So is this a blog about me, cancer or my mother?
I can see why you might be confused at this point, but stay with me. I’m trying to make a point here. There is a relationship here between the loss of my mother and the way I have dealt and am dealing with my cancer.
I don’t have the right to be some poster child for grief and loss. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. That’s not why I’m writing about this. I’m only writing about this because this is what I know. And you know what they say, you should write about what you know. People lose their loved ones all the time. People lose their children, their partners, their friends – sometimes in horrific and tragic circumstances that they have to re-live every day for the rest of their lives. I have no idea what that is like, but it seems much worse. I can only tell you about what it feels like for me.
For me, it is a hole in my life and inside me that can’t ever quite be filled. It is a sadness that my mum didn’t get to have a long life and do everything she wanted to do. My parents had just reached the empty nest phase and got both of their children out of home (though I think there’s a pretty good chance that wouldn’t have lasted for long). I miss her and I’m sad that she didn’t get a chance to see how I turned out as an adult (which is obviously still a work in progress). I’ve found it unfair that I haven’t been able to share my life with her: the highs and lows, the everyday minutiae of life, the silly things, the chance to treat her (now that I can afford to) and take her for pedicures and high teas, and for her to look after me.
Since being diagnosed two years ago, I have definitely thought about what it would be like if she was still around and going through this with me. Maybe it would be easier, maybe not. Maybe it would be more upsetting to see her so distressed and frustrated that she can’t make me better. But there is something about a mother-daughter bond that makes me wish she was here by my side for this. I don’t want to sound ungrateful to everyone who has made such an effort to support me during this time. I know people have gone above and beyond because they know Mum is not around and so they have done things that are beyond the bounds of normal friendship. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the love and support from family, friends and colleagues. It’s just not quite the same as having your mum.
I am also sure there are plenty of people in the world going through similar cancer treatment who do have mothers who are doing more harm than good while looking after their daughters. Just because you’re a mother doesn’t mean you have special powers that can do no wrong. There are deadbeat mums. My feelings about my mother’s involvement in my treatment are purely speculative. I have no way of knowing what it would be like.
Amusingly, I would never describe Mum as much of a Florence Nightingale. Her solution to most problems whether they be illness, injury or emotional wound was to go to the beach for a swim. So her role in my care during cancer is purely conjecture, a fantasy. She could have been totally hopeless. She most likely would not have been much help at all because her rheumatoid arthritis was inhibiting her ability to do a lot of things at the age of 44. I think about how much pain she might be in now with her arthritis if she had lived. I think it would be unbearable pain. So you see, her being a part of this is a total fantasy that can only play in my head.
The last time I had to have some local surgery to have a new port-a-cath put in my chest, I was sitting up in a bed in the recovery room when another young woman was wheeled in from surgery and she was asked if she would like her mother to come in and sit with her. Her mother soon whirled into the room, larger than life, ensuring her daughter had some water and was comfortable. A nurse offered to get a warm blanket for the daughter and I watched enviously and teary as that fierce, over-protective mother roasted that nurse when the warm blanket failed to appear after a five-minute wait.
Would Mum have done that for me? Probably not. Neither of us like to make a fuss. And if she had? I probably would have died of embarrassment and got angry with her for causing a scene. Most likely, we would have shared a wry smile and raised our eyebrows at each other while we watched that other mother go off on that nurse. That’s not how we roll!
Again, I don’t write this so that people can feel sorry for me and say, ‘Oh Marnie, I could have come to the hospital and demanded a warm blanket for you. Why didn’t you let me?’ Because I didn’t want to. I was happy to go on my own. I was fine sitting in recovery by myself waiting for a friend to pick me up when I was ready to go home. Maybe I would have done the same even if Mum was still around. I just use it as an example that sometimes I wonder what things would be like if she was still here. And sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes it makes me envious. Sometimes it seems unfair. Sometimes it just is what it is.