Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Loss, Ink And Grief

Hi guys, most of you probably haven't noticed my absense, since my blog is still a little baby blog. But to those of you who did (I love you) I owe a small update and explanation. Also, writing everything down is good way for me to deal with this. From now on I will focus more on blogging, now that I have plenty of time. For more than five months I didn't write on my blog, because I was busy with myself. I was busy griefing. You might remember my blog post about my new hair cut, I cut hair my hair and donated it as a sign of respect to my mother, who was fighting terminal cancer. Even though the word 'terminal' already tell tales the dark future of most patients, I had never expected to say goodbye to my mother two months after I'd cut my hair.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2011, when I was 13 years old. I was in my (way too early) puberty phase and had no idea of the impact this would have on my life, and I was way too selfish to think about the impact on my mom and dad's life. About four months later, in November, we received the news that the cancer wasn't only situated in one place, but had spread to different paces. From this moment on the cancer is officially 'terminal'. It's not just a worrisome thing, like a thing you can remove with surgery and poison with chemo's, but a slaughterous network, travelling through your veins and settling down at places to damage and destroy. At which place is important. This decides the severeness of the situattion. In this particular stage the cancer had spread to my mother's bones. It's a life-changer but not that bad: lucky people get to live ten years. 

Now when the cancer is spread you need to know a few things. One thing is that it can not be healed, since it's everywhere. However, as long as it's not active or not going to settle at more places, you can live long. You can have no influence on whether it's active or not or whether it spreads to an organ or bone, it's random. Therefore, in this stage you will only get chemo when the cancer is active. In the first stage a heavy chemo is used to give (hopefully) a long life back. In the 'spread' stage the chemo is used to win as much life as possible. With life we mean time in which you're 'feeling' healthy (as far as you can). When it comes to extending life, milder chemo's are used.

For about 1,5 years we lived in what I would now call 'peace'. Then, in May 2013, test results showed another spread. The cancer had settled in her liver. This is the point where the word 'terminal' does its right. A spread to an organ declares the change in mindset, in which you stop thinking in years, and start planning no further ahead than three months. I started looking at life in a different way, I forced myself to grow up very fast so that I could get over the childish teenage shit ASAP and start bonding with my mother. We went to Paris together, had a blast and build a connection that would never fall apart. I got to know my mother as a person, and I found out how warm and strong she was. The last quality also showed off on test results: she was handling chemo like a pro. It didn't make her sick at all, and the cancer remained stable. The cancer was shrinking, not disappearing but definitely not growing, for another 1,5 years. 

These years we Capre Diem-ed the shit out of every day. We celebrated her 58th birthday with a big party. We went to Greece in the spring and then we also went in the summer cause my mom was still going strong. Also, my mother obtained her doctorate with her work at the univeristy: she finished her book about material metaphors. Her promotion was a memorable day. But obviously it wasn't all sunshine and happiness. In fact, the day after her promotion we had to go to Spain to arrange my uncle's funeral, he had killed himself. My mom didn't just lose her brother, but also two of her very close friends to cancer. I couldn't and still can't imagine the amount of strength it takes to giref about your lost ones while fighting for your own life. Before, I had only seen her in her mother role, which she did great, but now I also got to know her as a person. I had and have so much respect for that woman. I did my best to always take care of her and make her proud. I got straight A's in school, so that she didn't need to worry about me not passing my exams and whenever I could, I helped her with tasks such a grocery shopping. However, the week(s) before receiving new test results on whether chemo was still working or not, I couldn't sleep, eat or even breath normally. So yeah, for 1,5 year I've been quite busy with representing the definition of an 'emotional rollercoaster', hehe.

Then, in October, we received the news that the chemo wasn't working anymore. In the past year we had dissipated two very heavy chemo's that are actually used for preventive measure (stage 1). As I said my mother handled the chemo like a tribal, didn't get sick once and won a total of 1,5 years: ultra-ultra-exceptional results. But now the cancer had overgrown the toxic poison. There was one chemo left, our last hope. The chance that this chemo would work was a bit more than 10%. Had we in the past always been at the side of 'the lucky vew', this time we heard after one week that it didn't work and that we had to stop the medication immediately. There was nothing that the doctors could do for my mother, and they gave us 2-4 months. At this point the first physical appearances of the cancer started showing (besides her short hair): she really was sick. She was tired and had lost a lot of weight. Every day she lost more and more energy. In three days after our last visit to the hospital our perspective of 2-4 months changed to one month. Four days later she passed away. It had been waiting for us for almost four years, but hit in like a bomb. No one expected things to go this fast. We didn't have the chance to say goodbye, or share our last words. I'm ok with it, no I'm not. We've been saying goodbye over four years, and we know what we need to know. There was no need to say it one more time, just an unanswered desire.

Right before my mother passed away, we talked about me getting a tattoo. Tattoos and the idea of taking art with you to your grave have always fascinated me. I wanted to anchor the strong bond of my mother, me and my dad. I love the design of the three doves, since it represents love. My mother repesents the top bird, with her wings wide open. She's free. Then my dad follows, and the last birdy is me. The whole situation has taught me to enjoy little things in life, which sounds so over cliché but is very important. Just laughing out loud with my mother and hearing her smile could bring me into tears of happiness and gratefulness. Losing my mother has scarred me for life, and the tattoo is a cicatrice that emplifies the strength and positivity I managed to get out of it.

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