As you will know, if you’ve been reading for a while, three years ago Mum started a Bachelor of Social Work with the University of Auckland. She always knew that there would be a solid chance that she would not finish it – studies show a 25-50% survival rate (and that’s survival, not cure) after diagnosis of IBC. As it turns out, we held her funeral on her fourth cancerversary (did not realise that until I was typing this) and at that stage she was just a few credits short of being able to gain her diploma. Sad, yes, but I know that Mum would not have traded that time for anything in the world.
Her close friends A, N and M from the course, along with her lecturer J and others campaigned to give her some recognition for what she had managed to achieve in her course. And achieve she did – this is a woman who, during active treatment, was regularly gaining As and A+s. This is the woman who would have liked to gain a PhD and lecture herself. As it got to the end of last semester, however, she knew that she wouldn’t return. So on Wednesday the 27th of July (the week before she passed), Mum had her own little graduation of sorts, where she was declared “QBE” or qualified by experience. She wrote a short post on how much her “Mixed Nuts” classmates had meant to her here.
What I don’t know whether people realise is exactly how much it meant to her. She had photos and film of the event and on Monday the 30th, my first “task” of the day was to sit down and watch them. She was so proud of what she had achieved and really overwhelmed and humbled by all the beautiful things that people had said. We discussed how it is possible for anyone to graduate, and walk across the stage with hundreds of others, but it takes being pretty special for people to throw a “graduation” of your very own. We talked about how much she must have meant to everyone to have a certificate signed by every one of her lecturers. Why wouldn’t you be proud?
Mum had two goals once her cancer had made it to the “control, not cure” phase: make it to my (OD’s) wedding and make it to her fiftieth birthday. The night before she died, she said that she was satisfied. The uni celebration and the visits she had had from friends had made her feel so loved and appreciated that she didn’t need the big event, especially if she had to plan it to happen in advance of the actual date. As she put it “You don’t usually get to hear the nice things people say about you before your funeral”.
She’d planned to post this second post last week – showing her certificate with blanks on it to protect the privacy of her lecturers. It is the least I can do to post this here and honour that wish.
We are so proud of you Mum.
Posted by Natasha on August 8, 2012
OD here again. Driving home from Dad/OH’s tonight, the sun was setting and the sky was filled with gold and pink. It was another spectacular moment in the sky, one of many in a week that was meant to be awful and dark and revolting. Mum always said that grey days only made one feel worse, and in the middle of winter, those days here have been very few. Coincidence? Maybe. But that golden light tonight made me think that it was time to write one of two posts that Mum wanted to write. This one is on faith.
Mum’s history with the Christian Church is strong. Her mother was very religious and a large amount of socialising in Mum’s rural town upbringing was church-related. Mum attended the local youth group and even taught some Sunday School. Her and my father were married in the local church and all three of us kids were also christened there.
Moving away from the town meant moving to different churches and the fit was not so good. My father is agnostic and has never attended regularly. My disabled younger sister came along and Mum was made to feel bad that she was not attending church regularly, yet also made to feel that YD was disruptive and unwelcome. In what is possibly the most horrid example of “church-i-anity” that I have heard of, Mum’s pleas for help in some sins that she was struggling with were met with the comments that YD’s disabilities might be God’s punishment for the things Mum did wrong. Just writing that makes me sick. YD is one of God’s creatures too and I can’t believe how cruel people can be.
Mum left the church and never went back. A couple of weeks ago, she got a letter from a family friend known as Mrs Five-Minutes – the one that Grandma was always on the phone to for “just five more minutes”. Mrs FM knew that Mum no longer attended the church of her youth and was worried that Mum had lost faith. Mum has always had faith in God, even when she has not had faith in people.
It was something that Mum wanted to write a blog post on – that her belief in Science and her belief in a higher power were not mutually exclusive. The reason that she was not afraid to die – and we both agreed that not being scared didn’t mean that it didn’t suck – was because she was a firm believer in that this life was not all there was. She didn’t know exactly what it would be like but she knew that Heaven would be love and being with God and that Hell would be not getting to be a part of that.
She’d thought about attending a church again but didn’t want to be perceived as a “rainy-day Christian” and was getting to the point that she didn’t want to be explaining her history to a bunch of new people, didn’t want to be known to a whole new bunch of people as “Jenny, the cancer patient”. She knew that you didn’t just get into Heaven by good works (although we discussed that those would have given her plenty of brownie points) but she knew that she was strong enough in faith that she would get to be part of that love.
What do I believe? I believe that at that point, so soon before she passed, when she told us that she had to go, that door to the hereafter was opening. She seemed so at peace with heading into the light. I like to think that our family friend Keith and Mum’s dear IBC friend Susan were waiting on the other side to welcome her with the joy that she deserved. I believe that she’ll never truly be gone.
Posted by Natasha on August 5, 2012
go awry. Mum has been hospitalised with another portacath infection this week (went in for radiation simulation on Tues and they didn’t let her come home) and while it threw a spanner in our festivities, we were pleased to have her home on a Christmas Lunch pass, even if it meant she got to skive off before the clean up. We hope to get her home either Saturday or Sunday and we’ll look at doing our big family Christmas thing then 😀 She’ll also do a big post on the experience when she returns.
– Yours in weary happiness, OD.
Posted by Natasha on December 24, 2008
It’s 6:20 am on Friday and I have just seen the sunrise out my window. Looking towards the domain gates the sky was all orange and pink over the trees – very pretty!
Well I’ve been in hospital for two days now and getting used to the idea that I will be in for a couple of days longer. I didn’t realise how bad I was feeling until I felt is much better. It was such a gradual slide from tired to very tired to sick that I didn’t realise until it got bad.
The next day after the IV antibiotics had started to take effect I felt so much better. I haven’t run a temperature at all but they say that sometimes when your white blood cells are low your body isn’t actually fighting infection enough to actually cause a fever. The reason I am in hospital is my white blood cell count is too low to fight the minor infection that I have in my portacath incision and I need IV antibiotics and injections of GCSF to boost my white blood cell count. I’m learning lots of new medical terms like how white blood cells are called neutrophils and when you are low on them you’re called neutropaenic…
I’m being a very impatient patient – the enforced bed rest (captivity!) will probably drive me nuts before I leave. I’m not allowed to go for too much for of a wander or anything because I’m not allowed to expose myself to unnecessary germs – for the same reason, OD hasn’t been able to visit me, as she’s a bit sniffley. My first day was spent in a mixed room that had men and ladies in it and I was in a bed closer to the door with the curtains shut half the time. Yesterday about tea-time, I got shifted to a female-only room and I have a bed by the window so feel a little less claustrophobic.
Part of me is having trouble with the fact that my life has changed so dramatically in the last two months. The person that has to resign herself to being in hospital seems a long way away from the pereson I was at the beginning of July before all this started. I have to learn not to get too busy on my good days. I probably overdid things on my first chemo cycle and that is why things got on top of me so quickly this time.
I had hoped to work during the third week of this cycle but that’s now doubtful. I was just going to work one shift on a non-busy day just to see how I went but I am going to have to flag that away and just concentrate by getting my strength up before the next chemo cycle.
This afternoon MD and YD are coming up to visit me. We thought that it would be better to show YD that I’m fine (well, relatively speaking LOL) and I’m not too sick and there’s nothing to worry about rather than have her stressing that I’m too sick to see her. Part of me feels guilty about being in here (stupid – I know!!) but the fact that OH et. al. have to come up and visit me instead of us all relaxing at home just bothers me.
I’ll probably write another missive from the hospital if I’m in longer than Sunday (I get to go home once my white blood cells start rising again) and I’ll get OD to type it in again. Thanks to OD for typing out for me on the blog and for being able to decipher my handwriting enough to do it (note from OD: I’ve had almost 21-odd years of practise!).
Posted by Natasha on September 25, 2008