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What I Feel Like Today - Part I
Well, I wasn't expecting that.
I am starting a new series of hubs that will hopefully conclude, in a few short months, with a hub that is filled with gushings of relief and joy.
Let me tell you this. Today I am happy, I am looking forward as usual, seeing lovely things everywhere, smiling sincere smiles and not hiding or bottling up any feelings at all.
Yesterday my beautiful mum was told by some lovely people at our hospital that she has a little bit of breast cancer. I think we should feel devastated, we should feel terrified, and we should be breaking down in uncontrollable sobs at every inappropriate moment, making strangers look at us with obvious annoyance for being dramatic in the middle of town.
But we don't really feel like that. I'm certain that my mum's feelings are completely different to mine, so I'll stop saying we! My mum can write her own hubs if she wants to, she is more than capable.
Let me tell you what my emotions and thoughts have been doing these last twenty-four hours. I knew that my mum had her hospital appointment yesterday morning. I hadn't heard from her by lunch time, so I already had a good idea that she was going to tell me some bad news. When she did tell me that the nasty little alien invader in her body was cancerous, I didn't really feel anything. My priority automatically was to listen, to take in information so as to avoid any misunderstanding, and to be the strong one incase my mum could not be. We all know that positivity is essential, and that it genuinely helps with the healing and recovery process. But on this first day, if my mum wanted to have a screaming fit and cry herself into unconsciousness she was perfectly entitled.
Of course, she didn't. She's my mum. She has an Italian temperament, which can sometimes be a pain - I can say that without malice, because I have it too, and a Mediterranean fiery temper is not always what you want, even if I am fiercely proud of it at times - but which can sometimes provide us with a relieving pragmatism. No-one has told us that my mum is going to die (she did ask), so there is no sense in wasting time and energy on looking on the black side. In the unlikely event that we have to deal with that, then we will deal with it. But not now. Because nothing has changed in essentials - as far as I am aware I still have fifty years or so with my mum. She's only fifty-two, and we both fully intend to live until we are at least a hundred. Nothing's changed there.
I went straight over to my mum's house after our phone conversation. There was no sense of doom about it, and I was not thinking gloomy thoughts at all. I was able to seize the rare opportunity to enjoy a couple of hours of her lovely company - she is usually at work, so we speak more on the phone than face to face.
Janine, my mum's partner, was home too. So after a hug with both of them, we put the mushy stuff aside and proceeded to do some cancer-bashing. My mum said that she felt angry more than anything else, that this nasty little invader had dared to take up residence in her body. She served it its eviction notice and told it that it has a fortnight to pack up all of its belongings and get out, and that anything it leaves behind will get nuked. She did a little bit of swearing - that's nothing new though, as she has been getting back in touch with her teenage side for a few years now, and we've all (my mum, my brother Terry, and I) been enjoying a good swear at each other, just for a laugh from time to time. The air was frequently blue when we were recently in Barbados for Terry's wedding. Terry and I called our mum every foul name under the sun, while she laughed hysterically, and tried her best to say some naughty words back. 'Bastard' was about the strongest she could manage, bless her pure little heart.
But where was I? Yes, we did some cancer bashing, and then we had a bit of a laugh about it. And sometimes one or another of us expressed a little shock or disbelief that cancer had entered our midst - isn't cancer something that usually happens to other people? What I realised then, something I had been aware of before but could never have fully understood, was that cancer doesn't only happen to the person who has it, it happens to everyone around them too. My mum will not have to deal with any of this alone - though, of course, none of us can quite imagine what it's like to be in her shoes.
Mostly we laughed, and without even trying we found the humour in everything concerning the unwelcome visitor. It wasn't a hideous attempt to lighten the mood by bottling up feelings of despair and terror. Those feelings were very small, if non-existant. The overwhelming feeling was one of positivity. We are not entertaining the merest shadow of doubt that my mum will be fine.
She is having the tumour removed in a couple of week's time, along with a lymph node for testing. Then in the new year she will undergo a course of radiotherapy. Hopefully that will be it, and she will be rid of it, back to where she was before this happened, if somewhat altered in state of mind and perspective.
There is no doubt that, even with a happy and successful outcome, this changes life for all of us in lots of ways. Last night my own children looked different to me, even more precious, which I wouldn't have thought possible. It would be nice if one of the positive aspects of cancer was that it stopped me from ever shouting at my children again! Not very likely, but time will tell with that one - I'm sure we all react to this nasty illness in different ways, and for some people the anger they feel may well make them shout more - I can understand that.
I'll be honest with you - there is no point in writing these hubs if I am not honest - I woke up feeling a little less positive today. I'm not sure why. I wasn't in a bad mood, or even feeling sad, but it was perhaps a bit of delayed shock. Perhaps a sort of oh-it-wasn't-a-dream-after-all-my-mum-really-does-have-breast-cancer realisation. I think that kind of feeling can be quite common for a lot of things: oh-no-I-really-did-forget-to-put-the-bins-out-this-morning, or oh-no-I-really-did-strip-down-to-my-underwear-when-I-was-drunk-last-night, or oh-no-I-was-just-dreaming-that-it-was-Saturday-but-it-really-is-only-Tuesday. Disappointment. Well, actually, I had really forgotten to put the bins out, so that thought was the first one in my head. I can't tell you what a pain it is, to forget to put the bins out, because now I am going to have to take some rubbish to the tip.
After I had taken the children to school I was driving into town to enjoy a coffee and a quiet bit of writing time, when I surprised myself by crying! I think I was crying out of a little bit of fear. It is easy to be positive and hopeful, because we genuinely do feel it. But at the same time there will naturally be feelings of fear to contend with that might make themselves known when least expected, little sods! It would be foolish to ignore them, because that would amount to bottling them up, which everyone knows is a bad thing to do. You can actually explode if you bottle up feelings as strong as that. So, I made the instant and easy decision to just go with the tears whenever they feel like putting in an appearance. After all, I did say that I enjoyed a good cry (in this hub). I did mean that I enjoy a cry for no reason, but we can't pick and choose now, can we?
Within a couple of minutes I was enjoying a wry smile at my silliness. Of course it's okay to cry, but so far we have nothing to cry about because it's highly likely that my mum will be fine and live for a long time.
My mum is telling her mum the news tomorrow, so things may be different then. It may well be that phonecalls and sympathy will start coming in, which will be difficult to deal with. I kind of think people should carry on as normal, and wait to be told about any developments. The last thing my mum wants is to be on the phone talking about cancer for hours on end. Maybe her and Janine's new answerphone message should give callers my number, along with a request to call me, the new PA, for information. I hope everyone will just leave my mum and Janine alone, so that my mum can just get on with getting fixed without having to worry about anyone else.
So, that is what it feels like for me today. If I feel any different, whether up or down, I will be sure to let you know.
My mum's strength, I have to say, is probably what allows us all to think positive thoughts first and foremost. We take our cue from her, like she's the director, and is setting the tone for how this little fraction of her life will play out. Marvellous woman.