Remembering Mum in Our Remembrance Book
Everyone takes life for granted, right? Even if you don't think you do, there are probably times where we are all guilty of it. Looking back, I certainly did. My life was going well. I'd just started a new job, had a 14 month old baby boy, and was currently living with my husband at my Mum and Dad's house to save some money. Me and Mum had always been really close, and did most things together. We were the best of friends, and I knew she always had my back.
So what could go wrong I hear you ask?
Leaving work, I called my Mum as she'd recently visited A&E for shoulder pain and had been taking strong pain killers. She didn't sound right. She was slurring her words and struggling to talk to me. Get Dad on the phone. "Go back to A&E," I exclaimed. Which they did.
The trip home from work was agonising, I was so worried my Mum had suffered a stroke. She hadn't seemed herself for a few weeks, but I put that down to me starting my new job, and looking after my little boy. After all, 14 month old babies can be exhausting! Especially for a 58 year old.
Waiting to hear news from my Dad was like watching paint dry. Then the phone rang. It was Dad. "They think it’s a stroke, so they are taking her to a specialist unit in London." BOOM. My fears had suddenly become a reality. I felt sick. I felt faint. I couldn't breathe. I was shaking. I couldn't think.
The next thing I knew, I was in the car with my aunt and husband driving into London to go and see my Mum. At first, I didn't recognise her on the Ambulance trolley, all I saw was a frail lady. Why hadn't I noticed how much weight she had lost recently?
Waiting for the doctor to come and see us, an assistant roamed the corridor and peered into the cubicle every 10 minutes or so asking us to complete a satisfactory survey on our experience of A&E.I mean, what is that all about? Who has an enjoyable experience in A&E? The clue lies in the name, ACCIDENT AND EMERGENCY. How can an accident or an emergency be satisfying? I wasn't rude, but politely told her to go away.
The doctor came in. "There is swelling on your brain, which is either brought on by a stroke or a tumour, but we won't know more until an MRI." Hang on....a tumour? How could this be? Mum had been free of cancer for 6 years. Suddenly I got a flash back to when my Nan (my Mum's Mum) died of a Brain Tumour. Despite being surrounded by my family, I suddenly felt very alone.
My Mum had always been the strong one in our family, knowing exactly what to say and do, and now here she was on a hospital bed, struggling to get her words out, looking scared and frail.
I had to step up. I had to be brave. From that day, I promised no matter how scared I was, I wouldn't cry in front of her. If she saw that I was upset and scared, then she would lose hope and faith. Truthfully, I was crumbling inside, like a scared child. What is going to happen to my Mum who is my best friend? Will she recover? A million questions were going round in my head.
The MRI scan revealed she had multiple tumours in her brain, which had metastasized from elsewhere in her body. At this stage, we knew nothing more. My Mum had Breast Cancer 6 years previously, and so it didn't take a genius to work out that this had returned. In fact, it hadn't. It wasn't until later on we found out Mum had a new primary cancer in her Lung, which had spread around her body.
My Mum being the outgoing, bubbly person she was, wanted to know what her chances were. If it is Breast Cancer, you're looking at 2 years. 2 years?!? I wanted to scream, and cry, but I couldn't, as I'd made that promise to myself. Damn that promise to myself! 2 years left with my Mum? Again, I felt sick, faint and couldn't breathe. But I didn't let Mum see.....instead, held my head high and told her it was going to be ok.
When my Nan got diagnosed, they gave her a year. So deep down, this is what I was preparing myself for with my Mum, worst case scenario. How wrong I could be....It wasn't until later on when Mum was "officially" diagnosed with Lung Cancer, that it hit me that her prognosis wasn't good.
Suddenly my "going well" life had been turned upside down within a matter of hours, and was never to be the same ever again.
10 days later Mum was admitted into hospital to have a hip replacement, in order to give her the best quality of life, how ironic. She spent 3 weeks in a small, stuffy hospital room, constantly being asked to explain what had happened to her and literally having no sleep. Don't get me wrong, I think the doctors and nurses working for the NHS are brilliant, I've had many first hand experiences with hospitals, and have always been so grateful for the care and attention they've given me. She just didn't like hospitals. Mum was on an Orthopaedic ward, and was being treated for her hip replacement. But she was more than that, she was a Lung Cancer patient, and was suffering with all of the complications that brings......blood clots on the lung, breathlessness, pneumonia, general pain and confusion. Constantly being prodded and moved, she had to travel 45 minutes every day to Mount Vernan hospital via ambulance to receive radiation to her brain. The nurses on her ward were lovely, and understood that she was more than just an "ordinary" hip replacement patient. Still, Mum hated hospitals and she just wanted to get out of that room!
Mum deteriorated quickly, and I noticed she was getting more and more confused due to the lack of oxygen her brain was receiving. So we pushed to move her to a Hospice. I knew in my head what moving to a Hospice meant, but because I'd made that promise to myself not to cry in front of Mum, I tried to make it sound like a positive thing. Although Mum was slowly deteriorating in front of my eyes, she wasn't stupid, she knew what was happening.
Arriving at the Hospice was almost a relief, the staff were so warm and welcoming, and Mum's room was light and airy and looked out into a beautiful patio full of daffodils. I will never forget the sign of relief on Mum's face, she was so glad to be out of hospital. “Why didn't we move her here sooner?” I kept asking myself. The first night we spent at the Hospice was more like a mini party. She was surrounded by friends and family, having a glass of (non-alcoholic) Pinot Grigio Blush, and singing along to Motown, her favourite music. It was lovely seeing her enjoy herself again. "I think you should stay the night," the doctor said, which only meant one thing. I felt sick, faint and wanted to cry. Was this really the end of my Mum's life? How am I meant to accept that? We ended up staying 3 nights.
Mum passed away peacefully at 2.20am on Thursday 6th March 2014, with me and my Dad by her side, holding her hands. Life was never to be the same again. My beautiful Mum who had had such a positive impact on my life, was no longer with us. “I'm 28 years old, I shouldn't have to go through this”, I kept saying to myself. My world had literally turned upside down in a matter of weeks. This is what other people go through, not me, not us. This isn't fair. Everyone takes life for granted, right? Well, not me anymore. I was determined to make something positive out of what had happened with my Mum, and that's when my life took a new path...
Victoria’s story is a clearly a touching one and will no doubt resonate with many of us, particularly those who have similar experiences. Despite the pain of losing her mum, she has promoted awareness of lung cancer through her #redlipstickselfie campaign and is an inspiration to us all. Mother’s Day is undoubtedly a difficult time for anyone who has lost their mum. Spending this day in a way which feels right for you will help you to remember and keep the spirit of your mum - and your relationship – alive, whether it’s keeping a personal diary of your thoughts and feelings or paying tribute to the things she loved most.
Is there a favourite place you used to go together? Going there, perhaps with the support of a friend or family member can bring back happy memories; reminiscing about those unforgettable moments and talking about why she loved this particular place can help you to feel a sense of comfort and peace. Why not get together with loved ones and organise a day to remember your mum? Dig out the old family albums and talk about your favourite cherished memories. Light candles, buy her favourite flowers and celebrate all the things that made her special. Music, too, can provide you with great comfort – turning even the hardest days into times of joy and nostalgia.
Remember your mum by making a donation to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation here: https://www.roycastle.org/rememberingmum
We will then enter your Mum’s details into our online Book of Remembrance which will be available to view online this Mother’s Day by clicking here: https://www.roycastle.org/book-of-remembrance
We will send you a pin badge, something to help remember your precious memories. Your donation will help fund vital lung cancer research so that one day we will defeat the biggest cancer killer of women.