I asked my amazing mummy if she would write a guest post for me. So here, in her own words, unedited and unabridged, is what it’s been like as a mother and grandmother having a daughter with breast cancer. ***WARNING: KLEENEX REQUIRED!***
‘A crisp, cold November morning last year. My darling daughter and I left her house at 7.30 am to drive to the hospital for her first chemo. I sat in the passenger seat, experiencing an emotion that was somehow familiar. It was the same feeling that I had as my darling husband drove me to the hospital for her birth to be induced 37years before. Abject fear, knowing it had to be got through, that I had to deal with it as bravely as I could, that I didn’t want my DD to see that fear.
Dear M, a friend who had been through chemo the year before, helped me to prepare; I needed to know what to expect. I knew that I would still be unprepared – the strangest scenario, taking my own daughter, still a young woman, for treatment more usually associated with women of my own age. But I was glad it was me going with her the first time; it seemed right for both of us. Other than the day she received the diagnosis, when there were many tears, she had (at least when she had been with her Pops and me) been focused, enquiring, and determined that she was going to get through this. The last thing she needed was a mess of a mother on that day of all days.
And I wasn’t alone. DD’s Pops, my own DH, has been with me practically and emotionally throughout. He cooked, shopped, ironed (so much ironing with two small children!), played with the kiddies, cried with our son-in-law over a drink or three when DD soaked in the bath after chemo. Me trying to hug both of these big men at once, tears streaming down all of our cheeks. Smiling when DD came down after her bath.
And I had my other DD – the only person in the world who was going through exactly what my DH and I were going through. She had a very new baby and a toddler when Pinchy was diagnosed but she was steadfast and strong, so loving and caring, always checking that DH and I were OK, never noticing (although I did, a lot) that I could not spend the time I would have done with her and her babies if things had been different. I simply don’t know what I would have done without her.
A friend’s daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before DD, with surgery followed by chemo. The daughter tried to protect her mother by not telling her much, not seeing her much. It didn’t work. I am more grateful than I can say for DD’s blog, for her being able to articulate so well, and in writing, exactly what was happening not just with treatment but with her own emotions. The blog helped me to absorb and fix these new clinical and medical words in my memory. That is so important when you need to support someone going through lengthy and complex treatment.
I have wonderful friends and colleagues (and a very special mum of my own) who understood that sometimes I was running on empty and needed time out, and who cheered me up when I was just so tired of feeling sad all the time.
But I end this guest blog on a happy note. DD looks beautiful, amazing. She kept most of her glorious hair thanks to the cold cap. The baldy patch on the crown is now covered with new hair and not noticeable at all. She gets tired, still has radiotherapy to go through (although M says it’s a walk in the park after chemo, so fingers crossed) and more Herceptin and the dreaded Tamoxifen for 5 years (menopause symptoms – been there, but as DD says, 37 is way too young for night sweats and hot flushes). And balancing surgery in November so she has two matching breasts (although her Pops says no-one should be looking THAT closely!)
But she’s OK – she has had the very best care from brilliant clinicians and a topnotch surgeon, and from her clinical trial nurse, Celia. I know from M and J (another friend who has been through chemo) how precious it is to have the same person looking after you in a cash-strapped NHS where it is normal to see a different chemo nurse every time who may or may not have been able to find your file. I know that DD has been lucky (well, she could have been luckier!) in being in the right place at the right time when she was diagnosed.
This weekend I will be walking with both of my darling daughters for Breast Cancer Care. DH is volunteering as a marshal. We are all looking forward to a great day out for a good cause. Just a few short months ago I could not have imagined such relative normality. I have stopped holding my breath.’