Category Archives: The Teenager

Back Then, And Now …

In 2012, my only wish was to see The Teenager through High School.

Forward six years and we made it – it wasn’t easy, far from it. At times, it was soul-destroying and took us both to the edge of what we could reasonably cope with.

Yet no child can go through this hideous process without scars, and The Teenager has them in abundance. The support he could have received was patchy at best, mostly non-existent.

He wasn’t a ‘Child Carer’, at risk or falling behind at school, yet I could see the difference in him, and we navigated our way through the years bit by bit.

He is now at University, but struggling in his own way.

It would be great if you guys could send him messages of encouragement through this difficult time.

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It Takes A Village …

MS is hard enough on your own body and soul, but witnessing your child coming to terms with it in a parent is heart-wrenching.

Up until he entered High School, me and The Teenager did a whole lot of things together; I was forever picking up leaflets, magazines, nabbing numbers and ideas from flyers.

We fought dinosaurs, made shields in a castle and painted pottery.

I sewed badges on swim bags, then faithfully unpicked and re-sewed them on to new bags. I bought uniforms, day trips and packed the lunches.

I stood at the rugby sidelines weekend after weekend, freezing cold, following him to tournaments miles away, in the rain, without ever mastering the rules of the game. I picked him up after injuries and faced the long journey home, but with a medal or mini-cup clasped in his hands as he fell asleep in the back seat.

I’m so glad I had that time as everything was set to change.

Just as he put on his brand-new High School uniform, MS hit. His once-active parent was more often than not going through relapse after relapse.

We factored in three Alemtuzumab treatments to coincide with his summer holidays – after coming home with no immune system, I had less than two days each time to be back to ‘normal’ after he spent time with his father.

It takes at least a month to recover an immune system.

The Teenager saw a lot and he didn’t like it – the enforced sleep, the early bedtimes of his main parent, when I should have been the one getting him to sleep.

The utter fatigue and lack of immune system floored me. Luckily, kind parents filled in a lot of gaps, taking him to rugby, standing in on Parent’s Evening, inviting him along to sun-drenched trips to the beach.

But I cried; it should have been me. Yet I was so tired, I couldn’t get my head around it. Instead, I tried to ‘stay present’. If I could not move from the sofa, I would at least try to remember everything that was going on.

And now we have The Teenager at University, having the absolute time of his life.

It’s not just thanks to me, it’s thanks to friends and family, everyone who has ever followed him on my blog, or who has met him in real life and chatted with him like old friends, and to everyone who has ever made him feel that he is not alone.

Significant people may be absent from his life, but he knows that he has a whole support network to call upon.

Watching him at an MS filming session last weekend, I was stunned to hear him speak so coherently and poignantly about his experiences and as soon as I can, I will share it with you.

In 2012, all I asked for was to be well enough to see my son off to University. I firmly believe that thanks to everyone here, he made it.

I certainly didn’t do it on my own.

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Well, We Did It?

The Teenager turned nineteen yesterday.

My incredible son, who has had to cope with MS from the age of eleven.

Could there be worse timing?

MS was instantaneous for us – no warning, no real preview of the devastation to come. He went away for the weekend and when he came back (picked up by a friend as I was in hospital) everything had changed.

Suddenly he was thrust into a world where his main parent was ill.

I was the mum who had taken him to, and picked him up from nursery, primary school, breakfast club and after-school club. I was there at the sidelines for rugby and sewed badges onto swimming trunks and Beaver’s outfits. I checked over his reading books, helped him build castles from cardboard and sorted outfits for school plays.

I was ever-present and then suddenly I wasn’t. We both had to learn to live by very different rules and it wasn’t pretty. I was in and out of hospital, the Doctor’s, various clinics, alongside coping with an employment tribunal. And there he was, starting High School.

I fitted three courses of Alemtuzumab around his school holidays, specifically booked in for that reason. After my second course, I had 24 hours to get back on my feet and be there for him coming home, not easy with zero immune system.

But we muddled along, and my sofa became the ‘command centre’. I had my blanket tucked behind it and could whip it out at a moment’s notice. I jotted down important points, dates, friend’s names, anything I could to keep up to date with everything that was going on.

For both of us the most difficult symptom was the fatigue. I always tried my hardest to stay awake until his bedtime and a little bit extra, to appear, ‘normal’. Now he is back home for the summer Uni break and goes out for the evening, he says, ‘you can go to bed at whatever time, I’m out.’ And a little bit of me dies inside. I know that he knows that I know.

MS has been a terrible learning curve for both of us, but we got through it. I had friends I could confide in, ask for help from. The imperative was to give The Teenager as normal an upbringing as possible. It didn’t always work out that way and I will always regret that.

Yet now, here he is, a super-confidant young man.

In my blogs I normally whinge about The Teenager (as you do), but today I’m going to say how proud I am of him. He made it easy. His inner strength saw him through the worst.

I’m impressed at his resolute attitude and his sheer enthusiasm for life. In short, I love him to pieces.

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Teendults – A Survival Guide

The Teenager is home for over three months now Uni has finished for the Summer break.

He sent me an extensive shopping list in advance – ‘lots of protein, fruit, veg, rice, protein bars, frozen fruit, milk, eggs, bit more protein’.

Just to be on the safe side, I added extra loo roll (he’s the Houdini of Andrex), more toothbrushes (he chews them), gallons of shower gel (he swims in the stuff) and some more protein.

If I’d thought about it, I should have sent a list back, something like this:

  • Take your key when you go out.
  • Change the loo roll when it’s empty (handy hint, there’s more next to the loo).
  • Take your key when you go out.
  • Turn the oven off after cooking your usual six salmon steaks.
  • Take your key when you go out.

And that’s pretty much it. The key issue is a biggie; he’s lost more keys than I can count, forgets to take it or just seems surprised to find it in his pocket after hammering on the door at 1am.

On one memorable occasion, I woke up to find his bed empty and my front garden littered with plastic bottles and newspapers. He’d forgotten his key and in his endearing wisdom, decided to chuck the contents of our recycling bag at my bedroom window in the hope of waking me up.

I eventually tracked him down to a friend’s sofa and had a little chat about the aerodynamics and weight of newspapers.

And so it was I took my friend for the journey and we picked up The Teenager plus all his worldly possessions and trekked back home. The cat rolled her eyes and scarpered, used to a more sedate pace of life in his absence.

It’s strange welcoming back an adult, after dropping off a boy at Uni last Autumn. We’re both adults now, yet somehow there’s the maternal temptation to revert to type.

I remind him to take his coat when it’s chilly. He reminds me he’s an adult. I press an apple into his hand before he goes out. He places it back in the fruit bowl. He’s not the only one rolling his eyes. And so it goes back and forth.

I think though, that we’re getting there. I’m getting used to him singing in the shower again; some days Beatles hits, others Oasis. The thumping as he gets dressed (no idea). The evidence of overnight fridge-foraging when I come downstairs in the morning (follow the crumbs to the empty packets).

Some things never change though. One evening last week, I resisted the temptation to ask if he had everything before he went out – key, wallet, fully-charged phone (hah!). I waved him off, feeling quite pleased with myself, and settled down to some serious Danish drama on telly.

A minute later, a knock on the door. The Teenager, looking sheepish.

‘Forgot my key’.

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Always On Call …

The Teenager has always been fiercely independent – give him a phone charger and he’ll travel anywhere, talk to anyone and generally find his own way back home.

He’s settled into University life as if born to it and has found his feet exceptionally quickly.

So I’m always a little thrown by random texts I get from him, at the oddest times.

Take Friday for example. I’d mentioned to him I’d be at an MS Council meeting 60 miles away and staying overnight. There’s a get-together in the hotel in the evening to meet other people affected by MS in the surrounding area and it’s great to see new faces.

I’d settled down on a squishy sofa and was having a brilliant discussion with two lovely people, and , well, whaddaya know – up pops a text at 7.30 – ‘Should I get bleach to clean my toilet?

Umm. Ok. I replied, he indeed should and use it a couple of times a week. I then rejoined the conversation and picked up the thread.

Another text pinged – ‘How do you do it?’

I texted back about squirting it under the rim and making sure he had a loo brush. He did, so that’s good. I should know, I bought it for him along with a million other items on his IKEA Student Survival Shopping List, an event I’m still recovering from.

And that was that. Until the next time.

What the toilet bleach conversation showed me is that you just never, ever, ever stop being an always-available parent. Which is kind of lovely. It’s nice to help fill in the gaps he’s finding as he learns what it is to be an adult, bleach and all.

I like the fact he knows he’ll get a quick answer from me, even if it’s an ‘I don’t know’, as in one of his other texts recently, ‘Have you heard of the band Royal Blood?’ Nope. Or when he just wants to say something, such as, ‘I made chicken katsu curry. From scratch.’ Proud.

When it comes to priorities in my life, he will always come first, no matter what MS throws at me. He knows that even if I’m sprawled on the sofa, virtually unable to move for fatigue, I will make sure my phone is by my side.

Looking back, I can’t say he had it easy with MS. It hit just as he entered high school and we went through some pretty dark times, but we did it. First and foremost, MS was my battle, and I wanted to protect him from the worst of it, as is right. His childhood and growing up feeling secure and loved were top of the list.

So, I love his random texts, his song suggestions, his little remarks about how his latest essay is going. I’m involved in his life, but not overly so and that’s the way it should be.

P.S. Has anyone heard of Royal Blood?

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