When I was first diagnosed 3 years ago on September 11th 2015, all I heard in the ‘Bad News Room’ was “Inflammatory Breast Cancer, not sure the extent of spread, 2-5 years prognosis.” As I sat there at 13 weeks pregnant, with a boy that had just turned 1 the day before and a 2 year old at home, all I could think about was how my children would grow up without their mum. If I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones and reached 5 years with IBC, the kids would be 5,6 and 7 when I died. I’d see all three start primary school, watch them swim without armbands and most likely (growing up in our house), see them nurture a love of toilet humour. In a worse case scenario they’d be 2,3 and 4. There would be one school start in which I’d die a week later, a free floating turd in the local pool and a severe underappreciation of farting.
I would be missing many important milestones in the lives of my children, whatever the outcome.
Then we had the full results of my Cancer ‘shituation.’ The spread was into my lymph nodes and lungs, then later a further spread into my blood. So, we were realistically looking at pool turds only. It was shit. But what was I most scared of?
The lack of control played a large part in my fear but the front runner was the act of saying goodbye. I could visualise those final few days when no one knew precisely when I’d die. Every time someone said goodbye to me, we would think it could be the final time. However, adults understand what’s happening. How do you say goodbye to a small child that has zero concept of the gravity of those words. What if I said goodbye to the three kids and then they had a tantrum in my hospital room because they were bored and wanted to go home and watch Peppa Pig? The last sight I would see of the kids was them wrestling to get away from me.
It ate me up.
What if they blamed me for leaving? What if they thought I’d abandoned them? How would they feel when they called out for me in the night and I never came?
This is what is so profoundly difficult about being a mum with stage 4 Cancer. It is a life limiting disease. There is no cure. I will be on chemo or similar for the rest of my life. Fact. And at some point, I will have to say goodbye. A real goodbye. One that is final. Its dreadful. Unfair. Absolutely fucking shit. But then again, I’ve done it already. In a twist on life’s rollercoaster of unfathomable wankyness, I had to say goodbye to my daughter, Ally. I watched as she left us at just 8 days old. The most surreal moment of my life.
This coming Tuesday is 3 years since my diagnosis, 3 and a half years since Cancer arrived and I’m not dead yet. In fact in some ways, I’ve never been more alive.
Oh and on Friday, my 3 year old Tait had his first official swimming lesson and he was brilliant. Not a pool turd in sight. That was last year.....