Cancer is such a vile word. A word no one wants to hear being said. Even the word brings to mind a picture of a leech, a worm, a snake sliding to your life. Wedeling its way in uninvited. Sucking the life from you and those around you. Just the word alone feels skin crawling and dirty. Cancer is the taker of life, the destroyer of life and is the murderer that is never held accountable.
I myself havn’t experienced the disease in my own body. I watched from the side lines. I watched my beloved nan disappear through the sucker of life. I didn’t experience the pain of the actual cancer but I felt the ripple of pain it gives off through my own body, my own heart and my whole world. The day cancer arrived I hadn’t expected, id been blind, id never thought it would find its way to my life.
My nan wasn’t just a nan she was a second mother, a shadow of my own mother, she helped raise me and shape the person I am today. She along with my mum are the 2 women I looked to and turned to for everything in life. She was my best friend and I watched her slowly, painfully and sadly fade away.
I remember the exact day. She had been coughing for a few weeks and it wouldn’t shift. I knew she had been poorly and she had gone for an xray. There they found a “mass”. I still didn’t let cancer in. I had no idea. I was naïve. I told them no it wont be cancer no chance. I think back now and think my mum and nan deep down knew but I didn’t. Naïve of how easily cancer could move in. She went on the have a biopsy to find the cause of the mass. I remember watching her being wheeled off on the hospital bed my little nan in her 70s looked like a toddler. Her eyes looking for support and reassurance. I was still naïve at this point.
The day my world crashed I remember everything about it I remember my mum phoning me to tell me the results were back. I remember feeling like I was in a dream hearing her say the words cancer. My knees giving way and my body falling to the floor. Kneeing on the floor listening to her words but not being able to talk. I felt my heart shatter. I don’t think I then realised the pain my heart, my whole families hearts were about to go through. I never dreamt of the things I would go on to at 23 years old see, feel or experience.
My beautiful happy soled nan had lung cancer. The pictures in my memory the bad memories the happy are like watching a movie in my mind. Snippets before the next movie scene starts. Trying to piece them together, trying to remember every second is hard. There are more bad than good. Moments I never thought id go through. Behind closed doors I watched my family weeping. Sitting in the cancer clinic with people sat all around me dying, their outer shells coming to the end of life.
I saw things that some people couldn’t imagine. Things people wouldn’t ever believe comes with cancer. I at 23 cleaned out tumours that had developed over my fragile nans body, gaping holes in her back that I was left to clean, watching her sickness, watching her mind become confused to where she believed I was her mother, washing her like she was my baby. Seeing the pain my mum was going through and not being able to stop it.
Through it all she never lost her humour. She would on good days dance around her livingroom trying embarrass me, sitting in her garden pulling faces at me, making me run with her in her wheelchair. These memories are what I turn to in darker days.
A day I think about a lot and a day no one wants to go through and quite frankly shouldn’t have to was the day we were told there is just no more we can do. Myself, mum and auntie with my nan had gone to see her consultant after months of chemo and fighting. We had gone to get results of further scans. As we were took to a room with a supporting nurse I knew we were about to be told the worse. Myself and auntie sat on the hospital bed holding hands and my mum sat next to my little nan now a shell of her former self. The consultant began to tell us the news and my little nan couldn’t hear as her hearing had got so bad, as we sat with tears rolling down she hadn’t heard and my mum had to sit and repeat it all to her. I picture that moment I feel that moment and my heart aches and breaks. If I could have scooped her up and run the world in length with her little body to get her away from cancer I would never have stopped running.
Cancer wasnt invited. It arrived unannounced. It started hidden in her lung then crept its way around her whole body. As a family we stopped our whole lives, I gave up working, and we stayed with her day and night for months, I had to learn about morphine, about packing wounds, about personal care, about emergency medicines, I was forced to learn about cancer. We as a family were now experts of cancer.
On the 3rd November after nearly a year of battling my little nan lay in her bed whilst myself and mum played her all her favourite music, held her hand as she grew her wings. All the family had been and said there goodbyes. She’d squeezed our hands as her voice had gone but she let us know she was in there and she was leaving. I was 15 weeks pregnant.
Cancer arrived and left without taking any responsibility, without answering any questions and without any reasoning. It may have arrived inside one shell but its affect rippled through many. Friends and family.
And i will never forget the day cancer entered my family.