Beginning of the end – the 10pm phone call

Some background: After my hectic dash to the UK earlier in the year, the good news was Mum was cancer-free. After her diagnosis in March, she’d undergone 6 weeks of radiotherapy and chemo with the usual stoicism. The tumor was gone. But there were side-effects. Due to the loss of sensation and movement in her legs from her long-term Neurosarcoid disease, Mum relied on a supra- pubic catheter.  The site of the tumor meant radiotherapy had burnt her bladder, and she had been suffering persistent UTIs . I had known she’d been admitted into hospital as any infections worsened the Neurosarcoid.

So when the phone rang at 10pm, I was expecting it to be Mum from the ward in the UK, ringing with an update. Her mobile had been turned off, much to my frustration. I’d ironically laughed at the timing of the admission, as she had been booked in four weeks before for a CT scan by her oncologist for a final cancer check. Two birds with one stone, the NHS would love that!

tumblr_lv32fwnzcn1qdom93o1_500Instead of Mum it was her oncologist. “If you’re ringing me, it can’t be good news,” I said, trying hard to hang on to a defensive sense of flippancy.  The CT scan had shown the cancer in lungs, liver, kidneys. “I can’t believe she was sitting in my office all hale and hearty four weeks ago,” he told me.  Then the dreaded question. How long had she got?

“If we hadn’t drained her lungs today, I’d be telling you to get on a plane tonight. But she’s responded well and won’t be going anywhere before the end of this week.” At this point, the shocked part of my brain wondered if ‘going anywhere’ was a euphemism for death or simply getting up out of bed. He added that timing was hard to gauge, “it could be up to six weeks” he told me. I believed him, no-one knew as well as I (and perhaps her three ex-husbands)  how stubborn my mother could be!

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