“What’s wrong with your mum?”
An honest question from an old friend was the moment I knew. The small gradual changes in Mum: her loss of enthusiasm, lack of appetite, weight loss, pallor, I had grown accustomed to, but they were stark to my friend.
Mum hadn’t been to the doctor for 8 years. She had one mammogram when she was first invited for one and she never went back because she said it hurt. It took 2 months of appointments and tests, misdirected letters and deciphering symptoms until the 3 of us (Mum, myself and my sister) were in Mum’s GP’s surgery on a gorgeous summer’s day. Very kindly, very gently, we were told that cancer had been found, and she was going to die.
That was a year ago. Mum is ‘living with cancer’. Her life expectancy has gone from 3-5 months to 3-5 years. It’s not a victory, but we’ll take it. I am not her full-time carer; I suppose that title falls to my father, who is 10 years older than Mum and coming to terms with the prospect of outliving her, and I have seen the impact that has had on him. On that first night I signed into a forum on the Macmillan Cancer Support website and I found that comforting.
I was due to start with Accenture in September - I was offered the job in the same week Mum was diagnosed. At the time, Mum was told she might not see the new year. One phone call to Accenture and my start date was moved to January. Suddenly I had time. It was a great gift and I still appreciate it, even though it turned not to be Mum’s last autumn. Now I am with Accenture, I would like to help others on a similar journey to mine.