Half an orphan

This week has proved to be a momentous one. On Monday, I hear my mother is not well and is in hospital. She has spent less than twelve hours in a respite home when they call an ambulance for her as she is bringing up what looks like coffee grounds. This, I know, is a sign she is vomiting blood. On arrival at hospital, she has what look like grazes on her nose and her glasses are missing. It seems logical that she has had a fall and probably broken her glasses but the respite home staunchly denies this. As the week progresses, it seems less important yet it is something we touch on from time to time as we sit by her hospital bed.

By the time we arrive on Tuesday, she is not conscious although she can squeeze my hand when I hold it. She is breathing noisily and is positioned so her mouth lies wide open and it is obviously dry and uncomfortable as she frowns and moves her hand towards her mouth repeatedly. At this point, all treatment has been withdrawn and she will only receive pain relief and a swab to provide moisture in her mouth. My niece, K, has worked with the elderly before and is able to confidently do a lot of things I am unsure of.

For 3 days, on and off, we sit by my mother’s hospital bed, holding her hand, stroking her face and talking to her. K stays overnight with her so she is not alone at any point. Driving the 70 odd miles each way every day, stopping en-route to drop Dog off with Mr Mason’s parents, is exhausting. I squeeze a meeting in on Wednesday morning along with my usual group at Maggie’s but it feels as though our lives are put on hold for the week. No washing or cleaning gets done. Usual chores are left and the house goes to rack and ruin. My sleep, which is always variable, becomes worse and I feel beyond exhausted with a cluster of bad fibromyalgia headaches.

Master Mason comes with us on Wednesday afternoon and I am touched to see him gently hold his grandmother’s hand. On Thursday, we travel down earlier and spend just a couple of hours at the hospital before going on to see my father. As we are talking with him, the phone rings and it is K, telling him he should come back to the hospital. My mother’s breathing has been steadily declining but K thinks it has changed in a meaningful way so we take my father back to the hospital. We stay for another hour but the traffic has been challenging for the last two days and we don’t want another late night. K also reassures us the end will be soon but not within the next hour or so. We collect Dog and then drive home, arriving at 7pm. As I am literally on the doorstep, my brother phones to tell me my mother has died peacefully. Her breathing slowed and finally stopped. She had company all the way through her journey and had, I think, a good end.

By Thursday evening I am beyond tired and actually sleep well, heavily and solidly throughout the night. On Friday, I sit and try to catch up with work admin while resting. The surgeon has referred me for a body scan and has marked the appointment urgent. It arrives in the post and is scheduled for when we are taking the first holiday we have had since my diagnosis. The past 18 months have been an incredibly stressful time, mentally and physically. I feel people don’t understand because I know I didn’t understand before I had cancer. I didn’t realise how the effects of cancer keep going, long after the disease is invisible and, we hope, banished. It was only this time last year that it seemed death might be on the cards for me.

On Saturday morning, after a night of sleeplessness and finally dozing, I wake shouting for my Mum. It takes me a few seconds to realise what I’m doing and I can’t remember the last time that happened.
The coming week is going to be a challenge in so many ways. Getting my head back together in time for 2 meetings and a trip to the House of Commons, trying to be competent, chair meetings and appear on top of things. And I realise this blog is pretty much factual without the emotional content. I think that’s all I can do for now.