When my son Benny was about 6 months old, my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. One of those really aggressive ‘nothing is going to work’ cancers that sends you to a terrifying place mentally. She passed away 13 months later in May of 2013 and my world has been a little bit darker and my heart a little bit emptier without her.
And so I’m now a motherless mother. Trying to be the best mum I can be, without the support and guidance of my own mum.
Mother’s Day is always tough as I don’t physically have my mum in my life any more, but this year Mother’s Day falls on the 8th May, which is also 3 years to the day since my mum passed away. I have wanted to write about my mum ever since I started this blog and although this week makes the most sense, I’ve found it hard to physically sit down and start to write. Maybe because opening up about something so personal and raw will just add to the strong emotions I’m already feeling or maybe because I just want it to be perfect. I don’t want to leave anything out, and yet I want to keep things to myself.
As I’ve said all along, this blog is about me and my journey. I like to get my thoughts out because it helps me make sense of them. If by publishing my thoughts has any sort of positive impact on someone else, or if someone else can relate and no longer feel alone, then that’s an added bonus. If not, then that’s OK too. I feel that by writing about these life changing experiences that I can move forward a little.
My mum was first diagnosed with uterine sarcoma cancer in April of 2012. She underwent a full hysterectomy at the Royal Women’s Hospital and was then treated with 6 weeks of radiotherapy at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre. She received news that the cancer had spread to her lungs in December / January 2013 and began aggressive chemotherapy in February 2013 at Peter Mac. After only 2 sessions, the symptoms were too severe and the treatment was stopped. She felt short of breath, became anaemic and underwent 4 blood transfusions, had fluid drained from her lungs and was simply too weak to receive any further treatment. It was discovered the tumour had increased in size and the chemotherapy hadn’t made any impact on the cancer. And so she was moved to Palliative Care on Good Friday 2013.
My whole world was on hold while my mum was sick. I had this constant fear inside of me that consumed me every time I thought of what life might be like without her. I went through every emotion imaginable and as hard as it is to accept that this happening to you and your world, I came to realise that once you accept your reality and your new world, that you think clearer. I turned my anger, sadness and overpowering fear into motivation and fight. While trying to go through the motions of everyday life, helping my mum fight the cancer was my priority.
We never gave up hope. We always thought that if she was to get physically and mentally stronger with our encouragement and support that her oncologist would consider trying chemotherapy again, and we’d beat the cancer. She did get stronger, for a little bit, but sadly the prognosis was that she would simply get weaker and weaker until the cancer spread even further and essentially took over her body. We were told this news on May 1st, and she passed away in her sleep a week later on May 8th2013.
It was hard to believe that although the painful cancer journey we all went through with her was over, that it took my beautiful mum with it. She was gone and she was never coming back.
My mum’s passing has affected me in many ways.
- Like I said at the beginning of this post, my world will forever be a little bit darker and my heart a little but emptier without her. There are days where I don’t want to talk to anyone, and there are days where I need noise and people around me. There are days where I think about her humour and laugh all day to myself, and then there are days where I cry uncontrollably. It doesn’t get easier. My grieving will never stop. I’m just learning how to live this new life without her in it.
- It’s hard to know that she will never see just how smart Benny is. Not because he’s mine, but this kid is very smart. I am so proud of him and I know she would be too. They shared a special indescribable bond and she always said that his daily visits to the hospital were prolonging her life. I just hope she is somehow playing a part in who he is today.
- She won’t be at the hospital when I have my second little boy. I have one month left and although those I truly love will be there to support us and congratulate us, my mum won’t. I remember how happy she was when I told her I was pregnant with Ben, and that smile on her face when she first met him. I will never see that smile again and so I already feel a little empty knowing she won’t be there this time.
- My biggest fan is gone. There is no one in the world that will ever love, support and encourage you as much as your mum will. What I wouldn’t give to hear her tell me that she’s proud of me.
- My mum and I used to go to Kmart together all the time. It sounds so stupid but I really wish we could go to Kmart together again (especially because Kmart is totally awesome these days)! So whenever I do head out to the shops and see other mums with their mums, it breaks my heart that I don’t have that any more. I almost resent them, as bad as that is.
- We celebrate birthdays, and Christmas’, and Easter’s and name days without her. If there’s one strong memory I will always have of her is her preparing for a celebration. She would bake for days and spend the day of the celebration with empty plates around her in the kitchen as she started to fill then up with food. She’d spend hours getting everything perfect. For Benny’s 1st birthday she knew that I was going for a blue, brown and orange theme and so she brought over about 10 platters full of all kinds of blue, brown and orange dessert. I don’t know how she did, but she always went out of her way for these special days. I just hope she’s proud of the way I prepare for celebrations now because I try to do what she would always do. Or at least the intent is there.
- Lastly, I am now and will forever be terrified of ill health. I am so sh*t scared of cancer because I know first-hand what it does to someone and their family. I hate it when I’m sick, and I’m an absolute mess when Ben is sick. My mind always thinks the worst and although I know that’s not right, I guess it’s just the scar that my mum’s passing has left behind.
Everything I do, and everything I am is because of my journey so far. My mum passing away changed my life forever. But I have absolutely no regrets in how I handled myself, and I am so proud of the person I was before she got sick, while she was sick and who I am becoming today.
It’s been 3 years and I will continue to smile, but that doesn’t mean that I have forgotten her, don’t miss her, or don’t love her. A part of me will forever be lonely but I find peace in every memory, strength in every thought and warmth every time I close my eyes and hear her voice. I made a promise to never forget, but I also made a promise to continue to live my life and take care of my boys- my son, my husband and my dad.. and now my new boy who we’ll meet very soon.
My mum was truly one in a million and she will forever be my hero. She fought as hard as she could until the very end and I am eternally grateful for that. She was my best friend and taught me everything I knew, and although I can’t see her, I know she’s around and taking care of us all.
I just hope she’s proud of me as a mum, because it’s hard doing this without her.
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