Palliative Radiotherapy and Summer Christmas: July 2014

The oncologist has said that Mum’s prognosis is 6 months (to live). One can never be sure; it could be six weeks or six months. My sister (who is a GP) explained to me that people usually plateau, worsen gradually, and also very sudden things can happen.

Mum was scared going for the palliative radiotherapy. They told her that it wasn’t painful, and just like an x-ray. This was only partly true.

The radiotherapy, attacking the cancer in her spine, had caused the tumour to swell, causing agonising nerve pain. From my house in Bilbao, I did the best I could. I called a carer and paid her to be with Mum as an interim, before state care started.

Mum got worse and worse. We thought she was going to die. I was supposed to be working at my friend’s summer camp for the 4 weeks of July, so I told her I could work 2, and then just 1. I really thought that Mum might die.

My sister arrived a few days after me. She told me that I had arrived just in time, and that Mum had been dangerously dehydrated, and her kidneys could have shut down.

I had it in my head that Mum was going to die, so I went a bit mad “doing things”, e.g. keeping busy to not face my feelings. I got the house ready, clearing out the fridge and the cupboards, restocking them with food, trying to get rid of excess stuff (it was hard to get anything in the cupboards as there was so much stuff everywhere).

In a few days, Mum was feeling much better and  able to walk around and eat her child-sized portions again. My sister’s partner came, my partner came, my other sister came. With all of us being together, we joked it was like Christmas. We had a big roast dinner together, and mum seemed very happy, despite her pain from the cancer, and the nausea caused by the morphine.

I didn’t take any photos because Mum always hated photos (for as long as I had known her, anyway) and I didn’t want to see a scared look in her eye as she shied away from the camera.

We all had a wonderful time together, laughing and joking. Mum was smiling from ear to ear, asking her perspective son-in-laws questions and laughing along with the banter.


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