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I had such a fun day, a friend of a friend texted me inviting me to go to the bodies exhibition. I headed in to meet her encountering the latest protest along the way. The thing that struck me most about the exhibition was that although they are real human bodies how unsqeamish I was about it. It was presented in a easy to understand scientific way. The most disconcerting thing I found was that the flesh on the body reminded me a little too much of boiled ham in the colour and the fat perhaps due to the preserving process that is used. I don't think I will be able to look at that meat in the same way again!

Also important to me were the exhibits which showed samples of organs with cancer. It's hard to put into words and explain but I had this image in my mind of cancer. It's big and scary and horrible and even though I have googled cancer and seen images of it, seeing cancer in the flesh (literally) takes away some of the .... fear... I guess.. of it. There were cross sections of livers and lungs with cancer and it was just like I saw on my Mam's xrays, dark spots. A particularly effective exhibit was the one showing a smokers lungs compared to a non smokers lungs. I know there are some who read this who may smoke so I won't harp on about it. However beside the exhibit was a clear perspex box which encouraged people who may smoke to dispose of their cigarettes. It was half full. I saw a pancreas and was struck by how small it was. The pancreas is where my mam had her primary tumour and after seeing this small organ I was struck by how fine a balance our bodies need to maintain to stay healthy. My mams tumour was roughly an inch long. It's still hard for me to imagine something this small, this...insignificant in size is what made her so ill and ultimately led to her death. There were cancers of the penis, cancers of the trachea, all sorts of cancer and I think this was such an interesting thing to see, to take the fear out of it. I know some people may not agree but it helped me.

After the exhibition we went for food then to the movies. He's just not that into you. Surprisingly good. It didn't give the fairytale ending that I expect of movies like this but more like an ending which was right for each of the characters.

It was a fun day and I think I have me another single friend :)
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Y'all have probably watched it already but last to the party as usual, I only caught it tonight. Randy Pausch's interview with Diane Sawyer. I could listen to him all night, such an inspiring man...

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/LastLecture
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Today marks the 364th day of my mothers death. According to the old wives tales you need a year and a day to grieve. That way you get all the "first" anniversaries out of the way. Yeaaah.

Truthfully I cannot believe almost a year has past since she left. The time between her getting sick, getting diagnosed and ultimately passing away was four months. A whirlwind of sickness and death. The days after felt so long as my mind caught up with what had happened. There is so so much care involved in someone so sick making sure they are comfortable,clean, that the pill scheduale is adhered to (of utmost importance when its pain relief we are talking about)not to mention entertaining them, knowing when they need company, knowing when to shoo the ever present visitors away, the many many many questions to ask of social workers, hospice nurses, community nurses. We did this for less then a week but it was one of the most exhausting stressful miserable periods in my life. With that comes the guilt. It was my mother not some stranger I should feel blessed that we had the time with her, to look after her. Instead all I feel is a bitterness, that life is so unfair, that hideous cancers still have no cure. Most of all I am incredibly angry at god. Furious. Not because she got sick but because of all the cancers out there she got this one. This one that is hard to diagnose until its too late, this one where the only treatments involved are a huge surgery if it is diagnosed in time or palliative care to preserve quality of life in the remaining time they have left. Which more often then not is less then a year.

Read )
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Go Randy!
baasheep: (Default)
So I read the news about Patrick Swayze and while I feel terrible for him and his family and hope with all my heart there is a happy ending I can't help but feel pancreatic cancer is finally, finally being shown for the agressive, life sucking, terrible disease that it is. The cloth of mystery has been thrown off and due to a high profile actor this cancer is being seen for what it is. I posted an entry last year after my mother had been given her diagnosis. I remember when the doctor broke the news thinking, surely chemotherapy might cure her. I'm grimly chuckling in my head how naive I was. Most times this cancer is not detected early enough because the pancreas are located so deep in the body. Problems only arise when patients complain of secondary illnesses. By then the cancer has usually spread to other organs and treatment is that much harder, more aggressive and ultimately less successful.

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So today is mothers day this side of the pond. I can't help but think of this day last year. When she was still alive. We hadn't yet learnt the cause of her being in pain and so tired. She was in good spirits though. The doctors had started to get her pain under control which while good made her more sleepy as a result of the high does of meds needed to manage it. Still though it was a beautiful day so we went outside and spent an hour wandering around the grounds of the hospital, her admiring the flowers coming out in bloom and me slightly panting as I pushed the chair up an incline to get to the rosebushes she loved. We sat there beside the rose bushes her in her chair me on the bench and I took out one of her presents, a freshly made coffee slice from the local bakery. We made small talk, she liked to know what was going on in the outside world with our family, the neighbours, my friends... She started to get breathless and it was time to go back inside, to get her back to her oxygen. Once back inside, she opened the rest of her presents, an outfit for her homecoming (even though we didn't know when that would be), a set of books and a small pot of flowers, mini daffodils. She loved those and sitting here today I can see the ceramic pot they were in on my desk. The daffodils are gone like her. She wore her outfit when she came home and then again a week and half later when she was buried. She was too tired to read the books. They still sit on her bedside table.

Today the weather is reflecting my mood. Grey clouds with an occsional heavy shower interspered with golden bursts of sunlight. In a few hours I will put flowers on her grave. I haven't been to see her since christmas. I've used the excuse of my car being broken as the reason I haven't gone up to the grave. I prefer not to dig too hard to find the real reason. Happy Mothers day. It will be less painful next year I hope.
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I'm very good at giving decorating advice to my friends. From bathrooms to kitchen floors to how to fill that awkward corner I rock. Decorating my own place (living room)however not so much. Mainly because I actually have to live with it. Which makes me very indesicive about everything from the wall colour to rugs to picking a sofa. Actually I picked my wall colour a lovely yellowy cream (description of colour isn't my strong point shh). I painted it and was admiring my work when my friend said "what about a feature wall"? What I have to pick another colour now?!?! It makes sense though, the room is oddly shaped and a feature wall would make it more uniform. But I'm baffled as to what colour to paint it. Whatever colour I choose I'll have to live with it. For a while I was thinking gold...GOLD! Then I though perhaps that might start to give me a headache after oooooohh about five minutes (the walls are quite tall and large)so something in the neuteral palette? Which means another trip to the paint store and another headache (paint fumes = headache). Joy.

Next up is flooring, picking a sofa and debating wheter or not to get a flat screen tv.

Control yourselves, its about to get WILD.


In other news I have a trip to the doc on Monday. My usual twice yearly visit to get refill prescriptions. I'm debating wheter or not to say anything about the way I've been feeling lately. Sleep is once again a thing of the past. Teariness at the drop of a hat? Check. Inability to watch anything on tv involving death/cancer/funerals/the elderly without shedding tears? Check. Short fuse? Check. Feeling immensely insecure and avoiding dealing with people face to face where possible so I don't have to put my happy face on? Check. Achey jaw from clenching when sad/angry/tired? Check. I'm worried that if I say all this the doctor will just gaze sympathetically and murmur something about it being part of the grieving process. Oooh that'll make me feel better. Worse still it might be the doc who was Mam's doc when she got sick. He's a lovely guy and very thorough and I know her type of cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose in its early stages. I know all this and yet I'd be lying if I said I didn't harbour any resentment towards him. Hopefully it will all pass quickly and it will be a case of hi hows you? Fine! Canyougivememyrefillspleaseandthanksmmkaybye. Sigh. Back to the decorating.
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During my typical sunday meandering through the dubyadubyadubya I happened upon a blog - http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/

A few weeks ago whymommy was diagnosed with a type of breast cancer that is quite rare, not your garden variety breast cancer - inflammatory breast cancer. This comes with the added attraction of no lumps or strange bumps which you might be unlucky enough to find during your self exam (which you all do of course). Whymommy was nursing her wee one and has had to wean because of the diagnosis. Worringly enough this type of cancer can often be diagnosed as mastitis. Please please please copy and paste this onto your blog. Since my Mam passed in april raising cancer awareness among my friends outside the internet box has become a bit of an obsession. I will be printing this post off and encouraging them to spread the word. I'd appreciate if you could do the same and help whymommy out. Below is a entry copy and pasted from her blog with her permission.

Thanks for reading my loves.

=============================================================================================

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.



P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.

Thank you
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Dear Mam,

Another month gone. I hate the days passing because it take us a little further away from when you were alive. The disbelief is still there, the momentary pause when I open the front door expecting to hear the t.v. or your cd’s and it all comes crashing back what’s happened.

Memories are starting to enter my head. Of when you were well. Just small things. Like that time we were in Maureen’s and it was a gorgeous summer day like today and you were taking her washing off the line. You stayed in the sun a little too long and when you came back inside and looked in the mirror you saw the tip of your nose had burnt and exploded with laughter. You said you looked like a snowman on holidays. Or how you liked to buy cheap slippers because then you could cut the front bits off them so your toes could breath and you could wiggle them. Or how you always had to turn the flashing timer off the stove because it annoyed you so much.

Those memories bring tears to my eyes but they are happy tears. I’m glad you are my Mam. I’m not going to speak in the past tense and say you were my Mam. You always will be my Mam even if you’re not in this world any more. I picked out your memorial card today. I hope you like it. The photo of you is from when you went to Scotland with your sisters. It’s a picture of you sitting on the boat on the top deck. You looked so excited and happy! As much of a home bird as you were you loved your holidays, particularly with your sisters. You could kick back and relax knowing Dad wasn’t looking over your shoulder moaning about how much you had to drink!

I hope your doing that now. I hope with all my heart you’re living the highlife and having a blast. We’ll be fine if we know you are fine.

I love you.
AnneMarie

p.s That prayer I sent you, please look over her. No one deserves to go through what you went through. Thanks Ma..

Interesting

May. 5th, 2007 12:52 pm
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In the last few months when Mam was sick she had dark bruises all over her hands and arms. She was very self concious about them and wore long sleeved tops when she could. Doing a little research this morning I discovered this. Interestingly enough the man who discovered this in himself was subsequently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

As a side note some of my friends are baffled that I still look up stuff about pancreatic cancer now that Mam has gone. It's not like I am trying to discover something that might have cured her no. When she was sick I didn't have time to do much research and I'm still a believer in the whole knowledge is power saying. Finding answers to the questions I have bring me a measure of comfort. Even something as small as the above helps. My next googling will include assessing how likely it will be that I may get cancer now that a parent has succumbed to it. Fun reading! Again knowledge is power. From doing a brief search on wikipedia there are certain risk factors that will make a person more prone to pancreatic cancer. Most of them are fairly no brainer (smoking, obesity, age etc)but the last one is whats prompted the googling, family history. I'm not quaking in my boots but I would like to know the statistics connected with pancreatic cancer. It's one of the deadliest cancers and early diagnosis is essential for any sort of a recovery.

I'm doing better. I've managed to get through yesterday with not crying. I get flashbacks of the day sometimes which does set me off. This morning I was watching a programme on fashion and what shoes go with what outfit. I had a brief memory of Mams feet when the paramedics took her out of the house. They used a large mat with handles instead of a proper stretcher because the house is pretty narrow. They had covered her up with her pink blanket but her feet hung out over the end. They looked so cold and white....anyways flashbacks=no fun.
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The death certificate came on Friday. It was an odd feeling looking at it - her life reduced to the most vital statistics. Date of Birth, Date of Death, Occupation, address she was born at, who registered the death, who signed the death notice, what she died of, how long she was sick. The last bit the how long she was sick bit, the cert said four months. Cause of death was pancreatic cancer. What she died of was brain damage due to her heart attack. However I suppose she was so weak from the cancer it put a strain on her heart which it couldn't take. However she was diagnosed with cancer March 15th. She died April 8th. A little less then four months don't you think? Unless it was dated from her first gp visit where she complained of the pain in her side which was in January. That would be four months. Its all a bit confusing and god forbid the bureaucrats make it any easier by sending a FAQ sheet with the cert!

It was a bit of a low day today. My cousins son made his communion and myself and Dad went. We sat through the mass (in irish couldn't understand a word!) took the required photos and went to lunch with the family. Through it, all I could think of was how much she would have enjoyed it. She loved the family shindigs, sitting down and catching up, having a bit too much to drink, oohing and aahing over the kids outfits. Her sisters were there and I noticed one of them has eyes the exact shade of blue that Mam had. Funny I never really noticed Mams eyes til the last day in the hospital when her glasses were off. She was in a coma but due to the brain damage she was twitching and moving around and her eyes would flutter open. Her eyes were the blue colour of the sky before a storm hits. The pale blue tinged with grey colour. Needless to say for the rest of the afternoon I could hardly take my eyes off her sister. We made our way home and I went straight to bed.

I was supposed to go out tonight but just couldn't bring myself to get in the going out frame of mind. I texted P and let her know. It was kinda short notice and I don't think she was very happy. I think she would have been less happy had I of gone with the mood I'm in. I try not to be bitchy I really do but she met a guy last night (as did I but more on that in another entry) that she had hooked up with last week. She texted him but he never replied. So she gave him another chance last night and he texted her today. Here comes the bitchy part. I just don't want to hear her gushing on and on about him. She has been with two of his mates. She wants a boyfriend. I think if any man had of shown her attention last week she probably would have hooked up with them. So excuse me for not wanting to hear that this is the real thing, that you are mad about him. He's thirty and fully admits he hasn't had a proper relationship in ten years. There could be a perfectly good reason but don't you think you should find out what it is before you go making the big declarations? She's going out with him tomorrow so no doubt she will be texting me all day to discuss what she should wear. What jewellery. What hairstyle. You get my drift.

Gah this moving on stuff is hard. Plain and simple I just don't want to hear about other peoples happiness and new relationships when I'm miserable. I looked up Irelands cancer foundation website. Do you know how many references I found to pancreatic cancer? One. One entry came up when I searched and that was for some doctors conference. Look up prostrate or breast cancer and its hard to wade through the many many entries but pancreatic cancer? One. It astounds me that this particular form of cancer, this cancer that has a ninety eight per cent mortality rate should only have one entry. Maybe its just not fashionable to have pancreatic cancer?

To end on a better written note please check out http://snickollet.blogspot.com. She lost her husband to pancreatic cancer a few days after my Mam passed. She writes with eloquence and beauty about stuff that nobody should have to go through.
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It's pointless to ask these questions, the rational me knows this. However the irrational part lurking underneath likes to blindside rational every so often. Damn bitch.

What if she didn't come home from the hospital?
What if we hadn't been so insistent about wanting to take her home?
What if we had of asked her to go to the hospice instead of coming home?
What if we had of been more insistent that she ate regularly?
What if we had of just left her in bed asleep instead of waking her?
What if we had of said to the nurse nows not a good day come back tommorow?
What if we didn't give her the oxynorm every time she felt a twinge of pain?
What if when Dad said he was going out I had of said no, please stay?
What if I had of sat in the room with her when she said she wanted a nap?
What if when she said she felt sick I called the ambulance then instead of placing a bucket beside her bed and telling her to call me?
What if when I found her stumbling in the kitchen I put her right back to bed instead of leting her go outside like she insisted?
What if I had of been strong enough to carry her inside when she collapsed?
What if Dad had of gotten home quicker?
What if the moment I saw she had become unresponsive I started cpr?
What if the ambulance had of gotten here quicker?
What if when the doctor told us that because her body had been deprived of oxygen for 45 minutes and there was almost certainly brain damage and that when they removed the breathing tube it wouldn't be long til she passed, well what if we had of said no please leave the tube in?

These questions are like a silky rope. Slowly and quietly it wraps itself around me not being too much of a bother but toward the end becoming unbearabley tight and uncomfortable until the last question I can think does not start with what if.

Its "could I have done any more?"
baasheep: (Default)
...from one day to another. Thats what its felt like. I have never felt more exhausted then I have this week. Each day seems to be getting worse. Today was the funeral. Mam was laid to rest in a place about 15 minutes drive from the house. The mass was lovely. The priest was a doll. He had two meetings with us and helped us with the readings and asked for a few memories of Mam to include in his sermon. It was very thoughtful. The whole way through this I have been helped by the well wishes of our neighbours, friends, family etc. People who I don't know have called to the house to express their condolences usually dropping in sandwiches, cake etc. Its sweet but at the same time hard.

We saw Mam at the funeral home on Tuesday. It was just my Dad and I at that viewing. We couldn't get over how well she looked. They had dressed her in the clothes I provided, the same clothes I bought her for mothers day, the same clothes she wore last monday when she came home from the hospital. They had put her jewllery on. Her earrings, even her watch. I had included her glasses and her cigarettes in the bag and they were clasped in her hands. She looked more at peace then the day she died. Her hair had been blow dried and they even gave her her cheeky grin back. Her colour was back. Towards the end she had gone very grey and her ears had turned blue. She had her usual pinky glow back. She looked like she was sleeping. As if she was about to wake up and ask what we were staring at. It was lovely to see her looking well again. Like she wasn't sick anymore. The only difference was when I went to give her a kiss she was icy cold. She hated the cold.

Wednesday was the removal. Dad and I got up to the funeral home and her sisters and nieces were waiting there. The were amazed at how well she looked too. The priest came and said a few short prayers. After that we said goodbye to her for the last time. It was so so hard as they put the lid on. I am never going to see her again. That was the last time ever. We got to the church and all the well wishers were there waiting for us. As they brought Mam in to the church the bells were ringing welcoming her. This was the closest she got to being home. Some more prayers and the sermon ended. A line formed to shake myself and Dads hands. So many people had turned out to pay their respects. I was touched. People who I haven't seen in years, people who I work with, people who I used to work with, friends, family, neighbours etc. It was very overwhelming. A small amount of family came back to the house for tea and Dad took down the wedding albumn plus Mams albumn from her younger days. I hadn't seen it in quite a while and it was great to look at her in her younger days, when she hadn't a care in the world.

Today was the funeral. It was a lovely sunny day like the day she died. Seeing them lower the coffin into the ground was very tough. I hate to think of her by herself in a box in a damp field surrounded by strangers. That she's not going to come home ever again. Her chair is empty. The calender in her room is set to the 8th the day she passed. There are reminders of her all over the house. I found a picture this morning taken last year at a family party. It was before she got sick. Mam always was a little overweight but she looked so happy in this picture. Full of life. To see her at the end...well its hard to reconcile the two images. Her notes are scattered all over the house in her distinctive writing. Nothing meaningful just shopping lists, phone numbers etc. but still..Just when I think the wound is healing, like maybe a thin veneer is forming something comes along and rips it away. Today it came in the form of her sister saying she would help me with mums clothes next week. I hadn't even thought about that. I know it makes no sense to have them around. That constant reminders probably aren't a good thing but itjust felt like she was trying to wipe her from our memories. I got angry but remembered she's only offering this because she wants to help. She wants to ease our pain. Her baby sister is dead and she wants to keep the family together.

I thought we would have longer with her then 6 days.
baasheep: (Default)
My Mam passed away yesterday evening. I'm not really up for a proper entry but will post when I can. It was a heart attack and very sudden so I hope she felt no pain. We took her to hospital and she passed with her family around her a few hours later.

I just can't believe shes gone.
baasheep: (Default)
Apologies for the slight delay but this entry is now brought to you courtesy of my new home broadband! Wooooooooooooooooooooooo! I don't know how I ever coped with dial up. Plus thanks to Ireland still being a god fearing country I'm off until Tuesday. Four. Whole. Days. To sleep. Bliss.

Read )

Yowza

Apr. 2nd, 2007 11:37 pm
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Mam came home today. It all went surprisingly smooth with the hospital discharge. The home oxygen came on time. The doctors came when they were supposed to and with the correct prescriptions and letters for our own gp. They even put in an order then and there for a portable oxygen kit and let us know who to get onto for a wheelchair. The pallative nurse was lovely as always and came along with Mam's medication list including the names of the pills, what they are for, the dosage and how many times a day to give them to her. Not including the various sachets and vitamin pink goo, she's on about twenty pills a day. We got one of those pill organisers and with prior prepartion of the pills its all going fairly smoothly so far. We have to make sure that we prepare the pills a day in advance otherwise its just too confusing. I'll admit I'm nervous about them. Looking up a few names online they are fairly heavy shit and any fuck up on the dosage will not have good results. At all.

So far so good yes?

Jump )
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It was a tough day today. We had a meeting with the palliative care nurse and a social worker. Both were wonderful and able to answer all our questions. Dad is going back tommorow to meet with them again. So far it's been the subordinates, the people who have to go check with their bosses who have been the most helpful. The bosses on the other hand...not so much. When Dad had taken Mam down to have her cigarette I spoke to the social worker and when I had finished up with her I was a little upset. Not at her rather what we were discussing like how when Mam deteriorates more she might need someone to help her wash and dress etc. Its brings home just how little time she might have left y'know.

long )

Snippet

Mar. 20th, 2007 10:22 pm
baasheep: (Default)
Top three things not to say when visiting a hospital.

3. (to me) Your skin has really broken out are you stressed?

2. (To my Mom) You look tired.

1. (To me and Dad but thankfully he wasn't paying attention) I know a solicitor who offers a really good rate on wills.

WTF? I normally only 'share' about the crazies on Dad's side of the family but Mam's side may overtake them for the crazy trophy. The worst thing is they really don't understand how inappropriate some of their statements where. They like to think of themselves as blunt but theres a few other words I could think of. RUDE FUCKERS might be some...
baasheep: (Default)
Thank you, I wish you all were here to hug me too.

I went to work yesterday and told my boss. Being a cancer survivor* himself he understood a bit of whats been going on. He told me to take as much time off as I needed and gave me his cell number if I'm not going to be in so I don't have to go through the switch. He also offered to let me go home then and there if I wanted. I decided not to. I have a feeling that work is going to become a bit of a refuge for me. I was able to concentrate on the job and it helped shut my thoughts up. I told one other person in work who suspected but thats it. I don't think I want to tell everyone in work. They would be lovely about it of course but I couldn't handle people asking me how my Mam is every day. I told my four closest girlfriends and a neighbour who is friendly with Mam. It's harder telling people - it brings it all back plus you almost have to console them. Everyone but my boss has said stuff along the lines of "well they come up with new treatments everyday" etc etc. I then have to gently point out that yes they do however the cancer has spread quite a bit and because my Mam is so weak an aggressive treatment like chemo is probably not going to happen, thats its about making her happy and keeping her pain free for as long as possible. Thats when they realise that we aren't looking for a cure and the consoling part comes in. A part of me feels really guilty about that. The not looking for a cure. I know, its silly.

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