Borrowed time..

Max and I both met up after work to see Mum and we had another lovely evening laughing and joking about old times. Her body may have been struggling from this evil, dreadful disease. But she was still able to crack a laugh – a very infectious laugh indeed (which I believe I may have inherited it from). Later that evening, she sent us both a text saying, ‘Thank you for the most amazing evening. My best few days been spent with you two. I love you both very much! To infinity. xx’ We both got the bus home and Max decided to meet up with his friends for the night. I stayed home and called the family to keep them posted.

The following day after, two ladies dressed very conservatively had visited her during the course of the day. One of them explained to her that she was from the council and would have to discuss the next steps for her kids. Mum was so worried because we lived in a flat which belonged to the council. When Dad passed, mum had explained to me some time ago that if anything happened to her, we wouldn’t be able to stay. The tenancy agreement by law was only passed down once which mum had then succeeded the tenancy. So as a result, Max and I would have to find private accommodation. I thought it was so unfair as even though we didn’t have the best of memories in the flat, we had lived there for nearly ten years and only just rebuilt our lives again and now have it all snatched away from us. The lady was very supportive and reassured her that we wouldn’t be homeless but the two of us would have to make a decision quickly. It was a lot to take in but we had to take it one step at a time and just focus on supporting mum. It would be too overwhelming otherwise.

The other lady, a social worker had come to give mum the emotional support. In terms of her emotional well-being, her religious or spiritual well-being and just general worries about what her next options were. They both meant well but mum wasn’t ready to discuss any of it. Every conversation was too emotional and upsetting for us. ‘She’s right. How are we supposed to just switch off and think practically about what’s going to happen next?’ I thought to myself.

When we had some time alone, Mum said to us firmly, ‘Listen. That flat is your home. I don’t care what anyone says. If you don’t like a place, say no to them and stand your ground! If they don’t like it and start kicking up a fuss then take it to the papers and the courts! Who does she think she is?’ She hissed angrily. ‘Mum, they’re just doing their job’, I said softly. Doing their job? ‘She raised her voice suddenly. ‘They’re not the one that’s dying here. They can bloody well wait!’

‘I know..’ I sighed. Max and I looked at each other awkwardly.

Then, a day or so later, Mum was booked for her first chemotherapy treatment. As I mentioned before, we had the blessing of the mobile hospital vans who were able to take her and drop her back. It was a god send because there was no way it would have worked in a standard mini cab and there would be nobody medically trained to help her in case she was violently sick or too poorly to cope with the journey there.

The driver arrived and we all carefully sat her down in the wheel chair because she was feeling too weak to walk longer distances. We placed her inside. She was starting to feel nauseous, so we waited for it to pass and carried on until she was seated and belted up. It took a little bit of time because the slightest bit of movement triggered it off. She had her stomach drained early in the morning too which again was always a huge relief. She had the access to do it herself if she wanted to – all they needed to do was connect it all up to her and she would press the button. And once it was full, she would call the nurse to empty it. She had everything she needed. Max had to dash out to run a few errands but asked me to let him know how it all goes. He kissed her goodbye and got in his friend’s car and slowly drove off. I knew it was very hard for him and he needed to take a breather.

We arrived at the special cancer hospital and were led by a nurse to the treatment room waiting area. It was quite a long wait and I could see mum was getting really nervous. ‘Kate, it isn’t going to work..you do know that it will make me feel weaker’. Mum was very stubborn and I could totally understand her mental outlook on her life was looking bleak but she was also strong and life has a way of sorting things and surprising us in many ways. ‘Mum, I totally understand but you have to be positive about this’, I said gently ‘After this session, you are going to feel pretty crap. But you’re a fighter! And you will get stronger and stronger. ‘No Kate! Save you breath’, she interrupted. I’m on borrowed time. The cancer has left my days numbered. I can feel it eating away at me. I’m literally wasting away and this session is going to make me so sick. I know it will!’ I refused to listen to her and I most certainly wasn’t in a position to have a row. We sat in silence and waited.

‘Theresa?’ A nurse’s head appeared around the door. ‘Come this way’, she said. I wheeled mum into the the room which was very large and had huge paned windows with small pots of pretty flowers placed on the ledges. After all, it isn’t ideal for a place looking cold and sterile for cancer patients. I had some idea of what the chemo sessions were like but the way it was carried out seemed quite a relaxing experience. All I saw was people of all ages sitting down in recliner chairs and waiting for this yellow bag of chemicals and all sorts of things slowly move down the tube into their veins. ‘What sort of stuff is it, exactly?’ I asked intrigued. ‘Ohh..lots of different things followed by long medical terminology which is difficult to pronounce too’, she said with a smile. ‘So it’s basically poison?’ I asked bluntly. ‘Pretty much’, she replied. ‘But it has so far helped many people’. I nodded in agreement and let the nurse crack on with mum’s treatment. ‘Now..’ she warned. ‘You may feel a bit sick for a while but it should go away within 20 minutes or so. You can have three sessions, then take a break for a week and come back once you start feeling a little stronger’.

‘Thank you, nurse. I have had many wonderful times being dreadfully sick!’ Mum jokes with sarcasm. The nurse chuckled and said, ‘Obviously, if you still feel sick then let us know and we will arrange the next appointment after a few weeks. ‘That’s if I am still here in a few weeks..’, Mum muttered under her breath but the nurse didn’t hear her. ‘Sssh!’ I whispered.

The treatment was over and we called the van back to collect us. Literally after a few minutes into the journey, Mum suddenly muttered, ‘I’m gonna be sick…tell him to stop the car’. He immediately stopped and Mum staggered out into the road and vomited. I was so worried it was going to be blood but it was just the chemo kicking in. I wanted to get out and help but a guy watched her from his shop window with shock and grabbed a pint glass from the side. He ran out to hand it to her. He could see she was in trouble and didn’t want her to be embarrassed. I heard him call out ‘Are you gonna be okay?’ Mum raised up her hand and nodded to him. She walked slowly back to the car and we headed off. ‘I’m going to move a little slower for you in case you need to get out again’, the driver said. ‘Thank you so much!’ We both said appreciatively. Eventually, we arrived back and with a bit of luck, Mum was able to make it without being sick again even though she was still feeling queasy.

She was exhausted. I thanked the driver as he was leaving and I wheeled her back to her room. ‘I can’t wait to just get some rest’, Mum said wearily. I helped her get dressed and kissed her goodnight. She was in a deep sleep almost instantly. It really took it out of her. ‘My poor mum’ I shook my head with sadness. I called Max up and he was so relieved it went well. I told him the trouble we had on the way back which he was a bit worried about but at least he knew she was back now.

‘Okay, Kate I’m going to love and leave you now as I’m staying at my mates tonight. I’ll call you in the morning. Love you’.

I shut the door quietly and went back home. I was shattered. The whole experience of that day completely burned me out. I threw myself on to my bed and before I knew it, I was out for the count.

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