Real Life Waltzes By

My work in progress is a YA novel about a teenager with leukaemia. Having survived childhood leukaemia, she is devastated when she finds she has relapsed and faces the grim battle of beating the odds all over again. Her illness is one of her many problems. She finds herself tangled in the world of gangs and falls for a boy who leads her astray. The memories of her childhood are significant to the story and I have to admit, I have been having trouble trying to visualise my young Meredith back in the days when she was fighting her childhood disease. I worked for years as a paediatric oncology nurse, in Australia and in the Middle East. I have memories of beautiful children who battled their way through cancer. But still I haven’t been able to unleash what  I need to express in this story. The years gone by have clouded my view.

As a writer, I marvel at how timely the universe can be when I ask for help. The other day I was walking through a crowded shopping mall and I looked up and saw a young child about five years of age being carried by her mother. At a glance I recognized the unmistakable trademarks of chemo. She clung to her mother with arms pale and thin. Her face, rounded from steroids, rested gently in the crook of her mother’s neck. A silastic feeding tube swung down from her left nostril, and tracked its way beneath sticky adhesive fixed to her cheek. It disappeared over her ear like an errant strand of loose hair. Her brow pushed together in misery over dark troubled eyes and the sight of her brought me to tears that fell right there and then as I watched them together. The mother turned her head and softly planted a kiss on her daughter’s cheek. The little girl’s face lit up like the sun had just slipped out from behind a dark cloud. Here was real life before me, jolting my memory.

This beautiful exchange led me down that dark lane of recollection where I arrived with  emotions reeling, recalling the detail. I remembered what a privilege it was to look after these beautiful kids – to share in their lives and the lives of their families day after day. The outcomes weren’t always good but more often than not they were nothing short of extraordinary. Recalling this part of my life has renewed my determination to tell Meredith’s story and to reveal the ripple effect that a potentially terminal illness can have on people’s lives.

When I witnessed that mother kissing her child, I realised the thing I want to reveal most of all is the power of love and the strength and resilience of human spirit. Especially where cancer resides as an unwelcome guest in the life of a child. Somewhere between experiencing that moment in the shopping mall and remembering the children of my past lays my story still forming. I am fuelled with the emotional drive to get it on paper. To show people a glimpse of real life within fiction.

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12 thoughts on “Real Life Waltzes By

  1. Hats off to all the children and their parents and carers who battle these illnesses. I have a friend who works with terminally ill children but I couldn’t do it. I’d die of heartbreak myself. I’m a mess when my dog dies. If anything happened to my daughter, I’d shatter into thousands of pieces. Do you have to have a spiritual belief to do that sort of work, Lynn ? xx

  2. Hi Josephine,

    I think working with these kids certainly made me question my spiritual beliefs. I lean toward a Buddhist philosophy. I think kindness and compassion toward ourselves and others can conquer most things. Funnily enough when Ollie died in my arms, I found myself for weeks after questioning my spiritual beliefs all over again. I think they were immersed in the grief. Be kind to yourself through this time. I hope you are writing about him. I know it helped me immensely.

    I think humans are particularly bad at dealing with death. For years I have watched the awkwardness among families as loved ones die. No one knows quite what to say or do. I’m no different. I stumble around it as well. I’m doing a course with Karuna Hospice – a Buddhist based facility in Brisbane. It’s a course on Compassionate Care for the Dying. I’m hoping it will help me overcome my fears so that I can help others do the same so that they may let go without fear. I will be blogging about the journey. It starts at the end of April. It will be a journey in itself! I don’t expect to be the same person at the end of it all.

  3. Lynn, you are a very special person with a special story to tell. I hope to have it on my bookshelf one day.

    I find there are so many serendipitous moments when my writing and real life cross. Just in case we forget, life has a strange way of reminding us what’s real.

    I look forward to reading your book, and wish you all the best with such a heartrending and difficult project.

    Dee:-)

  4. Thanks Dee – that is so true – life does remind us and I am so grateful that it does. After seeing that lady the other day with her child, I have this overwhelming desire to write this story partly for all the little kids who never got to have the teenage adventure. This will be their story, too. I want it to be a story focussed on hope not despair. I am so glad that lady and child crossed my path. Serendipitous for sure.

  5. No, real life isn’t waltzing by you, Lynn, you are part of that dance of life and death because of your compassionate soul. No wonder you work in the field you do.
    All the very best for your story. It will unfold eventually because of the power of your writing combined with your compassion. 🙂

    • Hi Sheryl,

      Thanks for your lovely words. I think this book is becoming as challenging as my job! I’m sure hard work will pay off in the end.

  6. There really is a reason for everything – good, bad and indifferent. Any time you want to ask me questions/have chats about childhood dis-ease, just let me know. This novel is going to be so special. Like a little bit of magic protruding from the shelves 🙂

    • Thanks, CJM…I may just take you up on that! This alchemy called writing is certainly a challenge. I hope I get the ingredients right for the magic to happen!

  7. Hi Lyn,
    You’ve chosen to write on a emotive subject that has touched your heart and soul. I can’t wait to read it.
    I know it’ll be something very special. Best Wishes, Karen :))

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