Mum – daughter, wife, friend…cancer survivor


This is an old post taken from the Indulge In blog (the photos appear to have disappeared!!). I’m Happy to report that mum is growing stronger day by day. Here’s her journey through my eyes…

Margaret Herring. Peggy. Wife. Mum. Friend. Cancer Survivor

I can only tell you what mum told me as she kept it from me for weeks; I found out be accident. Amazing how one seemingly innocent remark can stop you in your tracks and change your life. ‘its not as bad as they thought , your mums going to be ok – looks like its treatable?’ I looked at them blankly and rang dad puzzled, slowly getting into a state of panic. He confirmed like men do quite matter of fact, that yes my mum was ill; she had in fact got cancer. I couldn’t speak, I stood for what seemed forever and cried. Cancer. Shit. Tears for mum but also selfish tears for myself. The thought of not having her around too much to bear. Dad was still speaking but I wasn’t listening…

Above: In Blackpool on Kelly’s Hen Weekend , oblivious to the fact that mum had cancer….

On the coach home from Kelly’s hen do we stopped for a toilet break. It was then that mum had her first show , apparently it was a mass of blood and ‘gunge’ Having had an hysterectomy at 45 she thought something was amiss – she’s 67. I remember at the time thinking that mum was overly quiet when she got back on the coach but when quizzed she just said she was tired after a few days partying and we left it at that. The next day she made an appointment at the doctors who refereed her straight to the hospital for scans. It happened quickly but luckily because she had acted quickly they caught ‘it’ early. She would however still need 5 weeks of intensive radio therapy, Monday to Friday everyday for 5 weeks. She had cancer of the womb. Officially referred to as endometrial cancer, or as I called it the bastard.

This was at the beginning of July 2012, my brother Mark was getting married on August 10th . Mum made us all promise not to tell a single soul , she wanted Marks wedding to be all about him and Kelly , not poor Peggy. (her words not mine) when quizzed about  how she managed to keep it all to herself she simply said ‘because I’m a mum and that’s what mums do’

I found out 3 weeks after Dad , Mark & Kelly. Dad had, much to mums annoyance, confided in one guy, his friend from work. That’s the guy who mistakenly mentioned it to me as he thought I knew. I was devastated mum had chosen to keep it from me but when she explained why It made sense. Apparently I brought normality, I didn’t know so I didn’t talk about it or fuss around her . I would pay a visit and talk my usual crap, chattering away about my new lipstick , work, who was doing what with who … you know the usual trivial rubbish. For an hour or so it stopped mum and dad thinking about the cancer and what lie ahead. They laughed along with me and my stories; as dad always says I’m good at making people laugh. In my heart of hearts I also don’t think mum knew how to tell me either, we are so close; she knew it would break my heart. In her own way she was protecting me from the hurt; for a few weeks anyway. How I found out saved her from telling me…they always say things happen for a reason?

So Mark and Kelly got married and mum got the date for her first treatment.

Above: Mark & Kellys Wedding. A few days before mum started her treatment

The wedding went perfectly. Mark looked handsome and Kelly made the perfect bride. Mum looked beautiful; they say cancer is the silent killer because looking at her you would never guess she was ill, that cancer was growing in her. Mum was more teary than usual and got extremely drunk. The later is not uncommon for mum so nobody thought any the wiser, just dad and I who watched over her like a hawk to make she was o.k. She was. She danced the night away with her sister looking as though she didn’t have a care in the world. At the end of the night I plonked myself down with dad and we watched her enjoying herself. I was in awe of how brave she was. It was at that point that I thought to myself she is going to be o.k, she’s positive and she’s a fighter.  I still shed a little tear.

Mum started her treatment the week after. I took the day off work insisting that I go to the first appointment with her. Suddenly our roles were switched and I was playing the mother figure role protecting my mother.

Above: a couple of weeks into her treatment – I treated mum to afternoon tea. Feeling tired and fed-up it was just what she needed.

On the day of the treatment and following a spray tan (I was off to Barcelona the following day) I picked up a very nervous mum and off we popped to Western Park Hospital. We are lucky, outside of London it is one of the top Teaching Hospitals for the treatment of cancer. On arrival we were taken to a little office where a nurse came to see us. She ran through the procedure and what mum could and couldn’t do.( Yeah she could drink alcohol – one of the first questions I asked!) As the nurse continued , you could decidly start to get a whiff of my false tan and looking at my arm under the florescent lights I appeared to be turning a funny shade of orange. Mum noticed too, she  smirked at me and mouthed ‘your orange’ or words along those lines… I’m not sure if it was nervous tension but we both fell around laughing while trying to explain to the nurse what we were laughing at. I looked like I was the radio-active one!

I won’t go into chapter and verse but for the following 28 days mum underwent between 5 to 10 minutes of radio therapy daily . After the 28 days treatment and with a few weeks break in between she had to attend hospital for an overnight stay where she had  pdr brachy therapy. She was fixed up to a machine and for 12 minutes out of each hour for  a total of 17 hours she was ‘blasted’ with radiotherapy only this time it was given internally, directly onto the cancer. She couldn’t move and she said after a while it became increasing painful and apart from anything else it was extremely boring.

Above : Mums treatment kicks in and we joke about how good shes looking. Laughter is the key

Due to where the cancer was growing the radiotherapy treatment left her with a red middle half and what we fondly referred to as her baboon bum. Radiotherapy kills cancer cells but burns the skin. When I say her bum was bright red, I am not exaggerating. It burned and she cried on a number of occasions. She said it was literally like having a red-hot poker shoved up her bottom. The treatment affected her bowels and most days she was house bound as she had terrible diarrhea which came on without warning. Sometimes the diarrhea lasted hours and she ran back and forth to the toilet constantly; it came to the point where she daren’t go out. She was more tired than usual, painfully pale and emotionally she was wiped out. The treatment also shrunk her vagina , something I was unaware happened! Mum was given a kit which contained 3 vibrator type objects (only these didn’t buzz), in 3 different sizes… as mum described them small, medium and whopper!! She had to apply cream insert one of these inside her and leave it for 10 – 15 minutes every other day.

After all the treatments were completed we had the horrible wait for her results. The after effects of the treatments lasted for weeks and weeks, even now she has sudden outbursts of diarrhea and we can often be found dashing for the nearest toilet. Mum had her final scans on December 14th and we hoped to get the results before Christmas. No such luck, we had to wait until over 2 months until February 25th !!

Cancer effects everyone – how could it not? You could  potentially loose one of the most important people in your life. Dad wasn’t himself, months of worry took its toll, he looked like a tired, broken man and sometimes he was quite sharp with us. He had the added worry of is mum (my Grandma) who over Christmas was admitted into hospital with a broken arm. She has since been placed in a nursing home due to the escalation in her Alzheimers.  I often ponder just how he managed to do it all and remain sane. It appears I come from a couple of extremely strong individuals!

My brother tends to burrow his head in the sand, which doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, he just hates illness and doesn’t like to be around it. I’m the opposite, I have to know everything and went to see her regularly. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I had my moments but stayed strong for mum. I do believe that a positive attitude helps; they even told us that at the Hospital. I also believe that laughter is a great healer. I can honestly say that having the ability to laugh at yourself and certain situations is a great trait to possess. When times were at their darkest , I think that is probably when  mum and I laughed the hardest.

Above: Mum and I organised a coffee morning to raise funds for Western Park Hospital. A morning of coffee, cake and chat, we raised over £250. At this stage mum was still awaiting her results.

So to conclude. Our story is a positive one- on 25th February 2013 at approximately 11.30am mum got the all clear!! The best news we could have ever hoped for. We get to keep mum. She has to have scans every 3 months for the next few years but that’s not such a bad thing.

I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy; it’s a horrible disease which is physically, mentally and emotionally debilitating for the patient but also those around them. The not knowing and having to watch somebody you love suffering is awful . Yes the treatment was making her better but it was still tough to see. We’ve been on a roller coaster of a ride but we made it to the other side, a little battered and bruised but here.

Here with my mum…


My mum asked that I pass on one message – if you have any unusual symptoms, however small, please pay your doctor a visit. Time is the key and the quicker you act the higher your chances of survival.

It could just save your life.

Until next time, Tracey x

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