A post from the Voice:
This week my mum died. She was fifty-nine. She’d been fighting breast cancer, on and off, for nineteen years. This week she lost.
Breast cancer has been a spectre in our lives for almost two decades. I was seventeen when she was first diagnosed. No concept of what it would be like to no longer have my mother around, no idea what it would be like to have my own family,
I watched my mum recover from cancer not once but twice. She gained a Masters in English Literature from Durham. She taught me to love books and to be creative. She made me the most beautiful wedding dress and watched me get married.
By the time she was diagnosed for the third time I had begun to think about my own family. My mum had beaten cancer twice maybe she’d beat it again. But not this time. This time it was terminal and we had no idea how long she would have.
I was angry, upset, all the things you should be and that are natural but my overwhelming thoughts were how could I bring a child into this. To live with this as I had? For years I had told myself I didn’t want children. What happened if it was a gene and I passed it on to a child. Could I cope with that thought. All these thoughts came flooding back. Defeated already. I was thirty four. I could be leaving a really young child behind and my husband.
I needed to know if it was genetic. With advances in medicine we are able to test for some of these genes, so I went to the doctor, who referred me to a specialist. The answer. It could be genetic but it’s highly unlikely it’s BRCA 1 or 2 so they couldn’t test for it. They could put me on a course of drugs. I could be on it for five years and this may decrease my risk of cancer. The catch? The drug may cause fibroids and therefore effect fertility and it would be five more years without trying for a family of our own. All this, just in case. Damned if I did, damned if I didn’t.
I watched my mum get worse. I watched her go through several rounds of chemo.
Over the two years my mum was ill, I saw my friends with their children and families. A legacy that they would leave behind. I realised if I continued to let cancer hang over me it would never end well. I would live my life in limbo.
Finally I gave up my job, to spend more time with my mum and concentrate on the things that I enjoyed. The things I loved.I immersed myself in my writing. I could never have done this without the support of my husband.
People say writing is good therapy. Writing this is good therapy. I learnt to grab life with both hands. Not to look back or forward but to live each moment and be thankful for it.
In that time I’ve published two novelettes on Kindle, produced a paperback anthology and written a novel. I learnt to turn my back on the past and not worry about what the future will hold. Instead, seize the moment.
I am now five months pregnant, I’m on the cusp of having my own family. Bean is just starting their adventure and I’ll make sure they know about their grandmother and how hard she fought. I also want them to know that life is for living, to respect this world and cherish it.
Why share this story? Because nothing in life is certain. We all know this but it’s not until we stare uncertainty in the face and embrace it that we can truly live in the moment with the ones we love. Feel the warmth of the sun and the sting of hail stones. It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I’ll be sure to teach my child to live every moment and I know my mother, wherever she is, will be watching.