Our house (in the middle of our street)

Bungalow with roses

If you’re of a certain age and had a teenage predilection for eighties ska (who didn’t), you’re probably humming that song right now.

By the time Zoe was born in 2006, it was being used to advertise a house building company. Whenever their ad played on TV (remember life before Netflix) baby Zoe would turn her attention to it, enthralled. I would imagine the kind of family house I wanted for us. Not the cookie cutter kind being sold by the TV ad. Continue reading

Always wear the sparkly shoes; a life lesson

Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz

Here’s how my daughter Zoe and childhood cancer taught me not to wait til tomorrow to wear the sparkly shoes.

At the beginning of 2012, Zoe was excited to be going to Camp Quality, a camp for kids living with cancer. One of the activities planned was a dress up party based on movies. Zoe and her camp companion were going as Dorothy and the good witch Glinda from The Wizard of Oz.

We looked all over town for red sparkly shoes to serve as Ruby Slippers for Zoe’s Dorothy, but there were none to be found. We had to decide what was most important – red or sparkly. “Sparkly” was Zoe’s unequivocal answer. Continue reading

The labels I will not own

“Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim” – Nora Ephron

A few months ago, someone I had met just recently told me he thought I was fragile. In the context I don’t think they meant anything negative by it, and yet I was taken aback, and I’ve thought about it a lot since.

Not only is this not how I see myself (at least not these days), but I had deliberately chosen not to mention “my story”, as I sometimes choose with people I have just met precisely in order to avoid this type of response. The pity in their eyes, the frantic scramble to find something appropriate to say, the labels they attach to me, that I am Brave, that I am a Victim, that I am Permanently Sad, that I am some kind of Tragic Heroine because my daughter died. Continue reading

Random thoughts on cancer, meaning and happiness Part II

“Hope is not optimism, nor is it conviction that something will go well. Rather it is the certainty that something has meaning…regardless of its outcome.” Vaclav Havel

From where I stand now, I feel I can truly say that life (for me anyway) is not about happiness, at least not in the ways it’s most commonly perceived to exist. Rather it is about finding peace and meaning. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel any joy or happiness, but that I find those things through the meaning I attach to my life and experiences. Continue reading

Why I’ll be eating ice-cream for breakfast on the 18th February

There will be people around the world eating ice-cream for breakfast on 18th February. And despite being in two minds about cancer awareness campaigns, I’m going to be one of them. Here’s why.

icecreamforbreakfast_small

Generally I prefer charity activities that raise money for their causes over “awareness” campaigns that seem to do little other than make people feel good about participating.

I am planning on supporting Eat Ice-cream for Breakfast Day though. It doesn’t raise money. It doesn’t have an ice-cream company as a corporate sponsor. Yes, it is an awareness campaign for childhood cancer, motivated by remembering a little girl called Malia but it’s asking something a little bit different from you too. Continue reading

The return of Charlie Cat (or on belonging)

Can one shaggy fickle moggy show you where you belong?

Returnofcharliecat_small

We didn’t adopt Charlie Cat, he adopted us, soon after we moved to our new house in 2008, the year before Zoe’s cancer diagnosis. We’d moved from a townhouse in the inner city to a single level house with a safe little garden Zoe could play in. No more lugging washing up two flights of stairs along with a strong willed toddler, or driving to where she could walk on the grass.  It was a house that matched my dream of how family life should be, in a neighbourhood of other families, close to the zoo, playgrounds and the beach. There was even a walking school bus to the local primary school and a feijoa tree in the garden.

The week we moved here, I walked with then 2 year old Zoe to the supermarket around the corner. She stopped at virtually every house along the way. “Look, a house, a fence. Look another house, another fence.” With the right house, I felt sure we would become that perfect family, give Zoe a quintessential Kiwi childhood and that our marriage problems would become a distant memory. The addition of a household pet seemed like the icing on the cake. It felt like a sign that he had chosen us. Continue reading

Random thoughts on cancer, meaning and happiness


A while ago I saw a comment on a childhood cancer related website and it has been on my mind..

“The reason our child survived is not that we are good people, but because he has survived, we need to be good people.” 

When I read this I felt “yes, this is true,” and I do see this feeling reflected in the actions and interests of many other parents. They volunteer for the charities who supported them, they reach out to other parents, they throw themselves back into “normal” life with a determination to wring the most joy they can out of it.

Continue reading