Losing a parent at any point is just horrible and really gut wrenching pain. I lost my beautiful Mum to lung cancer 5 years ago now and still suffer with grief. I didn’t mourn for my Mum for a long time even now I am not sure I have or ever will. I locked it away and now its to hard to unlock to go back the pains to raw to even get the nerve to open it just yet. I was to busy to get the time to deal with it. You may think that sounds harsh but at the time she was really ill I was also fighting my own battle as I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, 6 months before my mum passed away.
This is a really hard story for me to share but its an unusual one, one at the time I couldn’t find blogs or stories to read for support. It worries me with the rise in cancer it might be a story you hear more frequently so I feel I need to share. If you come across this blog in a similar situation please no I am sending you a virtual hug. I’m sorry it’s a long one please grab a cuppa and read to the end. I couldn’t cut it or split it.
It all started in May 2009 Mum was admitted to hospital with a terrible pain from a bowel infection, she was put through the CT scanner and the doctors picked up shadows on the lung, further test showed this to be lung cancer and was classed as terminal. I had my daughter two months prior to this and I will always remember going into the hospital to visit her and she broke the news to me. I just sat leaning my head on her shoulder while tears run down our faces just watching baby Phoebe kicking and stretching on the bed. It seemed like forever we just sat together. It is so hard to go back to but also the bond we shared in that time was also a fond memory in a wired way.
She was just so brave, she had some treatment to prevent the cancer from growing she took in her stride and I was so proud of her. The hospital wasn’t far from my house so my dad would drop her off to mine after she had been to hospital and he would spend the afternoon with me I loved it. Just her company of her holding Phoebe to get her to sleep, whist she just read the news paper is one of my fav memories. Mum really was brave and continued to be the caring mum and nanny that she was even though she was suffering from the treatment. In May 2011 she came to my wedding she was tired and took a few breaks throughout the day, but just to have her with me for the day meant more than anything. But a few weeks after my wedding she really started to really struggle with the cancer and the side effects.
As a family we would still see her but not always as much as I wanted, having 2 children and working nights it wasn’t always easy. Looking back now (I will forever feel guilt about this) I also stepped back a little as I struggled to see Mum ill. It was such a fast thing from being my post cancer mum to ill cancer mum, I just found it hard. My mum was always my rock and the person I would go to for anything. And even at 28 you still need your mum no matter what age you are.
This is why I struggled with the next bit so much. One morning in November 2011 I found a lump in my breast. I didn’t really think to much of it I was 28 (breast cancer is for oldies right????) and with all going on already with my mum, cancer cant be that cruel. But I went of to the GP that day and was referred to the hospital. 3 weeks later off I went to the hospital. Again not thinking anything of it and after a long day of tests (This will be in a future blog) was told its likely to be a cancer and had to go back in a further 2 weeks to get my core biopsy results. Well I thought what the hell have I just been told!
My Husband Andrew tried to keep positive and kept reminding me they said likely and try not to stress to much till I get the real test results. My big thing was do I tell my mum and dad what was going on? I had already told them I was going to the hospital but again they didn’t think to much of it either. My dad was my mums career now so he had so much on his plate and I really didn’t want to stress out my poor mum and also the rest of my family we are a close family and extended family. They were all dealing with so much about the idea of my mum being ill. In the end I decided to tell my mum and dad as I think even though mums health was deteriorating, she was still my beautiful mum and would want to know. She was lovely as always and really tried to be there for me as much as she could but things were getting harder for her. I stayed positive for her, she was so strong and I learnt from the best, I didn’t have a choice but to be the same. Me and my family stayed positive, We all thought well if it is it will be caught early and I will just need it cut away and all will be fine and ready to carry on
Two weeks later I went in for my results I felt sick sitting in the waiting room and was restless every time someone came out I my tummy would flip thinking is it my turn now? This time it was my turn and in we went (me and my Andrew). The doctor got right to the point it is stage 3 breast cancer you will need chemo first then mastectomy then radiotherapy. Well talk about throw it at me. I was shocked i felt sick then the words came out of my mouth “my poor dad cancer for both girls in his life.” The doctor talked a lot more and I don’t remember a word. My head was swirling, how am I gonna do this, how will my mum take it, how will the family cope. Then the hardest one I couldn’t stop thinking abut what if my children become in the same potion as me and have a mum ill and die in front of there beautiful young eyes. God I felt sick. I needed out of that room.
Me and my husband walked to the car armed with appointments and leaflets we walked in silence and got in the car and I said “how do I tell them”. Part of me was even thinking of lying saying it wasn’t anything and just have the lump out and get on with life. I wanted to hide and protect them like they did with me as a child. But you cant really hide it with your hair is falling out at a fast rate whilst chucking up into a sick bucket. We got home and I told my dad. My mum was having a bad day and was in bed resting. My dad was positive and we talked about the plan the hospital had given me. He told my mum for me later that day. I saw her the day after she was getting so poorly. It was such a horrible situation to be in I wanted her to run to me tell me all is ok and she would come to me to all my appointments and hold my hand, but she couldn’t. This was when I started to bottle stuff up and didn’t show things. I went over and didn’t really bring it up I didn’t want to bother her I didn’t want her to feel she had to help me. I said I was fine and we changed the subject. Deep down I wanted to be that small child and cry my eyes out to her till I couldn’t breath anymore. I had to face facts it was my turn to be a grown up now. I had to fight my battle and help her face hers. Keep calm and carry on attitude (or be British and keep it in and don’t show emotion) was needed.
But I was struggling more than anyone will know, I was frightened, I was frightened of what was to come with treatment. I was frightened as my mum was becoming more poorly. I was frightened to see her. totally selfish reasons but I was scared that was going to be me. I was feeling guilty for having all these emotions going on in my head. I felt sick that I could be so selfish and I was lonely I couldn’t talk to people about how I felt, I was terrified they would judge me for it. I felt guilty, I should be there to support her I should be helping my dad with her care, I should be a good daughter and be there for her every second. Even just to hold her hand and read with her. My head was messed up I was lonely. I even called the McMillan helpline (I never do anything like that but an advert came on and my fingers automatically typed in the number) they answered and I just burst into tears. I didn’t say much but it was enough to help get a little off my chest. I never called again but the lady on the phone will never know how much just hearing me cry and hear me wipe my snot meant to me. Thank you who ever you are. I then just learnt how to box things up and look like the strongest women ever I became so good at hiding it everyone used to tell me how well I was coping.
My chemo started, Andrew came with me it’s a long day and the fear of the unknown is a big player in the emotions. I watched a woman opposite to me, her mum was with her holding her hand and just reading a book, I felt a punch in the tummy….that’s just how my mum would have been with me. I felt so gutted and the tears made my eyes blurry but my new found skill off pushing away the emotion was getting good, I just chatted away to Andrew like nothing was going on. The chemo horrible, but the nurses are just so kind you forget that you have horrid stuff running through your veins. I went home feeling ok and called mum we had a little chat she couldn’t talk for long but it was enough for me.
After a few days I popped to my mums to see her she wasn’t right she was in bed I just wanted to help her I truly felt like a failure as a daughter. I felt guilt… I hadn’t seen her in over a week as I was recovering, I couldn’t of got over but trust me I would have been there in a heart beat, mum I swear. I wanted to help my dad I wanted to do so much I felt I had let everyone down when I know they never thought that but I couldn’t get it out my head. Two weeks after my chemo I spiked a temperate and ended up in A+E and then in hospital for a few days as my cells were not strong enough to fight infection. I just wanted to be with my kids, I wanted to be with my husband, I wanted to be with my mum but I was stuck in a bloody hospital bed. After a few days I got a call to say mum was taken to A+E I rushed down to see her. I had to stealth out the room my antibiotics were due but I wasn’t leaving her down there. She had picked up a chest infection and after a few hours she was taken to a ward. I call it the dumping ground, its where you go to get you out of A+E but they haven’t got a proper bed for you. It was crap she needed better care than that. I couldn’t sleep in my comfy side room knowing that she was there. I hated it. In the morning the doctors did the round and I was put on oral antibiotics and I was doing really well. After that I came up with a plan if I self discharged then mum would have a bed on a nice ward where she would be looked after by cancer nurses. I chatted to the doctor and in the end after lots of tears and begging they promised to hold the bed for my mum. So I left and she got my bed where she stayed. Finally I could pay her back for everything she had ever done for me.
After two months on the ward they managed to organise to get her home and give her palliative care there. My dad didn’t leave her side in hospital for the entire time, he needed to get home just as much as she did. My treatment carried on I ended up in and out of hospital as time went on. Again I couldn’t get to mum as much as I wanted, my body didn’t fight the chemo well and I kept getting sick. Kind of went into my own world trying to fight my battle. I felt I had failed mum as a daughter, I felt gut wrenching guilt but again I locked it away. Till the day I got the call I dreaded that it was time to say good bye. I rushed to be with her I was so nervous to go I thought I should have done more. So on the 3rd April 2012 my mum had her entire family around her. She was peaceful and beautiful. I held her hand and she pulled me in kept repeating I love you, I love you. That gave me peace I knew she loved me just as much and didn’t judge me for not being around as much as should have. She passed away with such dignity and it sounds such a random thing to say but it was just perfect for her. As I said her entire family was with her she must have felt peace. ( sorry I cant talk about this bit anymore I am to tears)
Mums Funeral was beautiful and was packed with people standing showing how beautiful and loved she was. It was beautiful service and was just how she would have wanted it to be.
I missed her so much but again I couldn’t deal with it I just boxed it up and carried on I kept telling my self I had my own fight and ill deal with it after I’m done. 2 days after the funeral I went into hospital for my mastectomy. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and that grief box kept trying to open but I kept snapping it shut again. But maybe it was nervousness I’m not sure but I just sobbed the most painful tears as they put me to sleep.
As the months went on I missed her, I just wanted to talk to her I wanted her to know I was doing ok with my treatment, I wanted to tell her so much but I couldn’t. But long story (that’s a another blog) but I felt her strength grow in me and I felt strong as I sat in the doctors room explaining to them that I wouldn’t have a termination to my baby! I was about 18 weeks pregnant and only just found out, the baby had been through my treatment and radiotherapy. Doctors said to terminate the baby as it probably wont be heathy and I was a priority not the baby. But I had a peace about this I knew the baby was ok. I don’t know how I just knew…. I got up and said to the doctor I have lost my mum to cancer I’m not losing this baby. And here we are 5 years on with a beautiful four year old who just reminds me of my mum every day. I’m forever grateful how my mum showed me such strength, otherwise I don’t know, or want to know, how this story could have turned out.
So I want to say thank you for my mum for teaching me so much. Thank you for teaching me how to be a mum and fight for my children. I will forever miss you and I will always just wish I could see your face or hear your voice. But because of your strength and beauty I know you are forever with us. Thank you for being the most incredible mum I could have ask for and thank you for teaching me how to fight cancer, because without you being you, I wouldn’t be here now…6 years post cancer. I promise I will live my life and fight for the both of us. I will always love and miss you but always be proud to be your daughter. Even though I still feel guilt for not being with you like I should have been, I know you understand. You are missed.
So that’s my story, I don’t think I can write anymore through the tears. But I just want to say please don’t ever bottle things up because I’m still not able to open the box properly yet. It’s to hard to go back to it I promise you, so please talk to someone. Tell anyone, tell a stranger at the end of helpline how you are struggling get it out in the open. If you can tell someone close to you please do. Don’t let it eat you up. You are stronger than you think you ever can be. You are fighter, fight enough for you and the person you are suffering along side with. Win the battle for them, they would want you to. Maybe one day I will open up, maybe this blog is the start. Who knows what the future holds.