I will admit, I’ve been in two minds over writing this post. I must have re-written it half a dozen times by now. It’s probably the most personal blog post I’ll ever write, so it’s with some trepidation that I’m opening up. However, it feels wrong to just avoid talking about it – especially since it’s most definitely the biggest, most heartbreaking and defining moment of my life to date.
Eight weeks ago, on Tuesday 28th February, my beautiful, kind, selfless mum passed away. She was just 57.
Even writing that now seems completely surreal. In many ways, it feels like it’s been months; in others, it just feels like she’s popped out for work and is going to walk in through the door any moment now, shouting out for a coffee in one of her many funny voices. My mum was always the one constant in my life, so waking up to a world without her in it just seems imaginable. Completely impossible. And yet this is the reality I’ve had to grapple with over the last two heartbreaking months.
If you read my blog post last July, you’ll know that my mum was hit with the devastating news she had cancer. She’d never had any health issues, so it came as a complete bolt out of the blue. Because of the type she was diagnosed with (pancreatic), we knew from the start that it wasn’t good – as much as we desperately didn’t want to admit it. Currently in the UK, less than 1% of those diagnosed live for 10 years or more. 20% survive one year. This is all down to the fact that symptoms don’t usually present themselves until the disease is quite advanced, making it near-on impossible to operate. Chemotherapy is often the most common route of trying to delay things, but sadly it’s not an easy route. (I would wholeheartedly recommend reading up on the main symptoms to look out for over on the NHS website.)
My mum was, and still is, absolutely amazing. She was completely selfless, and could never do enough to help people. She just lived for the simple life – her bed, a cat, Eastenders on the telly, and a cup of coffee in her hand. She’s my biggest supporter, and was always there for me with a cuddle and a kind word whenever I had a tough day. Right now, I just feel like I’ve lost my missing jigsaw piece, the one person who ‘got’ me and who was always there with her unconditional love.
My mum has always been my world, raising me as a single parent for 26 years and showing me just what a strong, caring person looks like. But now? Things just don’t make sense. Telling people that I’ve ‘lost my mum’, seems so stupid. Because I haven’t ‘lost’ her; she was stolen from me, and it’s unfair and cruel, and all kinds of wrong. We had things mapped out together; things we were going to do, adventures we were going to go on. We should have had more time together: time to travel, time to love every single cat and dog we saw, and just time to spend telling stupid jokes and having tickle fights because, yes, we were big kids when we were together in the same room. I’m aching for the loss of her future, but also for the loss of our future together.
However, this has been the biggest wake-up call for me that nothing is ever guaranteed and we need to make the most of every single second we’re given. It’s a cliche, I know, but it’s a well-repeated phrase for a reason. Want to go on that blow-the-budget trip? Want to open a sanctuary for dalmatian puppies? Do it now. We have no idea what’s around the corner. There really is never a better time to do anything other than right this second.
In a cruel twist of fate, I actually went part-time at work just a few days before my mum passed away. I was hoping to spend more time, and create more memories, with her. Understandably, I’m gutted. However, being part-time now has allowed me to have something to focus on while not pushing myself too much, which I believe is important. I’m kind of still in that phase of absolute numbness/auto pilot, interspersed with feelings of despair, anger and pain that feels like you’re physically being torn apart from the inside out. It’s not a great place to be, but my boyfriend, friends, neighbours and cats have been just incredible with their immeasurable kindness and patience.
To be honest, I’m not completely 100% sure why I’m writing all this. I wanted to be honest with you, and not just ‘skim’ over something in favour of beautiful travel photos and sightseeing guides. Life can be wonderful, but it can also be downright awful. I have no doubt that this experience will shape me in many ways: not just in how I am, but in what I do and the places I travel to. I still yearn to visit the places my mum told me about – to feel close to her and her sense of wonderment at the world (and cute animals…).
But for now, I’m just taking each day as it comes. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself with regards to work, dieting, getting out of bed, or anything. My brain and my heart needs time to process and to heal – well, as much as it can do in such a situation. And thank you to all of you who have sent me messages of support over the last eight weeks. Your words mean more than you’ll ever know.