First time and only the last

Well..as you can imagine, the chemotherapy session that mum had was an intense, exhausting experience. It was like it had sucked her whole entire essence out of her. I tried to remain positive and wait until she once again regained her incredible strength to fight this long arduous battle. ‘I know she can do this!‘ I thought to myself. So as usual, we called mum for the next few days and kept the family posted. Our Uncle Frances was pratically staying round most nights by this point. The evening visits were as wonderful as always but I could tell she was getting very tired. The meals that the students in the hospice kitchen had prepped were starting to put her off. ‘This food tastes different, it’s not the same’, she said with a disgusted look on her face and pushed her plate aside. New cooks had taken over as the students had only been there a short time. Unfortunately, it was just a temporary thing much to mum’s disappointment.

It was a weekend and I was up early, so I thought I would give mum a quick ring. It took a few rings for her to pick up the phone when a different voice answered. ‘Hello, is that Katie?’ Umm..yes, whos this?’ I asked surprised. It was one of the nurses. She was down the hall near mum’s room when she heard the phone ring. She explained that mum was extremely tired and a little weak and didn’t want to take any calls. It was a shame because I was so used to speaking to her everyday on the phone before I visited her and after until this time. She needed rest so I decided to call her back the following morning.

So that’s what I did . She answered but sounded very groggy. ‘I feel crap..I’ve been sick again…feel so tired…’ she started saying with short pauses in between. ‘Oh, dear. Are you okay?..’ I asked worriedly. The conversation was very short because speaking seemed very hard for her. She was just too tired to utter a few words. She had another few chemo sessions booked and I started to worry if she will ever be strong enough to have the next one.

I decided to cook a meal later that day packed with green veg such as Kale, spinach, some chicken and salad which were packed with nutrients and antioxidants. I didn’t make a huge one as I knew she would only cope taking a few mouthfuls. Worth a try.. I thought. So I brought it over to her later that evening. She slowly sat up in bed and had a look at it. She wasn’t very keen on the kale but she seemed to like the salad and chicken. After a few mouthfuls, her hand started to tremble. ‘ Everything alright, mum? I asked slightly concerned. ‘It’s lovely Kate, but I simply can’t have anymore. Only just two or three mouthfuls and look at my stomach!’ I looked at it. It was swelling up again. So I grabbed the machine to drain her stomach and put it to her side ready for the nurse to come and drain. It was so frustrating because I wanted her to gain as much strength as possible, but obviously you can’t force someone to eat if they don’t want to or simply cannot eat at all. I most certainly didn’t want her to be sick again.

The next few more days seemed a blur but Max and I visited her as usual, and we were about to knock on her door when two doctors stopped us. ‘Are you Theresa’s children?’ We book looked at each other anxiously. ‘Yes..what’s happened, is she okay?’ ‘We need to talk somewhere private’, one of the male doctors said gently. They both led us to an unused room across the hallway. We sat down and had to be mentally prepared that the inevitable was going to happen anytime soon. ‘Theresa was very unwell last night. She vomited a lot of blood – dried blood which you probably have all experienced seeing before, and her body is extremely weak’. We both started to cry. We knew she was poorly but it was still so hard to hear and you’d like to think that there is a slight glimmer of hope. But it wasn’t to be…

‘I know this is extremely difficult and devastating to hear but we have to address that the chemo has completely weakened her immune system and she had a high temperature. It made her feel very delirious that she fell out of her bed and hit her head. So now she’s feeling extremely weak and she won’t be able to have the strength to go for another treatment. We can give her all the medication she needs for her to feel comfortable, but I’m afraid judging by the way she is now, we’re looking at short days to weeks. We are so very sorry..’

Max took some deep heavy breaths trying to compose himself. He put his arm around me and we both asked what is to expect with the last stages. We asked as many questions as possible and listened carefully. Any news and updates we would hear from the nurses and everyone who is looking after mum, including her social worker.

It seemed so surreal. I just wanted it to be a nightmare and wake up from it all. My heart, our hearts broken. Totally inconsolable..

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