Mum Don’t read this!
Cancer doesn’t just have an impact in those going through it. It reverberates throughout loved ones for a long time after the fact.
Cancer, one of the most ugly words in the world to me. I will never ever forget getting the call from my stepfather. I was at work, I used to work in local government and the day was coming to an end when I got the call that changed so much. He said to come home straight from work mum needed to talk with me. Now my mum and I have this Absolutely Fabulous relationship (she is nowhere near Eddie!) but we definitely had the mother daughter relationship on backwards, what can I say I have always been miss responsible and mum is a big excitable kid really... so I instantly knew what it was. How...? I just knew. I got off the quick call and burst into tears. My colleague rallied around me and told me I could be wrong and to go talk with mum and find out what it was.
I did not live at home which is why he called to ask me to go there from work. This next bit I don’t recall. I just recall how it felt. panic, panic through my core Vibrating in my bones, my nerves, my soul.
I am a fixer, you come to me with a problem and I want to give you solutions to do something practical about it. So this is what I did, I hit google hard! Very hard! Reading in depth studies and becoming the best expert I could be. I wrote a list of natural remedies that would help mum in varying forms. And gosh it must have cost my stepdad and I a small fortune but he was right there with me, we are similar in this respect or perhaps he was placating me.
Mum went in for surgery, she had these compression socks on and I remember her feet tingling so I massaged her feet. It’s funny how these small things stick with you. I honestly felt like all these things could be the ‘last’.
Mum needed Herceptin and our local authoritiy would not fund it as didn’t deem it necessary despite what doctors had said. So with that quick as a flash poof off they moved to Taunton where the local authorities would fund it! I believe this was called a post code lottery :(
I didn’t drive at this point and set about having driving lessons at the ripe age of 26 so I could drive to see my mum a four hour drive no less! I passed second time round and made that journey a few times by myself.
Mum started chemotherapy followed by radio therapy and Herceptin. I recall the first time seeing my mum after she had lost all her hair. She was bald, no eyebrows nothing. The shock took my breath away as I hadn’t seen the gradual loss just the total loss. I did not want to add to what my mum was going through and in those split seconds I got over my shock and denied my emotions and an emotional response to show on my face. See this was my coping method. Bury this beast in the pit of beyond never going to accept this reality!
One of the next times I saw mum she forgot she was having her Herceptin treatment which was a home visit. See I hate veins! It’s my 🤢 thing! I cry and have to do deep breathing to have a blood test even at this age (Psst almost 40). Well this treatment is a veins kinda one and my god I could not take this. It pretty much finished me off. My BRAVE mummy was being pumped full of various chemicals to keep her alive, her whole body was changed. She was fragile, more fragile that I have ever known her and she has been through some shite let me tell you! She is an utter amazing hero!!
Mum eventually got the all clear in as much as it was gone and she was clear but you never really get the all clear (that’s another story!) when mum was told this news the strangest thing happened to me. I absolutely fell apart, just writing that I still feel it. Like a strange relief and fear at the same time. I had the most terrifying dream that mum had passed, I was at the cemetery and could not find her grave and I was in so much distress. My husband (then boyfriend) had to wake me as I was crying so loud I had woken him. But he woke me mid dream and I have never been able to get over that dream. It is an insight to what it’s going to feel like when the day inevitably comes when I lose my parents. This stayed with me so much that when my daughter was born I insisted that she have my name as her middle name so that I am always with her.
During this time I needed help with my mental health in processing this. I reached out to McMillIan who allocated me an online counsellor. She was amazing and really helped me.
Before christmas a long standing client of mine mentioned during her session that her mum was ill and was sad she couldn’t make the session as she probably wouldn’t make it past Christmas. Now she did not know what this would do to me. My inner monologue went ok when do I have free time!? Can I squeeze in a session!? my peak period..hell
no am I going to accept payment.. yes I will find a way to do it. I had one day off but I knew how much this would mean to her. So I offered to come and take some portraits of her mum at home on this day.
The day came and when I arrived there were all her children and grandchildren there. She looked frail but lovely and beautiful, I was professional and put any emotions out the windows and set about making sure I captured things that would mean a lot.
At one point near the end she was singing to her grandchildren so I flicked my camera into movie mode and filmed this. People say I have a knack for knowing how to make people cry but it’s more I think I have a gift for knowing what is important to people and that hits nerves doesn’t it! I knew hearing her mums voice would mean so much to her in the future.
Five days later sadly she was gone. Didn’t quite make it to Christmas. I was so glad I was able to go and capture these portraits. I know how treasured they will be to my client, her children and generations to come. It was also a reminder to me as to why I love what I do, what I am able to bring to peoples lives. Treasured memories!
To everyone supporting someone dealing with cancer I just want to say. Reach out and get some help for yourself too. Don’t neglect yourself there is help out there for us too. There is no point being a hero all the time for our brave heroic loved ones if we then fall apart behind the scenes. I needed help and I was so strong, I found a strength in me I did not know existed but I still needed help as it causes all sorts of things to come to the surface. This is one of the first times I have written all this down and it is also one of the few times I have been able to get though the story without breaking and it’s 14/15 years later.... My beautiful mum! My hero!