What a crazy few months! I feel kind of sad because it’s the end of summer and we’ve actually not done a thing. Usually by now, Life Unexpected is packed full of all the really fun activities we’ve been up to in the summer months. Looking back over the last four years, I love seeing what we did each holiday, all the beautiful places we’ve visited and the fun things we’ve done.
This year has been so different though. I’ve barely blogged at all, there are no beautiful beach pictures taking up all the space on my front page, my Instagram has tumbleweed rolling all through it and honestly, now September is here, it’s completely hitting me how much we’ve missed out on this summer.
It’s not even that I haven’t had time to post things here. It’s literally because we haven’t done a thing. Usually, we are the first to really make the most of where we live in the warmer months.
We love eating out, exploring new places, going on staycations, doing fun crafty activities, being adventurous!
This year has been so different though. These last few months have probably been the most difficult of our lives and for a while now I’ve wanted to share an update of what has been happening, but honestly? I just couldn’t find the words without it either sounding so robotic or just like I’m complaining.
I finally feel like we are in a good place and I’m ready to come back to this space and fully share what we’ve been through as a family.
So…here’s an update on what’s been happening with Life Unexpected. The full nitty gritty! I’m talking cancer, pregnancy, Evie starting school and some actual hopeful, exciting news!
Regular readers will know that things have been very, very quiet around here these last few months. I shared with you back in June that we’d just found out that my fiancee Aitan has cancer but I haven’t shared our story yet at all. Even though I’ve been on the journey too, it hasn’t felt right to share updates as we’ve been going along. It’s not really my story, it’s his and to be entirely honest, I just couldn’t find the words to describe just how horrific and intense the whole experience has been.
We found out at the end of May that Aitan had testicular cancer. Honestly, it was the most shocking and unexpected news. He is only 22 years old (we have a bit of an age gap with me just turning 29) and he is literally the healthiest person I know. Cancer was the last thing we ever thought would ever happen to him.
I can go into a bit more detail now I’ve processed it all and I’m ready to. Basically, he had to have surgery to remove the cancerous lump, but the Doctors broke the news to us when he was wheeled out of surgery, that the cancer has actually already spread to his abdomen and to his lungs, so further treatment would be needed.
The part they were most concerned about was his abdomen. They’d found such a big mass in that area. But, they couldn’t work out if it was another lump or if it was just lots of cancerous cells clustered together. The scary thing was, is that it was right on his aorta line…which is basically the line to your heart.
If it did turn out to be a lump (this is something we won’t find out till October), then Aitan will have to go to London to a specialist surgeon who will open up his chest to remove it. Pretty scary huh?
So, the Doctors gave a different plan of action, in the hope that it was just a mass and they decided to hit him with a full brunt of intense back to back chemotherapy sessions.
He had a total of ‘three’ rounds of chemotherapy and going into it, neither of us knew what to expect. At the first consultation, a really lovely Doctor sat us down and explained the process. She said that it was inevitable that Aitan would lose all of his hair. She also said to expect him to feel constantly weak, exhausted and that he would likely experience constant sickness and nausea.
Each round of chemotherapy was ‘three weeks’ in total, but there was no break in between. So, basically Aitan had chemotherapy for 9 weeks consistently. This was 3 types of chemotherapy in 39 bags, all of which took different times to be fed into his system. Some were hours and hours long, others were short 30 minute bursts. Around that though, on the days he was in hospital, he basically lived on a drip of either fluids, antibiotics (he got several infections) or chemotherapy.
He had his first bag of chemo in June and his last ‘bag’ of chemo on my birthday, which was literally last week at the end of August.
I don’t think even that initial consultation could have prepared us for how crazily hard chemotherapy is. For most of the 9 weeks, Aitan would go from being in the hospital for whole weeks at a time, to being at home but with no immune system. This meant we had to avoid being around people in case he caught even the smallest thing off them. Which, unfortunately he still managed to somehow do a few times.
He also couldn’t go out in the sunshine. Yep, the hottest summer in years and we had to stay in out of the light because his skin was photosensitive from the chemotherapy.
Being outside was the last of his worries though. The chemo hit so hard that he has literally felt constantly nauseas and sick for months, he has been so tired he can barely walk the stairs and thats only a few of the symptoms he has had to deal with. There are so many more that I’d rather not even write.
The only way I can describe living with cancer is almost like you are all in this little bubble. The world is going on around you and yet you’ve stood still. Times slowed right down for you and you’re just surviving, trying to get through each day in the hope that it will be better than the last.
We have been very lucky in that we’ve had a semi-good support system around us. I can’t count the times Aitan’s Mum has turned up with chicken soup, or that someone has come and offered us relief through kind words or small gestures – that for us meant the world!
Living With Cancer
Emotionally…it has been the hardest thing that I have ever been through and I can’t even imagine what Aitan has been through either. Even though I’ve watched it and I’ve been by his side, I can’t imagine what he personally has experienced or what he has felt. It is crazy to think that something that is doing so much damage to your body is literally saving your life and chemotherapy literally is doing that to him. It’s saving him, but in order to save him, it is poisoning him and ‘killing’ anything bad and good in his body. Watching someone you love so much go from being incredibly healthy and active to just broken…I can’t even tell you what thats like.
The staff in the hospital were angels though and I don’t think Aitan would have got through this, as mentally strong as he is, without them. The staff were particularly incredible on the ward where Aitan stayed so much. They became like a little family to him and their just general loveliness, got him through each stay.
They were the most amazing people I’ve ever come across and the weird thing is, we actually cried when he left hospital for the last time. Not just because we felt so pleased that it might be over, but also because he had spent so much time with these wonderful humans who had shown so much care and love. They made him feel safe and they literally held his hand and helped to push him through some of the toughest, darkest days he has ever experienced.
I could talk about this journey a lot more in-depth and I’ve barely scratched the surface, but just thinking about it all just makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. I really hope this is over for him and for our family.
We now have a waiting game ahead of us. Six weeks of his body overcoming chemotherapy and rebuilding itself before he gets rescanned. It’s only then, in October, that we find out if its gone completely and he’s in remission or if its over to plan B. I don’t even want to know what plan B is, so for now we are just preparing for this to be over.
If dealing with cancer wasn’t huge enough, we also had even more unexpected news. Which is also a huge reason why I haven’t been able to blog much.
Two days after Aitan had the surgery to remove the cancerous lump and we found out that he’d need more treatment, we found out I was pregnant.
A very unexpected miracle. Especially as the Doctors told us that Aitan was likely to be infertile as a result of the cancer and the upcoming chemo. Even more of a miracle because we hadn’t even been trying for a baby and we had no intentions whatsoever to grow our family just yet.
This absolute blessing came at both the worst and best time. The best time, because it gave Aitan even more to fight for. It gave him hope after hearing that he might not be able to start a family and it gave him hope that this journey was going to be a fight for something huge.
It came at the worst time though, because suddenly I found myself the breadwinner. We were in a bit of a tricky situation where just before Aitan had found out he had cancer, he had left his job to start his own business. Being newly self-employed and without a reliable job, meant no sick pay.
You’d think the government would help right? Wrong. The benefits system changed and universal credit came in around the same time as Aitan was diagnosed. Getting help has honestly been so impossible and I find the whole system disgusting. We’ve never used it before and even though I don’t earn enough to completely support us alone, we have struggled to get any help from them at all. So, that meant little old me suddenly being our only source of income and me being self employed meant zero compassionate leave or paid leave of any kind.
Basically, if I don’t work, I don’t earn.
Severe Morning Sickness
The next six weeks were so incredibly hard. Unlike my pregnancy with Evie, this time around I experienced such bad morning sickness. Throughout the whole of June and the whole of July I could barely keep anything down. I couldn’t stand water, I could barely nibble a cracker and I was so tired I just wanted to stay in bed all the time.
Not good when you have a partner to look after, a daughter to look after and you are the breadwinner for your famiy.
Looking back, I don’t know how I kept going. My work is all laptop based, but every time I saw my screen and the bright light, I wanted to be sick and sometimes was.
One day, I literally had enough and I ended up forcing myself in the car and I managed to get to the Doctors. I was so weak and I had lost over a stone! I’m quite slight as it is and yet at nearly 10 weeks pregnant I was lighter than I ever have been in my whole life! I asked for their help and I was given a few different anti-sickness tablets to try. If they didn’t work I’d have to be monitored and potentially hospitalised, which was a scary thought when so many things were relying on me.
Thankfully the tablets were a godsend and the nausea started to subside. I cannot tell you how many times Aitan and I would find ourselves both sat up in the middle of the night nibbling crackers, our heads in bowls trying to not be sick. It’s funny to look at now and very ironic that one of us was literally battling with death and the other life.
Luckily by week 11/12 things started to get better for me. I could work again a lot more. In fact, my laptop hasn’t really left my side since, as I’ve had to really catch up on work and make sure I’m still earning for us.
Thankfully I could eat again a lot more by week 12 and suddenly I was famished. My appetite came back tenfold and I constantly needed food and I needed it straight away or I’d be sick.
Our twelve scan came at the end of Aitan’s second round of chemo and at the end of my morning sickness journey. They were probably the worst six weeks of my life, but the reward was getting to meet and see our little baby for the first time on screen.
Luckily since then I have been able to go fully back to working (oh the all nighters I have pulled) and now I’m approaching 18 weeks and I’m already feeling beautiful little flutters in my belly. I cannot wait until we can see baby again and hear its heartbeat for the first time. We should get to meet it again and find out whether its a boy or girl at the end of September, when I’m 22 weeks (we’re running a little behind on appointments).
We’re due on the first week of February so expect lots of updates over the next few months about baby and this pregnancy.
Evie’s Starting School
We have another huge milestone coming up on top of all of this. Evie starts school for the first time next week!
I feel so incredibly guilty though. Evie hasn’t had the best summer at all. I have tried so hard to make sure that she has been entertained as much as possible and I can’t thank our family enough for chipping in with childcare and taking her out to do things whenever they could.
But, there were no beach days this year with me, not really any sunset bbqs, no park visits, no staycations or adventures out. I feel even more guilty because it was our last summer together before she starts school for the first time in September and its her last summer with me as an only child.
We have spent most of it indoors, both her Mum and step-dad unable to function very well and me having to just work whenever I could. She has been such a star throughout all of this though and has been incredibly lovely and understanding, especially for such a young little girl.
I have some serious making up to do with her though and I will spend the next few years doing just that.
She is very nervous about starting school, but equally as excited. We were so chuffed to hear that we’d got our first choice school for her and I am really made up to know she is going to be going there for the next few years. It’s such an adorable and lovely school. We have all of her uniform bought and ready to go and we can’t wait for her to have the opportunity to make some new friends and to start a new chapter in her life.
A Change In Job
For me this also signals a big change. Evie going to school means a big shift in my work life. Most of you know that the whole reason I am self employed and I work from home in the first place, is thanks to Evie.
When she was 9 months old I took a huge risk and quit my secure job and pay check in order to try and become a ‘work at home Mum’. I did this because I hated the idea of Evie going to childcare, which was super expensive anyway, while I worked at a job I really didn’t like. I felt like I was just earning money to then pay it to someone else to look after her.
So, I handed in my notice and planned to use my skills as a social media manager, to work freelance and help small businesses – mostly through Evie’s nap times and during bedtimes.
Throwing in my job meant two huge sacrifices though and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. It meant I was giving up both a secure income and also the opportunity to buy a home for my family. I knew that my income would suddenly be unpredictable – I’d have to build a portfolio and constantly pitch for work – which believe me, is hard!
I also knew that being self employed meant that we wouldn’t be able to buy a house for my family. To buy a house when you are self employed, you need at least a couple of years of records to show you are earning enough.
I made that choice though and even though, over the last four years, I haven’t been able to buy a home and I might not have made as much as I would have in a corporate job with a comfortable salary, I don’t regret my decision one bit. Not only have I made so many beautiful memories with Evie and seen her cross off so many milestones, but in working for myself and putting myself out there I have worked out exactly what I want to do with my life.
With school starting, I’m about to step into a brand new business venture and a really exciting future for my career and family.
An Exciting Future
We have some huge exciting things finally ahead of us. There won’t just be a new pair of feet joining us, but two new business ventures are on the horizon and we might just finally end up getting new family home together in the next couple of years!
Firstly, my business changes. As soon as Evie starts school I will be working longer days and I have plans to turn my blog into, not just a family lifestyle blog, but also an education portal for small businesses who want to grow their social media channels and write their brand stories. Over the last four years and beyond, I have learnt many skills that I really want to teach to others. I especially want to focus on helping Mums to grow their own businesses from home and I’ve been busy behind the scenes making courses that will really help other people to make major changes and leaps in their businesses.
Alongside this, I have also been busy creating a diary/planner that has been in the works for years now. It was supposed to launch it this September, but with everything that’s happened it’s had to take a back seat and will likely be shelved till next year. It’s a planner I have dreams of one day seeing in shops. I have put my everything into it and I can’t wait to see how many people it might just help.
Aitan’s New Venture
It’s not just me that has been busy working on the future though. During Aitan’s chemotherapy rounds, he’s been using any ‘up’ days he has had to work on the ‘self employed’ plan he made before he was diagnosed.
While he was in hospital, he was really lucky to be introduced to a mentor who works for the Princes Trust. His mentor has been helping him to build a business plan for a unique cafe idea that he initially wanted to open and run before all of this happened.
We were so excited that during his last round of chemotherapy he even found an investor, who is now his co-partner. He is going to help him to see this vision through to the very end and I’m so excited to see what happens for them. We are literally just waiting for a property to come up now and then the dream will be made a reality and the new journey can fully get started.
What a crazy, unbelievable ride this last few months has been!
Cancer? We don’t know if its gone yet. But Aitan has tried to kick it’s butt with everything he has and I hope he has succeeded.
The dark days might not fully be over yet. In fact, everyday I am still struggling to find the balance and be the best I can be for everyone. But I’m fighting.
In amongst all the exciting news, there is still lots of grinding to be done and I am still trying to be the glue that it holding this family up. I’m just a Mum, raising a little girl, trying to nurture a pregnancy, be a breadwinner, be a supportive fiancee and also be this superhuman who is trying to fight for a better future for her family.
Watch this space.