Here, Anna*, tells the story in her own words.
￼Chasing the two tiny ducklings around the yard, my son Ted exploded in a fit of giggles.
‘He’s like a puppy!’ I joked to my hubby Paul.
Full of energy, our 14-month-old was always on the go. Then, suddenly, our boy just wanted to be held all the time.
Poor Ted had a snotty nose, kept vomiting and was covered in cricket-ball sized bruises.
‘It’s a tummy flu,’ the GP said. ‘And he’s just a typical boy,’ he added, explaining away the marks. And I’m a panicky first-time mum, I thought.
Ted hadn’t been walking long, maybe he’d just taken a few tumbles...
Still, my mum-tuition told me something wasn’t right.
‘We need to go to Emergency,’ Paul said after six weeks of to and fro to the docs.
There, a paediatrician ransome tests.
‘You need to go home and pack a bag right now,’ she said, explaining she was transferring Ted to a bigger hospital three hours away. Paul and I looked at each other with fear. ‘What’s going on?’ I cried, clinging to my man.
Horrifyingly, our baby boy was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia – a rare, aggressive form of the disease with a high mortality rate. He’d be put in isolation for eight to 12 months while he received intensive chemo.
‘Many marriages don’t last,’ a doctor warned us, gently. ‘We’ll make it,’ Paul replied.
There was no question – we had to be a strong unit for Ted. To even touch our boy, we had to scrub in. Wires and tubes snaked from his tiny body.
Inside Ted’s room, there was only enough space for one fold-out bed. So, while one of us snatched some sleep, the other would snooze in the armchair.
After six weeks, we were exhausted. Thankfully, we got a room at a Ronald McDonald House nearby. ‘I need some rest,’ Paul said, without a thought for me. It was so unlike my sweet hubby who’d usually put me first.
A fortnight later, Paul told me he’d be gone for a few days to pack up our house, so we could rent it out.
‘You’re going to be okay, little man,’ he told Ted, kissing him goodbye.
Three days on, Paul rang. ‘It’s a bigger job than we thought,’ he said.
Luckily, my lovely friend, Nat, was helping him out. Stay strong, you’re a great mama – I’m here for you, she texted me.
Even with Nat’s help though, Paul was away for three weeks. All alone, I was at the end of my tether.
‘I’ll bring Nat back, she can help us out,’ Paul suggested. It was a godsend.
Ted hated the hospital food, so Nat helped me cook tuna patties and chicken nuggets laced with vegies, while Paul was with our boy. ‘I’m so grateful you’re here,’ I said.
But slowly, I noticed how close my friend and hubby had become.
Every time Paul ducked out for a breather, Nat followed. Sometimes she’d pat his back, her hand lingering for just a moment too long. And when I’d spend the night with Ted, Nat and Paul were always together in our room. Alone.
After three weeks, my suspicions spiralled. ‘Look, are you and Paul together?’ I asked Nat while we were cooking for my boy. ‘Don’t be silly!’ she scoffed. ‘Paul needs more emotional support than you – you’re so strong,’ she said.
I didn’t buy it. Confronting Paul the next day, I didn’t beat around the bush.
‘You’re being unfaithful, aren’t you?’ I said. ‘Why would you think that?! Our son is dying!’ he spat out. No he’s not – he’s fighting for his life, I thought.
That night, I went up to the hospital to relieve Paul. While our bub slept, my husband confirmed my suspicions.
‘I’m in love with Nat,’ he admitted.
Engulfed in an emotional hurricane, I was angry, sad and broken.
How could he do this, and now? I thought. She was supposed to be my friend!
After a lonely night at Ted’s side, then finding Paul and Nat giggling back at the house, I knew what I had to do.
‘It’s over, you’ve been bugger all support,’ I told Paul.
Although heartbroken and angry, I had to focus all my energy on my son.
‘We’ve never seen such a resilient kid,’ docs told me. And they were right.
Now seven, Ted is happy, healthy – and cancer-free. Paul is no longer a part of either of our lives – our divorce came through in 2017.
As for Nat, I don’t care if I never see her again. But I’ve found the love of my life, Brett. Together, we nurture our little family. Ted lights up our life. And the dark days are well and truly behind us.
* ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED.
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