I don’t remember whether we made a joint decision not to tell the boys that it was Cancer or if we just didn’t tell them. We told other people though, I needed to tell people. I needed people to know that I would need help with school runs, lifts to football those sort of things. To me, it felt necessary to explain to people what was wrong with me as I didn’t feel that I appeared to be ill. There were no outward signs, no wounds that people could see, it felt like an invisible illness. I didn’t want anyone thinking that I was being lazy not taking my children to school etc. Especially as my children did not attend one of the schools nearby. There were not many other pupils going to their schools who lived near to us. I drew up rotas for the school run. My husband was working in Southampton and would start working at 6am. When no one else could do it my neighbour would bring them home for me even though her own son attended another school. (During this time she moved him to the same junior school, later when I was well again I took her son and mine to school on the way to work and she picked them all up on the way home as she started and finished work earlier than I did).
I think in the beginning all we told the boys was that mummy had something wrong with her tummy. OK that’s what my mum and I told them. Their Dad told them that…….’mummy is going to die’. I can’t even begin to understand how that made them feel. Aged 13 the eldest of the four I relied on DC to help me by being here for the younger boys when I needed to sleep, or go to the shop for me when we needed something. He had other ideas, (I thought at the time that he was being a selfish teenager, but I later learnt from some of his friends that he was really worried about me and his way of coping was to avoid me as much as he could). Friends did that too. One of the things that I didn’t expect was that the people I thought would be supportive would avoid me, but other people who I didn’t know so well were really supportive.
It is at times like this that the differences in my children becomes more obvious. DC avoided me, OJ aged 10 became my number one carer, not just caring for me, making sure I was comfortable seeing if I needed anything to eat (even learning how to make me a cup of tea) but looking out for ET and JA too. ET would look at me as though I had grown a second head, I was a stranger a monster as far as he could see, he had just turned 9. But my baby JA had just started school and was struggling with that, it wasn’t fair on him to have a poorly mummy who might die. He would just say things like mummy has a ‘poorly tummy’ then go and head butt my tummy. He was too young to realise what was going on. He just wanted his mummy to be like other mummies. I told all the schools so that they were aware of what was happening so they could support the boys if it was necessary.
Something else I hadn’t expected was how it made me feel being told that I had Cancer. Until that time I had been in a lot of pain and was very embarrassed that I was often leaking from my bladder like an old woman, but apart from that I didn’t feel ill. There was nothing wrong with me that couldn’t easily be put right. But within a day or so of being told that it was Cancer I found that I went right off food, even my favourite foods I couldn’t stomach. I became very weak, I would fall asleep at the drop of a hat, one minute I was wide awake the next completely drained and asleep, it didn’t matter where I was. I don’t know it that was a physical symptom or purely psychological. It was this weakness and lack of appetite that alarmed my husband the most. Resulting in him having to get sleeping tablets to help him sleep as he was so worried about me. I always had this feeling that he wasn’t so much worried about losing me because he loved me but because he suddenly found out how much I actually did for him and the boys………’how will I cope with four children on my own’ became like a mantra for him.
I spent a lot of time with my mum, I know it was very hard for her, she hated seeing how ill I was and the worry that her beloved daughter might die was very tough for her. There were times when she had to just walk out because she wanted to cry but didn’t want me to see her cry. There were also times when she wanted to smack my husband for thinking about himself more than me or the boys. It was as if me having Cancer was to make life hard for him. Both my husband and my mum carried on working but took it in turns to take a few hours off to take me to the hospital for my treatment. Collecting me at around 11.30am to get me to hospital for my daily appointment with the radiography department. Finally getting me home again by about 2.30 -3pm and back to work while I waited for the boys to be brought home.