As a child I can quite clearly remember asking my mum about what I would do if she died. She quickly reassured me that such a thing wouldn't happen anytime soon, and when it did, I'd be happily married and have my own children to worry about. Happy with her answer and proceeding to cruise blissfully through the worry free period of childhood I never in my wildest dreams thought that things would turn out the way that they have. And the cause? The dreaded 'C': cancer.
What do you do when that 'one in three' statistic becomes your own mother? In November 2011 my world came to a halt as I found out mum had terminal cancer of the pancreas, with a diagnosis of just six months to five years to live. At just 53 years of age, active, and being a mother of five (including a very boisterous nine year old), we had faith in mum going the distance. Life became a rollercoaster of trying to carry on as normal, finding alternative treatment to chemotherapy and making each day as comfortable and happy for mum as it possibly could be. But at no point did mum ever envision that far off thing called 'death'.
On the contrary, mum would begin each day as she had in the past, with a smile on her face and making plans for the future. She refused to let cancer beat her. Having lost the majority of her hair through chemotherapy, mum embarked on a mission to find the perfect wig (although the streaked blonde and ginger piece from Japan was quickly discarded). When things took a turn for the worst, mum could be found strutting down the hospice corridors flaunting a new pair of shoes for next week's party.
Despite her mental strength and determination to survive, mum gradually deteriorated over the summer and peacefully passed away last August.
Losing the centre piece and rock to our family unit hit me painfully in places I never knew existed. I returned to university and tried to get on as normal, but soon became overwhelmed by the fear that I would never see the one person I looked up to ever again. In the period of nine months every dream I had had been taken away: of making mum proud in my future career, walking down the aisle and making her a grandmother to my future children. It sounded selfish, but the bond between us was something only we had, and I just couldn't imagine doing any of those things without her by my side.
We've all dealt with the last year in different ways, mine being to throw myself into my work and to find a dream job for after I graduate. My brother has already raised hundreds of pounds for the hospice, or the 'angels', as mum used to call them, and my younger brother has even decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Death, whatever the circumstance, can bring out an inner strength unknown to you before.
If 'time is a healer' then perhaps 2013 will help me and my family to accept what last year tragically brought us. Whilst this is both a tribute to mum's endurance, and to the strength and support of all those involved, it also aims to make the reader realise the precious element of each moment spent with a loved one.
Start this year with a worthwhile resolution: a family one.
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