A big title for a very big justifiable fear amongst the majority of us! What does this mean to us as an individual?
I know for myself I don’t see the word first, but the eyes of my Nan, who transitioned many years ago with a type of cancer. Big Nan had a malignant brain tumour. Although I was young in years, I myself could see that Nan wasn’t herself leading up to the awful day of finally pinpointing why she happened to be acting differently.
She had been complaining of headaches and not feeling herself. But after the first consultation with her doctor, it got put down as stress and nothing to worry about. I’m going to say then as well, doctors were looked upon as that hierarchy, that what they say goes. Especially from my Nan and Grandad, who without a shadow of a doubt, would not question otherwise.
So as the days passed, these headaches certainly didn’t improve. If anything they got worse. Naturally, my Grandad, as with all the family grew concerned. My Grandad was still a working man, he was a train driver. Old Oak Common was his depot and he proudly vocalised that he was in the Guinness Book of Records with a record of the fastest time driving the InterCity 125s from London to Penzance.
Although my mum was always a regular visitor to my Nan, after all, we did only live four doors up. She made extra visits to give my Grandad some peace of mind. My Nan was as he fondly labelled her, his Queenie.
That worrying day came upon my mum like a slap in the face!! My Nan came down the stairs, all happy as she always was, only her clothes on back to front!! My mum address it with gentleness and helped her to put them around the right way. She said in her defence, bless her and jokingly that she got dressed in the dark.
My mum called their local doctor immediately. Within a day or so of that phone call, my Nan had her appointment. I’m actually quite numb to the news that followed as a result of her consultation. In my eyes and thoughts back then was your Grandparents lived forever. What was a malignant brain tumour? Big words to me that I really didn’t understand.
It wasn’t too long and the day of the operation arrived. Again, I have no recollection of it other than being down my Grandparents house sometime after the operation, sitting in the front room and my Nan sitting on the sofa with next to no hair, a bandage around her head and in a quilted dressing gown that had delicate violet flowers on it, that I do believe were roses. Everyone around trying to act like nothing had happened and all was well. The atmosphere was palpable.
Who am I to question how you should be and now through adult eyes perhaps this was the best way to cope. My Nan was the head of the household, not saying she wore the trousers, but as a figurehead. Great respect was held in her presence. She held the family together like glue. Christmas dinners were big gatherings, food, drink, games, adults out in the garden having a fag and us kids drinking the drink of the era, snowballs with a cherry in them! Christmas wasn’t Christmas without the snowball. She had made a statement some years back to my mum and said: “if I’m gone before dad, then make sure you all stick together, Christmas meals etc.”
That operation gave her an extra year of life. The results showed that they were unable to remove the entire tumour. That last year, we had our last holiday together. Dawlish Warren was the destination and because my Grandad was on the railway was able to get a weeks hol’s in a quirky railway carriage. This was the second visit there as a couple of years back managed to do the same, but they were the older carriages. This time around was the more modern ones. The holiday was great, but Nan wasn’t how she use to be and we had to adjust to the new Nan. What never left was that ability to give bloody good hugs. I still miss them to this day. Even now that brings a stream of tears rolling down my face!! She was different in I suppose minor ways, forgetful but still smiled. I can still remember and smell the burnt steak she managed to overcook for my Grandad. The smell engulfed the train carriage. My Nan had just wanted to cook him something special, it didn’t work out that way. She had forgotten it was under the grill. That was really one of the only times I had seen her look sad.
As that last year gained momentum, telltale signs were creeping back in. Her bed was moved downstairs. Me and my brother were obviously at school through the weeks and so only got to pop around on weekends. Her day of goodbye from this world was while we were at school. Surrounded by family though and where she wanted to be at home. Me and my brother didn’t get to see her, I believe they had felt it was for the best. The same with the funeral. If I was asked, although young, did I want to go, the answer would have been yes. A distinct memory the day of the funeral was my brother who is 18 months younger than me, walking out of school in a daze. Believe it or not, unlike today with security etc managing to walk out of school and make his way home.
So it must be 39 years on now, at least. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t have a little chat. She’s not here in the flesh but I feel her energy envelope around me, especially on days when I might feel a tad sad. I know she observes her Great Grandchildren and Great Great Grandchildren, all girls that I know make her smile as she always wanted a Granddaughter. I was the only Granddaughter and so having girls myself I do believe furthered the jewels in her crown. All of us Grandchildren was quoted being the jewels of her crown. Five Grandsons and me and we were showered all equally with love.
So for me, I choose on World Cancer Day to celebrate my Nans love and cuddles, her life and how she moulded who I am today. Her bravery looking Cancer in the face. I raise a glass to her wonderfulness and wipe tears. “I love you, Nan.” I raise a glass to all you fabulous souls out there facing Cancer head-on, your family your support network. May your love and strength unit you all.
Love, Light & Blessings