This weekend, I haven’t been all that well. This isn’t unheard of or anything – throughout Mum’s illness, I had a couple of periods where I fell ill. Whether it be a standard bug going round, leaving me bedbound and anti-food for a few days, an exciting late-night A&E trip with an asthma attack, or something else, I’ve become somewhat of an expert at developing odd symptoms over the past couple of years.
Whenever I was ill, I either told Mum afterwards (in the case of something short like an asthma attack), or told her but refused to let her visit. Mum’s immune system was often compromised over the course of her illness; aggressive chemotherapy does that to a person. I made sure never to do anything which could put her at risk of catching something. And even if I was ill with something that wasn’t contagious, I didn’t want to put her through the stress of seeing me ill.
This was so hard. All you want when you’re feeling rubbish is for your Mum to give you a hug and remind you there are better days ahead. To hold you together when it feels like things are falling apart… to stroke your hair, or bring you a drink, and remind you that it won’t last forever.
So keeping Mum away wasn’t ideal, but I would text her to update her on how I was doing. She was generally pretty unsympathetic, actually, unless I actually felt like I was dying (I think it’s probably a symptom of being a palliative medicine consultant). Maybe unsympathetic isn’t the right word, maybe matter-of-fact would be closer to the mark… but she would always reply, usually with kind words, happy thoughts, and often something to make me smile or laugh.
This weekend I’ve pretty much been restricted to my bed with headachey, dizzy, blergh-ness. I’ve felt pretty low in myself; I hate not being able to get out of the house, or even being able to get up and do stuff. I’ve been too exhausted to even go downstairs the majority of the time. Having wifi in bed has been a bit of a lifesaver to be honest because at least I’ve had a bit of contact with the outside world.
On Friday night I started crying because I felt so rubbish and all I wanted was Mum. I’m really lucky to have some amazing women in my life who frequently fill in as ‘stand-in Mum’ when a situation calls for it. But I think being ill is one of those times where you just want your ‘real’ Mum and no-one can fill that role, however amazing they may be and however much they might want to or try to.
I’ve stopped talking about Mum as much generally. I don’t think people want to keep hearing about it, and after a time you run out of things to say or words to explain what you’re going through. There are only so many times you can say ‘I’m hurting and it’s crap’, before even I get bored of hearing myself say it. I’m running out of words and losing the ability to express how I’m feeling, because more often than not I simply don’t know.
I know, though, that when I’m ill, all I want is Mum, and the only thing that sucks more than her not being there in person, is not even having her at the end of the phone.