July 2013 my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the most aggressive form, 7mm wide and no mammogram detected it. It was sheer luck that my mum had felt such a subtle change in her breast.
When Chemotherapy finished, my mum experienced severe sciatica. She visited the doctors, who then sent her for a MRI scan. The scan showed several more lumps, this time on her ovaries. The lumps borderline cancerous and the size of grape-fruits. The doctors were amazed no symptoms had been detected earlier.
March 18th my mum had a hysterectomy. She stayed in hospital for a week but she was determined to be back home as soon as possible. My sister & I visited her every night after I had finished college and we stayed until late evening. When we got home we ate and went to bed. There was no time to college work.
When she was discharged from hospital, I spent most of my time looking after her. A-Level examinations took a back seat. I spent everyday looking after my Mum just like she had done for me so many times before.
Weekends were spent taking the dogs for a walk, cleaning, shopping & making sure my Grandma was okay. I kept doing this – day in, day out – until her treatment was over. The overwhelming sense of duty is something I predominantly remember. The feeling of guilt for not cleaning the house, the guilt of not being at home – for not having enough time. It was overwhelming. The perfectionist attitude that I tried to exert became draining – I had to make everything perfect so that my mum didn’t have to worry.
School became my sanctuary. A place for me to enjoy being 18, to learn and have fun in an environment I felt safe. Although the claustrophobic, nauseating feeling never settled. The feeling of never having enough space to stretch or even scream hung heavy always announcing its presence. As time went on, my motivation decreased. My work slipped and my teachers worried. They complained and they nagged but I could do nothing to stop it.
My teachers did everything they could to make me feel better including bringing me tea and biscuits when I needed a rest – comfort, conversation, normality. It was hard but it was life and I had to keep moving through.
The repercussions of cancer stay with you forever. They change your outlook and personality. I still have a lot to do and the same full time involvement in my home life is paramount but its becoming bearable. My mum, who has been put on tablets, becomes easily tired, hot sweats and joint pain. It’s hard but we deal with it the same way we did before, laughter.
Cancer is a disease. A disease that changes your life completely. Fighting it is hard but its worth it. Its consequences and experiences will bruise and scar you but you will get through it. It will be okay.