I was going to wait until after essay hand-ins before I started blogging about this, but as it’s Dying Matters Awareness Week, (check out #YODO on Twitter) now seems like a good time.
My Mum is awesome. She’s brought up three kids (and I reckon we could have turned out worse!), had an amazing career in palliative medicine, volunteered for the church and sold Fairtrade for years, taken part in various exercise-related things, and still found time to attend a gossip/book club and spend time with her friends.
Unfortunately, in February 2014, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It’s a fairly crappy situation, but we’re lucky to have some amazing family and friends around us to support us, so it could be a lot worse!
Why do I want to start blogging about this? Well, considering that cancer is something which will affect most people at some point in their lives – it’s still a bit of a swear word. We don’t talk about it! I don’t know if that’s because people think that they’ll contract it if they talk about it (don’t worry – that’s not how it works), or they just don’t know what to say, or quite what. It’s in movies/films a fair bit but in all honesty I think I’ve only ever seen one that comes close to explaining what cancer is really like.
As a young person living with a parent who has a terminal diagnosis, I’ve discovered a fairly considerable hole in the people-dying-support-system stuff. There is a lot of support out there for children with a close family member who is dying; there is a fair amount of support for spouses and for parents of people who are dying. But not really anything for those of us who are adults-but-not-really, i.e. those of us who are over 18, but still haven’t quite worked out what a mortgage is and see cereal as an appropriate dinner (fairly sure this lasts until you’re around 25, correct me if I’m wrong).
This is incredibly isolating. I’m really lucky to have two brothers and a Dad who I can chat to, a great uni welfare team (and a very understanding academic department), and some wonderful friends. Furthermore, because of Mum’s previous job, a number of our family friends understand the whole palliative medicine thing a lot better than I ever will. But unless you’ve actually been through it, or are going through it, you don’t quite ‘get’ it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely grateful for all the people we have around us and I wouldn’t be without them, but sometimes there’s no substitute for someone saying ‘I get it’ and knowing that they really do.
So I’m writing this for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m hoping it will help me process things, I find writing very cathartic at times. But the real reason I want to write this is to reach out to others in a similar position to me. Those of us who are attempting to work out life whilst trying to understand death. Because I don’t believe I’m the only one in this position.