I’ve ‘hummed and arrhhed’ about posting this for fear of offending people , for fear of coming across depressive. I’m not here to conform, and it is just my thoughts, my musings of the last few months.
I braved it and hit publish.
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As regular readers will be aware my mum died on July 10th 2017.
The official cause of death Endometrioid Carcinoma of the Upper Vagina and end stage Kidney Disease.
I was there as she took her last breath.
Just like that … after 2 weeks in palliative care she gave up the good fight.
It took me a while to be able to say it and not feel terrible… but it was a relief.
To see somebody you love who had always been so active – bed-bound and in pain, with no prospect of getting better is gut-wrenching. The helplessness you feel, the aching, the love, the anger, the sadness … it a real mix of emotion, it’s confusing.
It caused me anxiety, sleepless nights and pangs of guilt.
I didn’t eat.
I didn’t sleep
I just existed and cried a lot.
I ran on auto pilot.
Everyday for her last 13 days I’d get up and do my best ‘Stepford Wife’ impression. I’d drive to the hospital where I’d sit all day. I’d put on my positive smiley face. I didn’t want Mum to see me sad and crying for her. She was still there and that’s all that mattered
Clinging onto her.
Telling her everything I wanted too while I still had the chance.
I drank coffee on repeat, held her hand, stoked her face and told her I loved her. I’d go home exhausted , go to bed and lay there all night unable to sleep worried she would pass in the night alone.
Mum didn’t open her eyes, move or talk for the last 4 days of her life . She was like a shell.
I still read to her, sang her favourite songs. Watched ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ and guessed how much the houses would go for. It was a one way conversation but sometimes I’d get a half smile or she’d clinch my hand. Knowing she was still there made me selfishly feel safe. Mum was still here and things would be ok. Ohhh I knew full well that things weren’t ok but your body armour has a stage way of buffering the pain by letting you believe the unbelievable.
The nurses would often walk in to find me mid way through a rendition of one of her favourite tunes. Somebody once told me that the last sense to go was your hearing. I’m not sure if that’s true but if it was I wanted her to know I was there, to not be scared , that she wasn’t alone. That she wasn’t going to die by herself. She’d always been there for me . I’d always be there for her.
For 46 years she was my mum.
My best friend.
She made me laugh so much. She had a zest for life. This …. this wasn’t fair.
In July 2012 on the way back home from a fabulous weekend away she popped to the toilet and passed what they believe was the body of the tumour. A mass of dark blood and mucous. It was enough to scare Mum into seeing the doctor straight away the very next day.
Following various tests she was diagnosed with upper vaginal cancer. I can remember feeling as though somebody had floored me, that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach.
She spent the last 5 years of her life fighting the bastard. Always with dignity, always with humor and a smile.
Her initial treatment consisted of 25 days of intensive radiotherapy which left her with burnt skin and the nick name ‘baboon bum’. It made her extremely ill. It wiped her out but we kept telling her it would make her better. That she’d not have a red bum forever.
A major operation followed to cut the remainder of the cancer and surrounding area away.
They cut the majority of her bladder and vagina away leaving her with a stoma. We fondly referred too this as her cherry bakewell . Mum quickly adjusted to ‘weeing into a bag’. Always the joker she said it was a godsend on nights out as there was no queuing in the ladies toilets and that she’d save a fortune on toilet paper.
Regular check-ups every 3 months to start with led to one major ‘all clear’
One almighty celebration party followed. So much happiness. So much hope. So much Gin! Hangover for days.
Mum was one of the lucky ones. She had #beathebastard a hashtag I used a lot back then.
A year in the clear …
In 2016 her one remaining kidney began to fail, this resulted in her having to endure dialysis 3 times a week . I say endure because that’s exactly what’s he did … she hated it.
In October 2016 we received the devastating news that the cancer had returned with vengeance . She was now classed as ‘living with cancer.’
Dread filled my whole being once again. I felt sick constantly.
The doctors would give her tablets to try and stem the growth but there were no guarantees.
Mum began to deteriorate quickly, she found walking difficult and tired easily . She fell down a lot, banging her head a few times in the process. She kept picking infections up which made the condition worse. It was agreed that we [the family] needed to be there 24/7 so between us we ensured that she was never alone .
I can remember sitting with her in the Conservatory one day during that time. It was a beautiful sunny day, I was sat holding her hand while she fell in and out of sleep. She was in a good mood. She turned to me and said “I’d be quite happy if this was my lot, sat in my home with my family around me. People popping in and out to see me” I can remember thinking how wonderful she was , such strength in adversity.
I went home and cried.
June 2017 …. the news we never wanted to hear. The doctors had done all they could. The cancer had spread into her bowel and stomach .
She had just weeks to live. Two at the most they said. 14 days.
Had they made a mistake? Please let it be a mistake.
Clinging on … to hope.
She was admitted into the palliative care unit at the Northern General and that’s where she saw out the rest of her life.
We tried to make it as comfortable as possible …but it was hard . When we asked Mum what she wanted to do before she died she said to have a Gin. Her request became reality, she was taken off her medication and a Gin & Cake party was organised. Lots of her friends showed up. It was a beautiful afternoon.
Even on her deathbed she wasn’t going to let it win.
Although in the end it did.
Bastards, bastard cancer
So your no doubt asking the question why I’m sharing all this with you.
I made a few of these to Mum in the weeks leading upto her death. One of them was that I would raise cancer awareness , try and stop any other woman going through what she did.
I’m going to be doing lots of fundraising, which will hopefully raise awareness and much needed money for research. There is stuff in the pipeline. [I’ll talk about that more in another post.]
Another promise was that I would share her story both before and after the cancer diagnosis. That for as long as I was around she wouldn’t be forgotten.
She made it clear she didn’t want to be defined by her cancer. She wanted to be remembered laughing, drinking gin, upto mischief. Peggy pre cancer, not poorly sick Peggy.
Personally I feel that Mum didn’t go through all she did to be forgotten in 3 months… because [daft as it may sound] sometimes that what it feels like. It never happened and she never existed.
I get people don’t know what to say. I do . I get they don’t want to upset me. But you know what your silence on the matter upsets me more.
You may think I’m talking out of turn, that I’m being unjust but all those people who said they’d be there for me… where are the they now?
I’ve not heard from some of them since before the funeral. Are they really my friends? Put the boot on the other foot, imagine you’d lost your Mum and I’d not been in touch ?
Not a nice feeling is it?
Be that thoughtful friend.
I don’t want grand gestures, flowers or chocolates but a quick ‘you alright ?’ text wouldn’t go a miss every now and again.
Nothing will ever replace my Mum.
But everyday I wake up and feel the sunshine on my face I think of Mum holding my hand that day ‘ happy with her lot’ and think how lucky I was to have her in my life.
Love will see us through.
* Linking up with the lovely Not Lamb #SaturdayShareLinkUp