Friday 6th June
Youth Group. I wander into the office to check on the boys, and the phone rings. It’s my sister. “Rose, you’ve got to come home, there’s an ambulance on it’s way. It’s Mum. I need you.”
Convinced this was another of my Dad’s ’emergencies,’ I took a leisurely stroll home. Calming myself before facing him again. I opened the front door to find my sister sitting on the staircase, the mid point between my Dad who is talking animatedly on the phone and my Mum’s bedroom. She was frightened. She didn’t want to disturb Mum, neither did she want to be far away. I ran up to my parents’ bedroom, relieving my sister of lookout duty, to find my mum lying curled up in bed, groaning and moaning that her brain is going to burst out of her skull. I lay down beside her and talked to her, reassured her that we were getting help, that I’d stay with her until the ambulance arrived. She was going to be sick. She was going to be sick but she didn’t have the ability to pull herself up from the bed. I emptied a plastic box (the buckets were locked in the shed… along with the keys!), heaved her up, and titled her head forward over the box. I was afraid if I couldn’t keep hold of her she’d fall back down and choke on her own puke.
The ambulance arrived, and took my Mum with my Dad. Whilst they strapped her in, my sister and I took a head start to the hospital. I always thought in that situation, we would be two frantic girls speeding and swerving, running red lights in our hast to beat the ambulance to A+E. In surreal reality, we messed with CD’s and sang along, chatting about my sister’s holiday next week and what tonight may mean for it.
By the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital, my mum had lost the ability to reason, and was talking nonsense. The nurse asked her if she recognised my younger sister, and my mum babbled on about finance (she’s an accountant), the nurse asked if she knew where she was, similar answer. The next few hours were long and stressful, streams of nurses ran tests and observations, none of them able to explain what was happening to my mum. Even with my family, I felt alone. I was thankful for Donna, who text me periodically throughout the night.
Donna had continually impressed upon me since my mum’s terminal diagnosis, that if anything was to happen and I was scared, I could call her and she would come. At 2am, I was replying to one of Donna’s texts when my sister’s voice wavered as she said my mum’s name. I looked up as my Dad started calling desperately for a nurse. My mum’s face contorted demonically, and then her body followed, twisting in unnatural directions, becoming increasingly violent. She let out a deep moan as she lost control, her limbs thrashing out spasmodically. We were pushed out of the cubicle by a swarm of doctors and nurses. As my Dad and my sister held each other tight crying with fear, I called Donna.
I didn’t cry, I couldn’t cry. My Dad was barely holding himself together, I had to be strong for him. We were allowed to sit with my mum after the doctor had sedated her; he explained that the feeble flailing she was now doing was an after effect of the seizure, that the medication they had now given her would stop her from having another fit that night. 20 minutes later, my sister calls my name. I see the fear in my sister’s eyes as my mum’s feeble flails become violent attacks upon herself, as she emits that deep and painful moan. My sister cries my name, begging me to help. I look at them both, and feel desperately helpless. I shout at my sister, “What do you want me to do? I’m not magic!” before running out of the cubicle. The nurses, hearing the commotion, rush past me as I leave A+E, to stand outside alone, crying in the dark.
That’s where Donna finds me. After a few tearful minutes, my Dad joins us. My sister is desperately upset and afraid to leave my mum. I apologise over and over. He tells me that I have to be strong for him, because he’s barely holding himself together. I need to be his rock. So I breathe in, wipe away the tears and march back into A+E, relieving my sister to be comforted by my Dad. I stand over my Mum, asleep but still twitching from the seizure. Donna stands with me and suggests that I talk to my mum, but I can’t. She strokes my mum’s hair with a gentleness I wish I had. Donna shows my mum a love that I cannot, because I’ve got to be strong and showing any emotion or sensitivity might cause me to break.
An hour later, a doctor tells us that he believes the cancer has spread to her brain. He will organise for my mum to have a CT Scan in the morning but for now she will be transferred to an intensive observation ward, where the nurses can monitor her more closely. Afraid that this may be the last time we see my mum, we say our goodbyes and head home.
That night I had 4 hours sleep. I dreamed I was in hospital with my mum, but I wasn’t afraid or upset, because when ever something happened that I couldn’t handle, a friend took over, and I watched as they gave my mum the care I couldn’t give, and cried the tears I couldn’t cry.