself to go. I can't really explain it, but seeing Nicola looking so sick and so out of it just really bothers me. I didn't want to take her out, I wouldn't dare risk exposing her external factors let alone other people in case she got sick... yet I also couldn't bring myself to take the other girls and leave her here. Something in her eyes today just told me that I needed to stay close.
So, yet again, my girls miss out on something else that they wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, I tried to buy them off... I gave them ravioli for dinner, which is something of a treat because it's so expensive! I let them have lemonade and ice cream, I let them have a bubble bath with Jessica's special Princess Jelly Bubbles that Kieran gave her for her birthday.... and I let them have a movie at bed time...
But they know that they have missed out.
They were good girls, they didn't raise a fuss, they didn't cry or shout or have a tantrum, they didn't get upset or yell or anything else. They accepted it with the relatively good grace that they have always shown in these situations... and I think it was that that hurt me the most...
Such a graceful acceptance of the inevitable, such a grown up attitude and behavior in the face of adversity...
Once more they are casualties of war.
We are fighting an enemy that we cannot see, we cannot comprehend and we cannot fight. Or life has become a war and my biggest fear is that the casualties will be my children.
All of them.
No matter how hard I fight, I cannot protect them from the negative side of what we now call life. I worry about how they will handle everything, how they will cope with everything that is happening and everything that is yet to come.
I want them to grow up to be happy, I want them to know that they are loved and wanted and that they are important to us. They might not have Nicola's medical issues or disabilities, they may not have her cancer, but they are important to us, and we love them dearly.
How do we juggle all of their needs at once?
How do we chose which child's needs should be sacrificed in order to keep them all happy?
They are already prisoners of a war that is so far beyond anything that they could possibly understand... but how do we stop them from becoming casualties?
How do we fight this war?
How do we win?