The balance of power

I hoped but did not expect my open letter to reach Gervase Chaney’s desk. I certainly didn’t expect over 1000 Facebook shares in its first 36 hours. As the response grew bigger I was at the hospital with Bede and I started thinking about taking it down and I didn’t expect other parents to ask me not to. I certainly didn’t expect the influx of messages, emails, comments and approaches of so many other mothers thanking me for using my voice. I didn’t expect the regret from people who had been through this and had not used theirs. I didn’t expect the level of emotion behind those responses. I didn’t expect the advances of media. I certainly didn’t realize just how many of you have Bede’s back.

I think the hospital is empowered in a lot of ways and sometimes that is a negative, petty and bureaucratic power. I think Bede’s power is in the mass amounts of love he can generate and mobilise. I think that is a strong, refreshing and positive power that cannot be underestimated. I think that power is testament to his light.

In all the reactions I have had I had negative feedback from about 4 people.

I am all about honesty and accountability and context. My reactions in the letter did happen. I was desperate and I did raise my voice and I know some staff did not like that but there was context to them.  My letter provided that context.

The letter was aimed at a bureaucratic decision that removed reactions from their context. Towards the end of the meeting Dr Chaney told us he would aim to review the decision within 24 hours. Nothing was going to have changed in that time. We sensed he knew the decision was wrong but that he was standing by it anyway. Whether we were right in sensing that or not the decision was petty and bureaucratic and it was unforgiving punishment toward a family who have tolerated and forgiven so much. The letter was context. We are not threatening people.

Now let me give you the context in which some of these incidences have occurred. They occurred in a big picture.

One that also includes the nurse who I thank repeatedly every shift because I feel when she is on I am off duty and know Bede is in the best hands possible.
The nurse who must be the only other person in the world who can sense something is wrong with Bede before I can.
The nurse that sat with Bede after her shift had ended while we were in a meeting because it was an important day for our family.
The doctor who said we could call her anytime over the weekend while she was off duty because I was so scared without her advice I wouldn’t know what to do.
The same doctor who is so giving of her time and energies not just to Bede but also to our family.

The nurse who makes sure she talks to Bede while she is treating him.
The nurses that head into Bede’s room on their way to tea break to squeeze in a quick cuddle.
The nurse who bakes nearly every shift and then SHARES it.
The doctor who in the middle of a Bede emergency made sure I got a juice to help stop my shaking.
The specialist who drove from Fremantle to Subiaco at 7:30 at night because he wanted someone who knew Bede to review him.
The nurse who rubbed my back and encouraged me on when no one would listen.
The doctors who brought him back
The doctor that listens.
The coordinator that understands.
The nurse that empathises.

I think the word ‘mistake’ is too generous for the incidences I detail in my open letter and there are many more of them. There is also a lot of good staff.  I think I acknowledged that in the letter. A lot of those staff are also outraged when these things happen.  I certainly do not want to be the person that “paints them into a box” as one criticism said.
Our voice empowers our family but it is not a petty unfair empowerment. It is an honest, true and positive power.
The letter is true. It was never meant as a criticism of the nurses or individual doctors. It provided context for a petty bureaucratic system and a petty bureaucratic decision that robbed my boys of precious home time together.

Although I am sure Dr Chaney does not need nor desire a disenchanted mother coming to his defence he seems like a nice man. He is a doctor for sick children, a father. He allowed us to say our piece in the meeting even if we did feel as though it fell on deaf ears. I asked Dr Chaney if given the exceptional circumstances and lapses if he could say he would have acted any differently and he admitted that he could not. This is not about a witch hunt. My letter was addressed to him because he represented the system that day and although he seems to lead it he is only one part of it.

The treatment that we required HITH for has finished. We still seek some reassurance that that service will be available to Bede in the future and have none. Despite Dr Chaney assuring us in the meeting that he would attempt to have his grounds for refusing us this service in writing and provided to us within 24 hours and also that he would provide us with details regarding any documented incident within the last 6 weeks, the main period for which he was making his decision, none of this has happened. We have not heard from PMH in regards to this matter. Ultimately Bede is still not availed of HITH.

At the end of the letter I said that was a one off post, that Roy and I felt the need to speak out about Bede’s reality but I am posting this today because I do not want to be the person that uses their power in a negative way. That is not and has never been what Bede or our family are about.

He may be small, but he is mighty.

– Isabella and Roy

bede tree

This is who it is all about.                                                     Bede helped us decorate the tree last night.
A proper Bede update will follow later today or early tomorrow. He is doing well. He is shining, he is developing, he is irrepressible and our love and pride run deep.

Bright blessed days and dark sacred nights.

This will be one of my longest blogs. A lot has happened in a short period of time and I am too tired to make this post beautiful, too tired to make it appealing, too tired to cull the boring bits. This is what it is. Bede’s truth.

The last week started with an ambulance ride and ended with so many of us praying. Here’s what happened.

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After arriving at the hospital on Monday Bede started to deteriorate on Tuesday night and we started to worry that we were losing Bede.

He was fighting a winnable battle but he was exhausted and he was coming from behind. He was more tired than we had ever seen him and just breathing was hard work. For the first time ever he was finding it difficult to shine through and that was devastating.

I sent a message to our family and friends recruiting love and positivity but even as I sent it I knew one part wasn’t true. “there must be more to come”. I realised he had filled us up, his light has shone bright and he has been more than enough for our family. That scared me even more. Perhaps it was time.

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My gut told me it was line ball and we were in trouble. The doctors agreed it wasn’t good and we may lose him. Bede fought valiantly but I was losing my boy.

Come Wednesday afternoon I asked for a moment alone with Bede. I whispered in his ear that I loved him. I sat by his cot holding his hand and told him the truth. I told him he is magnificent and that he had exceeded all expectation. I told him he had made me happier and given me more than I could have ever asked or hoped for. I told him he had done enough now and if he was tired and if he wanted to go that was ok, he could. He had given us more than I could have ever hoped and if he chose to stay around for a while it could be our turn to give back to him but whatever he chose was ok.

He was exhausted.

ICU came and gave him more supportive measures. My incredible husband Roy describes it as “he was standing on the edge of the cliff but not looking down”. We were maxed out. Any more support meant we would have to be transferred off the ward to ICU; he would need to be anaesthetized and ventilated. We needed to consider what our wishes were for Bede. Our primary doctor one of Bede’s biggest advocates said that should the time come we ventilate. For now we fight and that made sense because he was still fighting to. She acknowledged we were in a bad place but told me she still had faith in him. We both decided it was time to get Gus in to see Bede just in case. Gus brought unconditional healing love into the room and sat by Bede as I held him and Gus read to him for a while. Then overnight what has become almost the ordinary happened. Bede put his head down and one foot in front of the other and he worked. Slowly but surely he reclaimed himself. He shined again.

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We had about  24 hours of peace. Bede remained maxed out but we suspected he was able to progress and were just giving him a chance to rest. Then it all turned again.

Bede’s body writhed and thrashed uncontrollably. He screamed in distress.

We kept pumping him full of an array of IV drugs to try and stop it but nothing worked. ICU came down and spoke to us about the possibility of anaesthetizing him and ventilating him until hopefully this episode passed. We were now losing him again but in a completely different way.

The on call consultant who knows Bede well talked to me on the phone at 4am. He said it was time to stop the drugs, they weren’t working. There was nothing we could do to make him comfortable. It was time for us to just hold him through it. That was the hardest thing I have ever done and late that sleepless night I wrote this:

I have always said Bede’s resistance to cancer was much like a peaceful protest, his gentle strength forging the way.
Tonight it’s all out war. It is violent. He is in the trenches. He is fighting a messy, dirty battle and he is doing it with grit and determination.

It almost reminds me of a shark feeding frenzy. The waters obscured by the movement, frantic, fast. His limbs are flailing his back arching, he’s cycling through uncontrollable movement and agitation before managing to ground himself for just a moment before the next round. It is unrelenting.
I’ve never liked the word fighter for Bede, I’ve always found it too abrasive for his gentle soul but tonight he is fighting for his peace, for his light, for his life. Refusing to be taken easily, refusing to leave his big brother just yet, refusing to be robbed of what he has rightfully earnt – some time off treatment by the beach enjoying life.

It was pretty accepted that Bede wasn’t aware of us at that point but I refused to believe I couldn’t reach my baby on some level. I spent the night trying to pour love into him so in the midst of his despair he wouldn’t feel alone. It took every ounce of my being to smile as I sung “this little light of mine” my voice shook and my mouth trembled but I smiled and I sung and I tried to fill him with positivity and love and so did his daddy. I think we all found out just how hard we can fight that night.

imageEven in the depths of his despair, as he thrashed and wailed, he paused. He became Bede. He looked at me and he smiled, his light shining brilliantly, dazzling until seconds later he succumbed again. He took a moment to remind us just how hard he can fight, to remind us it takes a bit more than this kind of horror to keep him down. As he thrashed his light was dimmed but unassailable he glowed. His gentle loving soul fortifying us reminding us to be peaceful be patient.

On Friday morning after 12 brutal hours neurology saw us. It wasn’t seizures. He was aware of us he just couldn’t show us that. The movements were coming from a different part of the brain and were not sure why it’s happening. Finally early yesterday afternoon we got it under control. A lot of those measures have a sedative effect so he is catching up on his rest.

Now he sleeps. His vital signs, his heart rate, his oxygen, his respiratory rate are all good. We have managed to do a miniscule reduction in the support from ICU, it is a reduction nonetheless and soon we will start him on a tiny feed of 5 mls an hour. It will be the first time his body has had food since early Monday morning.

Today he gently tip toed his fingers across my own, he smiled gently but purposefully. He is resilient.

Last night Bede’s aunt came and played the guitar and serenaded him. Her chords permeated his upset and he relaxed. She played all his favourite songs and created a few new favourites. She helped me help him resist drifting back into despair and helped us give him some sweetness.

If we didn’t know already over the last few days we have found out what our son is made of.

Bede is weakened but he is not diminished, his strength incontestable, his light indelible. His soul glistens with hope and love and beauty and light and joy. He is a blessing in its purest form.

The fight is hard but he is soft. He is tender and he is warm. The fight is robust and he is delicate.

Although it is not perfectly apt it reminds me of a quote that I came across some time ago.

 Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

So yes the fight is hard, the cancer is dark and Bede is soft and glowing and tender and I feel like that is just what he needs to be. It is not fair and it is not right and this did not “happen for a reason”. It stinks but if there were ever a baby up to the challenge you better believe it is Bede. His soft beautiful love, his gentle soul, his resilient tenderness and his purposeful persistence have him in with a fighting chance and for this fight I’m backing Bede. Cancer ain’t seen nothing yet.

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I want to add a thanks to all the nurses who have surrounded him and us with genuine care this admission and who have prayed for him. Who have made us feel like Bede matters and is valued even in this environment that he is more than just a number on the ward that he is cared for. I want to thank everyone who has sent him love and positivity this past week. From virtual strangers to our nearest and dearest thank you. Your love strengthens him and us and enables him to work his magic.

Bede has been remarkable.

If he chooses to go it is ok. He has done enough and I have tried to be enough. Mothering him has been a privilege. I have tried to empower him to make his mark through this blog and through all of you. If he chooses to stay that would be a dream but if he chooses to go I hope you will help me to wrap him up in love and tenderness and light and joy and soulful kindness. In the meantime, while we wait, I hope you will help me fortify him with love and positivity as his light has so often fortified me for the fight.

As I nuzzle my head against his own I am at home in the world and I count my blessings.

(I did a photo post earlier today showing some of the last 6 weeks including our happier times and times of growth and joy. you can check it out here)

Half way through and the triumph is his.

It has been an incredibly difficult few weeks, some of our worst in fact but in this moment Bede is defiant and triumphant. He shines, purposefully and hopefully.

Bede’s happy soul and his inherent light are irrepressible. He bubbles and the delight he is taking in the world is contagious and full. He is cheerful.  His coos are high and happy. He laughs freely now. A breathy chirpy chuckle. His happiness comes with a new found ease and he draws us all in. We are taken and my god we are happy.

I am working on a post to update you on the last few weeks but it is difficult. A lot has happened and it has been taxing. I don’t think it is too dramatic to say we could have lost him and yet here he is now displaying his joy and resilience in all their glory. Bede is triumphant.

I just wanted to make sure I took this moment to mark Bede being halfway through his treatment. To that aim I’m posting the slideshow I referenced in my last post.

Here is Bede, putting one foot in front of the other and quietly, diligently, purposefully, happily, joyfully kicking cancer’s ass. Here is Bede bringing light and love and wonder to all those around him.  Here is Bede facing a rare brain cancer and doing it with grace. Here is Bede, take note he won’t be here long and he is magnificent.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for seeing our beautiful Bede.

Thank you for wrapping him up in your love.

Thank you for empowering him to be known to the world by sharing his story.

My gratitude to you all runs deep.

If you want the music make sure you turn on the sound.
Please don’t forget to follow the blog so next time we need a mini miracle we can call on your positivity to help carry him through. There should be a little grey box at the bottom of your computer screen that says ‘follow’, its that easy,
Is.

A quick catch up.

It has been a while since I posted. I know this for a fact because  I have been receiving messages all day telling me so.

Bede is strong, vocal, funny and shining bright. He is careful, he is an explorer, he is teething and his soul is as magical as ever.
When he speaks people listen and his eyes command your attention.

I’m hoping to write a proper update for you tonight but for now this is Flash back Friday for all of our new followers these are the links to some past posts that show some of  where we have been. …

Smile Bede Is

My Gosh we adore him

Choices

 

Don’t forget to check the ‘A Baby of Substance’ and ‘About’ links at the top of the page and please don’t forget to follow the blog.

Your love and prayers and support continue to humble and strengthen us.

I spoke at a fundraising event for Bede and our family last night. The whole event and the lead up to it have felt like a warm embrace filled with friendship and love for our family.  I have attached a copy of my words for those of you who I know had been hoping to make it but in the end could not. It was a wonderful night.

Hi everyone. Thank you for being here tonight and thank you for listening to what I have to say.

I’ll give you a really quick bit of background, because as some of you know I fear the details of our journey are boring I also know some of you are here learning about Bede for the first time tonight.

About 5 weeks after Bede was born, 5 exhaustedly joyful weeks I knew something was wrong. It took 2 hospitals and another 11 weeks of relentless advocating to get the scans that finally brought us a diagnosis. Bede had an advanced brain tumour and it was certainly cancerous because it had spread throughout his brain stem and spine. His kind of cancer is rare and fatal. We get given different numbers depending on which doctor we speak to some say there are only 6 reported cases of this in the world. Some will just say it is very rare. After the biopsy and the pathology returned we pushed for a life expectancy. The doctors were reluctant to give us one because they don’t have a crystal ball but eventually, they told us, Bede had 2 years. One of intense chemo and hopefully one year of quality life at home with his family.

A lot of you who now our family know that we have tried to stay positive and happy through this experience. 
We don’t see much point in grieving while Bede is here. We will have a lifetime for Grief once he is gone. For now we make the choice to delight in every moment.

I want to be real tonight. I want you to know why your support means so much to us and what it has helped us through

I want to take this opportunity tonight to catch you up, to tell y ou about some of the realities  that I don’t blog about and hopefully help you understand why we’ve been so absent and not as present in our gratitude to you all as we would have liked.

I chose the photos that you have seen in the slideshow tonight. They are extremely illustrative of Bede’s journey. They are not the professional photos, they’re not all beautiful but they are true.  I suppose the only photos that are missing are the graphic and slightly upsetting ones that show just how skinny and ill bede became before his diagnosis.
I’d like to tell you about some of the photos you did see.

There is the photo of Bede outside.  fresh air in his lungs

I fought hard for that moment. He had had a long admission and was about to head into brain surgery less than 24 hours after diagnosis. If he was going to die the mother in me wanted him to have fresh air in his lungs and to have felt the sunshine on his face.

There were so many ‘last’ photos. The moments we were told this is very likely it. You may be losing him now in this moment. Desperate to document his last moments we would snap away. Crying, holding him and willing our love to comfort him.

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The photos of Bede and Gus when we had to decide with our doctor do we let him go for his play date or call him in to see his dying brother one last time.

You saw the moment that my acceptance of Bede’s fate and my deep faith that whatever was best for Bede is what would  eventuate crumble as I begged for just one more moment, I wasn’t ready to never again feel that the coolness of his soft cheeks, the weight of his body on mine or the beauty of our souls entwined. Just one more moment I begged. I’m not ready yet, I’m not ready.

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I chose this photo to have (on the screen) behind me tonight because while it doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect Bede’s external beauty it does speak volumes about my son.

This is my son.

Days earlier we thought the cancer was claiming him. He was on ICU level IV morphine not normally administered on the ward and at double doses. He was on IV ketamine and one on one nursing. He had spent days screaming in pain as the cancer grew. You might be able to see at the bottom of this picture the oxygen he was needing to stay alive, he was on high doses of steroids as he is now. The steroids left his face so swollen expressions were difficult.

This is him smiling in spite of it all.

Getting ready to make his come back.

This is typical Bede. This is my son.

You also saw intimate kisses goodbye as we stood on the precipice yet again of our greatest fear, moments of sheer despair. But it is in those moments where we need to make a choice. To surrender to despair and horror and brutal grief or to embrace positivity and to make sure as many moments as possible of Bede’s life are filled with love and joy and songs like incy wincy spider.

The support so many of you have given us from high school friends sincerely reaching out through facebook, to school mums cooking us dinner and keeping us nourished, to the friends who have stayed in contact and kept up traditions like the occasional Sunday afternoon drink and the people who have continued to treat us just the same as they always did.  Your support in a real and tangible way has helped us choose incy wincy spider and playing and love.

So many of you tell us we are inspirational, and a lot of you know that doesn’t sit comfortably with me at all. It is your support that has enabled our strength and our positivity. It is your love and prayers and the practical ways so many of you have reached out that has fortified us and allowed us to be the best parents we can possibly be to Bede.

Of course in the photos tonight you also saw the smiles.

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The unadulterated joy. The victories. The inherent strength. The moments that have doubled the size of our hearts. The moments we got to have him at home in his context with his family and his community. His first solid feed. His first get away down south.

The photos mark his growth and his resilient spirit. A spirit that fortifies us for the fight. You saw his light, his grin and his enduring ability to bring beauty and joy to all those around him. I hope you also saw a happy and grateful family.
Bede is strength.

I want to take a moment to talk about Bede. Sometimes I get nervous that if I repeat the same thing too many times I dilute the message but my dear friend Carolyn, reminded me that people like to be reminded of just how incredible Bede is so here goes.

Bede is determined, he is strong, he is solid and he is true. In the words of his medical team he is persistant. They say kids bounce back well Bede doesn’t. For all the deep pits we have been in he has never bounced. Instead he takes a moment, he gathers himself, he consolidates his postion and then purposefully moves forward. Putting one foot in front of the other he gets on with the business of life. There are no spectacles, no grand moments he quietly and unassumingly dominates cancer. He is often called a fighter but it is not an angry fight it’s more like a peaceful protest. This illness that looms large may have the power to steal his life but it sure as hell will never steal his light. He faces brain cancer head on and he does it with a grace I could never have imagined.

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His indelible truth remains, his light shines bright. I know I say that often but it feels like such an apt way to describe Bede. Sometimes he softly and defiantly glows, sometimes he all out shines but he always has this beautiful happy light about him. He radiates love and warmth and something great but indescribable. He is profound.

He is tough as nails and soft as a feather.

He is courageous and triumphant, gentle and soft and his little warm hands that he tip toes across my own feel like the worlds largest blessing.

Right now in this moment he is triumphant.  He is doing better than anyone could have ever expected. He is eating solids, sitting up, babbling smiling. He plays, he takes turns, he is careful. He is an explorer. Where before Bede’s old soul was so prominent and overwhelming now his gentle persistent personality shines through and I really like the person I see.

In regards to that life expectancy we’re now told all bets are off. The truth remains that Bede could die suddenly and painlessly at any moment and while the cancer will most certainly eventually take him no one is prepared to give it a time frame. No one is prepared to underestimate Bede and his will. He is doing better than any other child that has presented with this cancer. For example while all the other babies presented at 4 months already completely blind we found out yesterday that Bede retains at least some sight.

I want to say thank you so much for your love and prayers. There have been so many times things could have gone so much worse than they did. Before the biopsy the doctors gave us weeks. So many prayed with us, sent love to Bede or just concentrated your positive energies on him. You gave him whatever you had and I earnestly believe the miracle Bede has had and the he still needs is all of you.

I’d so love for everyone here tonight to head over to the blog and at the bottom of the page in a grey box is the word follow. Click on it and subscribe and the next time we need a miracle we can call on you as part of team Bede. We so desperately want for him to be known and to be afforded his opportunity to make his mark on the world.

I really want to thank my beautiful friends who have helped organize tonight. I found the kindness difficult to accept initially but it has felt like one huge hug for our whole family. I also want to thank everyone who supported us and them by contributing to tonight and I know there are many of you.

I want to thank all of you for helping alleviate my fear that my incredible son would go unknown to the world.

I want to thank our whole school community for your support and love and prayers and I especially want to thank the year 2 mums for the meals, the fuel vouchers and for at times literally putting clothes on my back.

I want to thank everyone for coming tonight, for your support and love and for letting me tell you all the other side of the story. That might not sound as positive and as happy but is true and real.

I assure you the brutality of the journey doesn’t diminish they joy of parenting Bede. Everyday we feel a deep happiness and privilege to be the parents of two such amazing boys and a deep gratitude for all of you.

Please please please check out the blog.

Bede, maybe  small but he is mighty. Thank you.

It’s clear! It’s clear!

A quick message to let you in on some wonderful news.

Preliminary reports say the brain fluid test has come back clear and Bede has kicked meningitis’ ass. The first look at the fluid under the Microscope shows no bacteria. They will still try and grow some but considering it didn’t grow in the beginning it would be highly unlikely for that to happen now. It looks like we’re in the clear.

To say we are elated is an understatement. G is so proud of his brother as are we. We are absolutely awash with relief. This was one of our biggest challenges yet and Bede has faced it down as usual. We love him so much and are so very very proud of him. We’re excited and happy and thankful. Thank you for your love and prayers and support.

We managed to escape for the weekend down to the farm and it was lovely. It was wonderful to see the boys hang out together like brothers. G insisted on sitting right next to Bede for the drive and Bede spent the weekend reaching out to G. It has been amazing watching him actively enjoy his brother’s company.

Bede was so relaxed and would spend hours flaked out in front of the fire but was also having a lot of awake and engaged time, a lot. He spent much time in the sunshine with the breeze on his face at local wineries and in the garden.  He was blissed out in his first spa.

I think the greatest joy was just enjoying a family dynamic.

We are in awe of our little man and the infectious strength and happiness that wells from deep within him.

I would love to update you more comprehensively on how Bede’s little soul is weathering (robustly, happily, positively, calmly, collectedly) but I am exhausted and chemo starts tomorrow. For now I am going to crawl into bed with Bede and drink in every moment. Here are a few photos of the hundreds we took and just the first I have come across at this late hour.

I hope this post delivers Bede’s supporters a little of his joy and sunshine.

I remain humbled by your love and prayers and truly believe they are carrying Bede through these challenges.

Tonight my heart, naively, dares hope for a miracle.

flaked out by the fire

flaked out by the fire

still flaked out by the fire

still flaked out by the fire

brothers at bunker bay

brothers at bunker bay

worlds best brothers

cider in the sun and teething all over again!

cider in the sun and teething all over again!

“hmmm not too sure about this”

Good night cuddles by the fire

Good night cuddles by the fire

 

Is  xx

joie de vivre

There is joy here! There is growth and exploration and happiness and joy. There is normality and comfort and love and warmth. There is courage and blossoming confidence and just thankfulness and delight taken in being together and watching Bede grow. There is so much joy here.

Constant teething

Constant teething

Bede has been busy mastering lots of new skills.

He has been babbling more.

First he regained neck control, which was amazing. He lost it when the disease doubled and he got so sick. Now he is nearly sitting up all on his own.

If I let him hold onto my little finger just as a point of balance (he usually chews it) he will sit up for 5 minutes or so. If I sit him on my lap with absolutely no support he will sit upright for 20 seconds or so. I just can’t believe how far he has come. He seems to be only a couple of months behind some healthy babies which is incredible! We have graduated up to the next kind of chair and soon enough will be on to the bumbo which is a regular baby seat.

Bede's first unassisted sit up but no one but me to take a photo

Bede’s first unassisted sit up but no one but me to take a photo

Bede can play! wooooohooooooo!

Bede can play! wooooohooooooo!

He has been teething and while eventually, the novelty wore off I think at least in the beginning he quite enjoyed it. Finally here is an itch he can scratch, a pain he can self soothe, something he has some input over. He has had his fingers in his mouth rubbing his gums constantly and yesterday, finally, it broke through.

He’s eating ‘solids’!!! Just rice cereal to start with but this week we introduce his first flavour. I haven’t completely decided what it will be yet but I’m thinking sweet potato. He’s doing so well at it.  Opening his mouth, chewing, swallowing, and coordinating himself. Some people thought he may never eat solids so this really is awesome. I’ve been super unorgnaised with it to. I think if I’d been more onto it he’d be even further along so I’m going to get on top of it this week.

He is smiling again! For the first time since the meningitis took hold! He gave his daddy a massive smile for father’s day. The perfect gift.

long before his diagnosis and long after Bede's nickname was smiley. We love seeing him happy but he won't take his fingers out of his mouth!

long before his diagnosis and long after Bede’s nickname was smiley. We love seeing him happy but he won’t take his fingers out of his mouth!

He is so alert and engaged all the time. He’s taking everything in and participating and my thankfulness and joy run deep.

We went toy shopping for Bede the other day and got him a wonderful stash of toys that his brother is delighting in playing with with him. We bought 3 rain makers because they are his favourite; he goes still listening to them.

He tried out his newest therapy tool today which is especially designed for kids who may be vision impaired. It’s a box that has all bits and pieces dangling around him. It’s hard to explain but the idea basically is that it allows him to explore texture and feel and sound without having to move very far and he gets a lot of feed back for not too much effort. It also amplifies the sound of the rainmaker so he fell asleep. (He’s completely undressed because we kept trying to wake him up and he would only stay awake if he was cool.)

bede blog 6th sensory room

So despite the cancer, despite the meningitis he is growing. I love that. I love what an amazing soul he is. I love that he does things on his own terms and surprises us at the least expected moments.

His face is swollen again from the drugs but we are weaning off them again. 8 weeks ago Bede's neck was stuck arched back and to the side there is no way he could have done this.

His face is swollen again from the drugs but we are weaning off them again. 8 weeks ago Bede’s neck was stuck arched back and to the side there is no way he could have done this.

I can’t even put in to words all that Bede is at the moment. He is growing and evolving and reaching but not really changing. He is all that he has always been just more so.

I feel I have come to know him so much more over the last few weeks and goodness I am so incredibly fond of who he is growing in to and yet he is just the same.

All that he has always been remains but now I see how, with control and agency, that converts to his day-to-day approach to life. I suppose I’m seeing things that I always innately knew about him but now I get to really watch in action. His determined gentleness as he masters a new skill, his calm as he tries something scary, his tenderness as he strokes his hand over the top of mine exploring my being and my soul.

Bede blog 6th sleeping

He is resilient. Despite the cancer he is developing and growing and that is really quite remarkable.

We are hoping our doctor gives us the all clear tomorrow and we can steal away down south to our dear friends’ property for a few nights tomorrow and maybe visit some other friends. There are chooks, vegetable patches, a trampoline, lots of trees, yabbies, clear stars and as much fresh air as you could possibly hope for. We are really excited to get the boys down there and sit by the fire.

We have had two weeks at home now while we postpone the chemo and treat the meningitis and despite some hospital stresses and mistakes it has been absolute bliss. It has felt close to normal. It has been enough time for him to develop a sleep routine which is such a normal thing but I have relished in it. I have loved the normality, we all have.

brothers checking out the chocolate factory.

brothers checking out the chocolate factory during a wonderful day trip to the swan valley

Tuesday was another MRI we’re not expecting anything earth shattering either way. Sometimes that’s when you get sucker punched so that makes me slightly nervous for the results in an irrational way.

Tomorrow we tap Bede’s shunt again, which involves inserting a needle into the lump on his head and removing some brain fluid. There is a lot riding on it. If the three weeks of IV antibiotics haven’t worked and any meningitis remains Bede will need multiple brain surgeries, ICU time, lengthy admissions and a massive delay on chemo which may allow the tumour to grow. Roy and I will really be left questioning how we should move forward.

We are hoping, and praying and thinking positively and just really wanting that sample to come back clear of meningitis.

He is growing, he is loving, he is living. He is evolving and consolidating and smiling. He’s been knocked down but he is getting back up.

It has never been truer…

Through it all he is small but he is mighty.

He is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart

I am overwhelmed by this update. Everytime I start writing I remember a new detail. Why haven’t I done this post before now? Why have I left it so long when so many of you have been so eager to hear of Bede?

Well because I try and pick a moment in time when I can give you all a clear idea of where were at and over the last two weeks the landscape has constantly been changing. Everytime I have found my feet the world has gone hurtling off in a new direction and so many times, as we are in this moment, we have been left waiting for time to pass, for something to declare itself, for the doctors to catch up, for confirmation. We haven’t been able to find our feet.

I have written pages of details tonight but that is numbing. It all boils down to this.

He fought the infection.

We got home.

The moment we were least expecting it, after a gorgeous night with friends, things turned.

No one could figure out why but I knew there was an infection.

He was struggling.

His oxygen levels kept dropping really low and he turned blue a couple of times over the coming week.

I thought there was an infection so I postponed chemo and him having a depleted immune system. The doctors were happy to forge ahead so we did.

Bede got worse.

There were CTs that said different things depending on who you asked.

His brain was swollen.

His brain wasn’t swollen.

The tumour had a fresh bleed.

There is no fresh bleed.

The tumour is swelling.

The tumour is not swelling.

These oxygen problems are from the cancer you need to brace for losing him.

This is not from the cancer but we cant figure out what it is.

You need to consider signing Do Not Resuscitate forms in the near future.

My strong recommendation is that you do not sign Do Not Resuscitate forms at this stage.

His brain ventricals are enlarged

His brain ventricals aren’t enlarged.

All the time in the background I know he has an infection and despite their best efforts they’re missing it.

They tap his shunt which involves inserting a needle in to the lump on top his head and drawing back and seeing if any brain fluid comes out. It came, that meant the shunt wasn’t blocked, that wasn’t the problem.

“We’ll just send some of the fluid off for testing just to make sure there’s no infection.”

“Issy, he has meningitis”

"Another infection?!?!"

“Another infection?!?!”

"You didn't listen to Mum and Dad again?!"

“You didn’t listen to Mum and Dad again?!”

"COME ON!"

“COME ON!”

Here I am quietly and calmly wondering what next.

I called Gus and told him Bede had another sickness in his brain. He asked if it was weak. It’s a hell of a lot weaker than Bede, my beautiful son.

Ultimately we don’t know where we stand. There are risks we are hoping to avoid. There are things we are hoping will happen. Right now we’re in limbo. Waiting for the world to shift again.

In two weeks when it has felt like the world has turned a thousand times and the land scape shifted with each one of those turns one thing has stayed unmoving, Bede.

He is solid and he is heart breakingly beautiful.

His soul is profound and wraps me up as his little fingers reach out and they find my lips or my ear and they explore, tip toing around my face, defining his limits.

He is soft and tender and divine and he glows. Softly and gently and unassumingly his glow lights the way.

Our secret is before every defined fork in the road like surgery or an MRI I whisper to him repetitively

“you are strong, you are loved, you are important.”

Willing him to know his worth. Willing him to know his foot print on my heart is deep.

Willing him to know I recognize his fundamental greatness and I promise the world has taken note.

I care for him so much and in so many ways. I care that he knows the world is beautiful and that hears beautiful words but sometimes I am at a loss for words that are filled with beauty. So I read to him a poem. A poem I rediscovered when I was pregnant and felt so deeply back then that this poem was intrinsic to our connection but didn’t understand why. Usually I have my own words but when I don’t I borrow Mr Cummings’ because if I know only one thing it is that Bede is truly a once in a life time wonder.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

There is so much more to say but tonight I am overwhelmed by the telling. I will come and share all the happiness and all the triumphs of the last few weeks over the next few days because of course with Bede there is always so much joy. I will better update you on Bede’s little soul not just the happenings, tonight I knew many of you were waiting to know where we were in this moment. Where we are is that brain cancer is throwing Bede the worst its got and he is meeting the challenge with grace and beauty and gentleness and fortitude and light and love.

I am painfully thankful for my son. Now we are watching, once again, the mighty Bede demonstrate his grandeur and Roy and I are in awe of him.

Oh Happy Day!

My cup is full. I am brimming with joy and happiness and thankfulness. A smile irrepressibly spreads from one corner of my mouth to the next. Life is grand and beautiful and saturated with colour and light.

Bede turned 6 months old on the 2nd and we celebrated. We celebrated with balloons and colours and cake and love.6 month cake

 6 months with mum 6 month with daddy

Time is a funny, elastic thing. If you asked me if I have had long with G who is 7 years I would say not at all, he is still a baby. But this week when I think of Bede I feel like 6 months is a long time. It feels like a miracle. I have truly loved and fully lived each of those days and fully immersed myself in the experience of Bede’s life. Being Bede’s mum has been all encompassing. I have held him for hours every day and made sure he has felt loved and nurtured and safe. My love for him is embossed on every cell of my being.

6 month old Bede isn’t too much different to the one month old Bede. He is calm, resolute, substantial, joyful, curious and happy. He shines. He seeps beauty and grace and oh so much light. even when he can not phsyically mould his mouth into a smile you can see the light and happiness pouring from his eyes. The main difference is now we know just how much he is capable of. He is capable of more than simply enduring. He is capable of growing and evolving through the most daunting and trying circumstances.

Bede has really taught me a lot about unconditional happiness. I mean it when I say there are times when he can not physically smile but he is happy. His happiness is not pre determined by his conditions, it is not ruled by externalities. He cultivates it from deep within. Like a kaleidoscope his happiness is the reflection of so many things , his family, his toys, a world to explore even if it can not be as vast as yours or mine, his curiosity, his disposition. At times I find myself walking down a corridor on the children’s cancer ward smiling and I feel what Bede feels, unconditional happiness that is not dependant on my environment or material things or anything and I know Bede has taught me a lot.

Bede was so sleepy but so happy to be in the fresh air, tasting ice cream and experiencing his parent's joy at having him outside

Bede was so sleepy but so happy to be in the fresh air, tasting ice cream and experiencing his parent’s joy at having him outside.

Other than Bede’s 6 month celebration there has been a lot of other bits of happiness floating around. Last weekend we got home for about 8 hours. The ward also had a BBQ and Bede wore a party hat. We broke all the rules and snuck some ice cream into his mouth.
He has started mouthing at things a lot and we are so excited to start feeding him food soon. I have never taken food granted and can not wait to share with Bede the adventure of taste, such an essential party of experiencing this world of ours.

Roy is obviously so proud of his little baby boy as he watches Bede commandeer his rusk. He seems excited and hopeful and happy and just really really proud.

The truth of course is there is always a balance. This post sounds boldly happy and things are but at the same time there are still moments, quiet moments, even sad moments. There is always a choice to be had. There are moments where you think that 6 months old means we’re already a quarter of the way through Bede’s life expectancy. We choose to focus on the moments where we just feel blessed to have had him this long.

At the moment he is bold and curious and an explorer. Most of all he is adored and rightly so. Well actually in this moment by the time this blog finally goes to air he will probably be asleep and we MAY have even got home! Fingers crossed. Love to you all.
6month sleep insta

Triumph & Trauma

I have just realised that we have all been so wrapped up in the beautiful moments this last week all our photos are of us sleeping.

I have just realised that we have all been so wrapped up in the beautiful moments this last week all our photos are of us sleeping.

I try to keep this blog about who Bede is and how he is doing rather than just boring everyone with the details or even, sometimes the despair, of what is happening. Sometimes though, I think the details are important at least for the purpose of letting our families know and certainly as a testament to Bede’s strength and the pride we feel for him.

In the last 3 weeks Bede has had

  • Severe pain
  • Respiratory issues
  • Needed oxygen on and off for the whole 3 weeks
  • Heart rate issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Constant Morphine and Ketamine infusions
  • A blood infection
  • 4 kinds of IV antibiotics
  • His permanent line come out
  • The lining of his small bowel breaking down
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea
  • Tumour growth
  • 5 blood transfusions due to the chemo depleting his blood cells.
  • CTs
  • The skin around his bottom breaking down and bleeding
  • Cannulas and collapsed veins from blood tests
  • The hardcore chemo
  • Surgery to insert his new permanent line, this time an infuser port
  • MRI under general anaesthetic
  • And has been weaned off a lot of drugs

In fact the majority of these things unfurled in the first 2 weeks following the new chemo. Each day has been a new challenge and each day we have tried our best as a family to meet it. Day by day. I think rambling off that list is important because it really demonstrates just how remarkable our little Bede is. Through it all Bede remains calmly and firmly himself. I marvel that through all this trauma he has not only managed to continue smiling and shining but he has also managed to grow so much. We are incredibly proud of him.

We had an MRI on Friday which, incredibly, showed the new chemo has stabilised his cancer. Quite a feat really considering the tumour was growing so aggressively, it MAY have even shrunk it marginally.

This week we managed to stretch his IV lines all the way to the big bed and we slept together. Just like old times. Wrapping each other up in our sweet love.

This week we managed to stretch his IV lines all the way to the big bed and we slept together. Just like old times. Wrapping each other up in our sweet love.

We have had some positively wonderful times with bede. Uplifting times. Beautiful affirming days.
One day in particular was incredible, we had an infant massage session, a music therapy session and a guided play session. He was so incredibly enlivened and engaged. He has definitely re earned his nickname smiley.

Bede has grown within his own mind so much.
 He has a favourite page of a touch and feel book and reaches out to stroke the animal. He plays kissing games and smiles asking for more.

He freely gives away his joy by smiling indiscriminately. He smiles at everyone now, those jewels are no longer just for his Mumma and that makes me beam. His smiles are beautiful and luminescent, they of course shine so bright. His smiles make everyone else smile and the Bede effect is clear.

He has even managed to fulfill the secret hope I had for before the next chemo started. He is back to laughing.

I think what has brought Roy and I the most joy has been watching Bede discover, develop and explore his sense of playfulness. That purely childlike quality that is in its essence so far removed from his cancer and all that that entails brings a happy balance to his awe inspiring substance. His gentle determinedness remains resolute. In addition to that determinedness he now pauses and basks in the moment, seemingly bathing in his own light. Strengthened by happiness and curiosity.

We have now started the second round of the hard core chemo. We haven’t been home in four weeks. We are hoping to get home for a couple of days this cycle. I think it would so much good for Bede, it would reenergise Roy and I and would do the world of good for Gus.

I know its been far too long between posts by the state of all my inboxes. This has been such an incredibly intense and equally triumphant and traumatic time it has been difficult to update. Each time I tried I was overwhelmed by where to begin. I worry that I no longer have the emotional wherewithal to do justice to Bede with my words but I will continue to try so long as you all continue to pray for him and care for him and are sending him light and love and positivity.

Thank you.

choices

As you all know this blog started as an SMS just updating Bede’s physical condition. As it has grown I occasionally feel compelled to venture outside the scope. This post does just that.

Bede's first chemo, Bede laughs in the face of cancer.

Bede’s first chemo, Bede laughs in the face of cancer.

A while a go a comment was left on the blog that wasn’t approved.

It spoke of all the torture Roy and I were putting Bede through and the author said she hoped we would do the right thing soon.

Those of you that know us know it would take a bit more than some thoughtless words from a stranger to upset Roy and I or even to disturb our perspective. The comment did get me thinking.

We are at a stage of Bede’s treatment that at any time if Roy and I say it’s time to call it quits the doctors will support that. We have the ‘choice’.

It’s a funny concept that choice. I used to be lucky and naive enough to think people in situations like this had choices. That there would be value judgements, choices, to be made along the way. Most of all I thought there would be a choice to say ok Bede has had enough. That at some point it would be a matter of just gently letting him drift off. What a fairy tale that belief was.

In a treatment sense we have no real choices. It seems to me most of the families on this ward have no real choice. Most are fighting for their children’s life. We have the added responsibility of fighting for the quality of his death.

If 2 weeks ago we had chosen not to proceed with the treatment the tumour would have kept growing at the rate it was.

Bede was in excruciating pain. He would have had a horrifying death.

Because we went ahead it seems we may have thwarted some of the tumors growth and Bede’s pain is subsiding but he has needed blood transfusions, and has had infections and is just generally feeling pretty lousy after chemo but the treatment may buy him some good quality time at home playing with his brother and possibly a much less painful death. Prolonging his life prolongs his illness. There is no perfectly happy choice there.

We fight for him to have a better day but sometimes even those are rough, it is still the lesser of two troubles.

People may hold up this translucent illusion of choice in the hope of alleviating some sense of powerlessness but it is ineffective and unreal, that is not reality. Roy and I have no choices but a deep responsibility to honour Bede and all of his experiences whether that be life or death or the day to day struggles.

Tonight I met a beautiful young and wise Iranian woman. She said in a beautifully soft voice that there’s a saying that roughly translates to “God gives the hardest soldiers the hardest things” and she embraced me and kissed me. People tell you a lot of sayings when your child is diagnosed with cancer but that one really resonated with me. Perhaps it was the coarseness of the words mixed with the tender way she delivered them. We are strong enough to guide him through  and soft enough to embrace every moment with him.

We may not have real treatment choices, we may be powerless in the direction our lives take but we are dealing with a profound little boy. Filled with light and substance. That alone empowers us to make life choices. We choose to face each obstacle with love and joy and thankfulness. We choose to sing to him and smile and cherish him. We choose to make his life loving even when it can not be lovely. We choose the fullness of life for as long as we are gifted with it.

We would both be sorry to think that any of you out there thought we were putting Bede through the trauma of childhood cancer just to satiate our own selfish needs to have him here. There are no real choices except the choice to love him and shower him with as much joy as we can muster. I assure you we do this.

This is Bede’s life and it is actually not torturous. He knows no different, he grieves no loss and is present in every moment. He leaves the horrible moments behind in the blink of an eye and happily loses himself in his Mum’s smile. There is a lot to be learnt there. Perhaps it is Bede who has the real choices. The choice of how he lives his life and there is a lot that can be learnt from the decisions he makes.