Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cancer Hell

I don't know why I had the sudden urge to write about this.
Probably because I'm reading my sisters keepers, the book explores the story through different characters eyes.
This is my perspective:

November 1996. I woke in the middle of the night to hear the shower in my parents bathroom going, I could hear my mum short of crying out in pain. A dull cry nothing loud. She wasn't trying to be loud. My mother could handle pain, she had 3 natural child births, my brother came out almost sideways with no stomach wall. Yeah ouch.
I was 8, grade 2. Old enough to know I'd never heard my mother scream like that, but young enough to have no idea why.
What followed was a series of tests ordered by a GP. One afternoon my mum picked me up from school, she informed me that we were going to the doctor so she could have an ultrasound. Again the young part of me thought, ULTRASOUND= Baby.
We made our way to a small private hospital, I was aloud in with mum. I remember sitting there and holding her hand. She squeezed so tight, I thought my hand was going to fall off. I stared at the screen magically hoping for that little sibling I had always wanted to pop up on the screen.
What they found was a tumor.
The medical system in Australia in my opinion is good. Within a few days , my mums tumor had been biopsied. On the way home from school my mother explained that the tumor, which was attached to her right kidney was indeed cancer and had to be removed.
I knew what cancer was, my cousin had cancer but was in remission at that time.
Mum explained to me that although it was major surgery, she would be layed up for a while but would be fine.
Then came what i then thought was terrible news.
I had to move schools. We had moved a few years before that, and had a school about a 1 minute walk from our home. We continued at the old school because my brother was older and graduating he didn't want to leave. Every morning, mostly after working a night shift my mum would drive us to school. But she couldn't drive me anymore, my brother was only a few weeks out from finishing. A family friend would drive him until he finished, but it was in my best interests to leave school a few weeks early to adjust to my new school.
The day of mums surgery was the same day I finished up at my old school. I remember the sadness leaving that day. My dad bribed me not to cry with a lollipop.
We headed off to the hospital.
My mums kidney removal was before the time of key whole surgery, she had a scar from the top of her ribs in her back, all the way down her stomach curved in a c shape.
When we arrived she was hooked up to monitors, drugged to the eye balls.
My brother and I as children stupidly started fighting about something, and with every ounce of her strength she yelled "get them out, get them the fuck out of here"
Later my dad explained it was just the drugs... I never believed that too be so.
I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle in the country for a few weeks as my mum recovered. I was a handful.. I really was... If she needed radiation or chemo it may have been longer. Thankfully she didn't.
The story as it has seemed like such a simple ending.
My mum was technically in remission for kidney cancer, and a few months on. Life went back to normal.

October 1999.
I was sitting in my room one evening listening to music. There was a knock on the door, in enters my mum. We had just returned from a girls trip to the gold coast. My dad had recently been retrenched and gotten a large payout. On that trip, anything I asked for I got... I mean anything. Each morning we would get up, go out for breakfast, go shopping. Just spend the day.. the two of us. Our relationship hadn't hit the rough patch yet... My parents weren't the richest of people, but they provided for us well. Still my mother was extremely extravagant on that trip. I thought it was because I was 12 and she was still dressing me?
I was wrong.
Mum sat down lifted her shirt and took my hand. She placed it firmly against the skin of her breast just under her arm.
"can you feel that" she asked.
I nodded.
" Caragh I have breast cancer"
I cant remember what I said, or thought or felt at the moment.
Something along the lines of..
Cancer? Seriously? Again?
Well you can beat this I said to her.
She looked at me, her eyes pained. And undoubtedly shook her head.
But just a little.
"how long have you known?"
A little while she replied.

Suddenly that whole trip made sense.
My mum was enjoying every moment with me on that trip because she thought it would be her last.
The next few weeks are a blur. Mum was booked into surgery, and a few days before we went away on our family Christmas trip. Everything was normal.
When I turned 12, I was promised a dog. We didn't have any fences but they had recently been installed. 3 days before mums surgery, I got Max.
Maybe they were trying to distract me. I remember my mum being distraught about me looking after the puppy properly, and shutting the bathroom door so he didn't drown in the toilet. Not her up coming surgery.

My mum had the surgery, a lumpectomy. Two lumps were removed. As well as most of the lymph nodes under her armpit. Out of the ones taken, only a few tested positive for the cancer. We all went to her meeting with the oncologist as a follow up, and she insisted that as a family we make the decision about her course of treatment.
I thought this was stupid, her body.. her choice.
Mum opted for the less invasive radiation treatment.
I remember asking her questions about it. Why it took so long, why her skin was burnt.. For the most part, mum did extremely well through the treatment.
She was tired... and like i said, so burnt. But she did well.

At the end of the treatment she was set on her way. Follow ups every year.

September 2005.
I was sitting in my room gluing Popsicle sticks together. I was bored. I had just had a fight with my girlfriend. I was 18, irritable and moody. My grandmother and aunt were both terminally ill. I heard mum scream from the laundry. Now my mum could handle major surgeries, child birth, radiation.. you name it. She could do it.. But if she stubbed her toe she would scream the house down.
I ran to the laundry and stood by the open door, she was standing but her body was shaking, jerking around.. before I knew it she fell onto the sink, then too the washing machine and then cold onto the tiled floor.
I screamed. She was completely unresponsive her pupils dilated. She had blood pouring from her mouth. I screamed for my dad who was on the phone with a telemarketer of all people. I knelt beside her, and screamed for someone to call an ambulance. By this stage my dad was trying to get the telemarketer to hang up and close of the call, so he could dial out. The bastard wouldn't hang up.
One of my brothers called an ambulance. Now all of us were completely hysterical. Mum was still un responsive but breathing.
Within minutes although it seemed like hours, the ambulance arrived. they gave mum some oxygen and she came around. She didn't really know where she was for a moment. We moved her out to a chair in the kitchen.. they asked her standard questions, her name... ect.. but when it came to the date she got the year wrong. FUCK.
A stroke? A stroke with a seizure?
My mum was very strong minded. She thought she was fine, she kept insisting the paramedics fuck off and let her have a cigarette.
She also found it quite insulting they were babying her.
Finally, I convinced mum to go to the hospital. My dad and I followed the ambulance and speculated what could be wrong. Mum was admitted straight in, and was acting strangely.. Almost like a child. "I don't want to stay here, I want to go home"
Please let me go home.. begging almost.
Hooked up to monitors the doctors explained that they wanted to run some tests but couldn't do so until the morning. Mum was adamant that she would not stay.. several doctors, nurses & my dad all couldn't convince her.
After stepping outside from a cigarette.
I took my mum by the hand and said "listen, I know you don't want to stay here. But I saw you have a seizure. You are not okay, you need some tests, and then tomorrow you can go home" She looked at me with puppy dog eyes. And reluctantly agreed.
I didn't sleep that night, not a wink. I awoke in the morning, to find my house almost empty. I trailed into the hospital, as I walked towards the bed where my mum was laying.. I saw some doctors eye me off with a look. That look.
My mum was sitting on the bed reading a magazine. "So I said, whats the news"
Mum looked at me with those same puppy dog eyes.
"Its not good" My eyes started to well.. They found some tumors in my brain, they think that's what caused the seizure and headaches she had.. By this time, my dad had shown up. I left my parents alone to deal with the news. I heard my dad cry. No no no no no.
I ran outside to get some air, and greet my brother and his girlfriend.
What happened next was swift, mum was to be transferred to another hospital. A better & bigger one for a biopsy. She spent the night there, but then came home Sunday morning.
When mum walked in the door, I was devastated. Her newly styled hair had been reduced to a raving mess. They had saved it off in places to attach disks where they would drill into her brain and get samples of the tumor.
Its just hair she said, just hair.
The next day was the biopsy, it was late afternoon but my mum wanted us to go about life as normal. I sat around the house all day, in the evening we got the call. The surgery had gone fine, but the results were not good.
Considering she'd just had brain surgery my mum was in a great spirits. The only thing that pissed her off was having to use a bed pan.
She was trying to get up out of bed and the nurse said to her quite bluntly "Alana you can't get out of bed, you have just had brain surgery."
She responded well hand me the bed pan and fuck off so I can pee in piece.
I remember holding that bed pan for her, and thinking.. Could it get any worse than this? yes.
By Tuesday morning, the results were in.
13 metastasized tumors in her brain. From her breast Cancer.
For the first few weeks everything seemed very calm. My mum was instantly at piece with knowing her cancer was now terminal. After all, she accepted this fate years ago.

I however.. Was not.

I wanted to continue more, but I'm exhausted.. And I've been writing for almost an hour.



Jill said...

cancer sucks. it sucks alot. What a terrible thing for your whole family to have to endure. Thank you for sharing

kaz said...

What an absolutly gut wretching story. Iam so sorry your family had to live with this awful disease.

The Captain's Wife said...

Such a traumatic experience for a child, regardless of your age.

My father in law was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins (sp?) lymphoma in the brain in 1998. After a long battle through Chemo and radiation he was in remission until late 2000, when he began suffering from strokes and dimentia due to the radiation treatment to his brain.

He died a very slow death in Feb 2001.

I am sorry for the pain your mother's illness and death has caused you~