How to be strong

I came back from my holiday in Toronto, and I already knew I had a calling to go somewhere else for my last week off work before I go back.

I’ve kept it quiet, but my Dad went in for a rather big operation on Tuesday, he’s doing well after it. But I decided when I was on holiday in Toronto, that my place this week would be in Stonehaven to help and be there for my Dad and my step mum. Easy peasy, and I brought them these sunflowers for luck.

Although it was a big operation and he’s getting older (75), he’s a fit and healthy man otherwise, and for some reason I had every faith in him, in the experts (medical staff in the NHS) and the process (the operation and care from the NHS).

When he was in for his operation on Tuesday, I went for a run through a rather strange Aberdeen that I hadn’t seen since I graduated 15 years ago. I ran down to the beach, and stopped there to drop and little elephant for him, and reflect a bit. I looked out to sea (remembering that my Dad loves the sea), and hoped everything would be fine, that the op would go well.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I had a really good feeling about it all, and had a very strong feeling that everything would be fine. I’m not sure if it was optimism, or belief in my Dad and the NHS, or what, but they’ve delivered and as my Dad said the day after his op – ‘modern medicine is amazing.’

But when someone close to you has to go through something like this it can be hard. Some people worry, or think the worst. They maybe crumble at the thought of losing that person who is so close to them. That thought didn’t even cross my mind – he was going to be fine, I knew it.

Someone in work once said about me – ‘Lorn is so calm, I’d love to have her in a crisis with me.’ I didn’t really realise it before I heard that, but it’s true, I try to be relaxed, get perspective and hope or believe that everything will be ok. 

So here’s some of the things I did to be strong and to feel strong about what was happening:

Be there, do the right thing
If someone close to you is going through a hard time, they might appreciate you being there for them. Driving, cooking, talking, it all helps. It might put you out of your comfort zone, but sometimes it’s worth it just to help and be there. They might even just appreciate seeing your smiley face and having a chat about stuff. 

I did it for my aunt when my Granny died, it was tough for me as a 21 year old, but I stayed and helped her. It was hard for me, and s big learning curve. But my aunt called me her ‘guardian angel’ and the reward I got from that, and the close bond we formed, was worth it.

Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but well worth it.

Reach out to and lean on others
The first thing I did, almost without realising it was to reach out to my close network of friends / family across different parts of my life.

I’ve realised there are about 10-15 people that I’m very close to, and when I see a big bump coming, I contact them. And they’re always there for me – you know you you are. 

I’m very lucky to have you all, so thank you. Everyone, you know exactly what to say to help me along and be strong. Lean on other – it helps. 

Take care of yourself
Eat, sleep, exercise, wash, routine. When bumps come along and routine goes out the window, it’s important to take care of yourself (and let others take care of you of need be too). 

Sometimes when things like this happen, the mundane can slip away and not become as important, but they are. Schedule time to do what’s important and take care of yourself as well as the person you care about. Bring along food with you so you can grab it at any time. Go a walk or a run first thing to clear the cobwebs.

Get sleep, you’ll be no use without sleep. It’s important to look after you so you can look after and be there for others.

Learn from what went before

We’ve all had bad things happen to us, and we’re still here today, hopefully stronger because of them. Learn what works for you, what helps you cope. 

Optimism might not work for everyone, but it seems to work for me. Or at least looking at the world and trying to remember it might not be as bad tomorrow, as it is today. Day by day, things get better. How you react, matters.

It can mean the difference between a good day and a bad day. A good sleep or no sleep.  Learn from others too. What helped people you know cope with similar life events? 

Get the facts, try to see things logically
When I found out my Dad was unwell (around 6 weeks before the op), I asked him all the right questions. Him being a retired GP he had all the answers, all the detail. But I confirmed those answers with other medics in my family. The facts, what is happening, what’s important and what is the best course of action. What are the success rates.

The facts are that the operation he went through, whilst it’s one of the biggest operations an individual can go through, it’s bread and butter for the surgeons, they do it every day. Other facts are that although he’s 75, my Dad is fit and well, possibly with a resting heart rate lower than mine! He’s healthy and takes care of himself (and his wife takes care of him too!)

I could have let emotions slip in, ‘oh my god, my dad… etc etc’ but I didn’t. Because the facts spoke for themselves. If you’ve read chimp paradox, it’s a bit like not letting the chimp anywhere near you at times like these!!

My Dad also told me to go and enjoy my holiday and don’t worry! (So I didn’t, which leads me on to the next point).

Don’t worry, believe, do what works for you
‘Worrying is like a rocking chair, you go back and forward, again and again, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.’

Worrying can be all consuming – what if this, what if that, laying blame… there’s no point. Instead of worrying, I believed in my Dad, I believed in the NHS staff, and I believed in the NHS system, to deliver (and they have).

Get the facts, and if there’s anything you can do to help make things better, then do it, otherwise, let what’s going to be, be. 

When mywas down in Glasgow getting tests, I gave him a small elephant, for luck. I’d bought a small red one and a small green one in Portugal when I visited. I’d already dropped the red one, now he had the green one for luck. A little thing, but he appreciated it. 

When I was at Niagara Falls, with the spray and sunshine, a week before his operation, I was looking out for a rainbow, but it wasn’t to be. It was a lovely day though, which I’ll remember (it was 50 or so years since he went there first).

I believe in rainbows, shooting stars, sun shine, elephants, it’s what I’ve learned to help me through life. It ties me in to my granny being here for me, and it works for me. Little signs to help life be better or put me at ease.

Now my Dad had the operation in the afternoon of Tuesday and was in intensive care on Wednesday. He woke in the afternoon of Wednesday, and he was quite bright and chirpy. I feel fortunate to have been able to see him fixedly tee his op, share that time with him, and see him on the way to recovery.

There’s a long road of recovery ahead for him, but I have a feeling he’ll be fine. New bits in his body to replace the old ones. I keep saying he’ll go on to annoy us for maybe another 20 years. 😉

I’d been driving my step mum in and out from the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary each day this week, and have been there for her, just as I’d want someone to help me. It’s easy. You just be and do. And try to be reassuring whilst looking after yourself and those around you. 

We got home last night at about 7, and when I was on the phone to Fit Girl, I looked out the window, and guess what I saw for the first time in what felt like weeks?

That’s right, a little rainbow over Stonehaven where my Dad lives / where I’m staying. Telling me / us everything will be just fine. Funny how they pop up just at the right time.

I know he’ll be fine. And along the way the points above and people, have lifted me along, and helped me be strong. And rainbows and elephants help me along the way too. It’s magic!

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