Steve and I got together in October 2001 but we had been friends since 1990. We had both just come out of failed marriages and the pain of divorce. Steve and I rented a lovely house in Pedmore, it had 5 bedrooms, a beautiful entrance hall with a very posh bell that you actually had to pull and get this, 3 bathrooms, now I always said that you knew if you were posh if you had 2 loos but 3, that’s just wow LOL. The rent was expensive but Steve was on a good wage and I was working so what could possibly go wrong hey? My previous family home had been sold but there was no spare money left over for me and the kids. Steve still had his previous family home and was renting it out.
We rented the house in January and the telecoms business collapsed at the same time. Now Steve being a contractor was one of the first to go and there followed several long months with no income apart from mine and an expensive monthly rental on the house with 3 loo’s.
I had noticed a small ball shaped lump in my neck and I used to play with it at night, a bit like twisting your hair, it didn’t hurt and I didn’t think that it could be serious at all. I had to go to the doctors for something else and whilst I was there I mentioned the lump in my neck. The doctor said that he would refer me to an ear, nose and throat specialist, no worries I thought and cracked on with life.
I had left Debenhams and was due to start working at M&S in Oxford Street in the October of 2002. The appointment to see the specialist came through for around the end of September 2002. Steve and I were still struggling on just my wage and we were also hit hard with maintenance, Steve paid his and continued to do so without ever missing a month even though he was unemployed and didn’t have too. He used his savings survive and I wasn’t receiving any maintenance at all so very quickly savings dwindled. Steve even sold his car to survive hoping for a work contract to arrive. But it didn’t and things were getting worse and so did the borrowing on credit cards to afford to live each month, without admitting to ourselves that we couldn’t continue much longer.
I attended the appointment and I remember it was a Monday. The specialist examined me and and tried to take a biopsy but failed. He said that he wanted to operate on me on the coming Wednesday as “he wouldn’t know what it was until it was in the bucket.” “No no no,” I said this is the NHS you are supposed to say we will monitor you and come back in 6 months, no way you can’t be serious, this Wednesday!! I convinced him to delay surgery until the November as I was due to start a new job and I had to get settled in there first. He agreed to the delay.
I was mortified and after reading about lymph node cancer I had already ordered my own coffin in my head and was really scared. I had to tell M&S that although I had just started I needed to go off sick for the operation and recovery at the busiest time for the retail world. Steve and I just couldn’t afford the house with the 3 loo’s and I had just got the kids settled into a new school too. I had to work in London during the week and my mom had to help me look after the kids whilst I was away with work. Steve and I had got to the point of no return and discussed the end of the house with the 3 loo’s. They was nothing else for it but to ask our moms to take us back in and live separately but still be together until we could afford to live together again.
Then Steve got a job offer, wow great money in his skill set, there was hope but there was a massive problem, the job was in India. We had no choice he had to take it but I was facing surgery, we didn’t know how serious it was and he wouldn’t be able to return for months but if we wanted to keep the house, my kids in there new school and start to pay back the borrowed money we had no choice, he had to go.
Family and friends were told Steve was leaving for India and I remember taking Steve to Heathrow that day like it was yesterday. He had to have a working laptop with Windows on it. More credit used to buy a laptop and other tools which Steve had to supply, plus a plane ticket to Mumbai. We installed Windows on the Staples car park in High Wycombe, it was my very first visit to the town and I remember thinking what a lovely town but what an ugly looking run down hospital. With only minutes of battery power left the download was complete and we had at least one way of communicating with each other as we both had mobiles by then, there was no Facebook and both calls and texts were luxuries that we would not be able to afford very often.
At Heathrow Airport we had to part not knowing when we would see each other again, not knowing what the results of my lump would be, the operation to get through and recovery plus all the worry of just not being together was so overwhelming. I walked away from him and cried so much going back to the car that I couldn’t see, uncontrollable tears that blinded me and just wouldn’t stop. All choices had been removed from us and we had to protect our kids to keep them safe, we had to provide for them and therefore we had to be apart.
My operation date was set and the lump removed. It was benign and all was well on the health front. There was a risk of facial deformity as any surgery on the face is risky but I was okay. After a short time in hospital with my mom there again by my side to look after the kids for me we got through it. One of the worst things about Steve being away was the time difference and the lack of contact. Poor Steve couldn’t contact me prior to the operation, that morning as I travelled toward Russell’s Hall Hospital I checked my phone every few seconds hoping to hear something from him but didn’t and I felt really alone and very scared but I just had to go through it, get on with it and not make a fuss.
After the operation I had a ball shaped drain hanging out of my neck, very attractive. One night during the nurses rounds they pulled the curtain around me and a qualified nurse was discussing my case with a trainee. He squeezed my drain ball thing and the other nurse shouted ‘no don’t do that’ they left shortly after that and I was alone behind the curtain and I’m sat in the chair not in the bed with the tray thing they have just in front of me. I started to feel faint and dizzy. I was so scared that I was going to pass out and no one would know as the curtain was hiding me from the others on the ward. I tried to push the tray thing with my feet to knock it over to draw attention to anyone who maybe passing to help me. The fainting feeling got worse and I managed to push over the tray thing before everything went black.
One night I was asleep and I saw Steve walking towards me with flowers, smiling and I felt so safe that he was with me even in a dream as there was no way it was going to happen in real life. Eventually discharged I went home to recover as quickly as possible so that I could return to work. Now the other day I posted a photo of myself with the lovely Lorraine who I worked with at M&S. Now we had only just started working together but she approached the store manager, Sacha at that time and requested that I should be paid sick pay even though I wasn’t entitled to it but because it was the right thing to do. Thank you Lorraine for being so thoughtful and so lovely. I reminded her of this went we last met up, she had forgotten this but I will never forget you for doing that for me.
I continued to have all 4 kids at weekends as we wanted them to have normality but this was so hard at times as they had no idea and nor should they of the sacrifices we had made to keep them and us together in the house with 3 loos. Is there not anything we would not do for our kids hey? They fought and wanted anything, Richard and Chris used pester power all the time for us to prove how much we loved them. Lauren and Rebecca played dress up and were content to act out plays every week with no pester power but they both had troubles in their new ‘jigsaw family’ we had created.
Steve worked 7 days a week in India, he did long hours everyday as there was little else for him to do. He was part of a team that completed the first SDH ring (whatever that is) for Reliance Mobile in India and he was a star in his field of work. Steve when he talks about the the time he spent there recalls the poverty of India, they had armed guards outside McDonald’s to keep the beggars away. He was stuck in a dry state (no alcohol) and no meat either as they were all vegetarians. Two of the basic needs of any man I thought, meat and beer. Steve also had a driver everyday as it wasn’t safe to travel alone. Every time they stopped he would clean the car for Steve. At the end of each week he gave the driver a little extra cash and he was amazed to learn he was almost doubling his wages.
Steve just couldn’t continue out there away from me and the kids. By late December he had an okay job offer back in England so he returned just in time for Christmas. They begged him to stay but he couldn’t stay. He returned and requested roast beef as his first meal. I met him at Heathrow where I dropped him off a few months before. I wore a pale blue jumper and a coloured neck scarf to hide my scar but I shouldn’t have as the scars weren’t important to him. The fact that the lump was benign and that he was home, with me and the kids was enough for him.
In 12 months I had been through a divorce, started a new relationship, moved house, changed my job and had surgery. No wonder I was feeling low. Some of the most stressful things we have to go through in life and I completed them all in 12 months. Life continued for us together in the house with 3 loos until we brought our house, where we live now in High Wycombe, which only has two loos and we moved in there in April 2003. I’m happy with two loos.
So another close call with cancer but again benign. When we were waiting for the results of Harry I honestly thought it would be benign again as previously with my other two close calls. I was out of luck with good news stories on cancer sadly.
I’m writing this one week before it goes on the blog as on Wednesday I’m having an afternoon in London, then going out for a meal with BFF and her friends. I didn’t want to not do a post everyday hence prepping this one. Tomorrow I’ll let you know how my trip out and meal went.
Note from Steve:
India has changed greatly in the last decade, so I’ve been told. I was posted to the state of Gujarat to install and commission part of a new mobile network. To say that mobile coverage was patchy was an understatement. We often had to drive for three or four hours between locations, and in between there would be no coverage at all. Combine that with the time difference and I was lucky to exchange a couple of text messages with Wendy all day. I have never felt so isolated or far away from her. What should have been an amazing experience was completely overshadowed by knowing that Wendy was having this operation, and the worry as to whether it would be benign or not. Even if I wanted to come home, it would be a couple of day’s travel – and we just couldn’t afford the fare anyway. I also saw some appalling scenes of poverty that gave me a fresh appreciation of how lucky we were. I will be eternally grateful to my former boss Noga, who offered me the job in London that enabled me to return when I did. Wendy and I are strong people, but our first year was a real test, and I’m so glad we came through it.