April and May 2015
“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye, and put miles between you, but at the same time, you carry them with you in your heart, your mind,your stomach, because you do not just live in a world the world lives in you.” – Fredrick Buechner.
Ideally I’d like to focus on the positive part of this year. How is that possible? When I asked Dad to help me with ideas for this part he shrugged and said he couldn’t remember any, but, actually, I do.
I have thought over and over about how to sum up the happy moments of this time and there is one common theme – Family. My goodness, family comes together in times of need. Family is a noun that describes a group of people that are flung together randomly, but I also believe that there is a huge amount of trust, reliability and understanding that is without discussion or questioning; we just automatically gravitated towards each other. All the years of bickering, squabbling and competition were irrelevant when we needed each other; we all united spontaneously and knew how to deal with a… sad situation.
So, to look at the silver lining on a pretty dark cloud, here are some of the more lighthearted moments in these months. The bland walls of the hospital were brought to life by my family, the hushed conversations gained a sense of humour and the stony, cold floors became a surface for some laughter.
- My immediate memory is that whilst it was a two person visitor rule in that particular hospital area, once the majority of the family flocked to the bedside at the same time, there was at least six of us. We all congregated at one time, laughing, chatting and catching up, making Mum feel like nothing was different. The nurses timidly asked some of us to leave; it was like talking to a brick wall. (What? We have come all the way to see Mum and you are making us leave? Don’t be so ludicrous). We just shut the blue curtain and carried on
- There was just one chair. There was a hierarchy when it came to the chair. I couldn’t be beaten; the only girl, the only PREGNANT girl. As I approached, I could see the others begrudgingly stand up and offer it to me. (It helped that I was sweaty and exhausted after stubbornly taking the five flights of stairs because I wanted to be a healthy Mum).
- One brother always bought Mum cakes. I had seen, accidentally, that they were on offer in Tesco and I had great pleasure in pointing it out in front of the family. What, you didn’t splash out on full price cakes? (If you’re reading this, you know I’m joking, they were lovely cakes, I know, I ate
- Mum loved her knitting (she was actually knitting my little man a jumper). Anyone who knows anything about knitting, however, knows that you need needles (!). So when Dad turned up without them my brother ran 7 miles with them up his sleeve one morning to give them to Mum (out of visiting hours, obviously). This was a move worthy of getting the ‘chair’.
- (I’m not sure how offensive this point is). There were numerous, fantastic nurses that cared for Mum, but Mum insisted that the ‘black’ nurses were cheerier than the white ones. Even when they came to look after her and we were sitting there, she would openly say, ‘This was the cheery one I was talking about, why are you so much happier?’ I suppose no one can accuse a Cancer patient of racism.
- Henry would come in and set up Mum’s laptop each day, just so she could watch ‘Gavin and Stacey’- she never lost her sense of humour.
- It’s quite depressing, but hospital coffee shops have loyalty cards. We came every day and Dominic was chuffed when he discovered we could get a free coffee if we bought six! It was a guilty pleasure to pass it round the group to get optimum stamps and you hit the jackpot if the free coffee happened to be on your round.
- A care package arriving from my sister-in-law, including everlasting flowers, her favorite purple nail varnish, letters from the grandchildren and make-up wipes. (I remember feeling terrible that I didn’t buy my own mother face-wipes; how could I not think of that? I overcompensated and brought a shed load of hairbands). A simple gesture if so warming.
- I’m not sure of the politically correct term for a gypsy (I do not want to offend anybody), but a ‘traveller’ arrived in the middle of the night in a police van, drunk, and landed in the bed next to Mum and demanded some of Mum’s squash. Mum told her to ‘get stuffed’. Lemon juice was a luxury! She loved telling us the next day, with her not-so-subtle whispering and pointing.
- The best memories of all? For me, it was moments where it was just Mum and I. I used to go really early in the morning or as soon as I had finished work. Waddling up the stairs, with a bacon roll in hand, I would lay next to Mum in her bed. She would say, “Have a little nap if you’re tired”, while holding my belly, waiting for a kick. The nurses used to say that we weren’t really allowed to share beds with patients, but smiled as they walked away. We discussed my wedding and talked about mundane issues. One time, the lady in the bed opposite commented, “I should really take a picture of you two.” I laughed at the time, but it would have made a great photo for the memory box.
So, there you go – my top memories of hospital life, which is something I never thought I would say and has taken a lot of grief to get to this point. Pregnancy was rather uneventful in these months and was running smoothly.
I had just experienced my first proper night out as a sober Pregnant lady for my best friend’s Hen Do and, actually, it was a great release from reality – you still have to have fun when life is pretty crappy. Shockingly, I had a glass of bubbly which I felt awful about and spent the weekend worrying what it had done to my unborn baby – nothing as it turns out (although I do not condone pregnant drinking). It was nice to go out and not have to talk about Cancer and just forget – just for a moment. This is a negative of cancer, however, you realise that everybody else’s life goes on or, positively, life WILL go on.
Mum came home in May and, wonderfully, my brother from Australia was coming home for a month to help look after Mum and cook Dad dinners.
Everyone was, lovingly, doing their part and I can’t imagine that we would have done it any differently if we went back in time – maybe we’d have remembered Mum’s knitting needles.