When cancer knocks on your door

IMG_1022Last week my mum started a course of chemotherapy because cancer has come calling.
I can’t believe I am writing that sentence. My mum has cancer. Or had cancer because she’s had surgery to remove it. All of it. They got all of it out.
A tumour the size of a large grapefruit they said. Just imagine that; inside my mum, all 5ft nothing of her.
They took it off one of her ovaries and she was bereft. But my mother is made of tough stuff. Anything which knocks her down only makes her stronger, more resilient, more determined.
She had a tumour the size of a large grapefruit and she survived.

Then they told her the grapefruit was cancerous and she stumbled again. They had removed everything, and had taken samples from all around the tumour site and couldn’t find any traces of cancer.
BUT it only takes a single rogue cell to escape detection and it could come back.
So they recommended a course of chemotherapy. BOOM, that word. Hair loss, sickness, feeling like crap, all the usual phrases were trotted out at my shell-shocked mum who had convinced herself the surgery to remove it was the end of the matter.
But again she rallied. I will get through this, I will make jokes about it, I will be that glamorous patient who swans into the chemo wing of the hospital looking all bohemian with garishly bright head scarves and at ease with the shitty situation.

My mum is amazing. She’s a survivor; a bouncer back. She’s independent and feisty and nothing is going to knock her down. I TOTALLY know where my daughter gets it from!
It’s been a tough few weeks as she’s endured diagnosis, surgery, recovery and prognosis. Tough. I didn’t know what that word meant until now.
But it’s been nothing compared to this week. This week they poured the chemotherapy concoction into her veins. Poison all through her body to ensure all traces of the cancer are eradicated.
We know it is necessary, she knows it’s necessary; knows that it’s just an insurance policy to ensure long life. But it’s that word; chemotherapy.
So she went for her first dose on Monday, staying at the hospital all day as they tested, hooked her up, told her what to expect, looked after her, poisoned her.

Do you know what chemotherapy is? What’s in the poisonous mixture?
For my mum it’s a mixture of platinum and yew. She jokes that when it’s all over she’s either going to be worth a small fortune or end up like Wolverine.
Chemotherapy works because the mixture is ‘cytotoxic’, which means it will kill cells that divide rapidly – cancer cells. But also bone marrow cells, hair follicles, cells in the digestive tract.

On Wednesday night, two days after her first treatment, every bone in her body hurt. She couldn’t get comfortable or sleep. On Thursday she couldn’t walk. She was trying to make her way up her beloved garden on a walking stick. My mum who plays ball in the garden with my kids. I speak to her and she’s positive and not giving much away but she sounds different. Not like her. Like a spark has been dimmed.

I wasn’t going to share any of this because, well, I don’t share everything and it’s a family thing. It’s ours.
But it’s invaded every nook and cranny of our lives. Mum doesn’t want to see her grandchildren while she’s like this because she doesn’t want to worry them or for them to see her looking so frail. But my kids miss her, ask about her all the time, want to be part of it. And so I share what I can and try to explain the best I can.

But what made me really want to write about this was a radio piece I was listening to on my way to work on the Chris Evans show on Radio 2 on Friday morning.
Next week is UK Carers Week and he spoke to radio DJ Johnny Walker about how when he was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, his wife Tiggy gave up her career to look after him. Then last year she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, the roles were reversed and he became her carer.
What he said made my shoulders sink. “People will often ask how the person is who’s not well is doing but they don’t really think to ask how the carer is doing.”
You can listen to the short interview here. 

I phoned up my mum’s other half Drew to see how he was doing. And he’s struggling. He can’t sleep because he lies in bed listening to her toss and turn with discomfort, worrying and wanting to take it all away. He’s exhausted from caring and worrying and supporting and running around and living on his emotions. He does all of this without complaint. I’ve never ever been so tired, he tells me. And for him to say that is something; he’s a former fireman who never stops, always fixing or building or DIYing or lifting or pottering.
He has been amazing. Through the whole thing. And I thank him and tell him to call on us for anything at any time.
Now think of all those many many thousands of other carers across the UK feeling the same way as him. Children, teenagers, the retired, husbands, wives, friends, relatives – the ‘job’ of carer landing on them sometimes out of the blue.

It’s been a strange few weeks. It’s made me stop and take stock and realise we can get through anything if we do it as a family.
But I’d like the last words to go to my mum; you are bloody amazing, I’m so very very proud of you and we’re all here just waiting for you to get your spark back x

This entry was posted in Family Life, Me and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to When cancer knocks on your door

  1. Libby Price says:

    Oh Tara. Thinking of you all. It’s so bloody shit.
    She is amazing. You are amazing. You can all get through this. xxxx
    Libby Price recently posted…Guest Blog: What is strength?My Profile

  2. MummyWrites says:

    Oh Tara, this was so moving. I’m so sorry your mum is ill and truly hope the chemo does its thing, and her partner feels able to ask for help too. X
    MummyWrites recently posted…Why our children need to watch trash TVMy Profile

  3. Oh Blimey – You have had a week of it. Best wishes to your mum, Drew and you all. She sounds an incredible character xx
    Helen at Casa Costello recently posted…Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake with White Chocolate Frosting #BakeoftheweekMy Profile

  4. Nicola B says:

    It’s all so shit isn’t it? My Mum has secondary cancer, she was diagnosed with breast cancer just after I started secondary school. I’m in my 30s now. My daughter and I live with my Mum and Dad and she’s a fighter like your Mum. She refuses to let it stop her. When you find out and ever since you do it feels like and is just too much for you to get your head around. So many members of my family have had or have it it’s easier to say who doesn’t. The little things will become the big things, and just being there will mean so much. People need to stop worrying about what to say and what to do and just DO SOMETHING. Cancer sufferers have to focus on fighting the b***ard thing, it can be difficult to look forward into the next hours, days or weeks never mind further and treatment takes so much out of them but the time when you feel at your weakest is when you have to be stronger than ever. It takes a hell of a toll on family and friends, you and your Mums partner will need just as much support as your Mum does so you can all stand united against cancer. She will get her spark back but to help her do that you, Drew and everyone else need to take care of yourselves too #BigFatLinky

  5. Mwa says:

    Best wishes.
    I don’t know if this helps – we’ve had several family members go through chemo lately, and they’ve all come through brilliantly. I hope the same for you. x
    Mwa recently posted…Dog loveMy Profile

  6. TheBoyandMe says:

    Oh Tara (and Tara’s mum and her partner), you *will* get through this. I know it seems like there is no way in hell you will, and the path ahead seems long and never ending, but you will. My sister had just finished 6 rounds of chemo for breast cancer and there are times I felt we would never get here, and I’m not even the one who had it. The pain of chemo is unbelievable, but cancer patients do so well to endure it. You’ll soon come to know what can be done in a bad week (1st week of cycle) and a good week (3rd week just before next round).

    Please contact Macmillan for support. You will be amazed (I’m afraid to say) the impact that it will have in your family, and they are amazing at providing support and pointing you in the right direction.

    Sending you love and strength.
    TheBoyandMe recently posted…10 Outdoor Activities & Play Ideas (Tuesday Tutorials)My Profile

  7. Notmyyearoff says:

    I’m so sorry about your mum but really glad they got it all out. I hope the chemo goes well and the side effects are as well ok as can be 🙁 sending lots of good wishes to your family xx

  8. Trish says:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s popped up on Facebook just at the right time. My aunt is about to have chemotherapy and I know the whole family are worried and scared about it. It has given me lots to think about.
    Will be thinking of you, your mum and her partner in the coming weeks.
    Trish recently posted…Four from Trish Takes FiveMy Profile

  9. You don’t read about the effects of the chemotherapy at all. You read about the shock of the diagnosis, the operations, you read that they had a course of chemo and threw up and felt sick for a few days…. then remission hopefully. But you don’t read about what a big invasive thing chemo is. Thank you for writing this and I wish your mum a full and speedy recovery. xxx
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted…An Adoption Tme Bomb?My Profile

  10. Marianne says:

    Hi Tara, first of all hugs to you, your mum and Drew. It’s a very tough time for all and I pray that as hard as it is, it passes by quickly and the spark returns.
    We’ve been through it. Three frigging times now. First my mum got breast cancer and survived. Then she got the rarest form of lung cancer and survived. And then she got brain cancer ( last year) and so far has kicked it’s butt too.
    Each single time it’s made me sick with fear.
    So I hug you and send you tons of positive energy.
    Come on Tara’s mum! I’m cheering you from over here.
    Marianne recently posted…KidsCompanyFilms | Summer Is No HolidayMy Profile

  11. So sorry to read this, cancer is absolutely rubbish!!!! I hope your mum recovers from the chemo quickly, thinking of you all. xxx
    Cherished By Me recently posted…Hazelnut, Chocolate Chip Banana BreadMy Profile

  12. Iota says:

    Don’t really know what to say, but I am thinking of you.

    I did chemo 6 years ago, and I remember finding out that the drug had yew extract in it, and being amazed. It all felt so high tech and 21st century, and then yew! Somehow that smacked of witches and medieval times. However, it did the job for me, and I hope for your mum too.
    Iota recently posted…TimeMy Profile

  13. Kim Carberry says:

    Thinking of you all, especially your mum! Cancer is shit! I hope your mum makes a quick recovery x
    Kim Carberry recently posted…Our Weekly Meal Plan!! – #mealplanningmondayMy Profile

  14. Kara says:

    Thank you for sharing yours and your family’s story.
    My Mom goes Thursday to find out if what they are planning to remove is Cancer, I am not sure how to feel about it at the moment, but I am just getting on. I think that is all we can ever do.

    Your Mum sounds and I am sure is amazing, Cancer is a nasty bastard and your Mum is going to kick it’s arse with you and your family by her side.
    Huge love to you all xxx
    Kara recently posted…The Kiddies // Twenty-ThreeMy Profile

  15. LauraCYMFT says:

    Aww Tara. Sorry to hear about your mum. I’m sending lots of positive thoughts to you all that your mum will be back in good health in no time.
    LauraCYMFT recently posted…What Does Mummy Do?My Profile

  16. Christine says:

    I too have ovarian cancer – 8 years now, several rounds of chemo but life goes on. I’m still working, running, swimming and was out diving on the east coast of Scotland at the weekend. The treatment is horrible but she’ll get through it and be back to normal before you know it. Good luck to you all.

  17. Christine says:

    I too have ovarian cancer, and have had it for 8 years now, through several rounds of chemo. But life goes on and I still work, swim, run and had a beautiful day’s diving on the east coast of Scotland at the weekend. The treatment is horrible but you mum will get through it and be back to normal before you know it.

  18. Expat Mum says:

    What a bummer! Not much I can add to everyone’s comments but positive vibes and thoughts to your mum and everyone in the family. x
    Expat Mum recently posted…Wall Street JournalMy Profile

  19. Oh Tara, I am so sorry you and your family are going through this. I actually thought something was up with you as your online presence was very spare. I was keeping fingers crossed for you so that it was not cancer, somehow I had that feeling…. You might remember my dad unfortunately lost the battle with cancer. It’s great to hear your mum has had everythig removed, and will be fine. Wishing you, your mum and to all your family all the best, lots of strenght and love. That is the most important to help you all to get through this. Sending hugs xxx I am running race for life 5km with a few friends next Sunday, and will be thinking of you all again xxx

  20. Oh Tara. I read this post at 4 o’clock this morning. I was awake for some reason. It’s stayed with me all day. I’m at a loss for words. It all sounds horrendous. Hope you’re gaining support from the positive comments on here. Thinking of you and your mum. Adding to the positive vibes that are already on their way. xxx
    Rosie Scribble recently posted…Blogging, the Internet and speaking humanMy Profile

  21. Oh God, that is awful, for all of you. It must feel so strange seeing your mum needing care, like your kids needed when they were little, only worse as she’s your mum and she’s being clobbered by this hideous chemo. You’ve written this so movingly because you’ve written it straight and honest and with such love for your mum. Bless her, I so hope and pray she’ll be over this and stronger and tougher, just like some of your other commenters. Sx
    Siobhan @ Everyone Else is Normal recently posted…The Book Project: a tale of motherhood, careers, and expired passportsMy Profile

  22. Mel says:

    Tara, my thoughts go to you and your family. When you’re little, life seems so simple, uncomplicated. Then one day you become an adult and find out how tough it can get… It is so important to preserve our children’s innocence. Your mum sounds like a strong, determined woman. The fact she manages to throw humour at cancer is huge!
    Mel recently posted…My Sunday Photo – 7 June 2015 – Smoothie or Milkshake?My Profile

  23. Suzanne says:

    Thinking of you Tara, and your mum. X
    Suzanne recently posted…Why I Will Not Apologise to My ChildrenMy Profile

  24. Emma T says:

    Good luck to your mum. Sounds like she’s got the right spirit, and is just like my mum was (she ended up preferring fancy turbans to scarves!).

    I also heard the Johnny Walker bit – so moving and so true that carers don’t get thought about. My mum didn’t have anyone except us, but really it was my brother who did all of the caring with a bit of me and her neighbour thrown in. Being there 24-7 must be so hard, and it does put pressure on the relationship and life for everyone because so much changes.

    All the best, and hoping your mum’s treatment is a success, and that she kicks any rogue cells into touch.
    Emma T recently posted…Living Arrows 2015 week 23My Profile

  25. Nickie says:

    There’s so much I want to say however it’s always difficult to find the right words in situations like this. I never knew how much my daughter suffered as she was too young to tell us but I saw her peaks and troughs and everything in between and it’s horrible. I was also tired – oh so very tired – but you find the strength to carry on each day not thinking about the next, just dealing with what you have to deal with in the here and now.

    You and your mum are the double of each other though!! That is a brilliant photograph.

  26. Left this open in my browser in the hopes that after sleep I’d come up with something really thoughtful to say.

    I didn’t.

    But I am thinking of you, and your mum, and Drew, and the rest of the family too.
    Jax Blunt (@liveotherwise) recently posted…Funk up your fridge and #FreeYourPics with HP Instant Ink.My Profile

  27. Such a moving post. Your mum sounds like an amazing woman and I’m so sorry she has to go through this. What a hideous time for all of you. Hoping she bounces back soon. x
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…The middle child (taking my eye off the ball)My Profile

  28. Susan Mann says:

    Cancer just sucks big time. It brings so much grief and heartache. Your mum is amazing and will get there and get her spark back, it just takes time. It does take it’s toll on everyone around them and you too will all get there. Sending you all lots of love, strength and hugs x
    Susan Mann recently posted…Bike Riding – Silent Sunday Week 23My Profile

  29. Sarah says:

    Oh Tara, your poor Mum and all of you, together supporting her through this agonising treatment. xx
    Sarah recently posted…My Sunday Photo | Winter’s sunshine in Island BayMy Profile

  30. Alvina says:

    I understand your feelings. We have been living with cancer for over 5 years now and it is sadly going to take mum from us quite soon.
    Alvina recently posted…Living with The Disease!My Profile

  31. So sorry that you’re all having to go through this xxx
    Outside The Click recently posted…The Gallery – BuildingsMy Profile

  32. Mrs TeePot says:

    I’m so sorry that you and your family are going through this, it’s such an awful disease. I am sending lots of love to you all.
    Mrs TeePot recently posted…The Gallery: BuildingsMy Profile

  33. Oh Tara I’m so sorry to read this. Sending lots of love to you all x

  34. Pingback: I am not Angelina Jolie - Sticky FingersSticky Fingers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge