Friday 30 March 2012

Anniversary Special

It's easier to be the person having an operation than to be one of the people waiting for news. Today has not been difficult, as such, but it has been witness to some stress and concern. And yes, a bit of worry. My Mum is always worth the worry, of course.

On Sunday 1st April, three entire years will have passed since Mum had her lumpectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer mere weeks earlier. Outside was bright and Sunny, the birds still flitted and sang, the people still shopped for food, the night still fell. I remember not being angry about the situation in which we all found ourselves. ("We" is always Mum, Dad, brother, and me.) I felt angry that my Mum had to suffer yet more physical pain and more stress and more depression because of cancer. That bastard, the fucking shitster cancer.

Having cancer is bad enough. Jeez, it's hell. Having to undergo surgery to take away part of your body because of cancer is yet worse. But having seen my Mum suffer pain and all the other things that occur with a situation like that, and then be told that the cancer was more devious than they had previously thought is... well, it's terrible. We didn't know if that meant she'd have to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy, whether she'd be confined to a bed, whether she'd still be there at Christmas.

The tests post-op confirmed what no-one wanted to ever hear: "The cancer's spread." The lumpectomy wasn't enough. A mastectomy was needed. And so it happened. Devastation, research, tears, disbelief, fear, more research, more tears, anger. More anger. Lots of anger.

It all happened shortly after I'd gained some reasonable knowledge from reading - big words, technical terms, how procedures were done, what happened first, which leaflets were given. God, SO. MUCH. STUFF. If you haven't read any of it, shame be upon you! Lisa is superb, P is wonderful, the families are gold. DO IT. DO IT NOW.

The breast unit which treated Mum was - and still is - outstandingly good. Her oncology team was wonderful. Utterly, truly wonderful. (There was a time I had to see the same surgeon when I had something of an unusual boob occurrence - no, none grew, sadly. From personal experience, he is a safe pair of hands. But that's irrelevant.) I knew when she'd have to be admitted for about a week to have her mastectomy she'd be very well looked after. The ward staff were so caring and careful, so thoughtful. I couldn't see Mum for a few days, because she was too unwell to see more than one person at a time and, of course, that one person was my Dad. We couldn't hold her, we couldn't squeeze her tight in our arms and keep her safe, because she was in so much pain that she couldn't speak at times.

One of the most brilliant things in my life is seeing my parents smile, seeing and hearing them laugh. That stalled for a while in those horrendous dark days. We still laughed. We had to. and we did because we couldn't not laugh. It's part of our lives. It's so important, and I think sometimes some people forget or don't appreciate how vital humour is.
We knew how lucky we were, though, because the mastectomy was, said the doctors, absolutely the right thing to remove what turned out to be aggressive cancers. Plural. Chemotherapy was not needed, nor was radiotherapy. The relief in my entire being was indescribable, after reading Lisa's experiences of it all. And even then, she left out information.

My parents, being soulmates, were equally as affected by this awful time in our family's history. Even though three years have passed since the surgical beginning of it all, it's not less disturbing and bizarre to say "My Mum had cancer". My Mum? MY MUM? You must mean someone else. You CAN NOT mean MY. MUM.

With all these reflective emotions and hormonal upheavals, it's not surprising this is not the jolliest of posts, but nor is it the most depressing. I know so very well that our lives could be so much worse, so difference, so dreadful. I have such dear, such lovely friends whose Mums have, in recent years, had drastic surgery and chemotherapy, friends of the same caliber who have been and who are going through that same kind of hell. It makes my endometriosis seem pathetically unimportant. I know neither it nor I am pathetic but comparing it to cancer makes it seem... well, so much less terrible. I'll hit myself in the face when this period arrives for saying that, I'm sure...

This current time of concern for my Mum is, as I said at the start of this post, nothing like that of 2009, but it doesn't change the level of care which exists. I would do ANYTHING for her and my Dad. I still think of those times every day. It's impossible not to, for me, because Mum and I spend so much time together, and we talk about all sorts. Around the house in their usual places, there are the hospital booklets and appointment letters and the post-surgery underwear catalogues from a friend. There are hot flushes and low days, the scar and the not-actual chicken fillet, the tenderness of nerves and skin that have still not healed fully.

And I will not tolerate anyone's extreme stupidity, the misguided ignorance of someone thinking they're helping raise awareness by insulting people, the telling me I should prove I know about cancer and its effects on people. I'm not sure why there are those among us who feel they must assert themselves in those ways, why they can't see how wrong they are. The selfishness of some people I've known is astounding, and the reluctance to admit wrongdoing is staggering, given the subject. So, I swore a bit. And? You'll get over it.

Now, if you don't mind, I need to eat a whole pack of Strepsils and a ton of ice. Goodnight.

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