It’s back- that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach, that subtle gnawing that says things are not ok. I managed the initial guilt of me on holidays while cancer gallops merrily across my mum’s body. I calmed myself when my son rang with the fabulous news of his upcoming interview for the uni of his choice, though I was thinking ‘ how can you contemplate moving away when your grandmother is dying?’ I have justified every happy moment up here as ‘gathering my strength for what’s to come’ I woke from cruel dreams of mum looking fabulous while explaining to me how her end will come, not with a bang but a long drawn out whimper. And when I call her today I know she’ll say she’s fine and want only to hear news of my holiday. But I’ve got a feeling there’s a lot more she needs to say
We made it! My husband and I are in fabulous Port Douglas. This holiday had been booked for months but I really didn’t think we’d get here because of mum. But she’s doing ok and was happy for us to go. So here we are with an average daily temperature of 30 degrees Celsius , a beautiful pool, so many choices of bars, restaurants and cafes and each other. 8 days in a tropical lighthouse.
I don’t want you to think I’m a whinger or a pessimist, in fact I am the exact opposite, at times positive to a fault. I’ve had a fabulous day,my school had it’s annual fair which is such an amazing community effort. It warms my heart to see so many people come together for a common cause. I’ve been comfortably busy all day, with no spare room in my brain for maudlin thoughts. Then came the drive home. I was quietly content, very pleased with how the day had gone. My kids and husband came along to the fair and helped out- one of the many times when my work and home life melded seamlessly. My playlist kept me smiling- some Arctic Monkeys,a bit of Temper Trap and even a walk down memory lane with Bruce Springteen. Then Megan Washington was soulfully singing ‘Underground’. This is an amazing song about what she wants to happen when she dies. The chorus begins with ‘if the day is sunny let my father say some words and if the night is starry let my mother tell you all her stories’ . I lost my dad 16 years ago and it certainly doesn’t look like mum will be around to tell any stories, not that I expect nor want her to bury her children, but I’d hoped she might tell a story at my 50th next year. And with that chorus my contentment was gone and reality was back. I so don’t want my mum to die.
I want to cry for my mother like the daughter that I am. I want to be sad and angry and I want it to show. I want to tell people to get over the pathetic things they worry and moan about. I want to have a tantrum! After all my mum has been dealt a pretty crap hand and as her daughter I think I’m rightly pissed off about it!
But… when I see my children’s faces, when I hear the sadness and fear in their voices as they process the grim facts of their grandmother’s illness, when I hear the tears in my daughter’s words on the ‘phone and my son putting off hearing the latest news I remember I’m a mother. The greatest gift of all is to be just that- my children are by far the achievement I am most proud of and I know that my tantrums and unkind judgements have to be put to the side for them. Just as mum has put aside hers for me.
This is not in chronological order from the last entry but today was a roller coaster. My little sister flew in to join us today to get the results of Monday’s PET scan. Again my digestive system let me down and I felt positively nauseous from the moment I woke up. We made small talk over coffee and during our time in the waiting room. My sister and I played ‘ Perfect Match’ where we looked at couples and decided if they were made for each other or not. Mum was clearly nervous, quite quiet and at times short with us. After a 70 minute wait mum’s name was called. I was a bit wobbly on my feet but pulled myself together and followed the Dr in. Surpringly we were all relieved to hear that there were mets in mum’s lung and liver- we’d all been expecting an even further spread. Our mood was much lighter than last week when we’d learned there were satellite tumours around the original site and a met in a lymph gland. We were all really down after that. So Gerry, our doctor said she’d do a referral to an oncologist- we requested Rosie who has an outstanding reputation with melanoma. Gerry explained surgery was unlikely but we all chose to ignore the implications of that statement and left feeling ok. Mum chose our lunch venue and all was well. We spent the afternoon in my backyard before heading to the airport for Belinda’s flight home. Mum was happy- if dad was still alive today it would have been their 54th wedding anniversary: mum believed dad was watching over her and had even made a tree flower a month early for her💐. I came home happy, feeling like we had a reprieve for awhile anyway. Then I spoke to my med student daughter, she seemed down and wasn’t sharing my joy. I did a bit of research and discovered just how shit today’s news actually was: 4-12 months is the prognosis. FAAAAAARRRRRRKKKKK!!!!!!
My mum asked me to drive her to a Drs appointment to have a lump cut off the top of leg, almost on her butt really. The appointment was on the 15th of September. Didn’t think much of it, ducked off out of work for an hour and all was good. The next week, 22nd Sep, we went back to have the stitches out. I was just going to drop her off but I had a feeling that I should find a park and join her. The surgeon came out to greet her and asked ‘Is this your daughter?’ Mum answered that I was. He then asked if she’d like me to join them and she said no. Mum is an incredibly private person and wouldn’t want me in a room where her pants might be on display while she got her stitches out!! The surgeon almost shut the door then clearly had a change of heart , reopening it and saying very definitely ‘ actially I’m inviting you in’. My anxiety levels began to rise then.
In a nutshell, he told us mum had an aggressive malignant melanoma, already 33mm deep. He explained a depth greater than 4mm had a very poor prognosis!!! I swallowed my vomit and clutched mum’s hand. She remained expressionless. This woman with fair skin, who had never sun baked a day in her life and certainly wouldn’t have had her bum on display if she had, had a deadly disease usually associated with the sun.
We were told CT, PET and MRI scans would all be needed and surgery was booked for the 30th, when the rest of the tumour would be removed and lymph nodes sampled.
I needed my lighthouse.
I love The Lighthouse Song by Josh Pike- it’s become a bit of a code between my husband and I. I’ve suffered from depression & anxiety in the past, and still battle anxiety. When something comes at me that triggers my anxiety I often text him simply ‘ I want to move to a lighthouse. This lets him know that I’m struggling, and the truth is, he is my lighthouse, every time.