2020 - What A Year!

2020, where do I start? Literally, what can I even say? What a shit show for so many people. This post will be a summary of my year, the ups and downs and everything in between.

Christmas & New Year 2019 - Jan 2020, was particularly rubbish for me and mine. A week before Christmas 2019, I was diagnosed with Bladder Cancer. It meant that I was due to have my cancer and bladder removed between Jan -March 2020. Then Corona Virus hit the world. By March 2020 the UK went into lockdown, my surgery was postponed and this virus turned into a pandemic that will never be forgotten.

Our family has two extremely important front-line workers and four other family members (who help with my care) were deemed vulnerable, so they had to shield and isolate like me. It meant that like many people, we didn't see our loved ones for about six months. Therefore, my care fell solely to Anthony and our best friend Dan. For six months, the lads cared for me day in-day out without a single word of complaint. They essentially had to shield and isolate with me, Dan had to work from home and Anthony was made redundant! I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for me this year. So much of what they have done and scarified this year has helped keep me safe and alive. Without those sacrifices I would have caught this awful virus by now.

In June 2019, Anthony and I co-founded a business Buttons & Leash Dog Training. In my late teens/early twenties, as my illness took hold it became impossible for me to hold down a job, so I began dog sitting and worked for myself. Anthony and I had discussed for years that he should work with dogs like I did. Anthony has a real affinity with animals (dogs especially) and people were always asking us to dog sit or walk their dogs. Having worked professionally with dogs and in the industry before, I knew I could help him set up the business. We spent the last six months of 2019 building our business, having Anthony trained in various aspects of dog care and getting all the legal aspects and permits in place. January 2020 arrives and with my new diagnosis of cancer, it became more important for Anthony to work his own hours as my care needs increased. Anthony kept his office job and then worked all hours around that, to build a client base of Buttons & Leash. So when he was made redundant due to the pandemic, Anthony took the tiny redundancy package he received and ploughed it into the business and went full time as a fully qualified Dog Trainer.

Come Christmas 2020, Anthony has more qualifications than most other dog trainers in East Surrey, kept a start-up business thriving in the midst of a global pandemic and has studied tirelessly for almost 18 months. I have never known a man more dedicated to working hard and building a better life for him and his family. Your girls are so proud of you, Beardy.

Two of our family members contracted Covid-19. Thankfully, they both recovered quickly, but it was still worrying. However, our Auntie had the most gut-wrenching 4 months dealing directly with the consequences of Covid, after recovering from it herself. With her being a single person household, it was almost impossible to physically support her but I did my best. Her partner of 25 years contracted Covid at Gatwick Airport and spent 4 months on life support.

His outcome became crystal clear, he wasn't going to survive. It was literally down the his last heart trace, it was taking about 30 minutes to be able to get results and the staff said that on his next heart trace, if it took them longer that 30 minutes they would likely turn off his machines. No word of a lie, within 12-24 hours of that update our Aunt has a call to say he was awake and was sent a photograph of him sitting up in bed, smiling with his Covid Nurse!

To say it was a miracle is an understatement. He was quite literally about to have his end of life care withdrawn and he wasn't having any of it! Of course, he is now registered disabled, has issues with his heart and lungs, but is still making great progress and coming on leaps and bounds. He will most likely never work again, his voice may never be the same but damn, he is alive against all odds — that is everything & more!

The same cannot be said for many others loved ones. This virus is like cancer in the way that it does not discriminate, it will take down anyone and everyone in its path. I am looking forward to being able to take this vaccine that has been manufactured and I desperately hope that Covid becomes like the flu. This is where the vaccine can be altered each year as the strains mutate. Yes, even with a vaccine it will take a few lives (just like the flu) but hopefully with the vaccine, Covid will be more contained and manageable rather than reeking havoc across the world!

Around June, our beautiful boy Tywin, finally completed his last surgery in order to save his front leg. I am overjoyed to say that the surgery has been a complete success and Tywin is comfortable and walking well on his 3.5 legs. Tywin is able to run, jump, climb trees and be happier than ever before now that he is pain free. We will always remain vigilant and cautious around his deformed leg, but Tywin is now almost a different dog in the way he moves and his happiness is bigger and brighter, what more could we ask for?

I also had emergency surgery within a few weeks/days of Tywin's. I was rushed into my specialist hospital for emergency bladder surgery. They were able to remove my cancer with good margins and I still remain in remission now! This means that my major surgery which was booked in for the beginning of 2020, can be safety postponed until it is safer for me to be in intensive care. All in all, I have been quite well during the second half of the year. This still doesn't mean my health will improve, but it has made such a difference to my quality of life and I haven't been this capable for the last two years!

Many of my gorgeous girlfriends have announced the are expecting in 2020 and quite a few of them have even delivered babies this year. I have been in complete awe of all the ones delivering during a pandemic (especially first time parents) and feel so deeply for the Daddies. Many Dads haven't been half as involved as they would have normally been, due to the pandemic. My readers will know that I am an avid believer in equal parental rights and detest the treatment of Dad's in our systems. So my heart really goes to the Dad's who have already missed out of the prenatal processes. However, the most beautiful gift I have been given this year, is my seventh godchild! My stunning best friend, Tammy, delivered another beautiful baby boy. He was a few weeks early but completely healthy! Freddie James, you're my third Godson and the most beautiful little fella, Tammy doesn't half make stunning children. Having a new life join the family during such a heartbreaking year, that has been filled with: illness, damage, death and destress, was such a blessing. It is an honour and a privilege to be Godmother to seven beautiful children, as children are the greatest gift and we have so much love to give.

Lastly, I would like to express my deepest sympathies, to all who have lost their lives as a result of the Covid-19 virus and to those loved ones left behind.

Sending love and friendship, to those in single households and those isolated from their loved ones.

To all those still having to fight for their lives to matter via the "Black Lives Matter" movement. I won't pretend to understand as I do not walk in your shoes, but you can always count on me for my support and solidarity & on me furthering my education on the movement as a whole.

The Black Lives Matter Movement will continue to be a relevant and essential, until all lives matter EQUALLY!

The biggest 'THANK YOU' to all front-line workers, employed and volunteers and to those pursuing careers in the sciences, to help develop vaccines and medications to protect and combat these deadly diseases.

Thank you to all those supporting our struggling services, following the laws, rules and guidelines, wearing a mask constantly when outside even when it isn't listed as 'compulsory'.

Sending love and support to those with chronic, terminal and life-altering conditions, who already struggle and haven't been able to access basic or continuity of care & support at these tough times. And to those living in unsafe, temporary, abusive and violent homes & relationships.

And finally, to all those who have survived or overcome the virus so far, whether you have made a full recovery or will have health issues to contend with for the rest of your life as a result, your struggle has not been in vain and I commend you strength and dignity.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, may 2021 bring you love, health and happiness.

Willow & the Terminally Tough Team x