Saturday, 14 June 2008

Owning My Cancer Part Two

Some of you may remember when I wrote Owning My Cancer Part One. Over the intervening months I have thought about writing Part Two, I even got as far as starting to write it although I never finished it. A close friend of one of my friends has recently learnt that she has cancerous cells in her cervix. I have offered my support to both my friend and her friend. But this has also reminded me that I didn't finish writing the story of my battle to stay alive.

I don't remember whether we made a joint decision not to tell the boys that it was Cancer or if we just didn't tell them. We told other people though, I needed to tell people. I needed people to know that I would need help with school runs, lifts to football those sort of things. To me, it felt necessary to explain to people what was wrong with me as I didn't feel that I appeared to be ill. There were no outward signs, no wounds that people could see, it felt like an invisible illness. I didn't want anyone thinking that I was being lazy not taking my children to school etc. Especially as my children did not attend one of the schools nearby. There were not many other pupils going to their schools who lived near to us. I drew up rotas for the school run. SF was working in The Other City and would start working at 6am. When no one else could do it PB would bring them home for me even though her own son attended another school. (During this time she moved him to the same junior school, later when I was well again I took her son and mine to school on the way to work and she picked them all up on the way home as she started and finished work earlier than I did).

I think in the beginning all we told the boys was that mummy had something wrong with her tummy. Ok thats what my mum and I told them. SF told them that.......'mummy is going to die'. I can't even begin to understand how that made them feel. Aged 13 the eldest of the four I relied on DC to help me by being here for the younger boys when I needed to sleep, or go to the shop for me when we needed somthing. He had other ideas, (I thought at the time that he was being a selfish teenager, but I later learnt from some of his friends that he was really worried about me and his way of coping was to avoid me as much as he could). Friends did that too. One of the things that I didn't expect was that the people I thought would be supportive would avoid me, but other people who I didn't know so well were really supportive.

It is at times like this that the differences in my children becomes more obvious. DC avoided me, OJ aged 10 became my number one carer, not just caring for me, making sure I was comfortable seeing if I needed anything to eat (even learning how to make me a cup of tea) but looking out for ET and JA too. ET would look at me as though I had grown a second head, I was a stranger a monster as far as he could see, he had just turned 9. But my baby JA had just started school and was struggling with that, it wasn't fair on him to have a poorly mummy who might die. He would just say things like mummy has a 'poorly tummy' then go and head butt my tummy. He was too young to realise what was going on. He just wanted his mummy to be like other mummies. I told all the schools so that they were aware of what was happening so they could support the boys if it was nesessary.

Something else I hadn't expected was how it made me feel being told that I had Cancer. Until that time I had been in a lot of pain and was very embarrassed that I was often leaking from my bladder like an old woman, but apart from that I didn't feel ill. There was nothing wrong with me that couldn't easily be put right. But within a day or so of being told that it was Cancer I found that I went right off food, even my favourite foods I couldn't stomach. I became very weak, I would fall asleep at the drop of a hat, one minute I was wide awake the next completely drained and asleep, it didn't matter where I was. I don't know it that was a physical symptom or purely psychological. It was this weakness and lack of appetite that alarmed SF the most. Resulting in him having to get sleeping tablets to help him sleep as he was so worried about me. I always had this feeling that he wasn't so much worried about losing me because he loved me but because he suddenly found out how much I actually did for him and the boys.........'how will I cope with four children on my own' became like a mantra for him.

I spent a lot of time with my mum, I know it was very hard for her, she hated seeing how ill I was and the worry that her beloved daughter might die was very tough for her. There were times when she had to just walk out because she wanted to cry but didn't want me to see her cry. There were also times when she wanted to smack SF for thinking about himself more than me or the boys. It was as if me having Cancer was to make life hard for him. Both SF and my mum carried on working but took it in turns to take a few hours off to take me to the hospital for my treatment. Collecting me at around 11.30am to get me to hospital for my daily appointment with the radiography department. Finally getting me home again by about 2.30 -3pm and back to work while I waited for the boys to be brought home.

I promise you won't have to wait so long for part three


Gypsy said...

I cannot even begin to imagine what it's like to be told you have Cancer. Even the word is very scary. I know what you mean about it feeling like an invisible illess and your need to explain to people so they won't think you're just being lazy. I am exactly the same way with my MS as there are times I need and have to ask for help from others.

It's funny how a crisis can bring out the best and worst of people isn't it and it's usually the exact opposite to what you would have expected.

Great post lady and thanks for sharing. I, for one, am immensely pleased you survived :)

Z said...

I think the knowledge that a loved one has cancer often provokes a reaction that cannot be anticipated. You are an inspiration to many.

Mei Del said...

what you describe about SF reminds me a lot about my ex. he always has to be at the centre, the drama has to be about him, and usually we're all happy to put him in the centre, that's why the relationship always worked until something happens when the dynamics shift and someone's got to step up.

DJ Kirkby said...

Thank you for sharing this sad but interesting story.

Trixie said...

Thanks for sharing this sweetie. *mwah*

Lady in red said...

Gypsy I think it is this feeling of an invisible illness that makes it harder. If you have a broken arm or leg or you have an operation with bandages covering the wound people can see that and make allowances for you but when it is something they can't see and I know it is the same with MS as I see that with my mum. For years the only outward sign which I could see but others may not have noticed was that she dragged her right foot a little.
I felt as though I would be judged to be a fraud just pretending to be ill. I was wrong though as apparently I did look ill (very pale and weak), certainly not my usual self.

Mel said...

I know I learned a whole lot about forgiveness and living for today.

I'm thinkin' you gleened some of those very lessons from your experience as well.

And let me echo the thank you for sharing this with us, ma'am.
It's been an affirming/healing read for me.

Lady in red said...

Z it is often the case that those around a cancer patient are forgotten about,but their needs are just as great as those of the person who is ill

Lady in red said...

mei I learnt many years ago that to survive in my marriage I had to look after myself and the boys if SF was there he was but otherwise we just got on without him.

Allowing him to be centre of our universe was just hurting all of us.

Lady in red said...

dj I am only sorry that I had to go through this experience before I learnt to live

Lady in red said...

Trixie it was you who prompted me to write this so the thanks must go to you

Emma said...

LiR thanks for sharing this, you are an inspiration to all of us and I can't wait for the next installment..xx

Anonymous said...