Apologies in advance for the multitude of times I want to say Fuck Cancer.
The brief part of the year where one slides into another has forever been turned into a horrific time of year for us. It’s so unbelievably hard now.
In September 2016 my Nana was diagnosed with secondary brain cancer and given 6 weeks to live. My Dad and I (with a few weeks help from an aunt) nursed her for almost four months at home before we couldn’t do anymore and put her into respite for 5 days to have a break. She went downhill so rapidly in there that bar one short visit home for the day, they forced her into end stage hospital care. She passed away 10 days after going into hospice and my Dad and I were devastated.
We buried her just before Christmas.
Then at the end of January, just barely past Christmas and my Nana’s loss, a man who was like a second father to me, for almost 20 years, suddenly went downhill fast. One day he was working 7-7 and fine and the next he didn’t turn up for work. We knew he had cancer but we thought he had ages. Bad days happened though during his fight so we didn’t think too much of it the first day. The second we were confused, and the third we had the bomb dropped that he may never be back at work. The fifth his children arrived and the sixth we spent a whole day talking about old times, his children all together and laughing and reminiscing. The seventh day he was gone. Like an explosion, he passed away about 3am. We got the call and rushed up there knowing we were too late and feeling guilty for leaving the night before.
Those two losses were truly devastating and even more so, when they were so close together.
I was so close to my Nan. I would spend most of a day every Thursday with her. And I would take her to appointments. I would colour her hair. We would go out for coffee. She would help me with the boys and I would help with whatever she needed. And in her last months I was with her almost every day. Life was put on hold to care for her and her decline was terrifyingly fast. It was so incredibly hard watching the strong, ferocious woman she was become bed bound. Needing constant supervision, she couldn’t walk, couldn’t toilet herself. The radiation made her hair fall out – her hair that was her pride and joy with 6 weekly colours and 3 monthly perms. And it felt like it was too fast….. it took me 2 years to take the weekly alarms out of my phone for my days with Nana. I almost couldn’t do it as my heart still wanted to go. I still had so much to say even though we spoke so often.
And if I thought Nana went fast my ‘other’ Dad went even faster and it was a dizzying week. I was barely getting my head around him suddenly seeming so sick when he too had been so incredibly strong! He had fought bowel cancer with a week off work total. And they cleared him for a whole month before they told us that they had found liver and lung tumours which were aggressive and mostly untreatable. They did try a long course of chemo but he told them no more in early December because he wanted to enjoy Christmas. If it was possibly his last he wanted to enjoy tasting food. He wanted to eat without a mouth full of ulcers. He wanted his taste buds back. He wanted to be able to have a Christmas without nausea and vomiting. And he got it. Even if that Christmas for us was a more somber affair as we knew what he’d given up and we knew time was ticking now. But we had no idea how much or how little time there was…..
The last week we had him, my partner and I spent every minute awake up there with him. On the Thursday night his daughter and another son arrived. On the Friday night his last son arrived. And on the Thursday I made his favourite cakes. Those were the last things he ate and to this day I haven’t been able to bring myself to make them again.
I was so glad I was able to do that before he couldn’t eat anymore. I’m grateful to him for asking for them. And thankful that I took the time to make them.
His decline was head spinningly fast. He was laughing and happy on the Saturday evening. But then he got suddenly exhausted. As if the day had taken every last ounce of his energy. And when he fell asleep we hadn’t been able to wake him when we were leaving to go home…. we had discussed staying. But we were told to go. That he would be okay. We left about midnight. And the call came just after 3am. That heartbreaking phone call that as soon as the phone rang we both sat bolt upright and looked at each other. I remember saying oh no… and he answered it. We were told he was gone and to come now. So we dressed and grabbed the kids in their jammie’s and sleeping and loaded them into the car and we rushed up there. It was horrific. I just couldn’t believe it was only a few hours since we had been with him and now he was gone.
Both left huge holes in our lives and my kids lives.
They lost a Grandad and a Great-Grandmother in just weeks. And both were so important to both of the boys. But more so my oldest son who was best friends with his Grandad. He lived there every weekend and half the week. They were inseparable. And grandad was at our house every single day. He never missed coffee in the mornings with the kids and always came to say goodbye before leaving work for the night. He wouldn’t dream of going home without seeing his boys! He was so close to my elder boy and was starting to get almost as close to my younger boy as he was growing to adore his Grandad as much as his brother did. My heart hurts every day still when I watch both boys developing and growing and I think that he is missing out on these boys potential. And they are missing him. I think often how much he would have adored them both. How much he did adore them, but I often see little things and think oh man. If only he was able to have seen that personality trait of the boys…. or how much he would have loved to share his world with them. They were the centre of his universe and the thing he cared about the most.
I have his photo in my lounge and we talk to him every day. And every day we wish he was here with us and every day I’m still mad he’s not. That life is just too unfair. My babies deserved more time with their Grandad. We deserved more time wth him. We need him…. still.
And I feel like even though it’s been a few years now, I’m still learning to live without both he and my Nana. Isn’t that terrible? I feel like I’m still grieving them both!
I wonder when it ends….. if you ever stop missing them so desperately?