Seven years ago on this day my mum was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer that had metastasised to her spine. A lot has changed in the aforementioned seven years, the biggest change being that my mum died within the five years she was given to live.
A friend of mine recently lost her dad to cancer. We were hanging out a few days before he died and she asked me how I handled it when my mum was ill. At the time her dad was in ICU and I reckon she felt I was the best person to ask because just over a year ago on the day of her bachelorette party my mum was the one in ICU.
My friend: Fuck cancer!
Me: Fuck cancer!
My friend: How did you handle it when your mum was sick? How did you deal with all of it?
Me: That’s a long ass conversation. But be prepared to feel like you didn’t know you could feel.
My friend: … Man fuck cancer!
Me: Fuck cancer!
I have said before that my mum’s battle with cancer made me feel all the emotions. But according to research by a team at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow we only have basic four emotions: happiness, sadness, fear and anger. It is an interesting theory and I would urge you to read it, because intellectual curiosity.
I am not here to dismiss the findings of people much smarter than me but I do not resonate with this theory. It may be true that there are only four facial expressions used to outwardly convey emotion, but what about how I feel on the inside? Just because I cannot convey it, does that lessen its importance? Aki scientists and their need to see shit for it to be true. Methinks whoever first said “pics or it didn’t happen” was a scientist. Lol. I appreciate that happiness and sadness have distinctive expressions, while fear is characterised by wide open eyes and anger by a wrinkled nose. But that should not mitigate the myriad of emotions I feel on the inside because I am able to express only four emotions through facial expressions.
Throughout my mum’s battle with cancer I felt all the emotions in ways I never had before. That is why I told my friend to be prepared to feel like you did not know you could feel. I thought I knew what it meant to be happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised, disgusted, envious, frustrated, anxious, calm, confused, pained, sympathetic etc. etc. but I had no idea.
When my mum’s cancer came back in October 2017 her health started to deteriorate rapidly, more so during her last hospital stay. Her frightening stint in ICU made me “put on the seatbelt” because I knew my mum did not have long to live but nothing you do can ever prepare you for the impact. Losing your mum is hard stuff and when she died life as I knew it broke.
But my mum had been sick for so long. In my tribute I said that my mum held on as long as she could for her children and would not have let go if she was not sure we would be okay. So I am happy for my mum because she is now in a better place. I usually hate those stupid clichés people say to someone grieving. Like, who told you my loved one is in a better place? Did you hear it from them? Maybe they were better off being here with me and their other loved ones! But I believe it holds true for my mum because she is free from the kind of pain that must have served as J.K. Rowling’s conceptualisation for being tortured by Dementors. Which is why I call how I feel ‘a good sad’. I said the same in my tribute and 549 days since my favourite girl died it is still valid. I am happy for my mum but I am sad for me because I have to live in a world where the love of my life does not exist. The prospect of doing so at times feels like the premise of a dystopian novel, but this is no The Handmaid’s Tale. It is my (relatively) new life. Which is why I say there are two versions of me: before my mum died and after my mum died.
Before my mum died, while I was aware of today’s date there were years the day passed without me noticing it. But after she died I have been cognisant of June 15th. This day, seven years ago, was the beginning of the end.
I put up that photo on my Instagram stories on the mo(u)rning of June 13th after being prompted to it by the social network’s Memories feature. Later in the day as I was driving to the gym I had an epiphany about why the June anniversary hits hard: it is two days away from the day we received the news that changed mine and my family’s lives irrevocably. It is two days away from the beginning of the end. It is remarkable how my subconscious mind was aware of this way before my conscious mind could articulate it.