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Connection, Laughter, and Lessons of Resilience during my Mum's Cancer Treatment

Hello again!

This week we have our guest writer, Colin, with us again.

On his previous article, he shared his experience dealing with his mum’s Stomach Cancer diagnosis. We received such an incredible response that we thought it would be good for all of us to continue reading his journey.

Passing the mic (keyboard?) to Colin…

My mum’s post-diagnosis and chemo treatment

I had come home to visit Mum after her stomach cancer diagnosis. A scan earlier on in the week had revealed the cancer had spread outside the stomach making treatment difficult…

Mum and Dad went to see one of the consultants afterwards who gave a very pessimistic outlook (he believed we could lose Mum within the year).

This was another hammer and blow and I genuinely felt like I was being kicked when I was already on the floor…

Mum looked desperately thin; she could hardly eat sold food at times. She was having soup at most mealtimes, I could see it was getting her down. Mum said if she ever saw a tin of chicken soup again, she would throw back in your face.

Everyday brought pain and discomfort for Mum. I watched Dad look after Mum and I realised how much he loved her and I was quietly proud at how he just got on with it without any fuss or expecting any reward.

As Mum started chemo, she went for a wig fitting with her best friend (my godmother). As it progressed she gradually lost her hair.The first time I saw her without hair it was a shock that I struggled to prepare myself for. Anytime I hugged her I was aware of how much weight she had lost. This insidious cancer was robbing Mum from us all a piece at a time; I felt helpless and guilty that I wasn’t able to help.

Despite what felt like swimming in a sea of gloom there was some surprising bright spots during this period.

I remember Mum showed me the diet advice she was given for stomach cancer. Mum and I were crying tears of laughter as we read it. Who knew there was a diet that recommend low amounts of fibre; adding liberal amounts of cream to soups and sauces; avoiding low-fat options when full fat options are available; and puddings and high calorie milkshakes and smoothies are obligatory!

Mum was well enough to go to my Godmother’s eldest son’s wedding. We had a family photo taken that day and I still keep the framed photo from that day on display in the kitchen. My brother’s graduation was a wonderful day and lots of fun. Mum and my godmother came to visit me twice in London.

Then came some wonderful news. The chemo was working and the cancer had gone into remission. I could see Mum was more positive and happier. It was fantastic that the chemo was buying us some extra precious time with Mum. She was a fighter and Mum wasn’t about to stop fighting anytime soon.

I genuinely treasured those months with Mum

By Christmas 2013, Mum was completely different from the previous year. Mum was spoilt rotten by all of us, and she had the best time. She was able to do all the activities she missed the previous year. I was organising drinks for friends one evening and her and Dad came along and Mum happily mingled with everyone. For a joke, I got some tins of chicken soup and wrapped them up and put it under the Xmas tree; Mum laughed as she opened them and then promptly threw them at me! Mum had her mojo back.

👇 Accurate description of me just after my mum opened her Christmas gift

What has this period taught me?

  1. Moments of laughter are worth gold

Our family always uses humour as a coping mechanism and in our every day lives too! We have never taken ourselves too seriously and even having fun at one another’s expense also helped.

  1. Spend time with your loved ones, build memories

Simply having days I could look forward to with just myself and Mum or with immediate family and friends are some of the days I look back on most fondly. Putting aside time for this, I prioritised Mum and family over other activities.

  1. Adapting to change is tough

In many ways this stage is the hard reality of cancer. You are living with the consequences day in and day out. After the shock subsides it can be hard to see a loved one or friend struggle and it is easy to feel helpless. As a family, we all felt this way and it is good to talk about it and normalise it so we are more open and comfortable with the topic.

  1. Life is precious, life is short, take that risk

While Mum was still in good health thanks to the chemo, I was able to switch jobs into another industry completely. My new employer was very kind giving me time off where I needed it when I had to go home to see Mum. What happened with Mum made me reassess what was important.

Thanks for reading,

Colin.

💡 How would you choose to spend your time if you were aware that there's still a chance to embrace those precious moments?

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