5 articles Tag melanoma

Six Months

My Dad texted me today. It said “It’s exactly 6 months today since I lost my sweetheart”.

How can it possibly be six months already?

But I checked and it is. Six long months since we’ve heard Lorraine’s voice or seen her face. Six months since we held out hope, right until the last second. It’s sunk in now. Or at least, 99% of the time it’s sunk in. Then I’ll be sitting there and it’ll hit me like a ton of bricks. I can’t believe she’s gone.

I’ll always regret not spending more time with her, not getting to know her better, not putting in more effort. I feel guilty that I told my Dad that Sausage couldn’t call her ‘Nanny’ as she had two nannies already and it might confuse her, a ridiculous knee-jerk reaction of loyalty to my Mum. I feel guilty for not visiting more when she was ill.

I know that guilt is an empty and futile emotion, but it’s one that’s stuck with me over this past six months.

There have been times that I’ve worried about my Dad, worried about how he’s coping. There have been other times when I’ve looked him in the eye and been overwhelmed by sadness. Most of the time, I’m just so damn proud of the way he’s coped and the way he made a dying woman comfortable and happy. I can’t begin to imagine how he must feel, but I think his text speaks volumes.

“My Sweetheart”.

We miss you, Lorraine.

I’m doing Race for Life next month to raise money for Cancer Research. I want to do everything I can to be able to say that I contributed towards the effort to ridding our planet of this disease, once and for all. If you’d like to sponsor me, you can do so at Just Giving

Melanoma – You know it can kill you, right?

Please read the comments before reading the first paragraph of this post. I jumped on something someone said and took it the wrong way and seem to have got things arse about face. Either way, the main content of the post still stands, just not the catalyst that got me writing it.

Apologies for the provocative title, but I’m feeling rather provocative and I need people to listen.

Yesterday, I read a tweet that bemoaned the lack of sunbeds available by 9.30am. I replied somewhat snarkily and said that I was amazed that people even use sunbeds these days. Maybe I shouldn’t have been snotty, I don’t really know the Tweeter in question and I guess people are free to do what they like, but after watching someone I love die from a disease that can be caused by these machines, it makes me wonder why the hell anyone would go near them?

Lorraine was an otherwise healthy 40-year-old woman when a ‘dodgy mole’ on her leg became malignant. I’m not sure if she used sunbeds, I think she said she had once or twice, but she lived in Jamaica for a portion of her adult life too, enjoying the sun and the easy way of life.

Lorraine’s mole was removed and as she had an aggressive form of melanoma, the doctors removed her lymph nodes in her right groin too as this was the logical place for the cancer to spread to. Unfortunately for her and us, although she had no lymph nodes for the cancer to attack, it went to her brain and her lungs instead.

She had radiotherapy which made her lose her hair and had just been accepted onto a trial for a new drug when the cancer got the better of her. The melanoma in her brain (and yes, when melanoma spreads it’s still a melanoma, unlike other cancers) caused her to have seizures, become confused and made the pressure in her skull build. On the day she died, I stroked her face and was amazed by how hot she felt. They explained that the pressure around her brain was giving her a fever.

Lorraine died 20 days after her 42nd birthday. Melanoma killed her.

This post may seem harsh or insensitive and if my Dad or Lorraine’s family ever read this, I hope they understand the intention behind this post.

Melanoma is not just about having a mole removed and moving on. Melanoma is aggressive and it can end your life. Think about this next time you decide you want a tan at any cost. Think about this next time you look at your kids and decide not to wear sun screen.

Some facts about Melanoma:

  • Unlike most malignancies, malignant melanoma is more common in women than men. In 2008 it was the sixth most common cancer in females. Between 2007 and 2008 malignant melanoma moved from the ninth most common cancer  in males to the sixth most common. This is due to an extra 600 cases being diagnosed in males in 2008 than in 2007.
  • In 2009 in the UK, 2,633 people in the UK died from skin cancer.
  • If diagnosed at stage 1A, 88% of patients will live for 10 years. If diagnosed at stage 4, that number becomes 7-19% living past five years.
  • Overall, people from higher social classes tend to have better survival rates than people from lower social classes.

I know this may be a shocking or depressing post for the Easter weekend, but if I can make just one person wear sunscreen when they go out in the sun, I’ll have done something really important.

Guilt, Grief and SSRI’s.

Let me start by saying that this is one of those blog posts where I feel a bit like I’m ripping my guts out and smearing them all over the page (apologies for the rather visceral visual…). It’s very personal and there’s always that worry that someone will take what you say and use it against you. In short; be gentle with me.

As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been something of an emotional rollercoaster for myself and my family. Grief is an unfathomable creature, making you feel one way and then another without so much as a moments notice. I imagine I’ve been quite difficult to live with, really.

I’ve suffered most of my life with some form of anxiety or depression, remembering even as young as four or five the abject panic that set in when I was away from my Mum, the cutting out of primary school 5 minutes after I was dropped off and chasing my mum or nan up the road, begging not to be left. Anyway, the point is, I’ve dealt with it for about 20 years and have largely managed to resist taking tablets to get by. I’ve seen counsellors, been given diagnoses and had them taken away again, but I’ve always maintained that there’s no point in giving myself a false high if there’s something underlying that’s causing my issues. I’m anti-paperingoverthecracks, if you will.

A couple of days ago, Husband was listening to me pour my heart out for the millionth time, about how sad I feel, how I feel completely and utterly cheated out of the chance to get to know Lorraine better, something which I took for granted while she was alive and am completely rueing now. At her funeral, I found out she was a fan of The Only Way is Essex and Alanis Morrisette, two things we have in common that I never knew about (despite THIS post. Yes, I know, I got sucked in. What are YOU saying?!) I’m struggling to get my head around the fact that she’s no longer here, my heart actually physically aches for my Dad when I think of how devastated he must be, how he’s got to go about his daily life despite the fact that his world has been torn in two.

My family life is suffering because of my grief, and while I know this is normal, I hate the fact that I’m grumpy, snappy and prone to tears at the drop of a hat. So, I asked Husband, shall I go to the Doctors? Well, he said, you know they’ll just offer you anti-depressants. And it’s true. I don’t know if it’s my surgery or all of them, but ours seem to have a stash of pre-printed prescriptions. Anything physical; antibiotics. Anything mental; anti-depressants. It’s like a conveyor belt where you get handed one or the other, no questions asked.

So, do I take them? I came to the conclusion that it’d be largely pointless. Hear me out, this is not me casting judgement on people who DO take them. Some people’s depression genuinely does come from their body’s inability to process serotonin adequately and they need a helping hand. My ‘problem’ isn’t chemical, it’s real. I could take anti-depressants but when the time came for me to come off of them again, the ‘problem’ will still be there, Lorraine will still be gone and I’ll still miss her. Sure, they’ll give me a boost for now, but I still think I’d be better off going through the natural process and dealing with each stage of grief as it comes.

I was explaining to Husband last night that although I still feel overwhelmingly sad at times, some of that sadness is giving way to a really intense anger that was worrying me. He gave me a wry smile and told me to Google ‘stages of grief’. Step One, denial, Step Two, anger. So while I might be feeling awful at times, at the very least I know I’m normal. And that’s something to be positive about, right?

I don’t know how long it’s going to take and I feel guilty for saying I even want to feel back to normal already, like I’m doing Lorraine a disservice by not permanently grieving, but I know for a fact that it’s not what she’d want. She adored Sausage and would be gutted to think that I was making her suffer with my behaviour. So, I need to use every ounce of mental strength that I have to stop me slipping back into the mire of depression, as it can be so bloody hard to get back out of.

Wish me luck…

The Gallery – Faces

I haven’t done a Gallery post in a while; in fact, I haven’t done a blog post in a while, at least not one which required me to commit my own words to a page. Those of you who know me will know that my family lost a member last week, my stepmum Lorraine. Lorraine had been battling cancer, melanoma to be precise. She was 42 when she died, in fact it had been her 42nd birthday just ten days earlier, which she’d spent in hospital.

I still can’t believe she’s gone. When I think of my Dad, I think of them as a pair – Dad and Lorraine, it just trips off of the tongue. But sadly, so fucking sadly, my father is now just ‘Dad’. I cannot even begin to tell you all of the emotions that have gone through me in the last two weeks, I’m utterly, utterly devastated, as is Husband and of course the rest of the family. Unfair just does not even begin to cover it. I’m not quite able to write about this in the way I’d like to, not able to do Lorraine justice with my words as I still feel largely in shock.

A few days ago, I was going through my emails and I found some pictures of Sausage that I’d emailed to my Dad a couple of years ago and one pictures stopped me in my tracks.

It’s a picture of Lorraine holding Sausage.

You can’t see Lorraine’s face, only Sausage’s, but the look on my infant daughter’s face says everything you need to know about how she felt about Lorraine. Indeed, how we all felt about her.

I hope, in time, that I’m better able to write something that does justice to the woman who touched our lives and whom we already miss so much. But for now, I’ll let this picture and Sausage’s face do the talking.

Cancer is a C*nt.

I feel that I should preface this post by saying that there is a lot of bad language, a lot of emotion and a whole load of anger. If you’re sensitive or easily offended, don’t read it as I will not apologise for a single word of it.

What do you say to a person who has been told they’re going to die? When a person is ill, even seriously ill, but there’s a glimmer of hope you can do your best with “I’m sure it’ll be fine” or “stay positive” or even “don’t worry, I’ll be praying for you”. But when someone has been sent home from hospital, being told that there’s no more that can be done to save them from a disease, what do you say? That’s not a hypothetical musing, I genuinely need some help with this.

Because what I really want to say is “Fuck you, cancer, you’re a cunt”.

It may be a complete cliche, but cancer is indiscriminate. Cancer doesn’t give a fuck whether you’ve been a brilliant person, whether you’re too young to die or have a shit load of potential that won’t be fulfilled. I’ve heard so many people say “It’s not fair, why do nice people get ill when there are paedophiles and serial murderers in prisons who never suffer?”. And the only answer I can give is that cancer DOES. NOT. GIVE. A. FUCK.

I cannot even begin to imagine how scary it must be to be told that you only have a certain amount of time to live. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m terrified of my own mortality and I think that comes from my internal conflict over the afterlife. See, I do believe in a ‘higher power’. I look at the universe and I feel that I couldn’t not believe in a higher power, at the very least something or someone to plant the seed from which everything as we know it grew. But I also have a more scientific, reasoned side to brain which tells me that everything is carbon and will be once again, and that’s all there is to it.

But then, I’ve not suffered, have I? I’ve not opened my eyes in the morning, only for the pain to kick in and just wish that it would all go away, wishing for sweet release from a body that’s letting you down.

I just don’t know how to get my head around it.

Maybe it’s down to experience. My Nan died about 7 years ago and while that was utterly heartbreaking, she was an old lady and she’d been ill for a while. It’s easier to reconcile something when you can get your head around the timing.  Old people are supposed to die. It’s shit, but they’ve had their life, left their footprint on the world and we can let them go with the most minute amount more ease than someone whose death is untimely.

I guess the point is, I’m really fucking angry.

I’ve not cried. I’m not quite sad yet. I’m numb, I’m waiting for the worst to happen, I swing from being confused to enraged to totally and utterly devoid of words to even explain how I feel. I can’t even begin to imagine how my Dad must feel, how her Mum must feel. All I know is, I’m devastated for them all.

So, I’ll say it again. Cancer is a cunt. And that’s all there is to it.

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