Friday, June 5, 2009

Cancer hell # 2

I told myself I wasn't going to write about this til I was ready.
After finishing "My sisters keeper"
I am ready.

Shortly after my mum was diagnosed, My aunt passed away. She was 43 years old and had been battling cancer also. She was in so much pain, but in denial about her death. She was lucid, not with it... Her last words , were "air" as she took her last breath.

My mum was a trooper, when she was given between 3 weeks and a year to live. She said to the world, fuck those odds.
The treatment she was given was simple, chemo, radiation, chemo, radiation, chemo, chemo, radiation.
Followed by numerous medications. She had complications, blood clots. The chemo made her sick obviously, but it also made her well, in between cycles she would bounce back.
I dont know many people who've lived long with 13 metasitized tumors, that would never shrink with treatment, but they wouldn't grow either.
The first few months brought calm.
After my grandmother died in december, all hell broke loose.
I had just broken up with my girlfriend at the time, noticeably devastated about my mothers impending death, I decided it was a great idea to finanically fend for myself and take a full time job and so I did.
I struggled with deep depression at this time, I found it hard to enjoy ANYTHING. From food, to music, to any of the little things in life that you just love for no real reason.
One day I was in a mood, my mum asked me a question. I didn't immdiately respond. She snapped. 13 Tumors.. i know again with the numbers litterred through her brain, made her do stupid things. Including come at me.She pounded away at my face, I shielded my face the best I could. She still had strength. I refused to defend myself until she went to the kitchen draw and took out a knife.
"GET OUT " she screamed, I never want to see you again get out.
My dad was home at the time and was noticeably shocked.
So what do you do, dying wife or troubled daughter.
yeah, wife.
I think you should go.
I packed some of my things, mostly things for work. I had to keep something consistent in my life. Off I went.
My friend A had just been kicked outta home, she was staying with a friend who had a large rental property with several rooms. The day stayed there every few weeks. I went into there not knowing what to expect. I cried my pour little eyes out. Not understanding what I'd done wrong.
It's not her, its the cancer. But its hard, abuse like that is hard to take.
Not the physical abuse, the emotional abuse. The words that came out of her mouth stung me like 1000 bee's piercing into my soul.
Fuck what now.
I lay awake on the floor of that 2 meter by 2 meter room. Not knowing what I would do next.
The fight happened to fall on the Sunday, 2 days before my birthday.
I heard from my dad, and he said they wanted me to come home to discuss what had happened.
I was given a porcelain doll for my 19th birthday there was nothing less in this world I could have wanted, I know.. I know it sounds greedy a gift is a gift. But I hated it, my mum was an impulse shopper.. and during her illness she brought some of the most random shit you could ever find.
That day, my birthday the asked me to move back home. Saturday I was around at the house packing my things.
Moving out of that house was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Probably will be one of the hardest things I will EVER do.
I look back now, and can thing of all the regrets I should have. But I don't.
I missed spending every last spare minute of my mothers dying year.
But I also made that sacrifice in order for our relationship to be salvaged.
I didn't want to fight with her, but the truth is.. I was still a teenager.. her only daughter. I didn't know how NOT to fight with her. Even if I tried not to, when I didn't respond to something, or spoke in the wrong way. Fight. Physical, emotional.
I couldn't do that to her, I could do that to our family.
I am convinced if I lived there, she would have died much sooner than she did.

I cant say I wasn't bitter about living out of home at such a young age. In the middle of the night, I'd wake up not knowing where I was. I hated that. I still hate that if it happens to this day.

My mothers cancer progressed, and stopped, progressed and stopped.
The second the chemo left her body, there it was.. Cells building, dividing. Trying to conquer her. Tell her that her time on this earth was over.
Fuck that.

I know that a week after my mum was diagnosed, she could have rolled over taken some sleeping pills and died. The reason she didn't was simply. Us.
We weren't ready to be without a mother, my father wasn't ready to be single for the first time in more than 25 years. She however knew the reality of life and death.
Every needle stick, every medication, every hospital stay. Was in no way to prolong her life, it was to prolong OUR life with HER.

In late august 2006 I was meant to have an operation.
To cut a long story short, the operation was canceled.
Devastation ensued, as we knew my mum wouldn't be around when I had the operation.
She would never get to see my perfect new bite, or my teeth without braces again.
The day I found out, I left work in tears. I crawled into bed with my mum and cried. She cried too. "I'm sorry, im so so so sorry" she was lucid this day. Her mind was leaving her.. I knew something was up.
Within two days, she was in a medically induced coma in a terrible palliative care unit at a dirty old hospital. People came in to say there goodbyes. I remember the terrible perky and annoying nurse annoying all the terminal patients. If I was them, I would have killed her.. What would they have had to lose. (that may sound worse than it is, but my mum was a nurse)
I remember them trying to comfort me.. The words I know how ya feel are never any good. No matter how many dying patients they have seen. They are not my mother, I am not there daughter and they don't know exactly how i feel.

I sat by her bedside, and I prayed.. I prayed so hard. Just come back mum.. comeback. your not done yet. I know your not.

Two days later she was awake. Maybe it was a miracle, maybe it was the huge amount of steroids they pumped into her brain. We'll never know.

Within a couple of weeks, the treatment was coming to an end.
They had done all they could.
Mostly, when mum wasn't up smoking.. or eating.. man she ate SO much.. It was the steroids... but I loved calling her up and asking her if she'd have lunch.. then mentioning I might stop for fish and chips.. one day she said to me "oh sue came round and we had rolls for lunch.. but I could do with a piece of fish.. oh and some chips and a Dim Sim or two"

She slept alot, that was what the cancer did to her. A lot of the time she was alone.
Cancer is expensive.. my dad HAD to work to pay the Mortgage and the bills.
Most nights towards the end, when I had got over my phobia about looking her in the eyes. I would go over. Sometimes I'd crawl into bed beside her... Sometimes I'd sneak into her room and put my face close to hers to see if she was still breathing.

In October my mother wanted to go and visit her sister in another state for one last time. We were crazy to let a terminal patient get on a plane and fly alone to another state. But it was what she wanted.
While she was there, she decided that pruning a bush.. near a pond would be a great idea. She say's she fell, doctors said she had a stroke.
They found her in the bottom of an empty dam. Her ankle was badly twisted.
The doctors did scans and were so surprised she was still alive. They didn't know my mum. For a while, she refused to come home. But we begged and pleaded. She agreed.
My dad traveled over to get her, she was again in an abusive and irrational state.
If she had the strength on any given day, she would have kicked the crap outta my dad for things that happened 10 years ago. I don't know if it was the cancer, or she simply needed to get it out of her.

After the stroke she wasn't the same, she lost control of her bowels a lot of the time. She was sick, but she knew what was going on.. fuck she hated it.
We had palliative care organized to come in at home, but everything they made an appointment.. she would "be asleep" or not answer the door.

None of us wanted her to die at home, I don't think even she did. But she refused for the longest time to go into palliative care.
In the last week of November, with her time drawing near. She agreed.
She got there, 3 hours late on the 30th of November 2006.
I was at work as per normal, this may sound weird. But this is what my mum wanted, for us to go about her lives. She was selfless my mother. Nothing mattered much besides us kids. I saw her briefly on Thursday and Friday as she was soo drugged and so tired.
On Saturday I was in early in the morning.
I helped her out of bed.We went and sat outside and had out last cigarette together. Yes I know some people will whack me for having a cigarette with my dying mother, but whatever. We talked about my dog, Max.. Who she loved with all her heart. He was wandering around the house aimlessly without her. Max was one of her greatest comforts during her illness. Almost never left her side.
When we finished our cigarettes, my mum.. weary.. asked me to get the ashtray.
I put it beside her feet. During the past year, I had been working with young children and was trained to say "taaaa" when something was taken that needed to be returned. A phone, a block, a toy of another children.
I said "taaaa" to my mother.
"Don't fucking taaa me, I'm young god damn mother.. I can do it myself"
She dropped the still lit cigarette in the ashtray.
I put it out.

By this time, my dad had arrived.. Mum was getting back into bed and was in all sorts of pain. She was screaming. My mum didn't scream.. they gave her medication.. she vomited them back up. I knew.. she wouldn't want me to see her like that.. I briefly kissed her goodbye. Said I love you, and left.

My dad called me later that night to say she wasn't in a good way.. she'd slept.. and he sat with her for awhile.

The next morning at about 7:30 am I got a call.. "shes gone, her brain has stopped functioning" I didn't believe it, quickly I dressed.. I ran down to the hospital. There she was laying there, eyes closed.. not responsive.
For hours I sat with her, sang to her.. held her hands.. begged her to please come back. Its almost sad to think that singing out favourite song was going to bring her back. That night when I left. I knew it would be the last time I saw her alive.

I awoke suddenly at 6:45am, I layed there until 30 minutes later when my phone rang.
My dad insisted that I needed to go to the hospital to see her. Until that point, I didn't want to. I didn't want to remember her like that.
You have too. I struggled but knew he was right. On the way to the hospital we made a few calls, first to my mums sister. The only words we had were "shes gone" my aunt is not an emotional person.. the only words she could mutter was no.. okay.. I gotta go.. i just I gotta go.. And she hung up.

When we entered the room, we noticed immediately that all her things had been packed up and put to one side.
I clung to her, her body still warm. We all stayed there.. I don't know how long.. and hour.. maybe more. Only one of her friends wanted to come in and say goodbye.
The rest had all said their peice. I know my mum was fine with that.
When it came time to leave.. I asked for a minute alone with her.
Clinging to her, I let out a cry.. unlike anything I have ever felt or experienced before.
I will make you proud mum, I promise you.. above all else. I will make you proud.

My mum had half planned her own funeral, she left two options for just about EVERYTHING. Later that day, I know.. Same day.. we walked into the funeral home to discuss the service. It was brief.. I can't remember the details. They don't matter.
A lovely lady came to our house the next day to talk about mum,and to write up a speech. Two of mums friends would speak. She did not wish for us to speak.

But myself and my brothers girlfriend read her favourite poem

CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW - A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".

My mum never expected a huge turn out, the chapel was full.
I was surrounded by family and friends. But the only people visible in that room, were me.. my brothers and my father.

I was carried out of the funeral as I could no longer walk.
I had slept less than an hour the night before and was notably a mess.
We proceeded to the cometary, when we got there. One of my mums favourite irish songs was played. As her body was lowered down, the lyrics of "I hope you dance " played in the background. It was fitting, that's all she ever wanted for me too do.
My older brother, Matthew.. Who I had not seen shed a tear.. it was just his nature.. as he walked out of the room.. where we had said goodbye to my aunt, grandmother and mother all in the same year. He let out one cry, and buried his face into my dads shoulders. That was the last time I've ever seen him cry.

After the short wake at the cemetery, we headed back to our house.. People brought food and drinks. They talked.. played my mums music.

After about 5 minutes, I crawled into my parents bed. I lay down on the very spot only a little over a week ago my mum had lay. The place where she spent so many of her last hours.The place we cried together.. me deep in her arms just as if I was in her womb. Then, for the first time.. In such a long time. I had a solid few hours of sleep. I woke sleepy, a few hours later. Just as everyone was leaving.

It was that moment, when the last of the visitors had left the house.
That we began our new journey.
I began my life, as a motherless daughter.
With one soul ambition, hope, dream, goal... aspiration.. whatever you want to call it.

Was to make her. So very proud of me.


Jill said...

I'm sure she would be proud of the person you are. Thank you for sharing this part of you. ((hugs))

Bella said...

Wow, now I'm crying. What a fighter you mum was. I am sure your mum is very, very proud of you as you are a wonderful, caring, sweet person.