I’m not one for emotional posts; frankly, I think there’d be extended wincing on both the side of the reader, and the side of the writer. But y’know, sometimes these things are unavoidable.
Back in 2007, my mum went into hospital for a routine check-up. When all the tests came back in, they called her back, saying that they’d found what may be a cancerous growth. Turns out that yes, it was colorectal cancer. So they got Mum into surgery, had it out, and had her on chemo/radiation to make sure. Eventually, she was given a clean bill of health, and we all thought that was that.
Late last year, we discovered that wasn’t that, as the cancer had returned. So Mum started treatments again. It took place over the course of winter, which was doubly-hard on her, as the treatments made her more susceptible to cold environments. But she took it all in stride, as she was never one to complain about things. Well, at least, not at length.
Round the beginning of 2009, the hospital said they were going to try out a new and experimental treatment with her, as the previous one wasn’t getting the immediate results. Thing is, there were a limited number of slots for treatment, as it was on this ‘you’ll have to wait in the queue when your turn comes up’ system. As she was waiting for her date to start treatment, the hospital discovered she was having liver problems, which would’ve prevented effective and safe treatment, so they had to get that sussed first. A couple of outpatient surgeries later, they attended to her liver issue (it was blockage) as well as they could. However, as she had to get that done — and that required scheduling, which is never immediate — Mum missed her slot for the new treatment, and so had to wait for another open slot. Of course, that meant the cancer was still progressing in the meantime.
I’d seen her in April, checking up on her and whatnot, and asked if she’d started proceedings. She replied no, as she was still having some liver-related issues. In between waiting on slots and waiting on surgeries, she’d actually developed jaundice, which again, postponed cancer treatment. She was annoyed, but still optimistic. She wasn’t a pessimist, but she tended to have a realistic outlook on things. In the case of something like this, however, optimism is what everyone aims for.
During another check-up call on Mum in mid-June, I spoke with her for only a couple of minutes, as she was in some amount of pain. The drugs she were taking were exhausting her, and making her tired and irritable. She told me that she wanted me to come round, as ‘we need to talk’, which is a phrase that, considering the context, I didn’t want to hear.
As she, my dad, and I sat in the basement watching coverage of the Iran election cavalcade, they laid it out for me: essentially, the doctors had told her that between the tag team of cancer and jaundice, things had gotten to a point that they were discontinuing treatment, as there was nothing more they could do. They estimated that she had about six months to live. Insert line about ‘you never think it’ll happen to you’ here.
Six months was a hugely optimistic estimate. Between her liver, the cancerous tumours on her liver, and her original colorectal cancer, she was in a very rapid decline. I promised to stop round on Mondays and Saturdays to see her, and over the course of two weeks, her health had degenerated in no time flat.
I stopped round after work yesterday, as we’d gotten off early, and Mum had been in bed all day, and was so weak that she couldn’t even really speak. Sitting with her was Gran, who’d flown in from Alabama on Wednesday. We chatted for a bit, and she went downstairs with Dad so I could be with Mum alone. I held her hand and talked to her — I told her how I was dragged to that hideous Transformers movie, and she managed a smile — but otherwise, she was barely lucid. I probably took off from there about two hours later, telling everyone that I’d be back Saturday morn.
As is our wont, on Friday eves, my good friend Marika stops round, and we watched the last two episodes of Ashes to ashes (hell of a show, it goes without saying), and she decided to crash here for the night, as her car was having problems. Whilst she was reading on the loveseat, I was scheduling about three posts to automatically post to ‘Shouting etc etc’, when Dad rang at a quarter to 5am. As you suspect, Mari and I spent a couple of hours crying after I hung up.
Although I’m an atheist, I can say without bias that she was an example of a perfect christian — never wished ill will upon others, always was there for practically anyone when they needed help, never smoked, drank… hell, she even quit swearing sometime in the mid-Eighties. She was someone who legitimately made a difference in society by being a good human being.
All of my friends knew that Mum had cancer, but I only got a chance to tell some of them. Part of me wanted to wait for the ‘right’ moment, and part of me was still in denial about everything. So now the world knows, and clichéd as it sounds, the world is dimmer for Mum no longer being in it.
I love you, Mum. Always have, always will.