Bye Shelley, see you soon, darling

In the days running up to Mum’s appointment with her oncologist we see less and less of Mum. She is there physically, of course, but there are fewer glimpses of her. She is back to sleeping through the days and is more and more difficult to rouse. Sometimes I creep into her room and lay next to her on the bed while she sleeps, wishing things were different. We tell her we love her a lot and Mr Mason, Mr Mason Jr and I spend lots of time together working as a team helping to move Mum and with her meals and tablets. At the beginning of the week Mum stops being able to use a straw and we know that we are in big trouble. We try many different techniques and have some success with a spoon and later with a syringe. Taking tablets on board is hard but we muddle through it.

Wednesday morning rolls around and Mr Mason and I know that we will have to see Dr C on Mum’s behalf. We leave her in the capable hands of Mr Mason Jr and Ms Atherton and make the trip to Lincoln with Master Safaie. Dr C is kind but straightforward which are qualities that you want in an oncologist. He knows immediately from Mum’s absence that things were bad. After listening to us he tells us that sadly the radiotherapy hadn’t worked as we had hoped it would and that we have come to the end of the road. Chemotherapy would not be of any benefit to Mum at this point and he tells us to make use of Marie Curie, Macmillan and the Hospice and Home team who we are already in touch with. Dr C tells us that he has enjoyed taking care of Mum and he seems genuinely upset at the way the cookie has crumbled. As we go to leave, Mr Mason tells Dr C that he is extremely glad that Mum ignored his medical advice and came out to Thailand in July to see Master Safaie. Dr C smiles and says that he is also glad that Mum ignored him and that he secretly hoped that she would although with his official Dr hat on he could never have said that at the time.

That afternoon, Mum’s Macmillan nurse visited us and helped us to get Mum a bit more comfortable in bed. It was a difficult task; the comfortable memory foam mattress not really conducive to safely moving and positioning someone. On the advice of all the nurses and support staff we decide to accept an inclining bed in order to keep Mum as comfortable as possible. Mum’s Macmillan nurse is fabulous and works fast to ensure that we have one the very next day.

Probably the only person oblivious to the unfolding horror is Master Safaie. There is something to be said for having a small child around to remain cheerful for. We play lots of ‘flying baby’ and take many smiley pictures. The Mason family also has a rich tradition of making up stupid songs including such titles as ‘Whoosh! Bardney-doo’ and ‘Are you a nincompoop? (The answer’s yes)’ so I try to entertain myself and others by writing a modern day nursery rhyme called ‘Brexit means Brexit’ which gets a few giggles.

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On Thursday the bed arrives and the district nurse joins us to set up the mattress and help us move Mum across. Instead of the smooth transition we were hoping for, what occurs could have been set to Yakety Sax. The nurse tells us that the new bed is set up with the head of the bed pointing towards the window which is the opposite way that Mum’s current bed faces so we decide the rotate the new bed in order to ensure continuity for Mum. After rotating the new bed 180° (which is a bit of a tight squeeze) we slide Mum across from her old bed to her new bed in two or three movements. “Who wants to try the buttons?” asks the district nurse so Mr Mason obliges in order to raise Mum’s head. He presses the buttons and Mum’s legs begin to raise. The district nurse pauses for a second and then makes a face like someone who just remembered they left the gas on. She grabs the buttons and confirms that she has made a mistake and the bed is now the wrong way around. We have to move Mum back into her old bed, rotate the new bed once more and then transfer her across. We do all this as smoothly as we can but it isn’t comfortable for Mum and we apologise a lot. The district nurse is clearly mortified and keeps saying that this has never happened to her before (and I suspect never will again). Mum had been unable to take her steroids this morning as her ability to swallow anything had now gone and so the district nurse helps to arrange for a liquid version that can be delivered through a pump driver to be prescribed. Unfortunately, it is tricky to track down and although behind the scenes 14 pharmacies across Lincolnshire county are called, it isn’t available until the following day.

On Friday, Mr Mason, Mr Mason Jr, Ms Atherton and I surprise each other all morning by walking into Mum’s room to sit with her only find one or more of us already in there. We spend a lot of time with her and I sit Master Safaie in the crook of her arm and I continue to read her all the messages of love and support that she received through Facebook, her blog, text messages and emails. That morning I receive a very long and lovely email from her friend Ms Halford, whom she met whist training as a magistrate. This was a chapter of Mum’s life that I had all but forgotten and it was nice to be reminded of now. In spite of the email opening with “Shag Bandit!” and being signed off “Rubber Knickers xxx” (their nicknames for each other) behind the humour it was full of love and sadness and I feel choked up as I read it. Ms Halford was also the friend who accompanied Mum to the appointment for her initial diagnosis so there was a poignant symmetry in reading Ms Halford’s loving message today, bookending Mum’s journey with cancer.

Mr Mason, having picked up the liquid steroids busies himself with trying to get hold of a district nurse to administer them. Mr Mason Jr and I go to select some more music to put on for Mum to listen to since her Sandy Denny album had just finished. We flip through various CDs and joke inappropriately about putting on the ‘Family favourites’ CD (track number 1 being ‘The Laughing Policeman’) but finally settle on a Dusty Springfield compilation.  The district nurse arrives and sets about giving Mum some more meds to keep her comfortable as well as the steroids. Meanwhile we try to get hold of Mum’s siblings to see if they can speak to Mum over the phone; her sister is due to arrive on Tuesday but it seems unlikely that Mum will be hanging on until then. Mr Mason reaches Mum’s sister and he holds up the phone to Mum’s ear. She speaks very gently to Mum, saying that she very much wants to see her on Tuesday and Mr Mason is sure that he sees recognition in Mum. The district nurse is still there and stays for a while longer organising more meds to get Mum through the weekend.

Once the district nurse leaves and Mum is looking more comfortable we all head downstairs, feeling better now Mum had received her steroids and a little more relaxed than we had felt all day. I speak with my husband on Skype and Ms Atherton makes some toasted sandwiches for a late lunch. At about 15:30, Dad pops back up to see Mum after eating his sandwich, coming down almost immediately and saying “I think she’s just gone”. We run upstairs, her bedroom strangely quiet and I check for her pulse which is absent.  She was still warm and it seems as though she has only just slipped away. It’s all very surreal and we have only a few moments to absorb what has happened before the phone starts ringing. I’m not sure who it was but it was regarding Mum as I hear Mr Mason tell whoever it was at the end of the line “I think she has just died”. Mr Mason Jr and Ms Atherton take Archie and Lark upstairs to see Mum so that they know she is gone; this is something that Mum wanted and another reason that she was determined to remain at home until the end. The cats prove harder to wrangle but Mr Mason manages to find the small psychotic cat that Mum loved and takes her up for a farewell.

The Marie Curie rapid response team arrive a couple of hours later. They complete some paperwork and wash Mum before dressing her in fresh clothes, explaining to her what they are doing the entire time which is rather nice. Mr Mason calls the funeral directors and we say our goodbyes to Mum before they arrive about an hour later. The staff that arrive are nice enough but bring with them an odd formality which stands in stark contrast to everyone else that has been in to visit Mum over the past couple of weeks. We sit downstairs in the sitting room whilst they bring Mum down the staircase almost silently and put Mum into their vehicle. We stand by the gate as they depart, Mr Mason following the van to the entrance of the driveway waving her off “Bye Shelley, see you soon, darling” which brings a tear to my eye.

On Saturday we decide to take the dogs out to one of the last places Mum visited, Huttoft beach. It feels peculiar to have us all in the car at once without one of remaining at home with Mum. It’s a beautiful sunny day and we walk along the beach whilst the dogs run around racing and trying to bowl each other over. A middle aged woman is beachcombing for treasures in a drift line and Lark decides this is the perfect spot to have a poo to the hilarity of everyone but the woman.  Another few people arrive and paddle out into the shallows to deposit the ashes of a loved one into the sea, cheering as they do so. Life goes on, even if it won’t quite feel the same as before. We have things to do and a funeral to arrange; details to be posted as soon as I have them.

 

Fran

(AKA: Mrs Safaie Jr)

 

xxx

22 thoughts on “Bye Shelley, see you soon, darling

  1. Fran, what a beautiful expression of love, devotion and positive energy in these words you have shared with us. It is a privilege to just stand at the door of your rather private family experience that you have described with your beautiful mum Shelley during these last few days of her life. How glad I am that she was at home with you all, and with Archie, Lark and the cats.

    I am so glad to have met Shelley during the glory of a July summer at Penny Brohn in 2014 on a wondrous Retreat, and to meet the lovely Mark and Archie for the first time too. And later, during many of our respective hospital appointments where we lurked and loitered, rested and chatted at the wondrous Maggie’s Centre.
    Shelley’s twinkling laughter, swift-as-lightning mind and lightness of spirit were just such lovely qualities. I am so glad that I was able to have a little chat with her just three weeks’ ago.

    I am thinking of you all during this strange inbetween time that may feel rather surreal for you all.
    I am thinking of you and I send you all a big gentle hug from me and the family.

  2. We are truly sorry to hear of the loss of Shelley. We are Francesca Cantini’s nice and sister. Francesca and Shelley met at Maggie’s Centre, she was very fond of your incredible, strong and funny Mother. Please, accept our condolences. Our thoughts are with you and your family.
    Valentina and Nicoletta, xxx.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear the sad news, after such a long fight. I’m glad you all had a chance to spend time together. No doubt you all have great memories xx

  4. Thank you for so beautifully completing Shelley’s words with her final chapter, Fran. Our saddened, heavy hearts join you all in your sorrow, although within them will always be a smile in remembrance of the twinkly-eyed laughter that Shelley brought to us and so many other people’s lives.
    Goodbye, Fab Girlie – Our Love Always.
    Gill & Chris
    xxx

  5. Oh, Fran, Ollie and Mark, I am so, so sorry to read this. I hoped beyond hope that she would have more time. Your writing – at such a horrible, sad time is beautiful. Fran, you sound just like your mother; to hear your voice and your wry humour through all this sadness is so touching, so Shelley – and she would be so utterly proud. Paul and I were blessed when we met Mark and Shelley, and we missed them so much when we moved. No matter what was going on in life, dinner or a get-together with The Masons was always such treat and so uplifting. I miss so much Shelley’s fiery intellect, her boundless generosity, her sense of humour, unflinching loyalty and her positive outlook. She always taught me something, because she was such an inspiration. She was so brave. I can’t believe how much you’ve all had to cope with over the last few years and I send you all my love. We’re so sorry. Look after each other. I know you will because that’s what The Masons do. Rest in peace, lovely, xxxx

  6. THANKYOU, to you for writing so soon, very brave. THANKYOU to Shelly and the mason ‘clan’ for allowing me/ us to read your journey. Sounds daft but I looked forward to reading, what was happening and the stories of lark and co! I really didn’t expect so soon to be reading today’s post, I’m in tears. Although I didn’t know Shelly personally I felt I did from what she wrote. Sounds like you’ve done a fab job in looking after your mum as we all would, please take care of your self. Big big hugs to you all xxxxxxxxx

  7. Thank you Fran for sharing Shelley’s story to its sad end. I’m so sorry. It seems like she died as she lived – being a fine example to us all.
    She was a lovely lady and we loved her. Karen xx

  8. This is one of the most beautiful, poignant, bittersweet and moving things i have ever read. What an amazing woman your mum was to have created a life filled with so much love and laughter and how special for the family to come together in love as a special send-off. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  9. Hello, Fran,
    My sincere condolences to you all.
    I’ve only known Shelley through her blog and the IBC group, but have every admiration for her and shall miss her fortitude and humour – though clearly you have inherited both traits.
    With loving sympathy.

  10. Fran – I knew your mum at Quit, but have known her better due to the powerful bravery and honesty in her blog. I’m so sad now, but it’s clear the family have a strength which will see you through to happier times. Your own writing style is so like hers.
    Love to all of you
    Chris xx

  11. What sad news and hard to take in, as despite Shelley having been ill for so long, she was a true fighter and fabulously courageous. Her joie de vivre was infectious and I have her to thank for getting me on board a dragon boat, something I never imagined I would do and now something that I do regularly, with a great bunch of friends, who will be hugely saddened by the news too.
    Having been there myself, my heart goes out to you Mark, Fran and Oliver, but remember Shelley will always walk with you. Much love Liza xx

  12. Fran – I knew your mum at Quit, not that well but well enough. I knew her better since that time through reading her blog. I’m so sad now but it’s clear your family have a strength which is likely to see you through to happier times. The blog brought her experience to life for me, and your mode of expression is equal to it. Love to all of you xx

  13. Dearest Fran : We both know how heart rending it is to lose someone you love so deeply. Especially when you know how she loved you. It doesn’t help much to say that the pain grows less with time. Our deepest sympathy we send with warmth and understanding. Let your young newcomer lift your spirits. We know he will.
    Lots of love, Morassa and Robert xxxxx

  14. Oh gosh, my deepest sympathies.

    I work for a research company and we interviewed Shelley a few months back for a study about metastatic cancer. The blog was in the signature of her email and I have been following her posts with interest ever since. It also inspired me to continue with my own blog and to pursue writing in other ways. I am sure she made a great contribution to the study and hopefully one day there will be better treatment and even better prevention of this saddening disease.

    Wishing you and all the family a lot of love and strength as you adjust to your lives despite the gaping hole.

    Sarah xx

    ________________________________

  15. We got back to this country today and are so sorry to hear this news. She was a lovely lady and we enjoyed working with her at PIIG. She always made us laugh with how she wrote things on her blog and she will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with you all, take care of yourselves, God bless you all and Shelley. Mo and Jim Reece.

  16. Fran and the 2 Mr Masons
    What a lovely moving tribute to carry on with Shelley’s lessons for us all. Although I sometimes found Shelley’s blog hard to read, when it made me angry (at the dreadful way we treat people and the inequity of life in general) but more often it was a source of inspiration and laughter. From our time together I’m sure Shelley would have appreciated that I had worked out a nice cycle route for us to get to you from Boston station. And she wouldn’t have wanted us to regret we hadn’t done it earlier but that’s where we are. So thank you for this wonderful piece telling us all of the last week or so. So beautifully written with moments of happiness to relieve the sadness we all feel. Shelley was a great example of how to take on the world and all it throws at you. She is my example for life. Alan

  17. Dear Fran, thank you very much for writing this so quickly. You write beautifully and you moved me with your family tales. Shelley was, for me, a person with a joyous outlook on life. Even her many inconveniences and frustrations she lifted with some very funny observation. Going to Mark and Shelley’s for dinner was a great treat for Alan and I, something looked forward to for weeks. Trying to find silly Christmas presents, choosing from Mark’s music collection, sharing our recent reading and viewing. We missed them so much when they left Ealing, but I loved to read this blog. Shelley lives on and whenever I think I am having a bad day I think of what she (and all the Masons) have been through over the last four and a half years and it falls into perspective. Take care of each other, I know you will. With love from Les xxx

  18. So now I am sitting here in my hospital triage room crying. Sending you all hugs. Still, I think of Shelley as a bit immortal.
    Much love
    Petra xx

  19. Oh Fran, I don’t know what to say. I was saddened to tears reading your post and can’t believe Shelley is not the one writing it. She was an inspirational woman who touched my heart with her brave and witty banter and I will miss her.

    My love and thoughts to you and your family, my love especially to your beautiful mum xxxx

  20. I am so, so sorry to read your blog. Shelly had battled for so long and with so much courage and dignity. Shelly will be missed by me for lots of things, but manly for her zest for life and positive outlook. Please accept my condolences Mark, Fran, Oliver and all the family. Shelly is at peace, xxx
    , OOps Formerly know as Ann Clay

  21. I am so, so sorry to read your blog. Shelly had battled for so long and with so much courage and dignity. Shelly will be missed by me for lots of things, but manly for her zest for life and positive outlook. Please accept my condolences Mark, Fran, Oliver and all the family. Shelly is at peace, xxx

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