Monday 5 August 2019

When someone you love has Cancer

Two weeks ago, my mum was given the awful, heartbreaking news that she has cancer in her spine. Our family has all been stunned. I've found it very hard to concentrate on anything much since then.  Sasha's EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) paperwork dropping through the letterbox this week, needing amendments, was not the best of timing, although of course nobody could have predicted this. 

My mum had been in agony and unable to walk or sit for longer than a few minutes, or sometimes seconds, for several weeks up until the date of her MRI scan. She'd had pain since the end of last year, but somehow I hadn't for a second considered it might be cancer. She'd been generally fit and well apart from this pain which crept in.

Directly after the MRI Mum was rushed to A&E in her local hospital, taken to a ward, then three days later transferred to a specialist hospital. The following day she had major surgery on her spine. After a difficult, whirlwind week in hospital she is now back at home, recovering from the operation.
curtis family with stephs parents at center parcs
Photo from 2016, when we all enjoyed Center Parcs together
I had wanted to be there with her, but couldn't get to the hospital until the Friday evening. We had a Center Parcs holiday booked from the Monday-Friday in Elveden Forest, nearly 5 hours drive away from where my mum was. Both girls had been looking forward to it with huge excitement as we've only ever been to Center Parcs for weekends with friends or family before, not a 'proper' family holiday during a summer week. I had to make the difficult decision to not tell the girls while we were away - although at that stage, we weren't sure what would be happening over the following week anyway. They know now; it was tough news for them to take on board but they have accepted what we know, for now.

We're currently at the stage where we are in limbo, treading water, waiting to hear back from mum's biopsy about what future cancer treatment will be needed. Life goes on, even though we'd like to hit the pause button.

Perhaps the news shouldn't have come as such a shock, given that some other family members on my mum's side have already had cancer. According to Cancer Research UK (who I once worked for, many moons ago), 1 in 2 people in the UK (50%) will get cancer at some point in their lives. That sounds like quite a scary statistic but I think it's important to stress the advances in medicine and treatment in recent years. Whilst visiting my mum in hospital, I was impressed by the range of information booklets and leaflets which have been produced by Macmillan Cancer research. I would recommend Talking with Someone who has Cancer and Talking to Children and Teenagers when an Adult has Cancer as good starting points; they can be downloaded or ordered online via Macmillan. 
This post isn't for sympathy (although I'm sure my mum will appreciate any well wishes and was grateful for them when I mentioned about her back previously) but more just a recognition that this is now part of our family's journey too. I've always been honest about our life on my blog and it would feel wrong to miss out and not talk at all about such a major part of it going forward. 

I've been hugely inspired by Emma who blogs over at Island Living 365 and the honest way which she has shared her story about life with bowel cancer. The more we talk about these things, hopefully the less scary they become and the more others understand what is involved.

In my life, I've been so lucky to have a loving, supportive family, and whilst we are sadly no longer near in living distance terms, we are still very close. My parents have been able to spend lots of time with my girls over the years; I've just spent an hour looking back over old photos trying to find some good ones to share and have picked the ones at the bottom of this post.

Some of the others my mum might not have thanked me for sharing as we haven't always had a professional photographer on hand (!) but I'm hoping she approves of these ones. Lots of fun, happy times.
My free advice to everyone for today is to take more photos. And guys, make sure you take photos with the mums in too. I love photos, happy memories always make me smile and I'm pretty sure many others feel the same. You can never have too many good memories. 

My Mum is fighting on and I know we'll have more memories and more photos, but I just wanted to say: Mum, for all the time you got down on your knees in the sand for my children, or knelt on the floor by the bath, or splashed with them in pools, or stayed with them so I could have a break etc, I am ever thankful xx

P.s. I am still laughing at the one below, taken at a railway station in Wales, with both girls posing calmly for the camera... not! There are about 10 others in that series, all equally wild.
Possibly my favourite ever photo of my parents with my girls, taken four years ago on a very special holiday:

steph and her mum, 2009
At our happy big family holiday in France, 2009

steph and her mum, 2015
Taken on mum's 70th

To find out more about our experiences, please check out our 'About Us' page. If you are looking for more information on Pathological Demand Avoidance, the posts below may help.

What is PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)?

Ten things you need to know about Pathological Demand Avoidance

Does my child have Pathological Demand Avoidance?

The difference between PDA and ODD

Strategies for PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Pathological Demand Avoidance: Strategies for Schools

Challenging Behaviour and PDA

Is Pathological Demand Avoidance real?

Autism with demand avoidance or Pathological Demand Avoidance?

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  1. Oh Steph this is such a truly difficult time and those photos made me smile so much. You are right...we can never have too many photographs of our loved ones. Sending love and strength to your mum and dad and praying that there is a way forward through this for you all. My heart is breaking x

    1. Thanks Miriam. Trying to pretend it's not happening for now x

  2. Your mum sounds amazing and you've picked such fabulous photos to share - each one really capturing the moment so well. Wishing you all strength through this. Much love xxx

    1. Thanks lovely. I always wish there were more photos - and that I had more time to look at them! x

  3. Thinking of you and your Mum, and thank you for sharing so many lovely photos, it's a reminder to taking them xx

  4. I love, love, love your photos Steph, you're Mum is a beautiful lady. I'm sorry you are all going through this and sending strength and positivity. Massive hugs to your lovely Mum and I hope she is feeling better real soon. xx

    1. Thank you. We've all been lucky to have her. Fingers crossed for many more years! x

  5. So sorry to hear this, Steph. Sending along positive thoughts to you and your mum.

    I completely agree about taking lots of photos. You certainly have some great ones with your mum in them and I hope these memories help to provide some strength through these difficult times.

    1. Thanks Yuji. Yes I think the memories will keep us going x


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