Not for the faint hearted

If you’re easily shocked by medical matters please don’t read on. I have no point to make in this post. I’m just sharing because I need to mark today in some way. Today, it looks like my mother can no longer hide us all from her battle with cancer, or maybe she’s been hiding from it herself too. Its a grim disease and to be honest, over the past few months we’ve all been in a holding pattern wondering whether she was being protectionist, whether we were being overly dramatic in fearing the worst and at a loss to know how to do what’s best and allow this determined and independent lady her dignity. An emotionally draining process but necessary in the absence of candour and openess.

It’s a personal thing and hard to share, but share I’m going to. I’m not unfamiliar with cancer and have seen two colleagues lose their battle with it over the past ten years. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt a familiar disquiet. I responded badly when my dad drove her over to tell me (it’s a small town and he was worried that I’d find out in any case and it was better my mother tell me before someone else did). I didn’t say the right things and it set a pattern of distance and disapproval which I’ve not managed to rise above yet.

I’ve had my fill of death and tragedy, I am beyond the guide books, the googling, the ‘roll up the sleeves and get down to it stage’. I’m like an autistic adult needing to be given processes, needing to be told what to do, how to do. My lovely cousin whose own father died suddenly of a brain tumour, has taken charge with her doctor trained husband in the background and sensitively she is regularly phoning to do just that; nudge, suggest, communicate. My aunt, my mothers eldest sister has stoically done the rolling up of the sleeves, and has born the brunt of the worrying and dealing with my mothers irrational (but its her choice) need to be irrational. My father seemed to be as much in the dark as the rest of us, possibly overwhelmed by having to produce meals regularly, for the first time in his life, which my mother then has failed to eat, or keep down as she grapples with her illness.

No-one has definitively said, this is it, and conversely today is the first day that the ‘c-word’ has been raised since the end of her treatment last year we’ve been in a strange land of if’s and buts and maybe’s. From the outside it must have looked extraordinary. Only this week a friend of my mothers stopped my husband in the street to express her concern that my mother was clinically depressed, no one had dared yet, to make the link as to why. I also had one of those dance-about-conversations with my doctor this week, where I read between the things he couldn’t say and listened with my semi redundant theatre practitioners head to his matter of fact statements and his softened reasoning questions and silences. Trying to convey this conversation to my husband and my cousin afterwards was laughable, how do you describe a sense of something implicit, unspoken, fully present in it’s absence?

I write this, because I realise what a terrible daughter I have been, I am trapped by this knowledge, frozen by it. There’s still time of course, although how much time, no one is saying. It’s all innuendo and suggestion and mixed messages. I don’t blame any one, other than myself, how can you plan or know how you will deal with something that doesn’t play by the rules?


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Artsmonkey... Culture Active... Firestarter Arts active in the promotion, delivery and development of cultural projects and ideas, with a specialism in youth arts and theatre arts also a bit of a social media diva and photog

2 thoughts on “Not for the faint hearted”

  1. So sorry to hear of your troubles/your Mothers illness, but by writing this you have started the process of recovering, by writing this you are showing that you are not a terrible Daughter. Share this with your Mother and your family. I nearly didn;t read on after the first line and they may not either, but if they do, then you and they will all know what you have to do next.

    Talk to each other, it doesn’t matter if there are silences or that you ignore the elephant in the room, as long as you talk to each other you will all feel much better.

    I am no expert and occasionally am unable to follow my own advice, but I thought I would share my thoughts with you.

    Good luck and my thoughts however brief and insignificant are with you.

  2. Thank you Phil, I am a lone wolf in the world of social media in my family so it is unlikely any of them will read this, or understand why i chose to publish it but thank you for your wonderful words. You are right I think, this is the start of a process for me and I very much appreciate your kindness. Julietx

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