Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Little Less Squished

I have mentioned the inimitable A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson here before; such is the impact this favourite rhyming book of my then toddler has had on my life. I'm not sure how much of the moral my youngest took in at the time – that everything in life is relative and happiness lies in appreciating what you have –but she certainly went to sleep with a smile after numerous renditions of, 'Glory me! It was tiny for two and it's titchy for three'.

Little did I know that I'd still be quoting, A Squash and a Squeeze long after the screams of, 'Take in my hen? What a curious plan,' had turned to the killing fields of the Hunger Games.

Roll over Dickens and Tolstoy.

In A Squash and a Squeeze, the wise old man asks the farmer's wife to trust in his philosophy. Her poky house is getting her down and she doesn't have room to 'swing a cat', let alone her farm animals of assorted sizes, which the wise man asks her to add one by one into her already straining abode. It's only when he directs her to remove them, that she realises quite what she had before.

2014 has been a bit of a squash and a squeeze for me and none more so than the summer holidays, rammed with radiotherapy appointments at the expense of work and being with (and transporting) my teenage children. Where the old lady filled her house one by one with extra animals varying in size from a hen to a cow, my 2014 was filled with treatments for cancer. But as in the book, it's all relative; I am one of the lucky ones.

That doesn't mean I haven't lamented the lack of time.

Throw in chemo! the oncologist said.
I can't I cried. I teach, I edit, I write
I work for my husband (badly), have a small business
(which suddenly seems humongously large)
and short stories and a novel I'm trying to type.
And I want to ride my bike.
I can't take on chemo, my life is a squash and a squeeze.

But in the chemo went.

Take out a week every three to recuperate
And add in Herceptin every three weeks for a year
And radiotherapy.
Oh! don't shed a tear, after 15 sessions you'll be out of here.
And then add in Tamoxifen for the next four years and one
It's only a pill, with any luck, it won't make you ill.

And then I blinked and it was September. The big cow had stopped dancing on the dining room table. I locked the door soundly behind it. Goodbye chemo, farewell, I hope. Radiotherapy has been winched out of the top window. In the kitchen there are still a few hens pecking at my feet; a reminder that this cancer journey still rolls on but you know, I can manage perfectly well even with a constant tickle at my toes.

So sympathetic, professional and advanced has been my treatment that although I breathe in the less cluttered air with relish, there is a part of me which hasn’t disliked the squash and a squeeze of the last nine months. I've found it interesting, supportive, friendly and hopeful. I'd have gladly done without it but without the brilliance of the medical profession and the incredible love and support of those around me, the path life has forced me down would have been much less bearable.

And let's face it, I might not have been walking it at all.

My cancer journey isn't over. I can't imagine it ever really coming to an end, although an all–clear after five years is a milestone I wish on every wishbone to meet. Nine months after diagnosis, however, emotionally and practically, I'm feeling a little less squished. 


  1. So pleased to hear the squish is easing up a bit. Lots of self TLC is an antidote to the treatments. Instead of taking out the cow, and the goat etc, I think it's a case of 'take out anything that you are doing which is unenjoyable unless absolutely necessary.'

    I use A Squash and a Squeeze quite a lot at work- with my voice therapy patients getting them to use good vocal projection and pacing. Whether age 9 to 90, they all love it!

  2. Thanks Lindsay! How funny you use this with adults and children alike - I didn't realise until I went off to find a picture for the blog that it's as well-known as it is. I'm very good at finding time for myself I'm ashamed to say, can generally fit in some sport and a read because I don't think I can really function without them - plus I'm nicer to be around when I do :) First on my list to chuck out if I was looking for unenjoyable things would be the cleaning and washing though which would be a little tricky (not to mention selfish!). I'm waiting for the free switch in every home which does it for you ...

  3. Now that's what I call positive thinking! Of course I wish you hadn't had to go through everything you have and no way could I call it a good thing but if it has reminded just one of us including me how lucky we are with our lives that can't be bad so well done Jax, onwards and upwards now!

  4. Absolutely! I think happiness comes from recognising it. It makes me sad when people spend their lives planning and miss all the little lovelinesses under their nose. And it is absolutely all relevant. I am definitely one of the lucky ones (so far - and touching lots of wood).

  5. I'm so pleased everything is going well for you, and wish you much good health in future.

    I loved reading my kids that book - I still remember the very particular way my youngest would recite 'What a curious plan'. We loved Monkey Puzzle too - I'm proud to admit I could almost recite the whole thing without the book :-)

  6. How funny, it's 'curious plan' I remember most too. Perhaps it isn't a word we used often with toddlers? Loved The Monkey Puzzle as well :) Thanks for reading, Annalisa!


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