Life Changing

About a year ago, my Mum had just had two strokes and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our lives had already changed dramatically by then because a few months previously my Nan had died and three weeks before that my Grandma had died. The fact that my Mum went to my Grandma’s funeral and my Dad went to my Nan’s (along with my Grandpa) meant the absolute world to me and my brother (as our parents had been divorced for 25 years).

It is very difficult to express what it feels like to see your young-at-heart, hard-working mother’s life and hopes being turned upside down. Mesothelioma, maybe more than most other types of cancer, induces huge amounts of anger. People are dying in their thousands because governments did and are doing nothing to ensure people aren’t breathing in lethal asbestos dust. My Mum’s life and that of everyone who loves her was changed when she was told she might not live more than 2 years, and possibly as little as 6 months.

The first few months after my Mum’s diagnosis were desperately difficult. Her first set of chemo sessions made her feel like she was already dying. She was extremely depressed and saw no way her life would be better than it was then, when she couldn’t eat or drink or see the point of anything. My Mum’s Dad died in January and she wasn’t well enough to go to his funeral in February. Once she recovered from the chemo and the seasons started to change, my Mum went back out into her lovely garden and slowly regained enough energy and confidence to leave the house and become enthusiastic about my brother’s wedding.

My Mum received lots of compliments about how well she looked, you really couldn’t tell how ill she was and how awful she had been feeling such a short time ago. As summer approached she continued to stay medically ‘stable’ and her spirits rose. We had a family holiday and my sons were over the moon to have Nanny with us, not really understanding that the main purpose of the holiday, as with almost everything we do now with my Mum, is to make memories and wring every bit of happiness out of each moment with her. Our lives had changed so much since my Mum’s diagnosis. We’ve always enjoyed spending time with my Mum, but now it’s got an added weight to it.

Over the months it became possible to almost forget that my Mum has a terminal illness, until I do remember, or speak to her. Or when anyone talks about the future, when the boys are older, my 40th…

Then, after her breathing had obviously become very difficult, my Mum returned to the specialist and found out that her asbestos-infected lung was filled with fluid and that the tumour needed treating again. She waited until it was very difficult because she’s dealt with asthma her whole life and so is quite good at staying in control of her breathing difficulties. She can’t control the fact that she’s going to die too early, and that the end of her life will be extremely hard to bare for both her and those who will be looking after her. Any things she wants to have control over I think are more than understandable.

This set of chemo sessions has been going quite well with minimal nausea and tiredness, what a relief compared to the first set. Mum has been going out over the whole time she’s been having chemo, and has done a few things that I don’t think she’d have got round to if she wasn’t thinking there might not be another chance. After the fourth, hours long chemotherapy treatment last week she hasn’t been feeling so good. Partly the build up of toxins in her system, partly the onset of darker weather, and partly unnecessary stresses have all contributed.

Life changing moments can happen at any time. I’m gutted that my sons will lose their Nan too soon, and that cancer has become a commonplace word in our house. We’ll continue to build memories. I’ll continue to to feel devastated and angry but try to do something positive with it. This may be the most difficult time in my life, but I’m determined to keep in perspective  the things that authentically matter in life, and that has always meant sincere, selfless kindness. There might be times when I feel I can’t cope, but I have for this long, and I must for my children and my Mum (she’s a worrier!). We are capable of so much, as long as we keep kindness in our hearts we can always find positivity.
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