My biological mother died five days after my surgery. I refer to her as my biological mother as she bore me and I had a relationship of sorts with her growing up, albeit one that I considered complex. My father and later my step mother raised my brothers and I.
I mention this part of the journey not necessarily because it had anything to do with the cancer but because I can’t not acknowledge the symbolism, significance and sense of loss I felt in December on every level of my existence. I can't not acknowledge the opportunity for healing. Especially with a belief like one that I hold that understands that cancer is a holistic dis-ease and not just a physical one. This part of my journey is wrapped up in personal learning, growth, loss, grief, freedom and one that I am sure to take on new understanding in the future.
My mother had been sick for some time and she had outlived her initial prognosis. I came out of hospital on the Friday and she passed away on the Monday. However terminal someone is with, as fate would have it, cancer (she was only 60) I think you are never really prepared for that kind of loss. Death is just shit. Especially for the people left behind.
In the same time frame, my father had gone in two days after me for a full knee replacement surgery and my step mother had been off work since September having both her hips replaced. My ex husband was away from mid November until the end of December with work, bar the odd day here and there. So to say we were on a skeleton staff to any type of care care is putting it lightly. To give you an idea of our combined physical health, I was the most able bodied of all of us, 4 days post double mastectomies.
When people hear about the magnitude of emotional and physical trauma that I endured in December they are amazed. ‘Brave’ ‘Strong’ ‘Inspiring’. The fact is I didn’t feel any of these words that people were using about me and I definitely did not feel worthy of these accolades. My experiences were things that I felt were happening to me. Not conscious choices. There was no other option than to endure. How we choose to endure is another matter. And at the end of the day there are always people worse off. Perspective in any form is never a bad thing. Not so you are unable to feel your own pain, but so you are shown a little light in the darkness. I did nothing to be strong or brave or inspiring. I just had to let go and accept and ask for help from my wider community. Although I do understand that people felt I was those things and I have in turn inspired others so I am learning to accept that in rather than fight my own demons.
Cumulatively these things of course are heavy loads to bear but when you are down, you are down. There is no further down to go. Well there is I’m sure but at that time I felt like I had maxed out my emotional allowance. The Monday that she passed I was on my knees. I have never experienced losing someone close. But the significance was not wasted on me. I had lost my breasts and I had lost the woman that gave me life. This was the end of one chapter. Hell it was the start of the next book.
Her funeral fell upon winter solstice. The day before her mother, my grandmother (who passed 16 months before I was born) passed away from a female cancer. The following day I lay my mother’s flowers on her mother’s grave. On the anniversary of her death, 37 years previously. And the sun shone brightly.