We all know someone close that’s had cancer.
In 2010, we went on a family holiday to France. My parents, us siblings and our children. It was something we’d got into the habit of doing on an annual basis. This was the last family holiday we went on.
After us all being together, my parents continued on to the South of France for a further week. It was during this time that my mum noticed her nipple had inverted. She had recently had three mammograms, all of which had been clear. On returning home, my mum contacted her doctor who got her an urgent appointment with the breast care team at the hospital where they did a further mammogram, which was also clear so my mum was taken for scans and biopsies. The cancerous lump could be felt during a physical examination.
We had to wait for a couple of weeks from them to gather the results of the tests. Those two weeks were the longest two weeks ever.
I remember sitting in a little room that they’d tried to furnish to be comforting and familiar. Comfy hospital chairs, a round table, the strategically placed box of tissues for easy reach, wishy-washy ugly painting of a landscape on the wall. My mum, dad and I all sat around the table with the breast care nurse waiting for the doctor. They were ever so lovely, but they delivered the words we had been hoping and praying not to hear.
The C Word
Almost eight years ago, my mum was diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced breast cancer. Stage 3C triple negative that had travelled to the lymph nodes. Our close-knit, happy family suddenly ricocheted into disarray and we were left hanging on to the doctors’ words as to what was happening next. We all felt so powerless and didn’t know what to do or what to expect. I really wish No More Grapes had been around then.
No More Grapes
No More Grapes is a social enterprise website to help cancer patients organise and manage things like asking for help, providing health updates and planning hospital visits. This would have been really useful for our family during my mum’s cancer treatment. Having to listen to everything the doctors were saying and then relaying the conversations time and time again was emotional and time-consuming. With the No More Grapes site, we wouldn’t have each needed to call several times a day, in round-robin style, to see how my mum was doing, my dad could have updated the information into our circle and we could have been kept up to date there.
My mum went through a mastectomy, including the removal of 12 lymph nodes. This was followed by six months of chemotherapy every three weeks. The photo above is from my mum’s first-ever chemotherapy session. It was terrifying because I had no idea what to expect but my mum and I laughed our way through her first session. We were surprised how it went and weren’t at all prepared for the second session being so difficult and my mum lost every hair on her body, which devastated her. It was then that my mum started to feel extremely ill and didn’t want to see anyone or speak to anyone. She couldn’t eat or drink and felt sick all the time. Again, No More Grapes would have meant we were all kept in the loop and knew when to allow my mum her space and when to pop round and vacuum the house.
Once the ordeal of the chemotherapy was finally over, then commenced the radiotherapy every single day (except weekends) for two months solid. This was super tiring for both of my parents, but it didn’t make my mum feel ill thank goodness. Radiation therapy is really effective, you can read more here.
Whilst the whole experience was extremely difficult, traumatic and painful to watch, my mum kept her sense of humour. One time during a hospital visit, a male doctor got her stick on fake boob stuck to his arm. He was so embarrassed.
During my mum’s five year check up with her surgeon, as she walked in the door the doctor said, “My word, you’re still here!”. Everyone was surprised at her tenacity to combat such an aggressive cancer.
Seven Years On
My mum is still going strong. She hasn’t had the all clear, but it hasn’t returned yet.
Thank goodness because my mum is my absolute constant and we speak every day. When we’re together all we do is laugh. I can’t and wouldn’t want to imagine a life in which she isn’t there. No thank you.
I think No More Grapes is a fantastic enterprise and I highly recommend it. It’s very user-friendly and a fantastic way to make sure your loved ones are kept in the loop. My dad was so busy taking care of the love of his life and making sure she was okay, it must have been really hard trying to make time for the extended family and keep everyone up to date. I love the wish list feature, it’s a lovely touch. The calendar is fantastic too. We could have easily organised to take the radiotherapy trips in turns.
If you have any questions or want to chat, you’re welcome to message me via the contact page at the top. Please note, this is a collaborated post. Thanks for reading.