Watching Mum die from a terminal illness was the most emotionally stressful situation I’ve ever been through. Everything that happened from 5th November 2017 (the day it had been discovered that Mum’s cancer had spread and was incurable), was so difficult that it is beyond comprehension.
Mum was in a hospice for a few weeks during November after her diagnosis, and she was so happy there. She felt so cared for, and had the assurance that any issues she had with medication, pain, or discomfort were able to be resolved pretty quickly. A few days after she arrived, Mum told me that one of the other patients at the hospice got married to their partner, and that the patients could have visits from their pets too! She absolutely loved it and she kept saying “it’s lovely here”.
I will never forget what Mum said about the hospice staff-; “I think you must have an extra lovely bone in your body to work here. They’re all like angels”. I think that will always stick with me and it brings me comfort to know that she felt so cared for whilst she was in the hospice. In my eyes, it was the best place for her to be.
Mum came home about two weeks before Christmas, and slowly the medical paraphernalia started to pile up. The little straws with sponges on the end to keep her mouth hydrated when the ulcers got so bad that she couldn’t drink properly. The incontinence pads and underwear because soon she could no longer stand up to take herself to the bathroom. The hundreds, maybe even thousands, of tablets that started with mild pain relief but ended up being sedatives. The devices to monitor her blood sugar and the insulin needles to control it. Her bedroom, which used to be a place where I would marvel at her high heels, her party dresses, her make up, and feel safe to laugh and cry (and everything in between) just didn’t exist anymore. Her bedroom wasn’t her place anymore. It became a place to store medical things, and that is not reflective of a warm, welcoming, and supportive environment.
And it didn’t stop there. Extra banisters were installed along the stairs so she could hold herself up properly as she ascended the stairs. A toilet frame appeared in both bathrooms so that it was easier for Mum to lower herself down. A seat was installed for the bath and shower, but unfortunately Mum was never able to use them. Left there for me to battle during a quick “pits n bits”wash. The walking frames with the little wheels on to help her meander around the house, left untouched, gathering dust and instead being used as a portable medicine cabinet.
The incredible care workers who came twice every day to help Mum be clean and dressed had to start being increasingly more gentle with what they were doing. It became less about personal hygiene and appearance and more about “what position takes the pain away Susan?” so they could move her with (hopefully) minimal pain.
Nothing about my home felt like my home anymore. Mum’s presence had withered away because of the cancer, so she wasn’t there. It had broken her, destroyed her, and laughed in her face as she desperately tried to regain any control over her existence. All of this made me very aware she was close to death, and still I needed her to magically recover.
And then the day came where I started to want her to die.
I wanted her existence to be over so that she wasn’t in constant pain and misery. So she wasn’t embarrassed about needing to ask to have her incontinence underwear changed, and so that she had some release from the shit show that had engulfed her. And I think she felt that too. I think there came a point that she started to wish the end of her life would happen because of the awful state her existence was in.