The greatest weakness of most
humans is their hesitancy
to tell others how much they love
them while they're still alive.
O A Battista
(from Chicken Soup for the Soul)
The other day I was browsing my bookshelf and picked up a book I haven't read for a while, "Chicken Soup for the Soul", its just a mini sized copy that sits unobtrusively amongst my books. However, something that day made me choose this book and when I opened it my eyes fell on the words above. I realise that for some of us telling someone how much you love them is not always an easy thing to do but it is something that I believe is one of the most important gifts we have. I would like to share with you today a little about my life the past year and why I feel the message by Battista is so meaningful.
The past 13 years I have spent living as an expatriate Kiwi in South East Asia and the Middle East. Both my sons were educated in Brunei and then later on returned to New Zealand to finish their eduction. It was a very hard time to say goodbye to my boys but from a family point of view the positive side was that they had their Grandma in New Zealand who loved them dearly and would always be there for them in any way she could. We are a small family, just my mother and my two sons in New Zealand as the remainder of my mothers family are in the United Kingdom.
In December 2009 my mother at 84 fractured her back while attempting to paint the guttering on the roof of her house. In January 2010 I flew back to New Zealand to care for her until she got back on her feet. Sadly while undergoing tests it was discovered that my mother had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, it had already spread to her bones.The doctors told me that my mother had 6 months but if she responded to hormone treatment, possibly that may extend to 18 months at the most. The fracture was ultimately due to her bones being so brittle from the cancer. I was in total shock and absolutely devastated, I made the decision then and there to make my trip back a permanent one.
Its been a very tough 17 months and on Christmas day my mother went into a coma for 10 hours and we were told to rally around our small family and her close friends as she was in the final stages and was dying. 10 hours later my mother miraculously came out of the coma. The hospice nurse said that she would be affected by the mild stroke she had and may not be able to speak or move properly. However, less than an hour after she woke she was lucid and chatting away to us. The first thing mum said was "I am so sorry I ruined your Christmas day". This is my mum, always putting others before herself.
After discussion with hospice nurse the doctors recommended my mother go into Mercy Hospice and there she remained for three weeks battling pneumonia which was the next hurdle we had to get through. The doctors were not optimistic at that stage and I spent everyday with mum at Hospice and so did her friends. My mother is tiny, at 4 foot 10" but she has a "mind" with the strength of a Lion and she fought to live not just to survive but to have her life back and return to her home. Sure enough 3 weeks later she was discharged and came to recuperate with me and only another 3 weeks later she returned to her own home where caregivers had been set in place.
Last week my mother and some of her friends went out for lunch to farewell her friend Pat's daughter and her husband who were off to the UK. My mum, dressed so elegantly as always and hid any pain she may have had from her back, chatting and enjoying the lunch and time with her friends.
Its only now as I am writing this that I realise at that table was her friend Pat who had survived cancer in both breasts at age 40 and again in her 70's when it recurred as lung cancer . Today Pat is 84 and she is living proof that you can survive 3 times and have a full life. Also at the lunch was Pats daughter who herself had breast cancer and is a survivor. Then there was my mother who only a few weeks ago was told by Oncology that her Tumour markers had dropped from 3,000 last year to 39!!...Yay!!! She is a "fighter" and she is on a hormone that seems to be helping fight off the cancer even at this advanced stage. I believe her friend Pat is her inspiration and strength to know that cancer can be fought along with her love and concern for myself and her family and friends . I also believe in prayer and there have been many of my Christian friends praying for my mother. As for the doctors at the hospital, they just call it a "miracle" and the Doctors have all stopped telling us how long she has.
We take every day at a time as a blessing and I tell her I love her every day. When I cant get to see her, I pick up the phone and tell her. I never told her enough in the past and I am thankful in one way to cancer for bringing my mother and I so much closer. Our relationship has deepened and my respect for my mother has grown enormously.
This photo below was taken of my mum a few weeks ago, she looks 10 years younger than at Christmas time. I am smiling at this moment looking at the photo, she has never in her life coloured her hair, its completely natural. I just had to add that as people always presume she does and she gets a little upset. I for one know she just has great genes.
I dedicate today's blog to my mother, I love you very much and thank you for all the support you have given me throughout my life, even while you have been so ill you are always here for me. You are a brave, courageous woman and I pray we have many more happy years together.