“The writing prompt is: it’s raining you are not at home. Go!” We were sitting in deep shade in a leafy garden in Saxonwold at the first meeting of a local writers group that I’d attended. Without thinking I began to write about the first thing that popped into my brain:

“Do you think he’s going to die?” Shannon’s face has the slack cheeked blankness that’s become familiar over the last twenty-three days.

 We are in the parking of the Donald Gordon Medical Centre. Officially it’s a smoking area but under the trees, with the mizzle sliding between the autumn-sparse leaves, I’ve yet to see a smoker. The others here look like us: blank-eyed, shell-shocked, frozen-featured.

 “Yes.” I whisper. The sound gets stuck in my throat and comes out as a mangled mewl. “Yes.” I say louder. This time it’s too loud; an aggressive shout. I clear my throat. “I think we are losing him.”

 Even parents get kicked out of the ICU during the mid-morning so we sit here in the wet. It’s the one place we can be sure that the medical staff can’t hear us.

“I shouldn’t have told them about the other doctor.” I say.

“You’d have to have told them eventually.” Shannon replied.

“I should have waited until the transfusion was finished. Until he was stable.”

“If he gets stable.”

 Josh has been here for a week for blood transfusions but not for cancer treatment. This morning we got word that an adult oncologist will take on his case. This after the team here have advised us to go home and enjoy the, maybe, two months we have left.

 The team here aren’t happy. They’ve all but accused me of child abuse by making the decision to seek treatment. Months from now our new doctor will admit that she received calls and veiled threats from these paediatric oncologists…


“Time’s up!” The group leader said and one by one the group read out their efforts.

“Is that I true story?” The woman sitting next to me asked when I read mine.

“Yes,” I replied, “My son has cancer,” I saw the faces fall, “please don’t feel sad. This happened months ago. Josh is doing well!”

“Is he in remission?” a published romance writer asked.

“No. His cancer isn’t curable but he treats it like a chronic illness these days. All this is in the past.” As I said it I realised it was true.

Somewhere in the last few weeks, this has become part of our family’s history. One of the stories a family tells of dark times that are, happily, behind us. Something we talk about in the past tense. We are no longer “in it”.

As I drove home I was flooded with images of other things that have changed: I don’t wait in the parking lot at school for Josh to be ill, we accept invitations for social events that may require walking, the wheelchair is abandoned in a room we seldom use, the blood thinners have stopped…

All of these things are where they belong: in the past.

the darkest days are in our past

diagnosis is now part of the pastdiagnosis is in the past