Being a Mum is difficult but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. You hear things like “you’re a great Mum” and “I don’t know how you cope” when really over the last 3 years I’ve thought “how on earth have the kids coped”??
Being a single Mum of 4 for the last 8 years has had its challenges and with poor health already things weren’t easy. I always came last, which I wouldn’t have any other way. During a rare quiet moment I noticed an ache in my armpit; I thought I’d felt a lump but couldn’t be sure. I thought it was from lugging 10 bags of shopping in from the car in one go so I didn’t have to make two trips!! (don’t laugh – I know you do it too!!). A vomiting child soon put the ache to the back of my mind. Not wanting to worry my children I told my boyfriend who could tell something was wrong. Well that was a double-edged sword because although I finally had someone to talk too, he was also pestering me every day to go to the doctors.
A fortnight later I was at the Breast Unit at Addenbrooks hospital. I went on my own which I quickly realised most other people don’t do. I suppose I’m just so used to dealing with things on my own. I thought they’d talk to me, have a feel and send me on my way. Anyway I won’t bore you with the details but they did some tests and I was summoned back a week later. The next appointment went like slow motion. The doctor started talking medical gibberish. “Look mate”, I said “please don’t fanny it up with flowers, do I have Breast Cancer or not?” The answer of “Yes” hit me like a tonne of bricks and I regretted not having anyone with me. For the first time in ages I was the one who needed a cuddle and support.
All the way home I wasn’t thinking about myself…My thoughts were of my babies and how I was going to juggle Cancer and be a Mum; afterall, being a Mum is all I know how to be!
I told my older children but together we decided that my 7 year old didn’t need to know. She knew Mummy was poorly anyway and not disrupting or upsetting her little world was of paramount importance.
The next 6 months involved surgery and Radiotherapy. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t need Chemotherapy having found and caught it early. I had appointments during the school day to minimise the kids worries and always smiled when they were at home. I was more worried about them than myself but that’s standard practice for a Mum, right?
Most of the next year went like a blur. More appointments, side-effects of medication and treatments and the worry every time I had a ache or pain! Remission is like a dark cloud hanging over you the whole time- the fear of it coming back, the fear of not seeing your babies grow up. Looking back I’m ashamed to say that, before it picked me, I was ignorant to cancer. Of course I knew it happened and about the basic treatments etc but I quickly realised that it’s like a secret group that you’re not allowed information about until you’re dealt the card.
Part of me feels guilty that trips to the park etc didn’t happen; reading stories was about as much energy as I had. Now when I talk about my kids I cry! Not in a bad way but in a “I’m so proud of how they coped when I was ill” way. All the while trying to juggle my own feelings about mortality and, had things not gone my way, how they would’ve coped without me. That really hurts!
If you have concerns or feel that something’s not right please go to the doctors. Don’t feel embarrassed; you’ve given birth for goodness sake! Mums always put their family first but sometimes you need to make yourself a priority. After all, you owe it to your children to stay healthy – for you and for them!!