A personal insight that I was in two minds about sharing because it's sad, it's shocking, it's morbid. But unfortunately it's nothing new. It's horrible to think that so many people are going through this painful journey and on World Cancer Day my heart goes out to everyone that has been affected by this disease.
I remember the day like it was yesterday...the phone rang, it mum, she sounded quiet and sad...'I never thought I would say this Jen, but I have Cancer'. Even four years after her passing the word sends a chill down my spine. Losing the most special person in my life, my best friend, my soul mate.....my mum, was the single most painful thing I have experienced. Watching her turn from a bubbly, beautiful happy go lucky person, who was always so full of life....to a trembling, cold, frail, cancer victim is something that I can never erase from my memory. Her journey began with a series of vicious chemotherapy treatments, that lasted three weeks at a time, starting at the Royal Marsden. My stepdad would drive her from our family home in Warwickshire to the unfamiliar world that was London. They would park at my flat in Chiswick, West London, and get taxi to the Royal Marsden where I would meet them at an Italian restaurant before the dreaded walk to the hospital. The first treatment will always be so vivid in my mind, she was sat there in the slightly scuffed turquoise leather chair, with an almost childlike vulnerability waiting for the nurse, she eventually came with the drip...and a grey cardboard sick tray. It was all hooked up, no going back now. It started flowing through her veins and almost straight away I could see her eyes glaze over, it was taking effect, after ten minutes or so her body started to go into shock and she started to heave into the sick tray. She left the ward in a wheelchair, shivering under a blanket.
All the treatments seemed to blend into one, she would spend two weeks after each treatment in bed. I would do the food shopping and take her up trays of bland food, cut up for ease. She would sleep, and sleep..and sleep. Occasionally waking to take medication. Then drifting back off into an never ending trail of hallucinations and dreams. Her bedside drawers turned slowly into the drug drawers. Overspilling with morphine and anti sickness.
Then the hair fell out. I washed it out for her in the bath, tears stinging in my eyes, I felt like I was slowly losing her. She then decided to shave it off, in a last ditch attempt to take some form of control over this deadly disease.
What shocked me most of all was the way it changed her body. Aside from losing her hair, her cheeks became swollen, red and puffy, her collarbone started to show, her leggings became baggier and her eyes went dull.
The journey to the end took eighteen months, some months we were told that the chemo was working, that the cancer was reducing, we would celebrate and smile once again. Then it went back to square one, it has spread, again, back to darkness. Eventually it took over, organ by organ, she just couldn't fight it. The last weeks were spent in Warwick hospital, i was there most evenings. Holding her hand. Talking to her, pretending I was ok, making out I was dealing with it, trying to be positive, when inside I was a little girl crying out for her mum, to hold me and protect me and tell me everything would be ok.
We met with a group of five doctors. They crowded round her bed, her birthdays cards filling the dim room, 'matter of weeks' they said, 'there isn't much more we can do'. Me and my brothers sat there hopeless, unable to do or say anything.
I carried on visiting most nights, helping to bathe her, talking to her, making the most of every word she spoke, holding her hand, not wanting to let go.
Then came the hospice, we managed to get a bed, she was relieved.
Then came the phone call at week later at 6:30am on the morning of July 17th.
She was gone.