It is a while since my last post on 19th December, I have been enjoying quiet time with my family, it was just Ray, Megan, Josh, Liza and I on Christmas day. We decided to break from our tradition of opening presents after dinner, to opening in the morning which was a good move as we had more time for board games in the afternoon, ‘Countdown’ was a laugh!
Josh and Liza went to visit Liza’s family on Boxing Day so it was just the three of us. Saturday we had a quick tidy up ready for my sister Sharon and her husband Mike being with us on Sunday and Monday. Sharon and Mike brought their two dogs with them so Shadow had friends to play with, he gets excited when he realises who has come to visit.
Sharon and Mike did some work in the garden for us, something which was much needed as I haven’t been able to do any of it, Ray and I carried cuttings to the garden bin which was as much as we could manage.
These quiet days between Christmas and the New Year, I have found myself in reflective mood. I have been thinking about my Mum, Dad and my longest surviving Grandparent – Nana Rose Billing, all now no longer with us (Granddad Billing died before I was born, Nana & Granddad Saunders died in 1976 and 1977, whilst I was at secondary school).
In the half term break, October 1977, my family and I went to Bath for the week, my sister Nicola was getting married the following summer, so this was our last chance to have a family holiday. One morning my Dad choked on his toast, it really scared me, I didn’t know what to do, that was the start of it, but none of us realised the significance until months later. I don’t remember exactly when, it happened but my Dad became ill, initially with Endocarditis, a rare and potentially fatal type of heart infection. It’s specifically an infection of the inner lining of the heart (the endocardium), he also had Septicaemia (now known as Sepsis).
After further investigation, it was discovered that the underlying cause of these illnesses was Stomach and Oesophageal Cancer, Dad had surgery to remove it, followed by Chemotherapy. The cancer Metastasised, my Dad had several operations, some to remove tumours and some to ‘improve his quality of life’ and also further Chemotherapy, he went through so much, he died on 8th August 1982, aged 53, I was 19 years old.
This is probably the last photo that I have of my parents together, taken at in May 1982 at the party for Ray’s and my Engagement, 3 months before Dad passed away.
When Ray and I were making arrangements for our wedding, my mum suggested that I ask an Uncle to give me away at the church, but it was important to me that my Dad was not substituted by someone who had not played a major role in my upbringing. Even though this is traditionally a male responsibility, I was pleased that my Mum agreed to give me away.
It was not many more years until my Mum was diagnosed with Cancer too, hers was Waldenström’s Macroglobulinaemia (WM – also known as Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma) which is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This is a cancer of the lymphatic system, it affects bone marrow and blood composition. It was inoperable and Bone Marrow Transplantation was not an option, the only treatment available was several courses of Chemotherapy to control the cancer enough to relieve the symptoms. This was 22 years ago so treatment options may have progressed since then. My mum died aged 61 on 3rd July 1992, six weeks before Josh was born, I was 29 years old.
In 2001, my Nan was approaching her 100th Birthday, she insisted that she did not want a party, so my family and I planned to hold a small surprise celebration for her. Well, my Nan was a determined lady, she made sure that there would be no party, sadly Nan passed away in her sleep, two weeks before her 100th birthday.
This photo was taken at Christmas 1985.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, L to R – Brother-in-Law Mike, married to my sister Sharon, parents to Andrew and Sophie, and now have four Grandsons, Nana Rose Billing, age 83, sadly deceased at age 99 and 50 weeks (Feb 1901 – Jan 2001) Me, age 22, My Mum, Rosemary, age 55, also sadly deceased at age 61 (Sep 1930 – Jul 1992), Ray age 22, Andrew, age 3, now married to Hannah and have three sons, my sister Sharon, Sophie age 15 months, now married to Toby, and have recently had a baby boy. Ray and I, Mum and Dad to Megan and Josh. This picture was taken in our first home, in Chelmsford, Essex.
My Mother – in – Law passed away in July last year from Metastasised Ovarian Cancer, so Ray and I have possibly had above average experience of Terminal Cancers. So what should you say to someone who has just received a diagnosis of Cancer? I came across a web page Caroline whose blog I have been following –
Caroline works at Macmillan Cancer Support, and has shared a link to a very useful page:
“Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, or how to help when a friend or family member has cancer.
The Source is a collection of simple, practical tips from people who’ve been there.
Because no one should face cancer alone.”
A ‘tip’ which stood out to me is this one:
my dad got diagnosed with throat cancer about a year ago the thing that annoyed him is people assume that you’re okay by the way you look people don’t realise the effect cancer has on a person the emotional and mental side remember the scars might not be seen but they are there. Always ask how the person is listen to them and give them support when needed.
I too have been told I ‘look well’, and yes, I do look OK most of the time, but then it is easier to put on a happy face than to show how bad I might really be feeling. I have moments when the darkness hits me, I woke this morning deep in the gloom, I hadn’t had a good night and felt too tired to think about getting to Mount Vernon for Radiotherapy in the afternoon. In fact I really didn’t want to go, about all I felt like doing was snuggling back under the covers and staying there all day. But that’s not what I did, I dragged myself out of bed, did my exercises, showered, dressed and ate breakfast, I did eventually feel more positive. Today Ray and I went in to The Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre at the hospital, we found out about the Relaxation Sessions and arranged for both of us to go next Tuesday morning, and booked a Therapy treatment for myself next Thursday. It will be Reiki or Massage dependant on what the therapist feels will be most beneficial for me, so I have that to look forward to.
One thought on “A Quiet Christmas and Back to Radiotherapy.”
Thank you, I have learnt something from what you have wrote about, it is hard to handle when you don’t know anything about the condition, I am more enlightened now. I do meet people with cancer and try to listen, but they seem to put a brave face on it and play it down, now You have told me what the feeling is underneath. My friend is waiting for the bad news to arrive, so I will be more prepared perhaps to help her. Thanks again. G.B.