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The Adventures of Sair Cassidy and The Chemo Kid

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So for anyone out there who wonders what the heck I’m on about – I have news. The Man-Hog has only gone and got himself cancer. Seriously?? In the life-long series of attention-seeking acts this pesky porcine has pulled, this has to be the cream of the crop. The prize willy-shaped marrow. The unfortunate boob-shaped cherry on the bakewell.

He was diagnosed last Tuesday week with classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a literal pain in the neck as it turns out. He starts chemo – ABVD it’s called for anyone who wants to Google it – on Monday.

So…..OK, alright – I guess he’s kind of got my attention.

So how has this news affected the jolly Pigletinapoke household? Are we all deflated, depressed and down in the mouth? Moping about and bemoaning our fate?

Nah. Not on your nelly. We are – as is our norm – ignoring the possibility “that word” even exists, having a good sarcastic poke at his impending baldness (Oh please…oh please…oh please let him decide to don a wig like the blonde dude in Wayne’s World *every finger crossed*) and trying on woolly hats because being bald is OK but he has a Mini Pig who plays football in the winter – chapped, frosty  and bald is perhaps not so cool. We are embracing fleece as a fashion choice. And thinking of creative sexual acts we can perform on each other with ear thermometers. Don’t judge. That sort of thing is actually not that unusual.

And never forget this is the Piglet household, after all, it’s not about how you feel – it’s about how you look, dahhhhling!!

The Mini Pigs are handling it remarkably well so far. They are stoical porkers and are really just slightly pissed off that there will be even more stricter cleaning, hand washing and lick-ably hygienic bedroom regimes to adhere to and to try to avoid good old Dad contracting amoebic dysentery from their discarded, mould-growing yoghurt pots on top of what he already has!

The best part, actually, the humbling part….the part that makes me the most proud….is how the Man-Hog himself is dealing with things. Understandably there is a bit of jelly-belly apprehension about what the treatment will be like on Monday and beyond, and what the next few months will bring. Yet mainly, he and the rest of us Pigs are absolutely 100% convinced – perhaps naively so – that he will be fine and that this is just a bump in the road. Keep calm and take the micky. It’s what gets us through.

Frankly, as you regular readers will know, I’m not one to mince my words much. I’ve told him – get your arse in gear, get better…..or I WILL KILL YOU! You will beat this thing. Failure is not an option. Man up and all that! He’s on board with the message. It’s not everyone’s way, but it is ours – crafted over many years together. This isn’t going to be a triumph for chemical advances or medical brilliance – the cure effected in this case will be as a result of positive mental attitude and relentless bursts of dark humour. Well, that, and the odd slap. 🙂

The Weight-Loss to Home Improvement Correlation Theory

For the past few weeks I have been doing the Cambridge Weight Loss Plan. This was all sparked by my friend Sue – now forever know as “Non-Starter” for her immediate abandonment of the idea in the first week! – who thought we should both drop a few bags of sugar from our hips before the start of the new netball season. I gamely went along with it. I did not weep at the thought of twice – nay, sometimes thrice! – daily shakes or freshly-shat slurry masquerading as low-calorie soup. Nor have I moaned at the consumption of more lettuce leaves than a hutch full of fat lardy bunnies. No, stalwart that I truly am, I have just got on with it.

Five weeks in, the Man-Hog has just noticed that I slip easily through doorways and have to avoid storm drains more carefully these days lest I descend through the bars into the low-calorie soup below. Relief then – at least the old fella doesn’t need new specs just yet. Possibly a nursing home specialising in slow cognitive decline? But not new specs. Money saved – KERCHINNNNGGG!

Which is just as well really as I appear to have spent the national debt of Greece in a flurry of home improvements which appear to be directly correlated to the number of pounds I have lost. 15 DIY projects on the go at the last count. The main thrust has centred around creating the “WOM Room” as the Teen Pig has named it. WOM stands for “waste of money” – her principal beef being me squandering her potential inheritance on unnecessary structural alterations and the DFS sale. Such naivety! She doesn’t yet know I plan to blow every last bit on fast living and hard liquor before I shuffle off this planet. She’ll work it out eventually.

On Friday night, I sat in the WOM room for the first time, leaving barely a dent in my new cushions, lighter by degrees as I am each day at present *smug smile*. The WOM room is not yet finished – there’s still the installation of a ludicrously expensive woodburning stove, and the purchase of a decent reading lamp and a set of cast iron tongs to tweak my logs with.

Incomplete as it may be, this is no WOM. This is most definitely womb for me. No TV noise. No beeping of phones. No yelling. No mess and general stickiness. Come to think of it, no reason to be in here unless I invite you! The rest of the family have their own spaces for doing all the things they like to do. All I have ever had is the bed (sad) or the loo (sadder). This, then, is a proper, grown-up room for me to read in, listen to music in and have jolly mates round to. The stove will warm my seemingly permanently frozen cockles, heat will drift up the stairs and hopefully lower my gas bills releasing more money for shoes.

The House of Pig is slowly coming together. Mrs Pig is shrinking altogether. Non-Starter Sue has lost no weight whatsoever. Everyone is happy. Except the Teen worried about her own personal poverty following my clearly imminent demise. Selfish moo. But I do have to thank her for the WOM/womb idea – without those Pigs there’d be no blogs at all really.

When Pigs Became Tigers…

This past week was spent in a not-so-sunny Salcombe. A very wet half-term but with some fun, challenging and awe-inspiring moments.

We’re not well-known for any outstanding acts of bravery here in the House of Pig. We lead pretty ordinary lives really broken only by the madcap adventures of me, Mrs Pig, who does like to mix it up a bit and who occasionally wanders outside the family comfort zone.

This week, however, saw my Pigs become veritable Tigers. Pure Lionhearts of determination and courage. Not on an epic scale for the general good of mankind – that would be unrealistic and time-consuming (only a week’s holiday after all). But on the Pig scale of courage, quite something.

The first was Man-Hog who bravely took up the challenge of learning to handle a pretty hefty rib up and down the estuary and out to sea. An ex-Naval man, he’s not afraid of the water by any means but close proximity has not been felt for many a long time. On this occasion, it was a darn sight too close. A 360 degree doughnut at 30 knots into a Force 8 swell by one of the other trainees on board unfortunately threw the boat’s skipper down the full length of the rib and left the Man-Hog, who’d been sitting at the back, clinging to a rubber handle of the rib by only his fingertips; his tootsies skimming the water and all looking very bleak. He could not get back in-board and there was no-one available to help, the skipper still struggling to return to the inept trainee helmsman from her prone position in the bow. A lucky wave bounce finally threw the Man-Hog back on-board. The skipper, now recovered from her own fall, just laughed it all off as a “learning curve” in how not to turn a boat at high speed but I know my Man-Hog was left feeling like he’d just received six of the best in the naughty corner! He recounted his story with shaking hands and much nervous swallowing over a wee tipple in the pub that night and we pronounced him a hero for not drowning and for continuing with the course after such a frightening experience. A Man-Tiger is among us after all – who knew?!

The Mini-Pigs, meanwhile, were each allowed to bring a friend on holiday with them. Whilst the Man-Hog bravely battled the ocean blue, I took four damp children to an outdoor theme park much to their delight and my abject sogginess. As chief coat-holder/lunch-purchaser/mug I was left at the bottom of many a ride and the seams of my waterproof were simply not equipped to cope with the constant downpour. Damp and Cold were my companions. Nevertheless, the kids had fun and threw themselves around with great enthusiasm. My son’s friend is fearless in the face of speed, water depth and, mainly, height of rides and wanted to go on everything. My son is conversely (and by self-confession) afraid of heights and would rather eat scrambled seaweed in a weaver-fish jus than jump off the top of anything over ten feet. Peer pressure can be a terrible thing sometimes but, miraculously, in this instance it proved to be a mini Lion-Maker. Rather than face the ignominy of returning to school having not met the same challenges as his friend, my son swallowed his rising bile of fear, hitched up his sodden trousers and LEAPT (eyes shut naturally) off the top of a high freefall slide, FRONTED the pair of them in a boat hurtling at top-speed from a great height down a water-drenched flume and even RAISED arms (OK one arm, not two but meh) on the swinging Galleon ship upwardly mobile ride from hell. My heart, and his I’m sure, was bursting with pride at his determination and sheer guts to overcome a real and genuine phobia rather than lose face. My little Mini-Tiger can hold his head high, he was not found wanting.

Small victories on a global scale but hugely significant in the Pig household. Perhaps more Tigger than Tiger to outside observers. Well – let me put it this way: the highlight of my week could have been the lovely beaches, the great food, the warm welcome from locals. But not this time. This time it was proudly seeing my Pigs, large and small, display their Inner Tigers. And Grrrrrr to anyone who thinks otherwise!

Headless Chickens….

I’ve been reading quite a few articles recently about mums and dads wanting to carve out more “Me” time in their lives to spend doing the things they want to do. I think the concept of time spent on a hobby, sport or other pastime is very important and, for some, literally a lifesaver.

It’s just that right now I’m feeling the opposite. I would dearly love to spend more time with the Man-Hog and the Mini-Pigs. Something that seems impossible to organise. It is not me separating myself off. No. It’s THE SCHEDULE.

Those of you out there with babies and toddlers experiencing the full-on 24/7 that comes with that territory are not aware yet of the subtle shift that begins to seep in at around 9-10 years old. We spend our kids’ formative years teaching them life skills, independence and self-esteem only to have that come and bite us right on the behind about 10 years into Project Parenthood.

With independence and confidence comes exploration and activity. The kids want to do, see, experience and embrace everything they can – in addition to all the activities they already do that we, as their nurturing parents, have arranged. And my local area, for a rural community, is surprisingly comprehensive in its variety of opportunities. So it is not enough that Mini-Pig Boy plays or trains for football three times a week already. Now there is rugby and, today, a vague murmuring of rock-wall climbing Saturday club. Mini-Pig Girl already spends as much time out with friends as she can (pocket-money and catty girl group arguments permitting!). Now she’s playing netball league (albeit at my instigation) and is out two nights a week minimum. She is also looking for Saturday work which will no doubt eat up a further day of the week that I then cannot spend with her. I can’t selfishly stand in the way of her earning her own money. She has Primark and Hollister Co. to support after all. Single-handedly it feels like! Thank goodness for quite hefty teeth braces still present in the mouth – at least boyfriends are not on her personal radar too just yet.

Man-Hog has started going to the gym a few times per week to coincide with the Boy’s football training. Consequently I have a giant toddler in the house again nodding off into his dinner plate and emerging, gravy-stained, to stagger up the stairs for a hose-down and an early night – the gym having sucked the life-force out of him. Between this and his plans to manfully prevent our 400 year-old house crumbling to a dusty heap while the woodworm point and laugh openly, he really is quite busy. I haven’t had Loose Women‘s entire lunchtime episode re-told to me in weeks. I am happy about that, by the way!

Me – well I’ve just come back from a weekend’s race-sailing. Not a weekly occurrence, I grant you, but a hobby that cannot be done within an hour’s session; that requires at least two days to achieve anything useful. I play netball twice a week, every week, and work 12-15 hour days with the commute. I’m not complaining about it, it is just how it is at the moment.

Besides all this, the Man-Hog and I still try to fit in an adult social life. Even more important in a country environment where effort must be made to meet up.

So we have had to devise THE SCHEDULE. A running tote of who will expire from exhaustion first. (My money’s on the Man-Hog – he’s out of practice and likely to fall at the first hurdle.) THE SCHEDULE allows our poor over-taxed neurons to work out who is going to be where and require picking up at what time. It has addresses and driving directions to sports fixtures all over Sussex. It has netball grids of all three teams playing league in Eastbourne each week. It also contained, up until last weekend, the days and times of England’s rugby World Cup journey. Hmph. Those slots have now been filled by domestic tasks and the occasional foray to the supermarket. Shortly, I suspect, it will have the times at which we may pee and sit down. I kid you not.

What THE SCHEDULE does not contain, nor seems willing to factor into its demanding little squares, is any family time. I miss my family. I miss having the Mini-Pigs sitting on my lap watching Thunderbirds on a Sunday morning. I miss sprawling on the floor with the Man-Hog and his Sunday papers munching baked doughnuts from the local village shop with a side order of calorific-guilt – so bad, yet so good. I miss little people bathtimes where many a fun moment was had with a kitchen jug and some silly string. I even miss the “I’m boooorrrreeeedddd!” whines of the recent summer holiday…..I know! Shocker! But at least we were together and bored. I clearly didn’t appreciate that time enough.

I could choose to curtail family activities that stop us spending much time together but I shy away from clipping their wings in these days of computer games, endless TV and potential childhood obesity. I could say no to shopping trips, sleepovers and playdates at weekends, but wouldn’t I just make myself entirely unpopular and the recipient of several gut-shaking door slams? I could cut the labels out of Man-Hog’s jeans so the size doesn’t upset him and force him to the treadmill; but wouldn’t such marital deceit be discovered eventually, inducing a crisis necessitating his dive into the nearest comforting Pot Noodle?

So no, I will not do that, For now, THE SCHEDULE, like a Cyber-Man on a completely incomprehensible episode of Doctor Who, rules the world. I am holding my breath and hoping that, in continuing, I won’t wake up in a few years and regret giving in to it. I hope family time will return, perhaps in a newer and even more fulfilling way, at some later date. Until then, I do have some nice nostalgic photos and a lot of netball trainers to console me.

What about you? Me-time or family-time: how are you making it work?