Ever since Saturday morning, when I blubbed shamelessly as Katie Piper talked frankly to a packed, and silent, Britmums Live audience, and then even more so, talking to her mum and Katie Hill (teary, tissue-less and overwrought, never have I felt less glamorous, let me tell you), I have been pondering why exactly she made me cry.
It's not just her story - the beautiful good time girl, going places (possibly - she is refreshingly candid about the career opportunities available presenting casino programmes on channel 999 at 2 a.m.) raped and then burned horrifically with acid thrown over her at the behest of a man who couldn't have her.
not just the fact that she can - and clearly throughout her recovery,
did, laugh at her situation. Not at all of it, but at the comical
moments that can often - and almost totally inappropriately - come in times of great trauma and distress, She tells a
cracking story about squirting blackberry juice out of the feeding tube
attached to her stomach while wearing a flesh coloured 'morph suit' (her
'earthworm Jim suit' - to stop the burns contracting) - but I guess you
had to be there.
It's not just the fact that she has taken what has happened to her and survived in the most inspiring way, turning her experiences into a charity to support others who have been burned, filling gaps in the NHS provision, which, with the best will in the world, public money cannot currently cover.
It's not just that she is so disarmingly honest about the support she received from her family, about how dark the really dark times were, about how cruel people were to her, and about her agoraphobia.
All these things make her a truly remarkable survivor. It puts my life and the things that have happened to me sharply into perspective. But here's the thing. She gets annoyed when people start talking about something bad that
happened to them and then they say "Oh but it's nothing like what you
have been through". Why does she get annoyed? Well, you see as she puts it - it doesn't matter what 'it' is - if it's your worst thing, then yes it is bad, it is worth getting upset about.
What trauma have I suffered. Well let me tell you - if you didn't know already - my son had leukaemia. My lively 2 year old withered before my eyes, almost overnight. 9 months into treatment, he had no hair, was on the 2nd centile (from 98th when born) and the doctors were talking about feeding tubes. We spent endless hours in hospital. The drugs made him sick. He had blood and platelet transfusions. He had a terrifying allergic reaction to one of his drugs. I thought he might die. My son.
He had the disease. The Husband and I - we dealt with the fall out. And a new baby.
People say similar to me when talking about their children. People who have had what I consider to be equally traumatic experiences, or even people talking about a broken arm. They say "Oh but it's nothing like what you went through". Or they say "I don't think I could have got through what you did". To that I say, firstly, as Katie Piper says, it doesn't matter what it is - if it's the worst that you have had to deal with, then it's bad. It's not a question of degree. It is valid to feel distraught, lost, confused - even if you're dealing with chicken pox.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you do have a choice. You can drown in the injustice of it all, or you can try and work out how to cope and get through it. I know someone whose son was at a similar age, living in the same village who died of a brain tumour when Blue was being treated. She and I were pregnant at the same time and gave birth to our second children within days of each other. She told me once that she thought she was lucky because I still had the uncertainty of whether Blue would survive hanging over me. She knew, so sadly, how her son's story ended, and she thought she was in a better position than me. I have never spoken to her about it, but I suspect this was one of her ways of coping.
I consider us to be lucky. Not that Blue became ill - I wouldn't wish that on anyone. But he's still here. We just passed the 4 years "off-treatment" point - one more to go before we'll get as much of an 'all clear' as they will give us. I haven't lost a child, been physically attacked or suffered any of the other terrible things that can happen, although if you want dark hours, I can give them to you in buckets. The important thing is that he has survived.
We are lucky too, to have survived as a family. Lots of people don't. Families break up under pressure, and it's hard, so hard to keep lines of communication open when you've been awake all night worried sick about your child, or had to go to work and leave your child as he goes into an operation because of a meeting you can't afford to miss. It's hard because day to day life becomes more difficult on every level physically and financially - do you know how expensive hospital parking is? You have to make decisions you never thought you would be faced with. It's hard but you choose to make those decisions in order to survive.
We had a choice, and what made me cry was hearing someone else who has survived - and is possibly still surviving - talking so eloquently about her choice. Katie Piper demonstrates so simply and so beautifully that you DO have a choice. Even in the darkest hours of your life, you can choose to be beaten by it all, or to fight. It takes a lot of energy and support, and it's not easy, but you can do it, be your injuries physically or emotional, whether you're the person who's been hurt or someone supporting and caring for that person.
And the relief of hearing someone else say all that made me cry.