Losing My Mum To Cancer At 17 Gave My Life Direction

I’m only 18 but I’m not naïve enough to think that tomorrow is guaranteed
Peter Havers

There’s never a good time to receive bad news. When mine came, I was 16. Having just finished my GCSE’s, I was enjoying a Leavers’ BBQ at school when my housemaster came rushing over. I can’t remember what he said, just that I needed to get home immediately and that he couldn’t tell me why.

On 24th June 2015, I was told that my mum had cancer. Two cancers, in fact. Lung cancer and brain cancer. My world didn’t shatter. I didn’t scream or cry because from that moment on I became numb. I was in denial when I thought I was accepting things.

Twenty-four hours later, I was at the Christie in Manchester, helping to pick out a wig and watching one of her radiotherapy sessions take place. I was made to feel fully involved in her treatment throughout. Once the radiotherapy had finished, she was put onto pills. They worked for a while - 12 months or thereabouts. After that it was chemo. That didn’t work. From that point onwards, I knew it was terminal but expected years, not months.

One Friday, 18 months after she was diagnosed, I phoned to say that I was spending the night at a friends, that I loved her and that I’d be home tomorrow. That was the last conversation we ever had. Her speech was fading and it lasted two minutes before she said goodbye - she was trying to spare me the horrors of her deterioration. There lies a great tragedy in losing your ability to speak at a time when you have the most to say.

I arrived home the next morning to an ambulance crew transferring her to St. Luke’s, a local hospice. I’d last seen her a week before when she seemed absolutely fine.

Six days later, I watched her pass away, finally at peace. Having fallen asleep at her bedside, I was woken by an alarm that I realise now was a heart-rate monitor. Two minutes later she was gone. I still find great comfort in having been there to watch her go and in knowing that she wasn’t alone. The average person interacts with tens of thousands of people in their lifetimes. For me to have shared those final few moments with her is precious.

Grief didn’t seem to hit me hard. I was rather proud of being stoic; that I was seen to be coping. I went back to school a week after the funeral. In private, however, I found myself tearing up at random things. Why? Because I wouldn’t allow myself to cry at my own situation. I didn’t want to be a victim.

The reality of my loss finally hit during my A-Levels. I was walking into exams having last picked up the relevant textbook weeks, if not months, before. I knew that I’d fail if I didn’t revise but just couldn’t summon up the energy to do so. What was the point? My mum had worked so, so hard, often till 3 or 4 in the morning, only for the stress of it to take its toll. Why spend the next three weeks of my life forcing myself to work towards a career I no longer cared for?

So, half-way through my A-Levels, I stopped revising and started working towards something that meant much more to me. I scrapped plans to spend a gap year travelling and began organising a comedy night in aid of the charities that had helped her and helped me. Having already fundraised for St. Luke’s, I decided on three that I knew would do the most good for the most people: Cancer Research UK, MacMillan and The Christie.

I had no experience whatsoever in organising events yet here I am today, selling tickets to a 500-seat comedy show in Manchester, on 28th February. I could not be happier with the line up: Gary Delaney, Mick Ferry, Danny McLoughlin, Simon Lomas, Jack Gleadow, Tony Wright, and Matt McCarthy.

Losing a loved one to cancer didn’t crush me, it gave my life direction. I’m only 18 but I’m not naïve enough to think that tomorrow is guaranteed. So, I won’t wait until I’m ‘old enough’ to do things nor do I want a conventional life path. I want to jump into things at the deep end and learn from my mistakes. Right now that’s through organising charity events. If anyone has an idea for my next one, feel free to comment below.

For more information about the event, please head to: https://ti.to/comics-vs-cancer/2018