Those of you lovely readers who follow this blog may have noticed the distinct lack of Menopausal Mutterings. I’ve managed to keep up (more or less) with weekly challenges hosted by Linda G Hill. Where would we be without the wisdom of One-liner Wednesday and the nuttiness of SoCS? These two weekly prompt challenges have kept me sane, giving me something to look forward to when my inspiration had all but disappeared.
2019 was a life-changing year for me. At the beginning of the year my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She has secondaries in her lungs, skin and bones. It hit our family like the proverbial ton of bricks. Dad took it hard. He blamed himself for being a smoker for years until a series of mini-strokes gave him the reason to quit for good. I dread to think what he would have done if the primary cancer had been in Mum’s lungs.
All the usual questions go through your mind. How long does she have to live? It’s breast cancer… what are the implications for me and my sister, our daughters too? With all this happening, it’s no surprise I had little room in my head for writing. In truth, it made me extremely scared of any change my body felt it needed to make. Here’s the thing. Even though I am officially post-menopausal my body is still changing. You can see the dilemma.
With each tiny, relatively insignificant alteration I had myself measured up for my own coffin! Meanwhile, Mum had started her treatment. Two cancer drugs and a daily injection to counteract the lung cancer’s tendency to throw blood clots into the mix. Dad was a star at learning how to administer the meds. He’s such a technophile… alarms on his phone for each med. Just as well he’s super organised! Now all we had to do was wait for scan day to come around, hoping to see positive changes.
… and then wait for the multidisciplinary team to meet, review the results and deliver the news. Waiting, waiting, and more waiting. By this now it’s June and the Dean family are on holiday in our beloved Cornwall. This holiday has always been a technology-free zone except for sat-nav (even then, I tend to go with the old paper map to avoid being sent down the world’s narrowest roads) but I kept my phone with me at all times, only leaving it behind for boogie-boarding.
The news came through as we strolled along my favourite beach on a plastics clean-up mission. As soon as I saw the caller ID I knew what was coming. My sister would be the one to deliver the results. I trust her level-headedness. She keeps her cool in the worst of situations, listening closely to what is actually being said. And the news? The best. The secondary tumours had shrunk, the primary was the same size (slightly disappointing but not too bad as things go) and all blood test parameters were in the healthy zone. The medical team told Mum she could look forward to living out the rest of her life with the cancers under control. She would likely end her life with them, not because of them!
Go Mum! Unfortunately, whatever is going on in her head (she refuses to say) she has stopped living, just existing from day to day. It’s exhausting trying get her to do anything for herself. Eating and staying hydrated are daily battles. Even trying to hold a conversation with her is draining. With me living so far away I rely on video calling, but even that is a draining experience. Each call leaves me feeling mentally exhausted and, I have to confess, a smidge angry with her. Not for being ill, but for wasting each day she’s given. As it was pointed out to me this yesterday, we do not live once. We die once and live every day. This was the spur I needed to get me going again. I cannot put myself on hold in the vain hope Mum might grab life with both hands. It’s her choice, and I am making mine… carpe diem!