The day my mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was the most frightening of my life. I sit here today, more than seven years later, and still, I can feel my heart racing when I remember.
The quiver in my voice as I asked what the hell it all meant.
My dad staying ever so strong for his baby girls.
My mum defiant – we will beat this.
We didn’t know then what we know now…
Being told it was operable. That mum would be ok. And sitting down at the kitchen table being told that yes, the cancer will be cut out but we’ll still have to live with it hanging over our heads for years to come – fear of it returning.
And then being told surgery was no longer an option. That doctors would do the best they could to keep my mum alive for as long as possible. But being told that it was a fine balance between quality of life and quantity.
Some days I forget what it was like.
And some days, it’s clear as day. Racing to find mum’s gloves because she was cold from the chemo. Holding mum’s chemo bag just outside the shower door so it wouldn’t get wet. Sitting in recovery, alone, while I waited for her to come out of surgery to insert a stent. Shopping for wigs.
Shopping for wedding dresses…
The chemo days were hard. The days going back and forth to the hospital for radiation were hard. The days spent in the hospital to drain the build up of excess fluid were hard.
But those days gave us more days.
They gave us days to shop for bridesmaids dresses and mother-of-the-bride dresses. I’ll never forget when my mum called my dad who was overseas at the time and told him she was buying two dresses for my wedding – one for the ceremony and one for the reception. My dad, only wanting to see his wife happy, simply said ‘whatever you want dear’. The smile on her face that day lit up the room. And then she turned to me and said ‘if I knew I was going to be this skinny, I would have chosen a more fitted dress’. She only ended up with one by the way. And she was absolutely radiant!
Those days gave us more days.
They gave us holidays. They gave us family dinners. They gave us birthday parties. They gave us snuggles in bed.
They gave me a walk down the aisle, with my dad and my mum.
They gave me her hand to hold, one last time.
Those days were hard. But they gave us time.
This year, World Pancreatic Cancer Day is about time. It’s about time that everyone knows the symptoms. It’s about time that everyone knows the horribly low survival rate. It’s about time that funding is directed to pancreatic cancer research and clinical trials.
But for me, personally, it’s about the time I was given with my beautiful mum because the cancer was found relatively early. It was found early enough for longer treatment options.
Imagine what would have happened if it was found earlier…