Bygone Cancer, A Child's Memory!
A Moment to Treasure
I have often wondered about that post mortem report, considered at length the logic, but still come to the conclusion that you either take an overdose or you don't take an overdose. You know if you are emptying a pill bottle, you make the decision to put the pills in your mouth, lift the glass, take a drink and swallow.
My mother suffered with cancer, fighting a seven year battle at a time when no questions could be answered. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy where not an option, in fact, never heard of. Ironically it could all of been avoided.
Mum was stood in a queue waiting the arrival of a bus to take her home, when a very tall man turned around and hit my mother in the breast with his elbow. Not a conscious act, not a malicious act, just simply turning around looking about him. Several weeks later, having found a lump in her right breast my mother underwent the first of her fifty two operations.
All my childhood memories are filled with great sadness, and yes when I was younger, a lot of resentment too. As friends laughed and played I stayed at home to nurse my sick mother. Horrific scars from surgery. Both of her breasts removed. 180 stitches in the right side, and a new technique on the left side, skin grafts. Gaping wounds that weep-ed slough, the black dead skin found around the outside of huge holes, holes I could place my fist into. Holes that required dressing four times a day to prevent even more maggots feasting on the dying skin. "The maggots help to keep the wound clean" the district nurse would remind me on occasion. It was fine for her, she could walk away.
My mum's screams of agonising pain filled my ears and I longed to go to school for some sanity. Then I would be afraid to return home in case mum would of been taken into hospital again, and I would be sent to yet another foster home for a while.
My home smelt of rotting flesh, but through all of this my mother remained strong. Every day was a fight, a battle of will for survival. So tall and so proud, she would dress in her finery every Saturday to take me into town to spend some quality time together. Her favourite perfume, tweed, hung heavily on the collar of her coat, and no one ever knew what lay underneath. We would walk hand in hand to the bus stop, catch the bus to town and stop at the Swan restaurant for supper before coming home. I remember those mushy peas as if it was yesterday.
Dr Steele, mums surgeon often paid tribute to my mothers courage. He would call at the house with bunches of flowers. Try to persuade her to eat tripe, "it's vitally good for you," he would say just to hear her laugh. "You might like to try golf, the country air will do you the world of good" he told her. If only he knew just how much of an effort to breath, sleep and eat took, he wouldn't have suggested such things.
The bad days were very bad, screaming and crawling on her hands and knees to the toilet, never soiling the bed. Always washed and cleanly dressed and the lippy applied to face another day. Another climb up the mountain before retiring to bed, only to start again tomorrow and the day after.
Living with bad temper is a challenge but ill temper is a nightmare. Try as I might at the time to understand, I hated living with my mum. I loved her very much and told her so every night before going to bed, but the hatred I felt so many times almost destroyed me. Why me, why my mother, why was there no help. Where was my father?
Strength of character came from every inch of my mothers body. The good days we would laugh and roll around the floor together. Go out to the theatre, we even managed to go on holiday once. How I longed for more of those good days. Life was to short for on the 22nd August 1971 I found mum lying in bed, little white pills over the floor and a calm in her bedroom that I had never known. I was fourteen years old.
My mum was my best friend. My inspiration now that I am old enough to understand, but most of all she has become my heroin. Did she knowingly end her life or was the post mortem report correct, accidental overdose. It has a ring to it don't you think?
I am 53 years old now and have lived my life without so much as a photograph of my mother, but those people who knew her say I am her double. In looks only, as I would never be as brave or selfless as she was.
I love you mum, one day we will be together again, and everything I have missed, you will be able to teach me. I remember sitting at your feet to watch the TV and knowing even then I was so proud of you. I can only pray that I leave my family with such strong memories as I have of you, thank you for being my mum.