When my Mum was ill with Cancer my sister and I were both children. Jen was prob too young to fully understand everything and I was always thinking ‘she will be ok because these types of things don’t happen to us – we are just a normal family’. I put my head in the sand a hell of a lot, I stayed positive enough for all of us put together and never focused on the disease very much. It may not have been the best approach, but as a child growing up in this situation, I think it was the only coping mechanism I had.
Even when the Cancer kept returning I just kept telling myself that she would recover as she had done all the times before. She was my Mum, my hero, my best friend and the person I looked up to, there was no way I could imagine my world without her. But by the time I reached 21 she was in hospital again and this time, there was no recovery in sight. After finding out that it had spread to her liver in January, by November we were told there was nothing else that could be done. We faced the worst days of our lives and it was almost like living in a parallel universe where everything had become surreal… I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening and I still refused to believe she would die. The last days were dark, seemed to roll into each other and were filled with nurses visiting to administer morphine – keeping Mum in a sleeping state and free from pain.
Six days after my 21st, my Mum passed away but surprisingly all I felt was relief. Relief that she was finally out of pain, relief that she could now rest, relief that the long battle was over. It is a very peculiar feeling as you expect to be devastated, but having watched a person who loved life, loved holidays, socialising with friends, was active and full of fun, become low, sick, weak, bed-bound and in pain, once it has come to an end the grief can manifest in different forms. It’s not until that initial feeling has passed and the missing that person feeling starts, that grief really kicks in. For me that led to major up’s and down’s, getting drunk quite often, taking anti-depressants, taking an overdose, becoming very angry, taking it out on others around me and trying to live with the empty missing feeling each day – not my proudest moments but sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to come back up and find yourself again.
I gradually felt I had come to terms with things and managed to get back on my feet, rent a flat, start a new career and got together with my now-husband. Each anniversary, Christmas, birthdays and so on were very hard and my Mum would come to the forefront of my mind, but I was living every day and enjoying myself the best way I knew how. At this point, I thought the worst days were behind me and the missing her feeling would just be more painful on these celebratory days… but then I got engaged.
What should be the happiest day of your life is suddenly tainted yet again by the ‘C’ word. If it wasn’t for Cancer my Mum would have been here to meet Rob and witness our beautiful wedding day. I had asked my Mum, when I was a teenager, to give me away once the day came – she had brought us up as a single Mother and she was fantastic at this so it seemed only right that she gave me away to my future husband. Instead, she never got to meet Rob as I met him 2 years after she died, she didn’t get to give me away and she didn’t get to be apart of my big day. The emotions I felt in the lead-up and after were so incredibly mixed that I didn’t quite know if I was happy or sad at times. I felt so teary for two different reasons; I have never felt anything like it.
After a few weeks, I was all good again and felt back to normal. We focused on doing up our house, our careers and enjoying ourselves. Then the next big event inevitably happened – I fell pregnant. Through the pregnancy I was ok and even just after the birth I wasn’t too bad, but as Jake grew, changed, hit milestones and turned into the cheeky chappy he is today the grief began once again and the Cancer is yet again eating away into my life. He will never get to meet his amazing Nan, she will never get to meet her amazing Grandson and I know they would have been besotted with one another. Each time he learns something new I am dying to ask her ‘did I do that at his age?’, ‘Is he advanced?’, ‘What was I like at that age?’, ‘How did you feel being a Mum the first time around?’ and more and more questions arise each day. She isn’t here to share in all these fab times and to help me, advise me, babysit, go on days out, see his birthdays or just to have a nice chat on the phone. There is a gaping hole that will never be filled for any of us, no matter how much love there is amongst my family; your Mum is irreplaceable. I am a Mum without a Mum.
The best person to have ever been in my life was taken away by Cancer. The best person Jake will never get to meet was taken away by Cancer. I miss her every single day because of Cancer. So you see, even though the Cancer died with her, one part of it continues to live on in all of us left behind. It continues to eat away and destroy lives long after it has gone.
I keep her memory alive by talking about her, showing Jake photo’s of her and by celebrating her, especially on her birthday. One day I will take him to her grave and explain properly. I will tell him the stories I can remember and I will ensure he is brought up with the morals, fun, laughter and love that she brought myself and Jen up with. She is a part of me, Jen and Jake and no matter how hard Cancer tried it cannot completely remove a person from this world.
If only it didn’t have to be this way…
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