I've been a bit quiet of late as it's tricky to blog about my usual trivial rants and thoughts right now.
On the 27th January, my 34 year old cousin lost her short, but brutal fight, with a rare cancer. After her doctor spent all summer telling her that her itching and bruising was an allergic reaction (although to what, he couldn't tell her), she was finally diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in early October. The tumour had wrapped and wound itself around blood vessels and arteries and was wedged in close to her liver causing her to have a more than passing resemblance to Marge Simpson. Given the type and severity, she was told it was inoperable.
Most people would have crumbled at the prospect of leaving two young children motherless but not her. She asked all the right questions and discovered that they could drain the jaundice on her liver and give her chemo that could potentially shrink the tumour (although not cure it) and give her a couple more years. To the point where she could actually go back to her job as a Deputy Headmistress. So she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and decided that was exactly what was going to happen.
She banned her two sisters and parents from being maudlin and upset about it as if she could deal with it then so could they. She spent the next couple of months bossing around doctors from various hospitals and kept telling me not to be so daft when I had to postpone my visits yet again (the news clashed with us trying to move house and then the unfortunate death of my mother-in-law resulting in weekly trips to Yorkshire). She had no intention of going anywhere soon so what's the rush?
By Christmas though it was clear things were not good. The hospital still hadn't started chemo as her liver was proving difficult. By the time I saw her, she was almost green. She was painfully thin (ironic seeing as she had spent a fortune at Weight Watchers over the years) but with swollen legs and a tummy that made her appear 7 months pregnant. Yet she was still more annoyed that I hadn't brought my baby scan photos to show her! Then regaled me with the stories of the batty old woman in the bed opposite who kept trying to give away her sister's baby. The woman thought my cousin would be a much better mother.
Less than two weeks after I saw her she moved into a hospice - for recuperation, she said. My parents saw her and my mum knew instantly that it was not for recuperation. She looked awful and could barely get in and out of bed unaided. A few days later she went home and told her parents the news we'd all been dreading. There was nothing left the hospital could do. It had taken too long to drain her liver and now chemo was no longer on the table.
Her living room was turned into a bedroom and her husband took over caring for her full time. Their two children (3 and 6) reacted very differently to mummy's illness. The younger one didn't notice any difference and continued to run to her and show her the things he had done. The older one was frightened and wouldn't go into see her. Mummy looked too strange.
Just a few days later, almost sensing that the time was close, her husband asked the children if they wanted to stay with their grandparents that night and 6 year old daughter instantly agreed. The children were sent off and my cousin and her husband spent the whole night listening to music. The District Nurse was sent for and husband was told to phone anyone who might want to see my cousin straight away as she was unlikely to last the night. The midwife was right and Liz passed away early that morning.
I've not really been the same since and I won't lie, I am dreading the funeral next week. I can barely hold it together 10 days later writing this so Lord knows what I'll be like standing at the front of the church while my father puts the photo on top of the coffin.
Whilst there is nothing good that I can say about this whole incident, an amusing story has emerged. Her sister had to tell her 4 year old son that his aunt had died and did not know how to do it. So she told him that Aunty Liz had gone to live in the sky with the stars.
- 'Oh', he replied. 'What, in a space rocket?'
- 'erm, something like that' his mother spluttered.
How can we be sad now, eh?
- A first time mum at 39, trying not to let my son kill me off too soon. Busy juggling a new family, a new house and a tricky recording schedule I figured blogging would be less expensive than therapy and less embarrassing than shouting at rude and stupid people in the street/on trains/at the supermarket.