A couple of weeks ago, Chelsie from Bereavedat22 tagged me in a post headed with the above question. It got me thinking about what I have learnt, and how I can grow and share to support others. Over the next few posts, I’m going to focus on the three main things that I’ve learnt along my grief journey so far.
Number one – cancer and chemotherapy strip everything from a person.
I’ll give you a bit of a run-down of my Mum – she was 5”5, had hazel eyes and glossy black hair which was immensely curly. She was white with olive undertones in her skin, and she tanned beautifully. She was overweight pretty much all her life – though I wouldn’t say she was fat. She carried her weight around her torso yet had slim legs, classic apple shape. She had big boobies, a round tummy, and a big bum. She wore jewellery every single day. Her watch, at least three rings, a necklace and a pair of earrings. Mum also loved wearing perfume and would not feel herself if she’d forgotten to apply it.
At the start of treatment, it seemed pretty positive. The treatment plan made sense, the likely success rate was high, and Mum’s fatigue had started to dissipate because she wasn’t constantly about the next test’s result. This point was the last fleeting image of “Mum”.
When the chemo started, it tired her out, made her lose weight, her body shape, her hair, the glow in her skin. Before her hair started to fall out (it usually happens around 2-3 weeks after the first chemo session), Mum asked me to help her feel herself again by doing her make-up and styling her hair. Of course, it felt like an honour. When we were done, she was pleased with how she looked and asked me to take a photo, but you can see in the photo how much of her confidence and personality the cancer had already stripped away. Her eyes not confident enough to glance directly at the camera, her once full and infectious smile now strained, and her stance hunched reflecting her vulnerability. It’s not her.
Then the serious shit started. The weight fell off her. Her skin drooped and sagged, her muscles so weak they were unable to carry her. Her skin lost its olivey goodness, and any other goodness too, it was sallow and dry – despite my best efforts to help, and all of her beautiful dark and curly Rita Hayworth esque hair was gone.
Left behind a thoroughly de-crowned woman. Like a warped fun house mirror reflection of her former self.
It was as though even her soul had been taken.