It’s gone 9pm and I am sitting listening to nothing but silence around me. It’s a novelty, this silence thing. I am used to being surrounded by people and with the bustle of children following me from the moment I wake up until not long before I go to bed. Silence is a precious commodity in my house. But I am not in my house.
Like the weeks that have gone by since my father’s diagnosis, I find myself once again making myself at home in a place that isn’t my home. As we struggle to come to terms with the fact that nothing can be done to save him, we still attend appointment after appointment in the hope that his life can be prolonged as comfortably as possible, for as long as possible.
Appointments are regular. If not for treatments then for blood tests or clinic visits with consultants. Since February when cancer was suspected, I think there has been only one week during which I have been at home for its entirety. Living in the next county and with a long trek to and fro, it makes more sense both practically and financially to stay closeby during my father’s appointments. To begin with I was bedding down on Stephanie’s two-seater sofa but a change of temporary lodgings has been welcomed thanks to an old friend I have known since my schooldays.
I closed the front door behind me as I came into my new home from home. I went straight upstairs and pulled on my pyjamas and made myself a cup of tea. This, I thought, is my new normal. As terrifically appreciative as I am to those helping me, I resent being in the position where I need to be helped.
I am the helper.
By nature, that is me.
I do not ask for help.
Yet, suddenly our world was turned on its head the day my father was diagnosed with cancer that is untreatable and suddenly, I need help.
I resent that his cancer was not diagnosed when the lesion was first apparent four years ago.
I resent that my dad will suffer and feel pain that could have been avoided.
I resent that every time we meet is only to attend an appointment and our entire lives are now based around them.
I resent that he is experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions and that I do not know how to handle them.
I resent feeling so scared and sad and angry, and telling people that I’m fine even when I’m not.
I resent it all and I am so angry.
This should not be happening but this is our new normal. Our lives are on hold until my father’s life ends. This normal is how things will be until… I can’t even bring myself to think it and it feels so wrong to say it but the truth is, this is how things will be until his last breath and I resent it.
I resent not being able to make plans to do anything because I don’t know what each day will bring.
I resent having to tell my children that I’m packing my bags because I have to go away again.
I resent that my brother, fighting his own battle for his life, had to cope with watching my father’s situation unfold from a distance and offering me support because he could see things in me breaking when nobody else could.
I resent that my husband has patiently and lovingly put up with my melt-downs when I’ve come home completely spent, tired and emotional from trying to appear stronger than I really am.
I resent having to squeeze any other things I have to do in the couple of days here and there in between my new, unexpected priorities.
I resent being put in a position where I even have to think about any of these things because somebody didn’t follow up something that looked suspicious and now it’s too late for my father.
I am angry and hurt and upset and then I feel bad because none of this should be about me. None of it is about me and nor should it be and when, in my less emotional moments, I practically tell people that ‘this is how it is and we just have to get on with it,’ there’s the part of me that is screaming inside, hurting and crying that it’s not fair. The stoic mask hides the intense pain and fear that I’m scared to allow to show and so I nod and fight the tears that threaten to fall. As long as I look as though I’m holding it all together, it’s okay.
The truth is, I’m not and it’s not.
It’s just not fair.
I don’t want to see my dad hurting or suffering or in pain. I don’t want to see him trying to reassure people that he’s okay when I know that he isn’t. I don’t want life to be on hold for the rest of us, knowing full well that the only time the pause button will be lifted is when dad takes his last breath. I want this all to be one bad dream and it’s not and I resent it.
Let me be clear, I do not resent doing these things because they are the right things to do under the circumstances. I would move heaven and earth for the ones I love but I resent being put in the position where we have no other option.
I resent it but thanks to cancer, this is it.
Our new normal.
This is it.
*The photo above was taken at the start of my dad’s five day course of radiotherapy to treat the five tumours on his brain – the first of the few treatments available to try to prolong his life as comfortably as possible. Despite me not being one for selfies, he thought we looked particularly cool in our ‘mojo hats’ and insisted on the photo being taken in front of the hospital department’s sign. He says that he and I have ‘the mojo’ – i.e we are cool and hip and all that stuff. My brother sadly lacks the mojo but dad and I, well, the photo speaks for itself, does it not?