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"I was dying inside but I couldn't panic"

Kate's beautiful article written for news.com.au's Sunday Style captured the hearts of Australia.

Images courtesy of news.com.au

"THERE is a certificate stuck on the wall above my eldest son’s desk.

Because he is 11, and still on the peninsula of innocent boy, but looking across to the beckoning land of knowing boy, his room is full of childhood treasures: some Lego planes; a SpongeBob SquarePants lamp his sister bought him on a holiday to the Gold Coast; some tongue-crippling Warheads candies; a note that Santa wrote when he delivered his desk four Christmases ago.

Anyway, the certificate is a bravery certificate.

It is just a crumpled-and-smoothed piece of A4 paper, really, with some stamps on it, that says it was issued from the Eye and Ear Hospital in October 2010, but it is huge.

It is from one of the longest, hardest days of my life. It was the day my boy, my firstborn, my heartsong, my love bug, my beloved, my honey, my bunny, my boo was wheeled into surgery to have a biopsy performed on his optic nerve. He was being treated for leukaemia, and that was already beyond awful. But the week before, he had gone blind in one eye — a fresh terror. Our oncology team at the Children’s Hospital feared he had relapsed, that the leukaemia was overcoming the treatment. That we were losing. It was a dreadful day. Truly dreadful. Full of dread.

It was the day I wished I was never a mother. Because I could not bear it.

Of course, I thought I could not bear it, but I did. Because I could not panic and I could not run. Because I was his mother. And because he was frightened, I could not be. So, each fear-filled, leaden step, I tried to take evenly. Each stroke of his little bald head was with my hand, calm and reassuring. Every word I spoke, I uttered quietly and lightly, to make sure I would not betray to my child the quivering fear inside me. I made little jokes, and his father and I smoothed his pyjamas, and we lifted his tiny body onto his hospital bed, and everything was white and bright and clean and surgical, except for his fluffy blanket we had brought from home, and I smiled and murmured and comforted my boy, and kissed his blind eye, and the kindly surgeon said to me, very gently: “I will take good care of him, I promise.” And I could only whisper, “Thank you,” and I had to turn away because inside I was fluttering and weak like a captured, wild, dying thing.

That was more than four years ago. And now my boy is off treatment — has been for two years. He can see with both his beautiful blue eyes. His hair is thick and darkening blond. He is in Year 6 and plays school basketball. He is funny and sweet, and proudly carries the bags for me when we go shopping for groceries, and runs and jumps up on me, and laughs when that nearly bowls me over. He tries to dodge having a shower. He grudgingly practises the guitar, yet willingly plays a computer game called Minecraft. He reads in bed every night. He gets in trouble for rolling his eyes at his father, but makes up for it with cups of tea. He is big and strong. My thongs only just fit him — a fact he is gleeful about. He holds my hand when we walk side by side, but drops it inside the school gate. And he still loves a fluffy blanket.

This year, for the first time, his class is going on a trip to Italy, and he had wanted to go, but was hesitant. He was worried he might get sick over there, on his own.

So we discussed it. And we talked about it with the school. We had to work out what was best for my boy; not for me, who would keep him in my breast-pocket if I could, next to my heart. But for him.

So my son is going to Italy. He is travelling with his Nana Ree, my husband’s mother, Maree. She is the one who sews the fluffy blankets. And after the school trip is over, they are going to stay on in that foreign land, exploring together.

My son is so excited. My beautiful dad gave him some euros left over from his and Mum’s last trip to Holland. He has his own wallet. And he’s counting down the days. He is clearly also a bit nervous. We cannot pass each other in the hallway, at the moment, without him stopping for a cuddle or a head rub.

But I am a boy’s mother, and doing that job well means knowing how to let go. I did not know that when I took on the role. I had not thought it through. But now it is upon me, I am performing to the best of my limited, but infinite, abilities.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums.

That’s a job that should come with a bravery certificate."

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Happy Mothers Day to YOU Kate!

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