10 years on……. Part one
How is it possible that 10 years ago we watched our son take his last breath? We had watched him suffer for 13 months riddled with pain and so uncomfortable but on this day, 18th October 2013, Tom fell asleep forever.
This is something no parent should ever have to witness yet far too many of us do.
From the day of diagnosis, I asked Tom why. Why were we the family that had to be chosen to go on this horrific journey? It just was not fair. There are so many bad people in this world, why couldn’t it have been them? Tom very clearly said ‘because no one deserves cancer whatever they may have done before.’ We had to agree to disagree on that!
I knew from the day we found out he had ‘incurable and inoperable cancer’ that life would never be the same again, whatever the outcome. I almost grieved from day 1. At night I lay by his hospital bed visualising the funeral disbelieving this would ever happen to us. Being September and October there were so many cancer adverts on TV and one of the soaps was running a cancer storyline. I just couldn’t escape the reality.
The phone never stopped full of lovely messages of support and love. We also got messages from people we hardly knew who wanted to be able to say they had been in touch with us. A couple of very close friends literally held me up and from afar were moving me forward one step at a time. One of these friends came to London to try to get me to step off the ward for half an hour to take a breather. I just wanted to be permanently by Tom’s side. I almost had a panic attack going to the restaurant for a drink.
We spent a lot of time in London on the ward, more than time at home in fact. But life was normal there. We were all parents whose children had cancer. None of us were special in any way but we were all there to support each other. We always knew when a new parent arrived on the ward because they looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. We always had a hug to spare for each a every one of them.
Over the 13 months, we watched some of Tom’s friends finish treatment and go off to start their lives again. Some have even had children. But for many, they were never going to end treatment and we watched so many families coming in to say goodbye to loved ones. Just like our family did in Tom’s last few days. My little cousins had just arrived at school when I rang my brother and said they needed to come up and say goodbye. They couldn’t believe they were getting a day off school. Watching Tom patting their little heads and saying ‘I will see you around boys, be good’ nearly broke me. They had no idea what was to come in the next 24 hours.
Watching anyone die is tough but watching your child die is indescribable. You are waiting for the last breath and when it happens you just go numb. The thing you had been dreading just happened. So many members of staff came in to pay their respects, sobbing. Just a testament to how much they loved Tom and the bond they all had. I could hear my Dad on the phone to the funeral directors in the day room and felt I was having an out-of-body experience.
Just before Tom died, I was told I had time to have a quick shower. I came out of the shower with soaking wet hair just as the nurses said he was about to go. Oh, how he would have laughed because my hair slowly dried and I looked like Miss Hoolie with turned-up hair!!! We had to go to the Camden Town registry office to register his death. Wow, that’s an experience never to be repeated. We arrived in the middle of a wedding and there were loads of babies waiting to be registered. You couldn’t make it up!!
The drive home was the longest of my life and as we walked through the door I just fell to the floor and sobbed and sobbed. My world had come tumbling down. How would I carry on?
Watch this space for what happened next…..