Not my story, obviously.

I can see why some people aren’t sure if Sam’s story is real or not. I mean, I’m a 41 year old woman, not a 16 year old boy. I don’t have the requisite parts to have testicular cancer. This is true. And so is Sam’s story.

“Nuts, A Ball and other 4-letter Words.”

He’s a real person. Not his real name for the sake of privacy. This is his journey for a short/horrifically long period of his life so far. This is the story, too, of anyone who has been dealt the punch to the face (knee to the groin?) that cancer is. It’s also the story of winning. Of not spelling cancer with a capital C. Of making it. Of living life anyway, of growth and regrowth. Of sharing instead of hiding. Of kissing and sex. Of separation and belonging. Just Life. It’s the story of family and yet it isn’t.

I spoke to most of Sam’s family while his personal story bubbled in my head and came flowing out in words both his and mine.

I spoke to his big brother who, although uncomfortable in some ways talking to a relative stranger, made his love love for his family, even an annoying younger brother, very clear.

I spoke with his little sister, who thought I was a little crazy and made a rude comment about my shoe choices….fair call, though. The two of us forged a friendship that was close, for a while, and sang the real lyrics to Mumford and Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ really, really loudly, just because we could. Now she’s not a ‘little’ sister any more, but a beautiful, engaged young woman with whom a coffee date seems elusive. And I spoke with Mum.

I wondered if she thought I was odd, a teacher and mother of children of my own, befriending her kids. Apparently not, thankfully. And I loved them. Hearing their stories; getting a little into their lives.

Weird, isn’t it, how quickly that depth of feeling can come? And go. Not the feeling, just the actual spending time. It just drifts off sometimes. I don’t really know why. Happens far more often than I’d like, that sort of fading. Anyway, I’m getting morose.

So Mum let me hang out. And talk to her kids. And to her. She told me all of her experiences of Sam’s diagnosis, treatment, surgery and eventual recovery. I think I expected more tears, more drama. But you’ve already read that’s not her style. So it was fact and explanation of both circumstances and emotions.

I always meant to write the whole story. The whole truth for the whole family, but I couldn’t write Mum’s perspective. When I voiced her, my pen stopped. I, who had children of my own and knew how mums felt when their children hurt. I, who could scrawl out the story of a teenager’s masturbation and fantasy, couldn’t find the words to share this mother’s battle for her boy.

Why?

I’m sorry that I couldn’t find your voice with my pen. I’m sorry that I couldn’t express your fear, or the knowledge that you just had to do what you had to do. I’m sorry ’cause I wanted to tell of your courage, your love. I wanted to write more. I don’t think I could go there, you know, because it would have been bloody hard. I haven’t looked at my notes in years, but I have one thing that I’ve always remembered.

When mums hug their children, we often put our hands on their heads, ruffle their hair up a bit. And it’s a sign of affection, of casual ‘love ya, mate’ warmth. But for you it became more. Discreetly, under the guise of casual, you’d check your not-so-little boy’s scalp and neck for the telltale heat of fever and bumps of possible infection. I already knew how I felt when I held my ‘babies’ and I think I couldn’t find your voice cause I didn’t want to even imagine having to watch them so closely, so scared. I knew I didn’t know, couldn’t even guess and I didn’t want to do you or your feelings injustice.

So there it is. Honesty. I’ve finally made myself look at it as more than just writer’s block.

If you haven’t read Sam’s story yet, you could start here.

Love,

Mandy. 🐛<<
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No fear of flying!

There is nothing like the feeling of flying – even if it is down a concrete path in a wheelchair!  A boy I don’t know very well, from year 11, who makes me laugh and teases along with the best of them, offered to push me back down to the next class I was helping with.  Actually, he first asked if he could sit on my knee and I could take him down to the ITD building.  I’m not sure who was more surprised when I compromised and said I would only take him as far as the concrete path went cause I didn’t do “off road” real well.  I think I would have had my bluff called if he had agreed, but I’d like to think that we would have given it a good go.  So I think that taking me to my next class was the trade off.  I certainly could have done that bit on my own, but I think there is a certain buzz from pushing people in wheelchairs, maybe it’s the control, so who am I to say no?  Sam is not careful.  Well, that’s what I reckon it looked like as we whizzed down the hill.  The three of us flying.  Me in the chair, Sam running behind me, holding the handles carefully as he pushed, and Josh trying to run and laugh at the same time beside his best mate.  I think I was more worried for the innocents who might inadvertently get in our path; there is no such thing as power steering on my wheelchair.  Although I did promise (some might say threaten) as we flew, that I would hunt him down on crutches if he let me go, I actually felt amazing.  Yes, I like being the centre of attention.  Yes, it’s exhilarating and a bit of adrenalin on a Monday afternoon can be a good thing.  But it’s more than that.  Sam’s been sick.  I haven’t asked him about it and I don’t know many details, but it’s been a long haul for him this year.  Cancer and chemo don’t make for a party sort of feeling.  Tears started for me when, at a staff meeting, he was given special uniform dispensation, cause apparently his formal one just “felt too heavy.”  There are the highlights though.  He’s back in his formal uniform now, as scruffy as they seem to be able to make it look, and having your best friend have his head shaved at the same time as you in solidarity and support must feel pretty good.  I’m going to have to ask, maybe.  Maybe it’s not important that I know.  But my guess is that if I felt like I was flying, I’m pretty sure that being able to run like that, laughing, in control of a teacher’s transport and scattering juniors as you go must have felt pretty good too.  Maybe I’m trying to make it into something it’s not. All of us were breathless as they stopped me at the door and wandered off – there was no ‘moment’ – but it was great!