There is no measure of time that it will take for a person to overcome the grief of losing someone who is directly related to them; this I have learned first hand.
It has been almost four months since my Mum passed away. Four long months since I saw her face, heard her laugh, teased her with something totally inappropriate or since she commented on something she saw on one of her favourite TV shows. This seems like forever ago, yet there is a conflicting passage of time that makes it seem like yesterday that she was at full capacity and we were shopping together, having Wednesday lunches together or that I was staying at her house most nights of the week so we could watch Masterchef together where I would live tweet her hilarious commentary.
It seems like not that long ago that I was doubled over in pain, food poisoned or suffering a severe case of gastro where she was taking care of me, loaning me money to afford a “real” (non medicare) doctor at the end of my pay cycle and shuttling me to and fro and making me food until I felt better. The normal comforts of having a mother that loves you unconditionally.
It has been almost four months since my Mum passed away and all I know is that the pain of that loss has hit me with a weight that I can’t quite aptly convey to anyone else that’s in my life. No one can ever understand the love between my Mum and I because they were not part of it. I regularly dream of her and sometimes they end in nightmares and other times I wake up feeling thankful that I’ve had the chance to see her and that she hasn’t faded from my memory. I am thankful that I haven’t yet forgotten how she smelled or how it felt to be comforted by her.
Sometimes I feel that when I talk about her, people become glazed over because they kind of expect that because it’s almost been 4 months, I should be ‘almost’ over it — or that my pain should have dulled at least.
The truth is that I don’t think I will ever feel less pain about my Mum’s passing. The guilt of what I ‘could’ have or ‘should’ have said or done will never pass (despite the fact that I did a lot and I know she would never accuse me of any different). Four months may have almost passed by quickly, but the immediacy of her passing required me to be level-headed, emotion-free and diligent in planning a funeral, taking care of bits and pieces, letting everyone know, and allying everyone else’s sadness by pretending I was totally okay with the new reality of a life, motherless.
Because of the fastness in which my Mum passed, I can see how shell-shocked we all were in hindsight — perhaps that was attributed to all the denial we faced about her condition. Nevertheless, the three weeks of work that I took off didn’t really give me the time I needed. Again, in hindsight, it might have been smart to go back to work immediately and rather take the time when I began to feel the weight of losing her — like now.
I try to recall the good memories; but they even make me sad with the reality that we will never have the chance to create anymore.
Along with the other monsters in my head, intruding upon the normal functionality of a brain, I go to sleep with this sadness every single night and wake up feeling the weight of the loss as I try to turn the music up to drown it all out as I get ready for the day. When I get in the car and in those moments that I am alone, I find myself either having to listen audio books, or else endure the tears and the stupid guilt.
As a result the silly thoughts begin and I have to try to bargain with myself with a routine or compulsion just to ease it off; like a superstition. It starts with one thing and it domino effects in to a thousand things and before I know it, I can barely get out of bed, wracked with grief, depression, intrusive thoughts and feelings that not another person will ever be able to ease save for the presence of my Mum who was really the only person I trusted to tell me the truth without getting angry or frustrated with me — even if it was sometimes cutting and blunt.
It isn’t that I don’t feel like I can’t talk to people about it, my family and my friends have been so good — but I find it hard to talk about it without being aware of their discomfort or lack of words that will make me feel better. Nothing makes it better and I don’t think it ever will.
Just this week I have felt off — unsure if it is just stress of grief or genuine sickness, I took myself off to the doctors three times and each time a different outcome ensued. Yesterday I had a blood test and had to wait for the results. After hours my doctor called me back and I missed the call by around 4 minutes so she left a muffled voice message that I couldn’t distinguish and something about coming back but also the word ‘mild’ was heard somewhere — regardless of the logic that bad news wouldn’t have been allowed to be left in a voice mail, I went in to melt down. Because it was after hours, I couldn’t call back without it going to an answering message service and I lost my shit for a good hour.
I suppose the point of this is to just acknowledge the fact that there truly is no allotted time that one must adhere to when it comes to grief and its okay to lose your friggin’ marbles for as long as it takes to feel better again.
In fact, when the funeral and the flowers and the well wishes and the shock dissipates, the gravity of the loss hits hard. As funny as it is, I feel like this quote is apt and it’s from Michael Scott so I know my Mum would approve:
..I mean, if we were talking about trying to put it in to words and all.
The other things I’ve learned about grief and loss is that people do say some stupid shit to you. The nurse taking care of my Mum immediately after her passing told me this as she comforted me and I knew it was true in the moment but I didn’t know just how true until someone tried to tell me to stop talking about my Mum because I was torturing myself.
I’ve learned that talking does help sometimes but in my case, writing is a release too and so if you are reading this wondering why I’ve done a violent overshare of emotions, then I will tell you it is because it is good for me and at this point in time, I am taking care of myself because unfortunately despite my age, my mother isn’t here to help me do that anymore.
Also, grief sometimes doesn’t show up immediately. For me, I didn’t feel it; didn’t get it. I didn’t cry after leaving her that night. I didn’t cry at her funeral, really. I was able to smile and laugh and joke and continually tell everybody how chill I was about my Mum dying. And for a little while, I truly believed my own hype.
Until of course, the grief did hit…
Moving on from the loss of someone is actually impossible, but adjusting your life to a lifetime without an important person in it, is possible with time. The pain won’t ever pass, I don’t think. And there are days that I’m sure in 10 years time that I will take to just cry and remember her, but I am hoping that what I am going through currently will pass in its due course.
But right now, I miss my Mum so much that it is painful to think about her and thinking about her makes it literally hard for me to breathe.
(She is probably wishing she could give me “a clip ’round the earhole” as I write this).
So yeah, that’s where I am at. Now I’m off to avoid life by nose diving in to yet another book.
Although, given what’s happened I don’t know if I’m ready to be back at anything, so time will tell as to whether or not I want to take more time away from regular life and given that I didn’t have a superficial relationship with my Mum, my loss is great, I don’t know if I know what regular life feels like anymore.
But I’ll try.
Where I left off:
On October 10th my Mum had two massive seizures which changed the course of what life my day-to-day life was and she never came home from hospital.
I had my 33rd birthday on the 14th.
On the 15th, I had a trip to go to Queensland with my cousin booked. I debated for a week and some as to whether or not I go and my stepdad and I agreed that there wasn’t really much I could do at home, so I went for my 5 day trip. I don’t regret going, but I did spend most of my time there feeling guilty about not being with my Mum. In hindsight, I don’t regret going because what was waiting for me back home when I returned was something I may have not been able to emotionally manage without that break.
I spent a lot of time in between trying to read different books for blogging purposes but found nothing that held my interest — perhaps this was more to do with my state of mind rather than a problem with the books.
After my trip my time was spent literally every second day driving back and forth to and from the hospital where my Mum was located and trying to keep myself together enough to visit her without falling apart, continue working without letting anyone down, combating my mental health, trying not to direct the anger that I felt toward my friends or my boyfriend and … breathe.
On November 6th my Mum passed away in a way that was both expected and unexpected. We had all hoped and prayed that she would turn a corner and be well enough to come home after treatment. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be.
The important thing was that my Mum was surrounded by the most important people in her life for the last few days and was cared for beautifully by unforgettable staff of the facility where she was being kept comfortable. It devastates me that we were unable to bring her home like she so desperately wanted to be, but it just wasn’t to be. She passed away in our arms, quite literally and there wasn’t a single other way I would have wanted it.
I think if it weren’t for the support from my family and friends, I would probably be in a heap somewhere…
Even writing the words above are hard to do without falling apart. Again.
In between all of that, I was incredibly sick and it turned out that I actually had pneumonia. My brother and I suspect it was due to the fact that I slept in the cold, baron part of my Mum and Stepdad’s house with cold, wet hair after we left the nursing home for the last time. The weekend she passed happened to be one of the coldest mornings that I can remember. I slept minimally for the next few days which probably didn’t help – running purely on adrenalin until the funeral passed.
I’ve only just come out the other side of being sick but I still can’t stop coughing when I’m in the middle of a fit. Not fun.
My friends stayed at my house and were great for laughs and for someone to try all the places where I wanted to eat but didn’t want to go alone. My workmates were incredibly supportive and some went as far as feeling the weight of my sadness and helping out in practical ways. My cousin helped me plan out my goals and plans going forward week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year. My boyfriend has been endless in doling out his affections, support and love as usual, even if it’s not always fun for him — or really either of us. Everyone else has been amazing in offering support in kind ways, practical ways and emotionally.
My cousin stayed the longest, offering her pragmatic support which has been good at keeping my mind busy so that when life does feel a bit normal again, I can do all of the things that I have wanted to do but didn’t get the chance because I was 1, emotionally exhausted, 2, too busy with my Mum, 3, didn’t feel timing was right.
Tomorrow I go back to work for the first time in three weeks. I am unsure about how to feel about that or whether or not I feel ready, but I do feel like the routine is going to do me the world of good.
Afternoon drinking is probably not going to work out very good for me if I keep going as I am.
I started reading again this week, so I suppose a book review will be on the way and I plan to post some photos of the month and a half where life went a bit awry.
In the meantime, my cousin has been working really hard on our business so you could check that out — we have some really cool new products and if you use bfriday16 promo code, you can get 20% off until tomorrow. http://www.bigcuzlittlecuz.com
This is the eulogy that I somehow managed to read at my Mother’s funeral on the 15th of Nov, 2016. Posted for those who were unable to hear parts of it due to my sniffling, voice cracking or just cos they were busy snivelling themselves. (This was shortened on the day)
For anyone who knows me and who also knows my Mum, they’ll be able to attest to how similarly our minds think.
Standing here now talking in a serious way at her funeral seems unreal, because the loose plans we made for this to happen are not the way its playing out right now.
Jokingly, on a trip to Sydney one time, Mum and I started talking about how we want our funeral to go. It was not this. We started by agreeing that we would want our presence to be missed – none of this, celebrate-my-life crap, but really, you know, feel the pain… that if guests weren’t grieving appropriately, they should be removed by an usher.
An Usher who happened also to be Usher – the singer… Usher the singer sounded good, but what sounded even better was the idea of one of our best friend’s actually arriving down the aisle on the back of a pot-bellied pig with a lasso and the threat to remove anyone who wasn’t wailing loudly and comically over their loss.
However, there’s probably no need to have that designated piggy-cowboy turn up, because I am sure everyone here feels that loss and that grief just the same as I do right now.
Many people knew my Mum to be a certain way – to all jokes, humour, bluntness and coca-cola… not a lot of people knew my Mum like I did.
My Mum was loyal, dependable, protective, sensitive, supportive, loving, kind, compassionate and the absolute best friend that someone could ever hope to have. You always knew where you stood with her and she always told you what you thought to your face. She was also hilarious and quick-witted and had a lot of good stories to share.
Those who have known my Mum for as long as my brother and I have been around will know just how protective she was of us. Some examples;
– When my first real and serious boyfriend devastated me by ghosting me out of the blue , she sent him a cutting, blunt and … shall we say, threatening text, allowing you all to colour the lines, she told him to do her daughter the respect to let her know what was happening or…. else… Less than three minutes later I had a reply to one of my embarrassingly many texts telling me it was over.
– After a day of being mercilessly teased at school, I went home and told my Mum. The next day she waited outside of the school like a sniper, only with a cigarette in hand and a narrow-eyed glare that I found incredibly intimidating when I was on the receiving end of it. Once I pointed the offender out, she got out of her car and basically made him feel the same way he had been making me feel for weeks; scared, fearful of my safety … and so forth.
– Growing up, I spent a lot of time in hospital for various reasons – my Mum was by my side every single day regardless of how much she didn’t want to be there, regardless of how anxious it made her and regardless of how boring it was. I never once woke up without her by my side. She made me laugh when needles were coming at me, she told me to picture my grandmother doing karate when I was crying about being stuck with an IV… in every avenue of my health, my Mum was always there telling me that everything was okay, even when we weren’t sure that it was going to be.
– When Mum was re-diagnosed with cancer early last March, we weren’t expecting the prognosis to be quite as bad as it was. I went with her to hold her hand, to hopefully protect her the way that she had been protecting me health wise. When we were delivered the news that there were legions in her lungs, without warning, I broke down and melted down so hard and so fast that all I can remember is my mum hugging me and telling me that it was okay as the doctor called for some help. Because even though she had been delivered some crippling, devastating and out-of-the-blue news, she still wanted to protect me.
– “Its allright, Jessie,” I can still hear her saying it. Its what she said whenever I’d start melting down about the cancer – way to make it all about myself, right?
In 2009, Michael Jackson announced a bunch of concerts in London… I went to bed hearing the news, hatching my plans… my Mum woke up reading the news knowing I was hatching my plans. As I walked down the hallway to greet her in the morning, she glanced at me – we both exchanged awkward glances; I began to smirk and finally she said, “Jessie, don’t even think about it…”
I went to London after Mum and I discussed how I would/could do it, I’d easily justified it to her, fully knowing no other parent would ever support their child going to a concert in England… I went even after Michael Jackson had died, for which I had been devastated – sharing just how much so with really no one except my Mum. I didn’t need to tell her though; she emailed me every day with her supportive words; she comforted me even when I felt okay… I think because it was something that we shared in common so we both felt the loss;
Our drives to Sydney to see family were often spent playing the entire Michael Jackson catalogue; we used to sing loudly together, poke fun when the other stuffed up the lyrics, or pause the music to discuss which version of him we preferred – we made up really stupid interpretive dancing which to the music which were really all had-to-be-there type moments of memories that I will treasure forever.
I don’t want to miss out on talking about how talented my Mum was. She was an artist. Not like some flimsy fiftys-something woman who’s children have flown the nest and has taken up a pottery class and thinks she’s quite good. No, my Mum is a creative genius. She is good at just about any art medium. I know that she’s good at every art medium because she was also fickle with her art interests. She could paint, she could sew, she could knit, she could build, she could sculpt. once I saw her bravely saw apart an incredibly expensive cupboard/wardrobe. Me on the other hand? Creative genius, not so much.
Mum didn’t do things by halves. When my brother and I were kids, Mum used to make dolls and country craft things which unfortunately included evil clowns and would sell them and do craft parties. One day, all of a sudden, she got bored and took up ceremics. She went to some classes, mastered it, came home, bought a kiln and set up shop in the garage. She did that for a few years, learning to paint with oils, chalks and make lots of cool pieces for the house – then, woke up one morning in the way that Mum could and thought, eh, I’m bored of that.
She took up folk art. It was only in the last 5 years that Mum sold the hundreds of magazines and folk art books and an impressive collection of paint brushes that I was never allowed to touch for my own flimsy art pieces.
And then when I took up jewellery making, she jumped on that band wagon with me. I took up crocheting at some stage and was actually able to teach her how to do something—it was a proud day, but the problem was, once Mum started, she didn’t stop until she was bored. Over the past 10 or so years, I’ve seen the kitchen at her and Shane’s place change from a country cottage theme, to a saturation of the colour red, to a vintage coca cola theme, old tin signs everywhere – truck stop style theme – she became bored of all of these things and just recently she had become obsessed with owls. The last thing I bought my Mum was an owl toy that she sat in the chair marvelling over. At her 60th birthday this year, her friend, Sandra bought her an owl necklace and every time it was removed over this past month she kept asking for it back, even right up until her last days…
What I want people to know most about Mum was how good of a friend she was. To me. A lot of people only get to know their parents as Mum or Dad, but the best part of my relationship blossomed with my mum in my early 20s when she allowed me to get to know her as a person not as simply, my Mum.
A lot of people make the throwaway statement that their Mum is their best friend – but for me its not lip service, my Mum was actually my very best friend. She knew more about me and how to read me better than anyone in my life. She knew what things I struggled with and sometimes I didn’t need to tell her how hard something was, she simply sensed it or could tell by looking at me. If she couldn’t understand my actions, she never made me feel bad or told me that I was wrong, she would hear me out and at least try.
A lot of people water down their personalities to seem more palatable to their parents, they hide a lot, they tell them only the good parts so as not to worry or upset them, but not me – my Mum is one of the only people who received the unfiltered version of myself that I could freely and comfortably be without any fear of rejection, hassle or self consciousness.
Actually, if anything, it sometimes became a joke of just how honest I could be with her that I would try to shock her – sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t – sometimes she’d shock me right back…
She was the best friend that anyone could have – she was always honest, would never let me leave the house without rethinking my eyebrows, my outfit, unless I wanted to look like I lived in Mt Druitt… she was my best shopping critic, the only person that I ever took shopping because she wouldn’t lie to me to save my feelings. In fact, I made my eyebrows and my dark roots a matter of urgency to fix before today, because my Mum would zone in on those things and remind me gently that they needed to be done.
“Ooohhh those roots need doing! Looks terrible.” “So…. You gonna get that eyebrow looked at, or what?”
Last year my brother took my Mum to Europe to Italy and Croatia… leading right up til around two weeks before she left, Mum was sick as a dog from all the chemotherapy and doubted whether or not she would be able to go and actually enjoy herself.
I was glad that she did go, and as if she hadn’t had chemo in awhile, she enjoyed that trip more than anything in the world. I still have the texts that she and I sent from over there saved on my phone that I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of. And for my brother, this is probably going to be one of his fondest times spent with her – during that trip chemo had destroyed Mums tastebuds so she was hard to please in terms of food, but when she did find something, it was all I heard about. She complained about the walking, but did it anyway – she took about a zillion photos and absolutely treasured the time she spent with her son and daughter-in-law. When she got back, every conversation for about a month began with, “Well when I was in Europe with your brother…”
This whole cancer thing has been the most harrowing journey that I’ve ever been on. A friend referred to it as living inside a fishbowl—that’s exactly how its felt on some days.
Mums original diagnosis was serious, but I didn’t honestly think that we would arrive here at the end of it – I don’t like to hear people telling us that her battle was lost to cancer, because it wasn’t. Her battle should not be diminished because she fought against this beast long and hard and with good humour, faith and determination for much longer than a lot of people are able to given the prognosis. At no stage did cancer beat her ability to laugh, smile, throw a smarty-pants statement at someone, usually her husband or I.
Cancer did not beat her ability to make outrageous food demands, or tell me that I my eyebrows needed doing or that my roots looked terrible.
Cancer may have wore her down and made her weak and frail and destroyed her tastebuds, stole her hair – which as it turns out – she didn’t care much about and given her a shorter span on life, but it didn’t take away the love that she had for her children, her husband, her family, her animal babies or her friends, but she did not lose her battle.
No one ever really can say they beat cancer and this was a discussion Mum and I had multiple times. When someone has been given the all clear, they have not beaten it, because its not a battle or a fight, it’s a disease that unfortunately puts a full stop on another person’s life.
“I hate it when people say they’ve beaten cancer, or cancer beat someone,” I told Mum one day after we went for lunch when she got back from Europe. “Me too,” she said, “you don’t beat cancer til you die of something else – like, maybe a heart attack.”
We both laughed, but how accurate.
People kept praising our strength and bravery in dealing with this and while that’s a nice thing to say, I want to say that none of us have been particularly strong – but rather, just dealing with it. Giving up was never really an option, but it didn’t mean there weren’t times that we didn’t fall apart or go slightly insane trying to process this journey.
There were times my Mum cried in grief and weariness and felt like running away from it all. I can only speak for myself, but I am sure both her husband and my brother has felt like its too much to handle as well. There have been times where I’ve made my boyfriend’s life difficult because I haven’t known how to properly process my grief. It’s not really about being strong or being brave, but its about knowing that there is absolutely no other alternative…
In my Mums life I never saw another single person or thing intimidate her; save for cancer… Maybe that’s not true, maybe she was intimidated by a lot of things, but she never once let it show, and to me that’s as good as.
My loss is great; the hole in my heart will never be repaired, with the loss of my Mum was a piece of my heart; my best friend, my supporter, my champion – and I’m not quite sure how to go about recovering from this, or if I ever will – my Mum did everything for me – and people often told me that I had to grow up sometime, but maybe that’s because they never really experienced having a relationship with their mother quite like mine. I didn’t need to grow up, I could and can do all those things myself, but she was happy to help or advise or come along to see the Dr with me and relay the important information so as to save me the panic of having to remember things on my own.
I was blessed to have the special, unique relationship that I had with my Mum for the short 33 years that I had her. I’m proud of her determination over the course of her diagnosis, I am proud that no doubt she continued on as long as she did for the sake of Shane and my brother and I… but I am glad that she is resting, that she is no longer in pain.
Cancer may have taken her but cancer never beat her.
My Mum is my best of joy and while my heart feels like it is in a thousand pieces and might never recover, I can be comforted knowing that I came in to the world loved by her and she was able to leave the world knowing that she was loved by us. Unconditionally, wholly and completely. With my Mum’s DNA woven in to every fibre of me, I was gifted with many of her best parts replicating themselves within me. My Mum was one of a kind and will now be the diamond in my sky.
I mean, I haven’t heard anyone who loved it, but I’m just fed up and tired of it. I hate how my life has become so desensitised toward it. I hate watching what it does to my Mum and I hate how much she has lost in her life since she had her second diagnosis in March 2015.
March 2015, that’s right — that was the second diagnosis of cancer less than three years after the first.
On 2nd April, 2015, I wrote this in my physical journal;
“Its that short span of time between waking up and recollecting the millions of tiny thoughts inside your brain. It disrupts the peace that allows me to be ignorant of the stress and concerns that dominate me around the clock. That moment is brief and fleeting but it’s welcome and it is the only thing that gives me the ability to launch myself out of bed. Without that, I doubt I would feel as much motivation or even will to get through the day”
What a world we are away from that.
Cancer has just become a daily part of my thoughts and feelings that it has been engrained in us all to feel normal; that chemotherapy is normal and the side effects and the doctors appointments, treatments, setbacks and more are just a all part and parcel.
I wake up and don’t even think about cancer for the most part, but I do check my phone to make sure no one has tried to call me or message me about my Mum in my sleep – to make sure that I haven’t missed out on any emergencies.
Oh, I definitely have the right to feel that given that my Mum had a massive seizure only a week and a half ago; so I am sometimes on edge and I am sometimes ruled from minute to minute by my anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder which is triggered by my Mum’s health and whether or not she seems ‘okay’ to me.
I am used to feeling like we can’t seem to catch a break. I am used to arguing with her about eating something and making sure she is strong. I am used to hear her telling me that she is sick of feeling sick and just over it all.
That’s something I guess I can relate to.
Metastatic breast cancer is no fucking joke. For those of you that don’t know, metastatic breast cancer is when the cancer has metastasised elsewhere in her body. In her case, it was in her lungs and then less than a year later, in her brain.
Cancer of the brain is also no fucking joke.
The hardest part about this is having to watch someone that you love and care about lose their faculties. In November last year my Mum lost the ability to type on the computer, text on her phone, walk without tripping and stumbling and it was swift and sudden and she required immediate treatment after some mini seizures.
According to her most recent appointments, she will begin a new chemotherapy on Monday and her brain MRI has been sent to Melbourne for the perusal of some other specialists to see if she will require targeted treatment (although happy with current results).
It’s just exhausting and to be honest, I’m not even her, I can’t imagine how she feels… and disease aside; it’s really pulled the curtain open on the disgusting behaviour of other people — their heartlessness, their ability to turn their back on someone while making excuses for why their life is so hard… it’s just overall, shit.
I just woke up today feeling like more emotional about the fact that I hate cancer and I hate that it’s a part of our lives and anyone else’s lives for that matter.
I had September all planned out – it was all blog schedules and gettin’ shit done.
Then I got sick and everything went through the window.
At the beginning of the week, we were waiting for results for my Mums CT scans. In case you missed the memo, my Mum has been dealing with cancer for far too long now — and these scans send us in to anxiousness and panic — a good friend of mine refers to it as scanxiety. Scanxiety is sure a good expression for it.
The results came back okay, thankfully – we received that news on Monday. There’s been no spread and the tumors in her brain are okay. The doctor was overall happy with the result and gave her a brief break from chemotherapy — we figured that was celebration-worthy.
Especially after the pure nauseousness that scanxiety induces.
And then on Wednesday, I started to get sick.
I haven’t been this sick for about two years now. The problem isn’t really with getting sick for me, its that when the coughing sets in, its really hard to cough up the gross stuff when you only have half of the resources to do it. Having one lung is no joke, people. Especially when you can’t sleep because you can’t stop the friggin’ coughing.
So, Friday rolled around and I migrated from the bed to the couch and began to watch episode after episode of Law & Order SVU between my coughing and spluttering and constant eye watering. I texted with my Mum who checked in to make sure I was okay.
About an hour or so later, I was trying to doze off when my phone rang — a call from my Mum’s husband which sent me in to a panic — he doesn’t generally call for chit-chat, I knew something was wrong immediately. I answered the phone to an absolute panicked voice saying my Mum had been rushed to hospital with a massive seizure and that the paramedics were working on her.
I entirely lost my shit. I can’t even verbalise my panic. I said I’d be there ASAP. I scrambled around in the midst of a giant panic attack; couldn’t breathe, couldn’t find clothes, ran around in circles, called my boyfriend to come and get me immediately because I knew I wouldn’t have been able to drive myself and spent the next fifty minutes (the time it took to arrive to the hospital) imagining the worst, horrible, unimaginable scenarios playing out.
My OCD brain immediately began dominating me, listing all the ways that this was obviously my fault and I would have to live with the guilt if she wasn’t okay.
Once at the hospital, my boyfriend dropped me off at the Emergency entry to go and park. I waited for him, stalling, too scared to go and ask to see her in case any of my imagined scenarios were a reality. And then infuriatingly when I did get the courage, there was some meandering guy standing at the admin window just chatting / complaining. I asked to be let in to see my Mum.
Frightening — even going through the doors.
Thankful to God, I walked in and found her laying in a bed being observed by nurses who were about to take blood. She noticed me. I asked if she was okay, she said she was. She was moving, she could see – I began to cry, feeling genuinely sick with relief that flooded me… looking at my Mum’s husband, I could tell her had been just as scared and as frightened as I was.
They were both white — having given them both a fright.
They did another CT which came back just the same as it had on Monday and she stayed overnight for observation and I visited her at home the next morning where she considered that we could go to the shop to feed her new Pandora ring obsession. No, though, I wanted her to rest and wasn’t feeling up to scratch myself.
Since then, I’ve been in bed coughing, coughing, coughing. Up all night coughing, coughing, coughing… It hasn’t been fun. I hope all this shittiness passes soon.
One of the weirdest, most lonely times in my life was when I was 12 and 13 years old.
At that age you’re supposed to be going through that awkward, bitchy girl phase where all you do is bitch fight with a circle of girlfriends who chop and change each week. Being 12 is a really prominent memory for me. At 12 I had bigger fish to fry. I was more concerned with not dying. I was in the midst of a shit storm of doctors and nurses scratching their head trying to out-do each other as to what was really wrong with me. And all I knew, was that I was under anaesthetic about one per week, my insides were bleeding and I was being pumped with bags of blood to try to replenish everything that I lost during a particularly bad haemmorhage.
I do often think about this time of my life, and I talk about it a little — but apart from it being frightening, I remember it being one of the most lonely and misunderstood times in my life.
Other 12 year-olds didn’t really understand what it felt like to be told point blank that their lives were in jeopardy. Other 12 year-olds didn’t have the same grasp on mortality that was suddenly hitting me. As far as they were concerned, I was out of sight and pretty much out of mind.
I’d just began high school and had barely been there long enough to establish any real friendships. When I got back to school, everyone had already forged friendships and always felt like I was on the fringes of groups of girls. Since I like to put a label on things (probably to help me compartmentalise things), I would say that in hindsight, I suffered a little post traumatic stress (in all my professional experience, lol) from all aspects of this illness. From anxiety attacks at the very sight of doctors to the stress and fear of leaving the comfort of my bed in to the real world every day when things were normal again.
Often, I laid around wishing that a friend would call, or someone would visit — I didn’t even care who. I didn’t care if they were friends of my parents, or family members — I just wanted someone to talk to.
Friday is Mum’s ‘bad’ day. I mean, she has some shitty days, but chemo-wise, “friday” is the day that I hear from her and the gravity of what she is going through truly hits home. Two fridays ago my Mum was having a ‘down’ day. She felt sad, bored and incredibly lonely.
And as a result, I felt angry and sad, helpless as well.
When someone we love is sick, why do we begin to avoid them? Is it hard for us to feel helpless? Yes; I can vouch that it is. I cried that entire Friday night and let the feeling of helplessness and sadness bleed in to the rest of my weekend. But isn’t it just as awful to know that you have caused part of that sadness?
It’s incredibly difficult to watch someone who was once in contact with dozens of friends and family just sit feeling as bored and as lonely as I did when I was at my sickest. There’s been so many times where I’ve wanted to write blunt messages to people who haven’t even bothered to pick up the phone, send a text or an email or a facebook message to ask if she’s okay. People who were her lifelong friends have all but disappeared –and maybe it’s easier for them, or maybe it’s that they don’t know what to say, but it’s truly just not good enough.
I don’t know what to say to my Mum half of the time — but I’m not a doctor and she doesn’t expect me to fix things — I am sure she just wants to vent some days, other days she’s probably just happy to talk about anything but the nothing that she is able to do. Do these people think that she’s constantly doom and gloom? That there is nothing left of her except sickness? Because, that’s total bullshit. My Mum is still as hilarious as she was 3 years ago — her life hasn’t changed all that much save for the fact that she’s going through chemo and feels like shit half of the week, partially because she is lonely.
Out of sight and out of mind — how hurtful.
When I know my friends or my family members are going through hard times, I offer them text messages or I call them, or invite them over or go to visit them — that just seems like the right thing to do. I put my bullshit feelings of discomfort aside and always say something similar to; “I don’t really know what to say, I’m sorry this is so shit, but if you want to vent/talk, I am here any time,” and then I will continue to do that as often as I can until I know they’re okay. Shit, I even do that with acquaintances…. It just seems like something we should all do to make sure we’re all okay.
Maybe I’m extra conscious of this because I’ve experienced the loneliness and I’ve watched my mum experience it, and I never want anyone to have to feel that awful.
Here’s a tip: if you care about someone, tell them — don’t let it be a shitty fleeting once in a blue moon message — make them aware; and prove it in the hardest of times. Put yourself in their shoes, imagine how it would feel to be sick and alone and feeling like the people that are supposed to love you and care about you have abandoned you because it all seems ‘too hard’ to show your support.
It was awful when I was 12 and I can only begin to imagine how much more awful it would be for someone at 59.
I made this video last night with guns blazing and wanted to post it immediately. Now I’ve re-watched; I feel funny about it — but I’ll post with trepidation and hope that it’ll get the message across. I’m not an overly emotional person (unless you know me very, very well). I try not to make anyone uncomfortable by getting emotional, but this past year I’ve failed in being “brave” all the time like I want to be. However, I am getting a bit more brave for the shave as the funds for this climb.
So here it is, a ‘warts and all’ video about our journey dealing with cancer– I know many of you are familiar with it. Thank you for all of the support!! I’m so close to 1/3 of my goal.
It makes me feel really happy to know that all of my family and friends are behind me 100% by way either of financial help or just by sharing and reposting and doing everything that they can to pass on my message. It sure does give us the warm and fuzzies.
Please watch, you can laugh at me if you like, I don’t mind.
I wanted to add, that I got it wrong– my Mum’s initial diagnosis was aggressive and the tumour size was not small. It was quite large. Also, I forgot to mention that after she was treated for her brain tumours, it was also revealed that she had a return cancer in her lungs and she has since started the chemo again. We are still fighting with our fighting spirit though and pray every day for a cure.
I’ve had a couple of people talk about how there’s already a cure for cancer — or that Mum can eat some greens and all will be okay. If you are one of those people, go away. You are not wanted. I don’t subscribe to your same way of thinking and it’s counterproductive to what I am trying to do here. Your mis-information is dangerous.
Honestly, I have to keep putting together fundraisers. I know its annoying for people to keep having to put their hand in their pockets — but hopefully what puts it in to perspective for me, is what will put it in perspective for you. These are the reasons I am choosing to do another fundraiser:
My mother still has cancer. My friend’s little girl is still recovering and adjusting after dealing with cancer in the early stages of her life. My friend’s soul mate, love-of-her-life died of cancer. My grandmother died of cancer. My auntie died of cancer. My friend’s mother died of cancer. Four of my closest friends have had to deal with their mother’s being treated for cancer.
I was discussing with my friend for work the kinds of things that I can do to help raise funds for the cancer council — what I can do to continue my efforts.
In 2012, I have raised $1100 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation In 2014, I have raised $5000+ in a formal fundraising event for the National Breast Cancer Foundation In 2015, I raised $902 in an individual fundraising event for the Victorian Cancer Council
I want 2016 to be my best efforts yet. I want to plan The Biggest Morning Tea in May. I would like to plan another formal event and either a ladies breakfast or ladies night. As well as this, I intend on doing another individual effort.
While I was away in Sydney, I was contemplating how brave it would be to shave my head– how completely ridiculous I’d look without hair, but how my Mum has been rocking that look now for about a year and how it was one of the first things that really upset her about the idea of having chemotherapy back in 2012. I remember being the one who shaved it for her — by the time it got to the shave, she was over her upset and wanted it gone. It was probably more traumatising for me and I cried and laughed as I pushed the clippers right through the middle of her head, trying to make a comedy of it.
The reality isn’t funny. Chemo is no joke. It’s awful.
If anyone has known me since my tweens, they’ll know I endured a very scarring hair cut at 12 that made me frightened of hairdressers for the preceding 15 years. I’m over it now, but I’m always wary of doing anything drastic with my hairs.
So, I’ve decided that I will shave half off the entire under-half of my hair.
Did you ever see Joe Dirt?
Yeahhhh, well it’s not going to look like that, FYI.
The idea of doing this makes me feel sick in the guts because I have a ridiculous attachment to long hair. Also, my hair is naturally curly, so I can only imagine what the regrowth will be like. As well as shaving the under-side of it, I will dye it a ridiculous colour and take a poll on having something shaved in to it (a pattern, a word, etc).
I will start fundraising today and my goal is at least $1000-1500.
Once a week I will write a post about how my fundraiser is going, some facts and personal stories of what my family or my friends with have had to go through, dealing with this awful disease.
I remember hearing about someone referring to life inside a fishbowl and it seemed like a dumb analogy, but now that I’m here– I understand.
A good friend of mine had a baby a few years back and at 2 years old she was diagnosed with cancer (neuroblastoma)– thank God she is on the other side of her treatment now, but I suppose my friend and I share a common and close understanding of what it is like to watch someone that you would give your everything to, go through the rigours and terrors of cancer.
I have sat here with this little input box open for almost an hour- typing something, backspacing, typing, backspacing and wondering if the world (well, my world at least) needs to really hear the kinds of things that are playing out and wondering if it’s even the smartest thing to do — knowing at some stage I will probably read back on this.
So I decided I won’t share details about what exactly I’ve been through over the past 3 weeks with my Mum. Only that she has made a very quick decline in health since the weekend of my birthday. She has cancer in her brain and we begin treatment to try to combat those tumours as of today. Other than that, I think I will just share my feelings on the matter and how I’m doing personally.
I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong way to respond to news like this. Knowing she was unwell and that something was not quite right with her, I had spent the weeks leading up to her tests and oncology appointment feeling grief-stricken. I cried at random moments, sobbed some nights before bed, others when I woke up. I would spend my 35 minute drive to work every day playing out the most terrifying scenarios that I still wouldn’t even have the guts to speak out loud. My anxiety has been through the roof and I have taken up daily drinking.
I know I usually say something like that in jest, but seriously. Every night I get home and have a glass of wine to take the edge off the stress and worry that has been all-consuming now.
My friend suggested this cancer journey is like being in a fishbowl. People can see you, they send their well-meaning messages (and we are incredibly greatful) but they get to walk away and get back to their own calmer reality. No one can get in there with you, but that’s fine because you never want to wish this kind of pain upon anyone… but it can be incredibly, incredibly lonely.
In saying all of that, most people in my life have been wonderful. I’ve had offers to cook for my family and I, I’ve had friends send care packages to cheer us up when we’ve had bad news. I’ve had phone calls and messages and reminders that they are always here for me– and it is certainly true; you learn very quickly who your true friends are.
There are times where I scroll through Facebook or Twitter reading posts, ticking them off one by one with an imaginary checkbox, wanting to apply the “who gives a shit!” option and then hit, “mark all” … but it’s not really fair to think like that because even I do stuff to give myself a break from my feelings and the situations. My last tweet was to share how much I love Jussie Smollett (could this be the new and improved Jesse L Martin in my life!? … probably not, I think he’s gay, but anyway.) … superfluous and stupid, but life goes on.
I remember earlier on a few years back when my Mum was originally diagnosed with breast cancer, I actually wrote; “how is the world still spinning when mine has stopped?” and some days it does feel like that. As though I want to scream in to people’s faces, “WHY ARE YOU SMILING, DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH MY MUM!?” It’s childish and it’s stupid, but some days are incredibly hard.
When the news was delivered to us yesterday I reacted calmly, pragmatically; asking immediate questions regarding treatment and understanding that we can only take each day as it comes. I made all the phone calls to my friends and to family who were waiting patiently to hear the results. I did this without crying, without being emotional. I did it with laughter, good humour. I spent some of my time consoling other people that I was okay. And I was; or am…. at least I think I am.
Maybe the gravity of the news hasn’t hit me yet — or maybe there’s no any one ‘right’ way to deal with this kind of news.
Last night my friend and I discussed the things that other people won’t let me discuss. Previously my OCD brain used to tell me if I said a certain thing out loud it might happen and I’d have to perform a bunch of stupid routines each time I said something out loud that I shouldn’t have, just to combat it. Now that I’m no longer ruled by my OCD brain, I feel like it was important to share and rationalise the thoughts that keep haunting me. And after talking about them, my brain can quiet a little.
I know some people don’t know what to say to me, but sometimes when they are just that brutally honest, it is better than “stay positive!” or “you’re so strong!” …I understand all of these things come from well-meaning and heartfelt places and any love sent to me is love that I truly need and welcome — what I can’t handle is when someone that I love dearly says nothing at all. It’s hurtful and during an already difficult time, a bit soul-destroying if I’m going to be honest.
But rather than getting upset over things like that, I try to focus on the handful of support I am receiving from my closest friends — especially the ones who have done their time in the fishbowl or who are still inside that fishbowl.
I love my Mum, she’s the best, cool ass Mum anyone could ever have…I want her to return to me in full capacity again. I am using my ListApp (the most pointless yet hilarious App you’ll ever get) to create a list of all the moments that make my Mum cool AF, still at 59 yrs old. — Watch this space, I will be sharing it here soon… I’m sure it’ll give you all a laugh.
Please pray for us. I have faith in Jesus and I consecrate myself and my family to His most Sacred Heart. I appreciate every one for every single bit of support, love and prayers they have offered up for us. You are truly God-given. I’ll never forget you.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel —Maya Angelou.