A map of Paris

Map of Paris

Paris had always been the romantic city I dreamed of returning to. I had spent just four days there one December when I was 22, travelling on a backpackers budget. Bundled up inadequately against the bone chilling cold, we trudged the streets of the City of Light, admiring the Christmas lights, standing on the banks of the Seine watching the Eiffel Tour light up, drinking cheap red wine, eating from prix fixe tourist menus and seeing as many art museums as we could fit in. The day we left, we woke to snow.

So I was delighted when Zoe started to read and was captivated by the book Thea Stilton and the Mystery in Paris. It follows the adventures of five um… amateur detective mice as they solve the mystery of some stolen haute couture designs while tracking the thief around all of the Paris landmarks. As you do. Continue reading

Improbable gratitude #1000speak

Zoe and one of the anaesthetic technicians

Zoe with one of the anaesthetic technicians, She improbably looked forward to seeing the team every day of her six weeks of radiation.

How can you learn gratitude from something that wreaks havoc, turns lives upside down, tortures children and families with unbearable treatments and choices (that are somehow borne anyway) and takes lives?

On the day of Zoe’s diagnosis, I could never have imagined that I would owe childhood cancer any gratitude. But in a strange and improbable way, I do. Continue reading

One thousand and ninety five days without you

all the ages you never got to be

Three long years since you left us baby girl. You would now be entering tweenhood, but I find that so hard to imagine. The little girls my eyes always linger on are the ones that are all the ages you were, not the ones you never got to be. The toddlers wearing gumboots and tutus, pre-schoolers wearing glittery star t-shirts and choosing buns covered in sprinkles at the bakery, gaggles of giggling six year olds.

Some days, when something jogs a forgotten memory, or a photo unexpectedly brings a rush of emotion and I can recall the exact sound, smell, touch of you in that moment, I feel so close I could almost touch you. Other days I feel I am drifting further from you, despite hoarding memories, photographs and all your possessions. Continue reading

How to guard your heart

The other day I was telling a friend that I thought the heartbreak songs he had written were lovely. It was the third anniversary of Zoe’s terminal diagnosis, and when I told him I was listening to more heartbreak songs that evening because it suited my mood, he replied that he hadn’t written any songs that heartbreaking.

That exchange got me thinking about how often people tell me that when they think of Zoe’s story, it puts their own troubles into perspective. I get that, and I know it’s been a life lesson for many people whose lives Zoe touched. It certainly helps me to put everyday disappointments and dramas in their place. Aren’t we all learning over and over not to sweat the small stuff? Actually if you have this completely figured out – please let me know 😉 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

My tribe #1000speak

He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

Mosaic-heart_small

Mosaic heart made at the Stepping Stones family camp,

Around a year ago, along with my laptop, camera and kindle, most of my jewellery was stolen. Thankfully all of my photos of Zoe were backed up on a hard drive I kept at work, but I was devastated, because much of the jewellery was a memorial to Zoe. Jewellery she had helped me choose the beads for and “supervised” the making of, lockets with pictures of her, pieces with hearts and butterflies I had collected, been given or made in her memory and the thing it hurt the most to lose – a little glass bottle pendant with a lock of her hair that I cut after she died.

After a week of dealing of dealing with the police, insurance companies and the initial shock of feeling vulnerable and violated, I thought about where I was at. “I should be feeling worse than this” I thought. “But I feel fine – even better than fine.” Here’s what happened in that week.

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