If I only could…


It’s time to let you in on a little secret. One that has only been uttered amongst close family and friends a couple of times so far, but I think it’s time to say it here.

I’ve not been deliberately keeping secrets. I’ve just been holding off posting, partly because it’s online and visible for anyone to see, and partly because I haven’t really known how to express how I’m feeling.

Of course, when I had a total of 2 followers and hadn’t told anyone the site existed, I didn’t have this problem. Now though, I have at least a few friends and family who read my rambling posts here, as well as my #BCCWW #BCSM Twitter & Facebook friends and WordPress readers who are kind enough to share links to this blog.

I haven’t had the chance to tell everyone close to me about how I feel, and they may see it here first, but I hope that they know me well enough now and can forgive my propensity to retreat into myself. They know I channel my efforts into the written word when times get emotionally difficult.

As ever though, there are many songs and lyrics which express the right sentiment at a given moment and do so in a beautiful way, and I wanted to share one with you today. It will help me tell you about the things happening in our lives at the moment.

I heard this song as I was driving down the M11 on my way to Essex to see my parents. This particular journey was about 3 weeks ago, and I had a CD on in the car that my friend Guy had made us for the trip to Florida that we made this time last year. Nestled amongst “Summer of 69” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” was Kate Bush. She of the floaty dresses and bare feet who I wanted to be when I was little, and whose singing just hit the right spot for me at the moment.

The song track came on and as I cruised down the road I actually listened to the lyrics and realised how relevant they were to how I have been feeling.

One of the most indescribably hard things for me to handle in the last few months has been feeling so helpless to do anything for my Mum. I’m not saying that I haven’t pitched in on the practical stuff, like cooking up pies, visiting Mum in hospital and helping her to walk to the loo and so on, but those things are maintenance things, rather than anything that actually alleviates her pain or has any impact on her health in general.

Kate Bush, I’m with you on this one…

Oh if I only could, I’d make a deal with God, and I’d get him to swap our places…
Be running up that road, be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.

I’m not saying that I would prefer to have anyone else’s life in general, but given the choice of watching my Mum suffer the indignities of illness, pain, nausea, discomfort, confusion and fear, whilst battling to even stay awake long enough to finish a sentence, I would gladly step in and make the swap.

Kate Bush, you are one of my lyrical heroes.

Mum’s been in hospital a couple more times since her spine fractured last June – In November she was admitted with pneumonia and septicemia and during January she was back in after she became very confused – the calcium levels in her blood were very high and causing neurological problems including speech, muscle control and concentration issues.

It has been incredibly painful emotionally to have Mum be so ill, and it has been far far harder to deal with than it was to be the person who was ill in 2012. I feel so sorry for my family who had to go through all of this trauma when I was ill! One of my friends, Jo, said she felt that it was 50 times harder to have her mum ill than to be ill herself. The number is kind of irrelevant, but I think it helps to highlight the scale of difference, and I totally agree with her.

Most of my friends and family know that Mum has been pretty poorly, and that her illness is an ongoing concern. Perhaps they are less aware of how I feel about everything though, because I haven’t told them. I’ve been in “practical mode”, because if I stop doing that, I just cry which just feels rather pathetic and doesn’t actually solve anything. But there it is.

My Mum may well have seen her last Birthday. Her last Christmas.

Even writing that is so, so hard to do.

Her oncologist has told my Dad and my sister that based on her current state of health, and the progression of her cancer through her bones since June (it’s now in her spine, her pelvis, her skull) he would normally have recommended chemotherapy as soon as possible and that might give her a year or so. However since she’s not currently strong enough to cope with chemo, his thoughts were that this might halve the time she has left. So we’re talking months not years.

Now… I’m not saying anyone has given up on her, but amongst our loving but practical and logical family, it certainly doesn’t sound like the chances of her being here this time next year are all that great.

There have been moments where we almost got Mum back… when her health was not so bad, and she was walking and eating well, and when she could speak without pausing or using the wrong words. Those have been the times we have clung on to in our memories.

The other weekend when Mum was feeling well enough to get out of bed and have Sunday dinner with us, we were just all sat around chatting but we all had so many cameras and selfie sticks and video cameras and so on out trying to capture the occasion, it was pretty ridiculous. To be fair we are usually like this so Mum wasn’t too suspicious, but it just felt like all that camera activity was intensely packed into such a short amount of time!

Even though there is some (minor I think now though) risk that my Mum might see this, I promised Dad and my sister Jen that I wouldn’t say anything to Mum that might upset her or let on that I know anything more than she does about her health.

This leaves me in a horrible limbo land where instinctively I feel those sands of time trickling away and I want to talk to her about her hopes and dreams and what she would like to say to whom before her time with us ends.

I have to find sneaky ways to do this, bit by bit, by spending as much time as I can with her. But I agreed with Dad and Jen that we don’t want to tip her off that things are this serious, because everyone thinks that might cause us to lose her even faster.

It’s just that…

The thing that I’ve identified that I am most frightened of all, is that there will be something that she would have said to me, something that she won’t say because she doesn’t know that she’s running out of time and chances to do it.

I don’t want all of the conversations we have left in life to be about jam sandwiches, whether she can hold her teacup and which carer gave her a bath. Or worse, not have conversations because she’s asleep all the time instead of just most of it.

I want to tell her how amazing she is and what an inspiration she has been in my life, and what an enormous cavernous hole there will be in my heart when I can no longer see her smile, touch her and hug her, and talk to her.

I want to tell her that I recognise a lot of her in myself, and it makes me really proud. I want her to understand how incredibly important she is to so many people, because I think she has told herself the opposite too often.

She’s like me you see – a bit prone to keeping all the juicy emotional stuff to herself.

I still, after 40 years, want to understand her better.

If I only could…

It doesn’t hurt me.
Do you want to feel how it feels?

Do you want to know that it doesn’t hurt me?
Do you want to hear about the deal that I’m making?

You.
It’s you, and me.

And if I only could, I’d make a deal with God, and I’d get him to swap our places…

Be running up that road, be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.

Oh if I only could…

Listen to it here: https://www.thisismyjam.com/song/kate-bush-llr-remix/running-up-that-hill?with=9ncxdxz

Lyrics by Kate Bush – “Running Up That Hill”

3 Comments

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3 responses to “If I only could…

  1. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  2. Alice, I’m crying reading this, because it takes me back three years ago to the place I was in when my Mum was dying. My mother was always a very private person and I feel that she died with so much unsaid between us. I never knew if she knew she was dying. We never had that conversation with her. Time ran out so quickly and my heart aches for you and your family going through this painful time xxxx

  3. Oh Julie, I feel your pain. Just be there for her… Keep being the supportive daughter that you are. You are already doing all the right things!