It’s been a while hasn’t it. My last post was after the success of London 2012 and the hopes and dreams which it had created for so many. It was such a positive time and one of the reasons I stopped writing here was due to personal circumstances which had brought me down to Earth with a bump. I didn’t feel it would be productive to talk about it on here. My emotions were all over the place and I struggled to even speak to friends about how I felt. The few conversations I did have with friends ended up more a counselling session and that just made me angry. I didn’t want ‘help’ or ‘advice’. I just wanted to talk. To get everything off my chest and not have someone try and ‘fix’ it. If I had written a post, it would have been angry and hitting out at those who were only trying to be there for me. Sometimes, just listening not offering an opinion is all that I needed. Don’t know what to say? Try nothing but a hug and a cup of tea. And a chocolate biscuit 🙂
To those following me on Twitter… thanks for not unfollowing me after some of the things I’ve come out with! I have been unable to explain my feelings there… I can’t fit this into 140 characters 😉
The following post details what has happened. I feel I need to put this down in writing, as I have struggled to discuss it with people. Now I’m stronger and looking to a bright 2013, I feel this is the best way for me to get things off my chest.
So what happened?
Well, two things. One, my lovely sister struggling on as ever with her various conditions which continue to prevent her being able to work. July was a particularly difficult time with her ending up in hospital for a long and worrying stay. I know my Mum and Dad feel helpless and we all wish we could help, but sadly all we can do is try and support her. Our wonderful government – *chokes* – are doing their best to help her too of course. Cutting benefits and ensuring she (and our family) is put through as much unnecessary stress as possible just so she can afford to live and pay her bills(!) She battles everyday with constant pain and somehow still retains her sense of humour. For her and others like her suffering with EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) I salute you.
The second, was my Grandfather’s (on my Mum’s side) Cancer. He was originally diagnosed several years ago, but last spring he went downhill and had another heart-attack (not long after my Great Uncle lost his life to Cancer). Eventually the Cancer resulted in a hospital admission last October which, if we’re honest, we never expected him to survive. But, survive he did and then in the spring/early summer this year, the doctors informed us that the Cancer had spread. Now it was invading his Liver.
My Mum and Dad had been driving to/from the hospital almost every day since last October, picking my Nan and Mum’s sister up and ensuring shopping was done etc. I know my Dad found this difficult. There was a lot of pressure on him to be there, which he didn’t mind, but as you can imagine it took it’s toll. It took a lot of time and a remarkable amount of patience (my Nan has been testing at the best of times!) but he did it… although at what cost to his own state of mind I don’t know.
By August this year, I had requested not to travel with work so I could be there for my family. I have to say, my company have been fantastic. More than I deserved. Colleagues across the group have asked how myself and my family are doing, which has been touching. But my colleagues in the UK office have been superb, particularly putting up with my ups and (more often) downs through September, October and my bad moods in November as I struggled with a lack of sleep and a tendency to go home, eat rubbish and drink wine. To them, I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
At the start of October, my Grandfather took a turn for the worst and sadly this was the start of the end. My Nan called the paramedics, who were convinced he wouldn’t make the end of the day. Being stubborn, my Grandfather had refused to stay in bed and got up to leave the bedroom, only to have a fall. Trying to get him to stay in bed, was almost impossible.
When I heard the news, I drove to be there and was confronted by my family looking slightly bewildered. My Grandfather had improved and was sitting in bed chatting away. He looked tired, but still smiled and asked me how my job was going. Then the family doctor arrived and we had the discussion every person dreads – do you sign the do not resuscitate form, should he have a heartattack/stroke? It doesn’t matter how old or young a person is. When you are faced with a decision as to whether you should give them the chance to live or die, it breaks your heart and tears you to pieces. Our decision made, the doctor continued to chat with us and commented on how he had been surprised at the apparent resiliency of my Grandfather. In his words, ‘he’s a tough old bugger’. I couldn’t agree more.
On the morning of 22nd October, he was back in hospital, his wife and daughters at his side, all of us aware that it wouldn’t be long. That Monday was one of the hardest for me. 80 miles away in my office, I had my Mum on the phone letting me know the latest and my heart was breaking. There was nothing I could do, I had to stay, work and just be waiting on the end of the phone for more news.
Tuesday 23rd October and my Mum and one of her sister’s arrived at the hospital. With my Nan at his side and as my Aunt walked onto the ward, he slipped away. The doctors said afterwards that they had no idea how he survived as long as he did. The cancer was everywhere.
I arrived at my Nan’s house that afternoon with her sat in his chair holding a teddy bear. She was talking to me about the bear and about my Grandfather. Catching herself several times as she referred to him as if he was with us, I was lost as to what to say. She had just lost her husband of 63 years.
The days that followed were tough. My Nan began sorting through belongings the following day, even suggesting throwing things out – which we stopped – and she was on autopilot getting things done. The funeral had been pretty much finalised by the Thursday.
Holding myself together, I tried to support my Nan, Mum and her sister as much as possible, but when my Nan started to read some love letters they had written to each other, I felt a pain deep in my chest. My Mum and Aunt left the room, unable to listen to the words she read. It was heartbreaking, but so beautiful, written to each other when they were first courting in 1947/48. We shared some laughs and she began to shed a few more tears. An hour or so later, my mum and I were about to leave when the phone rang. I answered the first call to find it was my Great Aunt (Nan’s sister). The second call, my Aunt picked up and then burst into tears. I took the phone from her to find it was my Grandfathers best friend. Breaking the news to him and telling him I would let him know about the funeral was difficult to say the least. He was absolutely devastated and with my Nan, Aunt & Mum crying behind me, I have no idea how I didn’t break down. I will never forget that conversation.
That week was one of the saddest I’ve experienced. But I am so glad I was able to be there. I do wish that I had seen through my final words to him though. I told him, a week and a bit before he died, that I would see him ‘later’. I went downstairs, chatted to my Nan, left the house (as he’d fallen asleep). I didn’t see him again. ‘Later’ will come, just not in this life.
The funeral, on 5th November, was a lovely occasion (if a funeral can ever be lovely). The weather finally decided to take a break from raining and we had sunshine, a good turnout and plenty of good memories shared. I surprisingly managed to hold it together for most of the day (although digging my nails into my hands left impressive marks). My Mum’s other sister (who was not coping at all well) hugged me and said he would have been proud of me. I’d like to think that was true. I am so proud of my Mum, my Aunt and my Nan for that day. In particular my Aunt. She was there at the worst times and coped amazingly well, even though she may not believe that. Anyone who has been there for a person losing their battle against Cancer, will know what I am referring to. To those who don’t know… I hope you never find out.
To people who know me well, you’ll notice I am leaving out the trouble, heartache and downright vicious behaviour from one small section of the family. I am no longer angry with them. They aren’t worth the effort. But I will never forgive or forget what they have done and if I ever see them again, it will be too soon. All I will say is that I hope they are ashamed of themselves… that is, of course, if they ever find an ounce of humanity in their souls. Which I doubt.
Christmas this year will be a strange affair. My Dad’s mother died suddenly on Christmas Eve 30 years ago and so it’s always been a reflective time, but this year, we will have one less at the dinner table. Always putting on a brave face and smiling at everything, it will be sad not to have my Grandfather at the head of the table chatting about the Rugby, Cricket and how the garden is coming along despite all the rain we’ve had. He was, however, dreading the winter. I just wish that the summer had been better for him, so he could have spent more time sat in his garden, enjoying the beautiful colours and fragrance that his green fingers created.
I hate saying this, as everyone does when they lose someone, but so few remember it. Keep everything in perspective. An argument on Christmas Day about something that isn’t life or death is really not worth it. Be happy and tell those you love, just how much. My Grandfather and Nan had a wonderful relationship filled with love and both knew just how much they meant to each other.
As for Cancer, if you have any concerns, please see your doctor. No need to be embarrassed, they’ve seen it all before. Ladies, if you have a smear test due, go and book it in. Now! Any pain/embarrassment from a test, is nothing compared to the testing, treatment and potential death if you just ignore it. Not to mention the fact that it will scar those closest to you, forever.
In the same way, please, if you get diagnosed with Cancer, don’t see it as a death sentence. It is terrifying, but people do beat it. One of my closest friends was diagnosed with Lymphoma on his Birthday a couple of years ago and went into remission last year. But you have to do your best to make sure it’s caught as quickly as possible. Don’t ignore any symptoms, no matter what your age is.
On a brighter note I am pleased to say that, despite some bad days, my Nan is doing remarkably well. She and my Grandfather were inseparable even before he became ill and we were all worried about how she would cope. She’s now demonstrating just how strong she is. Don’t get me wrong, she’s grieving and so she cries and has bad days, but her strength day to day is amazing.
If I am half as strong as she and my Grandfather, then I can do anything.