Share Your Story
Hearing about others' experiences can be helpful when dealing with death and bereavement. Do you have a personal experience that you'd feel comfortable sharing with the campaign? If so, let us know...
It is incredibly hard to write about what was such a massive event in my life. In fact, the word massive doesn't even do justice to something which has changed my whole life and me as a person. I am 26 and work as a Doctor. My career has been focused on helping the sick, the injured, the dying, dealing sometimes with people at the worst moments of their lives. I am the person who helps, who fixes, who eases pain and suffering. When my Mum was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the age of 47, three years ago, I realised that all of my work, all of my training could not have prepared me for the reality of dealing with an ill family member. My Mum struggled through the last three years of her life, through difficult treatments, operations, admissions to hospital until March of 2016 we were told the devastating news that none of us had expected. Mum's cancer had returned. It was widespread, aggressive and terminal. I went into full on Doctor mode, looking into treatment options and helping to support my Mum. I took time off from work to be with her, to support her and spend time with her. Those few months were incredibly difficult. My Mum, still a young woman, was not ready to accept that she wasn't going to be cured. She was devastated and depressed and it took so much energy and effort from my whole family banding together in order to get her out of bed some days. Throughout all of this, we had some happy times, my Mum was able to attend my wedding and had such a brilliant day. It was the last time that she saw some family members and family friends and I am truly grateful that they have such a lovely lasting memory of her. In some ways I wish that this was the dominant memory that I had of my Mum. Unfortunately, Mum's health continued to decline until her consultant told us what we had already suspected that there were no further treatment options available to her. By this point, my Mum was desperately unwell and I knew that she did not have long left with us. In accordance with her wishes, we were able to get her home from the hospital, in spite of all odds and when at times we didn't think she would make it home in time. Seeing my Mum like that, the woman who raised me and who looked after me when I was ill, who cleaned my cuts when I fell from my bike, was heartbreaking. I found it very hard to understand why this was happening and even though it was supposedly expected, it felt awful. The only relief that I took was that we were able to get Mum home to her own environment. We each spent time with her, even the dog, and although she was unconscious for the last few days of her life, I think that she knew that we were all there with her. I spent Mum's final day reading her lovely messages from all of her amazing friends about their memories and stories of her. It was like they were with her in a way. I laughed and cried at the same time at many of the things she had got up to as a teenager and stories from her work mates. That night Mum drifted away peacefully in my Dad's arms and holding my hand. I don't think I have ever sobbed as I did then. Now, just over a month down the line I still feel a great amount of pain and rawness. However, I would like for my experience to help someone else so I have been trying to reflect on what I have learned from this and what advice I would give to others. I have always been a very compassionate person but this experience has given me a completely unique prospective into the process of dying and palliative care and I feel that this can only serve to help me understand what my patient's and families are going through. As I have said to my very well meaning family and friends that unfortunately you need to go through it to understand it and how it feels. However, i would very much recommend reaching out to friends and family, they are what will get you through. I would advise anyone facing something similar to spend as much time as you can with your loved one, even sitting with them in silence and just being in their presence. Of all of this, I am so thankful that I took the time to spend with my Mum and have some great memories of days spent together. I would also say that from my experience grief is completely different to each person. Even within my family, I noticed that we are all grieving in different ways. I would say that for a while, the bad times may be more vivid, more fresh in your mind as you try to understand this terrible thing which has happened but that it helps to try to remember the good times, the happy times. At least for me, I'm hoping in time that the bad will fade away and be replaced by the good. And on that final thought because I feel that this has been a story about the worst of times and because I do not want my Mum's life to be defined by her death, I would like to leave you with a happy story that is more reflective of who she was as a person and the life she led. In July, my Mum attended my wedding. She had been unwell in the lead up to this so that on the actual day my Dad, trying to look after her, sent her off to bed for a rest. However, she said that all she could hear was everyone having such a good time that she didn't want to sleep! She wanted to be part of the party and spent the whole rest of the evening up dancing and really enjoying herself. When I feel sad, this is the image that I try to bring to my mind, that of my beautiful Mum smiling, dancing as if she didn't have a care in the world.
The Dying Matters Coalition is led by the National Council for Palliative Care,
the umbrella charity for end of life care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Freephone 08000 21 44 66