Cancer: The Son’s Story
Cancer. Well what is it? I don’t really know. Is there anyone who truly knows what it actually is? A disease that kills you I guess. It’s something that takes over not just your life but your world. It takes every single second of your life away. A ticking clock begins and you just watch it as it counts down.
Cancer. I don’t know what you look like. I hear the word ‘mass’ a lot. I hear the word ‘spread’ too. It’s funny because as I write the word cancer you will all have a different vision of what cancer actually looks like. Mine’s a blur. Nothing more. It has no picture. It has no place in my mind to develop what it looks like.
Receiving the news
I remember getting that phone call to say they found something and not to be too worried. You kinda knew that it was something to worry about. It was a really rubbish evening if I’m honest. Your mind stops. You don’t function. You just know that the word cancer is there.
The next ‘test/results,’ I had just pulled up at Slyfield Industrial Estate while we took a break after a driving lesson in the truck. I got out and called my mum to find out what had happened. She didn’t really wanna tell me over the phone but I pushed. She told me it was terminal. I fell silent. What do you do? What do you say? I guess make a joke about how I wouldn’t have to put up with her nagging anymore. Heartless right? Well what else do you say. Have a good day? There is no right or wrong thing to say however everything feels wrong.
My instructor Darren asked if I was alright as we got back in and I hadn’t said anything in 10 minutes. I just told him. They fell silent. I laughed. It’s alright don’t worry about me. They apologised. I asked why? Did you give my mum cancer? Bit awkward.
You kinda have to have a sense of humour to stop yourself breaking down. What do you do? I replay them scenes over and over and over whilst driving. I sit and I cry my eyes out at 3 am. When there’s no one else on the road and a song comes on. Even at 1pm when there’s everyone on the road. Just something in my mind puts me on to it. Sad really. I solider on. Just like thousands of people daily. Brave? Strong? Courageous to face cancer head on? No. You do what you do to live.
Cancer became our world
You go to scan after scan after scan. Results after results. Operation after operation. Chemo after chemo. Well you get the picture. It’s your life. Cancer is your life. I don’t even have cancer yet I live it. Every single day. Every month. Every year that comes and goes.
I remember the first time we walked down the corridor to talk about cancer. It was the first time I was involved. I remembered thinking ah this is like one of the times where in a movie someone tells the story of the bad news. They look at the pictures and describe it vividly. -genuinely went through my mind. I’d love to tell you about it. I don’t remember. I remember crying. I remember walking down the long corridor. It was like it was miles. It wasn’t.
We got out. I drove us home. That was it. Cancer. Cancer may as well be tattooed on your forehead. Kinda is for me as I have the bladder cancer symbol tattooed on me. As it becomes a topic of conversation. It then becomes your world. We didn’t really talk about it much. We just joked mum wouldn’t need the last slice of cake as she’d be gone soon.
Not knowing when
We never knew. We don’t know the time. Just terminal. It was aggressive. She had months to live. If that. What do you say? You start living your life. You do crazy things you didn’t before. You do things that will make memories for you. Something you’ll remember. Funny cuz I can’t tell you many of them if I’m honest. Not because they weren’t special. But because we were living under intense pressure.
This cloud hanging over us. I remember bits. I remember being in an arcade and mum wanting an Eeyore teddy and as she said it I got it! That was ace. But everything was tainted. A lump in your back of your throat. Ready to set you off at a pin drop.
I do remember going to West Wittering and blaring out 30 seconds to mars. Red hot chili peppers and Nickelback. Like not a care in the world. Again we didn’t talk much. Mum and I went out for the day. I can’t remember where but it was us and it was the elephant in the car.
She started talking about it and I had to pull into a lay-by in Petersfield and we cried. We let it all out. We were both so scared. No one in the world should have to that conversation. And here I sit. Still with a Mum. Who’d have thought it. All this time. Yet do we waste it? Does it feel like a lot of the time we’ve had we wasted.
Our new ‘normal’
It feels most of it my Mum hasn’t been well. Hasn’t been able to leave the house. Every time you think well is this it? Is this the ‘decline’. My life stopped. I left work and took 3 months out. I was a mess. I still am.
The only difference is I have to work. I need to pay debts I ran up when I left work. Mums life. Well took an all time high. Lunches daily. Being taken out. Spoilt. By all these people we didn’t know. Who all popped out the woodwork. ‘Old friends’ well they just turned up cuz they heard cancer. Shame really. Because once the dust settles. Once people realise she’s doing alright. She’s not going to die tomorrow. They all disappear.
They all stop caring in a way. Other people were amazing. The things people have done. We have made new friends and it’s amazing. Life goes back to ‘normal’ you have to go back to work. You can’t do the amazing things like London or concerts or events every week so it goes back to reality.
You get on with it. I feel it must be rubbish because we all have something to do. Yet Mums at home not doing anything. 7 days a week. Nothing to do really. She finds stuff to do etc but it’s not a job. It’s not the making memories or making the most of it. Because well you can’t do it 24/7? It’s the new ‘normal’.
Why are people afraid to talk about cancer?
People are shocked we are so open about cancer. I deliberately use the word cancer. Over and over. If I can write cancer I will. I won’t use it. Why would I? It’s a scary subject. It’s a hushed subject. But should cancer really be hushed? We all need to be aware of changes to our bodies. Changes and symptoms that could be anything little to something huge.
We need to be proactive. Any forms of cancer. On the news I heard them talking about the ‘smear test’ and how women found it embarrassing to get done because of well what it is. But it could save your life? These people train for years to be qualified. To help people like you reading this detect cancer. Something that’s there to HELP FIND CANCER people are putting off. Because they are embarrassed. Is that a good enough excuse? We can help each other.
We can help friends and family before cancer spreads. Just by talking about it. Making it a normal topic of conversation. What’s there to be embarrassed about? Saving your life? Cancer is just like our mental health. Both should be spoken about. Cancer takes an enormous strain on our daily life and it’s so hard. If you’ve been there you’ll know. If you haven’t then take my word for it.
Life goes on
I will never ever be free of cancer. Yet I don’t carry the disease (that I know and could change) cancer is my world now. And it sucks. Would I change it? No. Because I know in a weird messed up way my mums life has got better. She’s lived her life and that’s all that matters. I know she wishes she had many more years. But I know the things we’ve done so far has made us closer as a family. So to recap. Cancer sucks. Talk about cancer at every opportunity. Cancer doesn’t end your life it makes you live it.
How has cancer changed your life?