It’s been a year and a half since I’ve written a blog post. This is because on the 25th December 2018, my mum was taken into A&E with fluid in her lungs which wouldn’t drain out. My mum was the last person I expected this to happen to; she ate a healthy, balanced diet, was a non-smoker and exercised regularly. I was completely unprepared for what would unfold.
I remember when she had been in the hospital for a week, the doctors narrowed down the options to three possibilities: pneumonia, tuberculosis and cancer. Everyone had an inner feeling of what the culprit was, though; just before she went in for surgery to remove the fluid and obtain biopsies I was handed a card for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Two weeks later my dad and sister went to meet my mum at hospital to find out the confirmed results. I remember texting all three of them to ask how the meeting with the doctor went, as I was giving a presentation at university on the day. I remember receiving three different conflicting texts and at that moment I left campus to find out exactly what was going on.
To find out when you’re 20 years old that your mum has lung cancer hurts. To find out that it’s already at Stage 4 hurts even more. To find out that nothing will cure her hurts more than it is even possible to describe. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I needed her there to guide me, to help me, to look after me. In actuality it was me who needed to help her.
My mum was on targeted therapy for approximately nine months before things inevitably became worse. Those nine months that she was on targeted therapy contained such incredible moments. She was happy, able to walk around, and lead an ordinary life. She and I spent the summer together making memories and we even got to go on a family holiday, which was absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, in October 2019, my mum started to become very unwell. She was struggling to see, falling over and could barely use her left hand anymore. The doctors insisted that there was nothing wrong but my mum was adamant a full body scan was done. This confirmed that her cancer had metastasised to her brain, and we later found out it had metastasised to her spine, ribs and bone marrow, as well.
After a round of whole head radiotherapy, we were told nothing more could be done. No more targeted therapy, no more radiotherapy, no attempt at chemotherapy. We were basically told that was the end of the road in February 2020. That was really difficult to accept. However, there are some really great resources out there, we received great advice from Macmillan and from hospices, too. Definitely don’t be afraid to seek help because there’s someone out there who can understand and support you even when nobody around you seems to get it.
One of the hardest parts to come to terms with was when my mum could no longer remember who I was, due to the brain metastases. It can be very distressing to see someone’s memory fade before your eyes. The person who I would always approach first no matter what I was feeling could barely recognise me, let alone talk to me about my day or give me advice.
She died exactly three months after the doctor told us she had maybe a few weeks to live. She died six days before my 22nd birthday but I think she was trying very hard to stay with me for that moment. I’d like to believe, even though she couldn’t recognise my face, deep inside she knew who I was.
I’m glad that I made the most out of the time I had with my mum. We were best friends for 21 years and she will forever remain the best friend I’ve had. She worked for the NHS for 30 years and was loved by all the staff and her patients, and the contributions she made will always be invaluable.
I’d like to end by saying please don’t take what you have for granted. Relish every day that comes and make time for all the important people in your life. You never know what tomorrow will bring.