Confronting my demons

My two sick kids gave me the reason to help myself

Published by: Lisa Bradley and Jessica Gibb
Published on: 17 November 2011

Staring at the appointment letter for my 12-week scan, I burst into tears. Most mums-to-be would
have been excited - it's the first time you get to see your new baby, after all.
But since becoming agoraphobic a few years ago, I'd barely left the house. Just the thought of opening the front door could bring on a panic attack, let alone a trip to
the hospital.
I worked from home, shopped online, made my friends visit me...
Even the wedding to my partner Stephen had been a quick register office affair with no reception. I couldn't handle the idea of a big party.
‘How am I going to cope with being a mum if I can't even go outside?' I sobbed to my own
mum Lesley, 55. ‘This will be
no life for a child, staying
indoors all the time.'
‘You'll be fine,' Mum soothed. ‘I'm sure you'll pull yourself together for the baby.'
I couldn't see it... and I was 17 weeks gone before I finally made
it to that scan.
But seeing my baby - a little boy - on the screen for the first time, my heart filled with love. ‘I can do this,' I smiled to Stephen.On the way home, I even managed to pop into Marks and Spencer to buy a tiny blue cardigan.
As soon as Ellis was born in April 2005 and I looked into his beautiful blue eyes, I knew I wanted to give him everything.
But, back home, I could barely make it to the end of the street with my precious son in his pram, let alone a walk around the park.
‘I feel like everyone is staring at me,' I sobbed.
‘Don't be too hard on yourself,' Stephen soothed. ‘Take your time.'
When Ellis was 10 months old, he needed some tests on his lazy eye. It took all my strength to get him to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
I gritted my teeth the whole
way there and, while doctors ran tests, I paced the corridors, trying to breathe deeply. Keep it together, for Ellis...
Finally, we were called in for the test results. ‘It looks like your son has some kind of growth in his left eye,' the doctor told us. ‘We think it might be cancer. He'll need to be transferred to Birmingham Children's Hospital as soon as possible.'
Clutching Stephen's hand, I was gripped with fear - and not just for my baby.
‘I can't go to Birmingham,' I hissed, breaking out in a sweat.
But I couldn't deny Ellis specialist treatment either.
I felt awful - my son had suspected cancer, and here I was worrying about the drive.
For two days, I psyched myself up... and still cried for the entire four-hour journey, while Ellis watched Bob The Builder on his DVD player.
By the time we reached the hospital, I was exhausted. I couldn't take in what was happening, so I just let Stephen, Mum, and my dad Bill, 57,
handle everything.
After more tests, Ellis was diagnosed with retinoblastoma - cancerous cells behind his eye.
‘He's already blind in his left eye,' explained the oncologist. ‘But with chemo we can stop the cancer spreading and, hopefully, save his right eye.'
Looking at my little lad, gurgling away in his daddy's arms, tears streamed down my face.
He'd need six courses of chemo, a year of treatment, and he'd be disabled for the rest of his life.
My agoraphobia was nothing compared to this. ‘I... I'll stay with him,' I croaked.
Stephen looked at me, shocked. ‘Are you sure, love?' he whispered.
‘Yes,' I nodded. ‘I have to be here for him, I can do this.'
An hour later, I was tucking Ellis in with his favourite blue blanket when the room started to spin. Panic rose. I had to keep it together!
I forced myself to look at the drip pumping chemo drugs into my poor mite's bloodstream, and repeated what I'd thought earlier. My agoraphobia's nothing compared
to this...
I had to be strong, now more than ever. And you know what? As time passed, my perseverance paid off.
By the time Ellis was two, he was in remission and fitted with a glass eye on his left side.
And my agoraphobia was in remission, too - I was regularly taking Ellis to the park, the pool, and even day trips to Legoland
and Twycross Zoo!
‘He's been so brave, I don't want him to miss out on anything,' I told Mum.
Something had to give though and, sadly, it was my marriage.
Soon after Ellis' treatment finished, me and Stephen split up. But just a few months later, I met Neil through mutual friends, and was soon pregnant with twins!
‘This time I'm excited!' I grinned to Mum when I got my letter for my 12-week scan. But another scan when I was 24 weeks pregnant showed there were complications.
‘One of the twins isn't developing properly,' a doctor explained.
Suddenly, I felt that familiar panic rising inside me.
‘I need to go home...'
I panted to Neil, and he helped me to the car.
Safe in my living room, I broke down.
‘I... I can't do this,' I cried.
‘Not again.'
‘Of course you can,' he soothed.
No, no I couldn't!
I stumbled upstairs, and read Ellis a bedtime story. Poor mite, he'd been through so much, it had taken everything I'd got to be strong for him.
I'd done it though, hadn't I? Somehow, I'd find the strength again - and, like a light switch flicking inside me, I now knew I could do it this time, too.
Every single week, I had to go to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for a detailed scan, and
it took all my energy not to fall apart each time I opened the front door.
At just 28 weeks, I went into labour and gave birth to Harrison.
He weighed just 3lb 2oz, and was rushed straight to intensive care. But my second baby Jack was stillborn.
‘I'm sorry, his tiny body wasn't able to cope with the strain of early labour,' the doctor explained.
Holding my tiny son, I gave
him a gentle kiss.
‘I love you, Jack,' I whispered tearfully. ‘Goodbye my angel.'
I managed to keep going, to focus on Jack's brothers.
Two months later, Neil and me were able to bring Harrison home.
I couldn't wait to introduce him to his
big brother!
‘Look, Ellis,' I smiled, showing him the tiny bundle wrapped in his old blue hospital blanket.
‘Hello, Harrison, want to play Bob the Builder?' he asked.
‘I think he's a bit small right now,' I smiled. ‘But one day.'
Despite all we've been through, my agoraphobia still makes each day a struggle. But now I only have to give Harrison a cuddle, or look into Ellis' beautiful blue eyes to give me the courage to face the world.
Suzanne Wilson, 33, Blyth, Northumberland