I was going to write a post today on the secret single behaviors I’ve been participating in while Papa M has been in Melbourne for business, but the truth is that I haven’t been on my own that much. When he flew out I expected a week of chilling in front of the telly, eating meals for one and maybe doing an odd beauty treatment or several. What I got was decidedly different and marks a massive life change for me and my family.
For those of you who followed me in my pre-marriage incarnation and those of you who know me in real life, it comes as no surprise. My awesome mother (who for the purposes of this blog we’ll call Mama Dubs) has been fighting against cancer for four years now. What started as IBC (inflammatory breast cancer – and check that link out because most women don’t know the symptoms) metastasized to her lymph nodes and finally her liver. Around the time that we got married, she chose to discontinue treatment – a decision we were fully behind. Once the disease had progressed to her liver, the chemo was palliative rather than curative and the side effects were beginning to outweigh the benefits of keeping the cancer in check.
Still, it was a shock when my parents arrived on my doorstep on Wednesday night to tell me the results of her oncology appointment. I thought we had more time… we don’t. Both indicators of cancer growth (tumor markers and liver function figures) have skyrocketed since her last tests. The oncologist feels that her cancer is progressing quickly, giving her a best case scenario of three to four months and a worst case scenario of three to four weeks. Her feeling, and mine, is that it will probably be something in the middle of that.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m okay with this – it’s too hard. Knowing that Christmas will come and it’s likely that Mum will be gone. Knowing that she’s never going to get the chance to meet her grandchildren and that I won’t have my mum to turn to during times of difficulty in those future pregnancies. It’s difficult to imagine a life without her in it and my heart breaks at the thought of not being able to climb in beside her on a couch or a bed and harp on about the injustices of the world. What am I meant to do without one of my champions? The tears are streaming down my face as I type this.
So what’s the bittersweet? What is the stuff that I can be okay with? Work is being very understanding – I had yesterday and today off and will reducing my teaching load to four day weeks for the foreseeable future. We’re creating lists of the things that we hope we have time left to do. Mine includes going shopping with Mum for a baby outfit and a maternity outfit – while some may think it’s weird, it will be so special to have those things to use in future as a reminder of my mum and it is a chance to do with her now what I had hoped to do even a year from now. I can treasure the fact that she saw me from infancy to truly being a grown-up and marrying Papa M and becoming my own little family. Finally, I can be glad that in the time we have left, I have the chance to say the important things, the things that matter and everyone else also gets the chance to say to her just how special she was to them.
Mum, I love you. Although it sounds cliche, you have helped shape me into the woman I am today. Even though your love was shared between us three girls, it never felt like it wasn’t enough. You were my champion when times were rough and encouraged me to always fight for what I believed in. You taught me to be independent and while I didn’t understand at the time why it was fair that you made me cook dinner for the family after I told you I was moving out of home after high school, I am so glad you did. I appreciate the sacrifices that you and Dad made me for me and the way that has created my own generous spirit. Watching you thrive under pressure has taught me to handle all obstacles with grace, however unwilling I may be, and to just get on with it. I will even miss you telling me “like it is” – who else is going to call me out when I’m letting myself be too highly-strung? All I can really hope for is that I am as good a mother to my children as you were to me.
So that’s the bittersweet. Sometimes as much as we want life to be all cupcakes and walks along the beach, it’s just not. I won’t be posting much more about this on the blog, not because I don’t want to be honest but simply because it hurts too much. With such limited time left, I’d rather live in joy that she is still here rather than in the fear of what life will be like when she isn’t. So when you see me posting about OPKs and shopping with my mother, know that the sweetness has just a little bitter edge.