“Be Realistic. Plan for a Miracle” is the first letter Melanie wrote to her son Seamus on Mother’s Day 2013. She has written to him regularly since then.
Be Realistic. Plan for a Miracle.
May 13, 2013
It’s my very first Mother’s Day. An amazing road has led me to this point. I suppose I best tell you first up that long before you were born I knew you were coming. Many years ago as a young woman I would speak about my future son but at that point your name was Sebastian. I spoke of you so frequently that to many of my friends you already existed. When I unexpectedly found myself pregnant at 39, many of my friends squealed in delight down the telephone ‘Sebastian is coming’!!! However when I told your father, he was not fond of the name so it was back to the drawing board.
Three weeks before your birth I had two names picked for you. Both of them had come to me in the middle of the night so I assume they were names you had chosen for yourself and were sending me a message. When I put the names to your Dad he met the name Alexander with the same resistance as Sebastian, and although he had never heard the name Seamus before he thought it would grow on him. Meanwhile you were still growing inside me and I had had quite enough of being pregnant. I felt like a hippopotamus, had dreadful constant heartburn and more ominously I had terrible pain in my back. I couldn’t sleep for more than one hour at a time and I needed to be propped up on three pillows as I was so breathless. I would get up through the night delirious with insomnia. I would hobble out of the bedroom to lean on the kitchen bench and cry quietly with the pain.
I was induced on your official due date. The next day I went into labour at lunchtime and by 11pm that night you became distressed. Your heartbeat dropped dramatically with each contraction and the decision was made to do an emergency caesarean. The epidural failed so I was given a general anaesthetic. You were born shortly after midnight and I was the only one who wasn’t there! I stopped breathing on the operating table and ended up in the high dependency unit attached to a cardiac monitor, a drip, a morphine infuser and a catheter. Your daddy wheeled you into the room in a hospital cot and I glimpsed the back of a little head above the blankets you were wrapped tightly in. In my drug induced haze I had no idea of the commotion I had caused during the delivery and after you were handed to me for the first time your father informed me that I had frightened the life out of him. He requested that I never pull a stunt like that again.
Through my blurry eyes I focused with great fascination on the little baby in my arms. The baby I had dreamed into life after years of just existing in my heart. The baby I was told I wouldn’t have after my initial diagnosis with breast cancer in 2008. My Oncologist put it in writing that I had been informed the treatment would most likely cause infertility. Yet there you were at last, against all the odds.
Seamus, my darling, you are living proof that nothing is impossible. In fact you are a great reminder to me every day that miracles do happen. This is incredibly important because the day after you were born I was diagnosed with advanced secondary breast cancer. The Obstetrician flagged that something serious was going on after my experience during your birth and ordered a number of immediate tests. The x- ray showed approximately one litre of fluid sitting in my pleural cavity and across my left lung. The CT scan showed extensive cancer through the ribs, sternum, hips and pelvis, along with large tumours on the liver. A large lesion on my spine was threatening paralysis as it pressed on the spinal cord. The doctor was visibly distressed when he gave me the news. The Nurse accompanying him squeezed my foot and gently asked if there was anything I needed.
In the face of this very serious and scary diagnosis and considering how ill I felt, something deep inside me rose up to tell me everything would be ok. A voiceless voice, an absolute knowing. An incredible insight. It was not a just a reassurance, it was a surety.
As I sat alone I closed my eyes and clung to that feeling. I allowed myself to become absorbed in it and to know it without doubt.
As my eyes flickered open again, I wondered how I was going to break the news to your Dad. My Mum, your Nana, had already walked the cancer path with me once. I felt guilty that I would be creating heartache at a time that was supposed to be joyful. When I got caught in the torrents of fear and sadness I would dive below the surface and back to that comforting feeling that defied all logic. Your Nana took the news relatively well but her red eyes the following day spoke of her tears through the night. Your Daddy looked like a frightened child when I told him. His vulnerability was heart breaking but I knew that I had the strength to help him through this. Cancer was not new to me but it was to him. I knew that I would need to rely on him completely as things unfolded, so for now I could have the courage for us both.
Through this time of intensity our love galvanised. He slept beside me every night on a lumpy sofa chair and made sure I had plenty of cuddles with you as I could do little else. I was on large doses of morphine for the bone pain and the c section. I couldn’t breathe properly because of the fluid on my lungs and I was having great difficulty walking. My face was as white as the sheets.
While you slept peacefully in your cot beside us, your Father climbed onto the hospital bed with me, looked me in the eye and told me he was in love with me. I cried as I recognised the power of that moment. We were both so raw with emotion and overwhelmed by the enormity of what was happening. I knew above all else that I was blessed beyond measure and that I was finally experiencing the most authentic and real love possible. So if that was the case then my choice was clear, I simply had to get better. We spent three weeks in various hospitals while I received palliative treatment before I could go home with you.
It’s been six months since your birth and the hurdles have been massive but I was determined to find a way through. I am feeling incredibly well and am defying the odds with the latest scans revealing tumours are shrinking and bone cancer is receding. I don’t doubt that there will be challenges along the way but I cannot forget nor deny that voice that came from deep within.
You are the most amazing incentive for my wellness and the very cornerstone of my family. As I watch you grow I know I will be here as your Mother for a long time to come. I want to share with you all the things I have learned about life and more importantly, death. You see my precious boy, we are all terminal. We were born with a one way ticket to be absorbed back into the place from which we came. When you can accept death you will embrace life. That is the great gift of illness, it is death on your doorstep to draw your focus and get your attention. It makes you question everything and if you really embrace the experience, then you will drop all that you thought you knew was real and see the truth. You will know gratitude that makes you feel like you will burst open with love. You will understand that success has nothing to do with material gain but is more about the growth you attain from being the most authentic you. You are a unique, incredible, amazing miracle who has come to have the human experience. Just like me. Just like your Dad. Just like every single other person you will ever meet. The difference is how you choose to experience it.
My very first Mother’s Day was the most delightful and special day and I look forward to many happy returns.
“Be realistic, plan for a miracle”- Osho