The Weight of it All

Something I want to address is the weight that is placed on you through seeing someone you love die. For me it was a constant state of ambivalence throughout treatment, illness, and death.

When my Mum was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t cry. I can’t remember feeling anything at all at the moment she told me. I felt empty, but full of hope. My heart sank and my throat went dry and tight, but I kept saying to her that they’ve diagnosed it quickly and early, and a treatment plan was being drawn up, so they’d be able to fix it. I don’t think I really allowed myself to process the information when she told me. It was a Saturday evening, I’d been out during the day, and after Mum told me and we’d had that short conversation, I went upstairs, shut my bedroom door, and I didn’t do anything. I don’t think I ate anything or went back downstairs for the rest of the evening.

Mum got her treatment plan in January, and before she started it, the Jigsaw unit asked her to attend a “chemotherapy workshop”. I think I’ve mentioned this before; it was like a seminar on what to expect with chemotherapy. It was a weekday and Mum called me at work to ask if she could swing by to get some change for the hospital car park. I didn’t know she had to go to the workshop alone, and the thought of it sent me into hysterical tears. My manager saw how worried it made me and immediately sent me home to be with Mum. We went to the workshop and I took a notepad with me to write important things down just in case either Mum or I forgot them. That’s another thing that people don’t really tell you about cancer – there’s so much fucking information to tell people that one really ought to have experience with shorthand. It’s mentally draining having to remember all of the information and relay it to everyone you speak to. It’s physically exhausting to have to go to and from hospitals (the two hospitals we were using were both 25 minute drives), at least once a week.

It’s emotionally exhausting to see the strongest, most supporting, warm person go from herself…to her illness. There’s no guidance in the chemo book about that.

I was angry all the fucking time. I never wanted to be at home but I was too tired to be out of the house. I passed my driving test about 6 weeks after Mum started chemo. Instead of the usual “just passed my driving test” journeys that my friends did (drive-thru McDonald’s at 1am, beach trips, driving to Southampton to go shopping, or a 24 hour ASDA for some cherryade and Dorito’s just cause you fancied them), I was loading my little 1.2L Corsa with Mum’s wheelchair and raised toilet frame so that she could sit down easily because her legs were starting to become weak. I constantly had an emergency overnight bag for her with changes of clothes, incontinence pants, mini toiletries, and nutrition replacement drinks just in case she should ever need it. I was angry that I couldn’t do what my friends were doing, through not being available, not feeling able to, and eventually not being asked anyway because I always answered no.

I cried all the time. Probably three to four times a week, cried through anger, uncertainty, confusion, tiredness. Being at home was stressful and confusing and I hated it, but I still had my Mum. Even though she was being chipped away from herself, she held me when I cried about her illness. She still comforted me and made me feel safe.

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