Tag Archives: cancer

Loss and the questions why

9 Feb

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. – “One Art”, Elizabeth Bishop

Loss is a part of all our lives, from the banana that went off in the fruit bowl to the friend we no longer connect with. It seems, we are trained in the art of losing from a young age. We lose toys, teeth, races, games… As we grow the lost items become more significant; house keys, purses, expensive appliances that break, jobs… The losses get larger and larger and we get more used to them, expect them even. But regardless of how large the loss, we are never prepared for the loss of a parent. This one is like losing a part of your soul, a piece of you that you can’t fathom being without. Like that all important structural block in Jenga, without them you’ll surely crumble.

This loss of mine was my mother-in-law, a year ago today. Not a biological parent, but a deep pain nonetheless. June Rose Fielding, from the first time I met her in 2003, treated me as one of her own. There was a period of time during our relationship where she knew more about me than my own parents did – she was mentally supporting her son, who was mentally supporting me. And when I had improved and was able to get back into the world, she didn’t treat me as a leper, she never brought it up, and never held it against me. She was the most zen person I know, even thinking about her now calms me down.

As the last of 4 children, and born 10 years after the rest, Andrew had an older than average mum. It never stopped her doing everything with him as a youngin though. And after his father George passed away when Andrew was 8, she truly had her work cut out for her. She’d make pizza and TMNT costumes so he could watch it and be part of the action. She would bowl cricket balls to him until the grass under the big tree was a bare dirt patch. She’d punish him when he was caught giving neighbors the middle finger. She looked after the farm and worked her buns off in some pretty menial jobs to make sure they never wanted for anything. So when she retired officially and started jet-setting around the world and building a home full of lovely things, we were all stoked!

She was an incredibly active and healthy 73 year old, but when she called Andrew for help with her washing on Australia Day last year, we were worried. She was tired and seemed thinner at Christmas time but had refused to go to the hospital. She said she had been seeing her local GP and he was doing some tests. When we arrived in Gatton I gently asked her how she felt about us taking her to Emergency, and to our surprise she said “I think that’s a good idea”. She was in the passenger seat of her car waiting before we even had time to pack a bag!

In a very brief summary, they found lumps the size of a football and cricket balls in her abdomen, as well as necrotic tissue in her neck and chest. She had stopped eating by then and continued to go downhill fast. They performed exploratory surgery and put in a PICC line to provide nourishment as she was no longer able to eat or drink. But eventually the specialist said the cancer had taken over so much of her body that by feeding her, we were giving it strength to multiply, and therfore killing her. The only option was chemo ASAP and even then it was a shot in the dark given her state of health. But almost as a sign from her god, it was not meant to be. She had a nightmare during the night before she was due to start and ripped out the PICC, leaving a gaping wound that prevented her from starting. As with everything else in life she took it on the chin and asked that all her family come visit. So instead of treatment, we had a beautiful day in the hospital gardens with all of her children and grand children, and she made well sure she’d seen every Bromeliad and Rose before she left.

From start to finish she was only in hospital 2 weeks. 2 weeks of trying to get our head around changing diagnoses and what was going on. 2 weeks of questioning “Why us? What did she ever do wrong? What did we do wrong? And what part of her faithful and giving life led her down this putrid path?”. We still can’t believe how quickly it progressed, we had both heard stories about these kinds of things and thought about how awful it must be to not have the time to prepare. But never in a million years do you believe it’s going to be your experience too, being young and saying goodbye. I can only begin to imagine how Andrew feels, this loss, and as a cruel twist, a reminder that 4 days time marks 25 years since his Dad passed. We talk about her often, and I’m always keen to learn about and hear stories of George. So much of our current life is with thanks to her. Items around the home (she had the most amazing knack for knowing exactly what you wanted), the plants in the garden (she had the biggest green thumb I know), performance parts on the GTR (she loved hearing about his new mods, even if she had no idea what any of it meant), and even the home itself. Everywhere we look we’re reminded of how incredible she was, but that now she’s physically gone.

You can’t see what’s lost, if you could then it would be found. But you can sure as heck FEEL the lost.

Rest in Peace my sweet mumma-in-law. We miss you xx