Accepting mum’s fate

People often say to me so what’s next?

Well to put it bluntly there is no next, there is simply surviving.

This can be said for not only my mum but for me too.

I think the subject of finality always makes people uncomfortable, nobody wants to talk about the end – especially when the person is still alive.

I don’t have any answers and neither do the doctors, it is just the way it is and it’s the way it always will be.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve completely banished all hope.

There is going to come a point where my mum won’t want to carry on with chemotherapy anymore…or there might not be?

She might say ‘fuck you cancer’ right to the very end. It’s up to her and no one else.

I can’t change what is happening and neither can mum. So if I can’t change mum’s future then why let her present be miserable?

As mum battles on I’m starting to try and not take conversations about finality so negatively.

Reaction is key in these situations and if your loved one is comfortable discussing this with you then that’s a good thing.

This was the case on a crisp Saturday afternoon.

Chips and a sea view with mum meant she was surrounded by happiness, love and familiarity.

Nothing could be heard but the wind and the rustle of our chip paper but mum suddenly pointed and said “I want to be scattered on little eye” (the island next to Hilbre Island in West Kirby).

She was so matter of fact that I didn’t have time to react.

When you’re in such a beautiful place it’s easy to forget the reality that is in front of you.

So, I joked about how the conversation had abruptly took on a morbid turn, we laughed and she said “well it’s so my ashes can blow back in your face like my dad’s did with us three girls.”

Her sense of humour made it easier and the experience changed into joyful one.

It made me feel comfortable with mum’s wishes, and it suddenly dawned on me that she had accepted what is and would be.

There was a moment of calmness as we looked out towards the sea.

It was then I knew mum was going to be okay. She was here with me, enjoying the moment.

When she is no longer here in the present it is then I’ll look to the sea.

Guilt

Guilt.

The emotion is probably not at the top of everyone’s ‘feel good lists.’

It makes us feel pretty miserable and acts as a gateway for other negative emotions to enter our consciousness.

However, guilt can be helpful in terms of admitting wrong-doing, apologising and giving us a desire to behave appropriately.

Guilt is often associated with a crime which leaves me to question why I feel it almost everyday. I’m not aware of becoming Britain’s most wanted this year, nevertheless, I have noticed guilt’s presence in my mind or in conversation when it comes to how I’m feeling.

My rational side of my brain knows, deep down, that this emotion is wrong but the power of it is enough to make me forget.  

Guilt has popped in on several occasions, uninvited and refusing to leave.

  • Guilt for caring about what others think of me.
  • Guilt for taking a mental health break.
  • Guilt if my partner is upset because I feel my depression and anxiety rubs off on him.
  • Guilt for cancelling plans. 

I know guilt is disguising itself here as anxiety but I never call out the emotion at the precise time. Instead I reflect afterwards when the damage has already been done.

BUT I have felt real intense, guilt, which is why it is hard for me to call it out when it appears irrationally.

For a long time I have felt guilty because of mum’s cancer diagnosis.

When the news sunk in and we realised the monster was in mum, shock was replaced by guilt.

Let me explain…

A year before we were in ‘The Room’, my world was turning upside down one afternoon as my anxiety took me to a dark place.

I didn’t want to be here.

I couldn’t cope with life anymore. I was exhausted and I felt I had nowhere to turn to.

I had never felt so alone.

I wanted out but I stayed.

I chose life and instead of seeing that as a positive guilt made it a negative because I associated that situation with a new one – mum’s cancer diagnosis.

Mum had/has no choice of how long she stays on this planet for, cancer has decided that for her.

I did have a choice and I nearly chose wrong.

My mum’s life is so precious, everyone’s life is precious yet I was so quick to disregard my own, I don’t have a terminal illness.

Guilt has consumed me for so long over this and I am still calling it out now.

It’s destructive if you choose it to be.

As days pass, and each day I count as a blessing with mum, I realise that I have no reason to feel guilty.

It is not my fault this has happened. It is not my fault I experienced what I did.

Guilt? No.

Now I see strength.

Strength that I am meant to be here…to remind mum of her own.

The Room

I keep replaying it.

That moment when my world fell away beneath my feet.

I gripped my dad’s hand tighter as the room drew near and the hall began to disappear.

One light flickered above and the staff went about their business, gripping their clipboards tightly, always in a hurry.

I was in no hurry.

I focused on the surgeons steps ahead, guiding us to the room.

I tried to ignore the nurse beside him, blocking the thoughts of why she was there.

My palm was sweating more in my dad’s hand now and I realised I hadn’t yet taken a breath.

My brother should be here, (I can’t remember why he wasn’t) this was all happening so fast.

We knew there was a possibility of the monster being inside mum but we were just here to speak about how her surgery went, right?

We entered the room.

The tissues set poised on the table and the leaflets screamed at me in the corner of my eye, as if they already knew what was coming.

The chairs were cold and uncomfortable, much like the surgeon’s expression.

Beside him the nurse smiled and I realised her purpose. The surgeon began and it wasn’t good.

The monster liked mum too much and it wasn’t going anywhere.

In fact it had made its bed in several places inside her body. It claimed the pancreas home and was moving on to the stomach and bowel.

I couldn’t allow it to happen.

The surgeon’s mouth moved but I wasn’t listening anymore, I was thinking of a plan.

Dad squeezed my hand and began asking the surgeon questions.

“There’s not much more we can do other than hope her body will get stronger and she can fight it with chemotherapy.”

“There’s not much more we can do.”

I let go of dad’s hand.

“There’s not much more we can do.”

What’s stage four, terminal?

“There’s not much more we can do.”

Tissues were placed in my hand then.

I sat motionless, feeling the leaflets staring smugly.

They left me and dad alone and then my world fell apart.

I cried until I couldn’t and to this day I can still hear myself screaming “I’m going to lose my mummy.”

My 26-year-old body hidden in the comfort of my dad’s arms.

I didn’t notice the flickering light in the corridor again, no longer smiled at the staff walking past in the hallway.

Mum was waking up from surgery, she needed us.

She didn’t yet know the monster had come to stay and we couldn’t yet tell her.

I held my mum’s hand tightly.

I’ve been holding it ever since.