In July 2014, my mother’s cancer forced her into a 22-hour operation to remove her jaw, and build a new one. It was a nail biting time, seeing the strongest woman I had ever known be reduced by something so affecting. I went up a day later, nervous of the unknown. I eventually found the right ward, and walked into her room. I thought I had the wrong one, until I saw her eyes sweep over me.
My mother was unrecognisable.
Her face was naked. I can’t ever remember her not wearing makeup. She always had her face painted on like a battle mask against whatever she was facing. Not only that, but she still had a lot of iodine on her skin and hair, massive tubes down her throat, and sounded as though she was gurgling. But her eyes showed the strength in her soul, and that was the only way I knew she was my mother.
And shit she was a stubborn and strong woman. I have never ever met someone as bloody-minded as her in my life.
Looking back, that was the start of a very big journey for me. I had no idea.
You see, when someone close to you goes through an extraordinary amount of pain and suffering, you tend to put your life on hold to deal with their issues, to support them.
I did that. I stopped looking inward and focused on my mother.. Suddenly, she could no longer eat, had trouble sipping, and in the early days after the operation, she couldn’t even speak, and had to relearn how to talk. Her light had diminished, but her soul was still incredibly strong.
On day three after the operation, she asked me to help her put her makeup back on. That continued each day, with hilarious photos that she would send me of herself as she grew stronger, and got better. Even facing huge adversity, she managed to get her mask back on, and face the world at large. The day she came out of hospital, my godmother picked her up. Mother insisted on going to the market, and out to the shops, to help her restart her life with all the things that made her happy. She learnt how to talk again, although she did sound very funny for a while there. And she reconnected with her beautiful friends. She restarted her business, and she got back on the bandwagon.
The darker side of her life though was the pain that she lived with. To the wider world, she proclaimed that she was perfectly fine and a ‘box of birds’. To me though, she told the truth… most of the time. There were times when I had to phone the ambulance for her from 400 kilometres away, not know if she was going to be okay. There were times when I would just have to drop everything, and go to her. I would have phone calls late at night while she was in immense pain. But this is what daughters do.
Over eighteen months, little did I know, I was watching my mother slowly die.
Something hit me like a ton of bricks when she passed. My life had been in a holding pattern, and suddenly she wasn’t there anymore. From the time she got sick, till the time she died I had published three books. In her last days, she was harassing the shit out of me to finished the Work In Progress that is still sitting on my desk. And a part of me just doesn’t know how to do this without her. She was one of my biggest supporters. She was there with me every step of the way. She was the one that would tell me to pull my head in. She was the one who would prop me up when my shit got rough. She was the first person to ever recognise the unhappy moments in me. She knew just from talking to me that something was wrong. Sometimes she would get the problems out of me, but I hated burdening her when she was in so much pain, and my issues were something I really didn’t want to download onto her.
You see…. Losing a parent changes you indefinitely. Especially a parent like her, who was more of a friend than a mother in a lot of ways. I can’t ever replace her. Have I been depressed since she died? Damn right…. I have definitely been depressed. Only just coping with it not to have to head straight down the ‘medicated with antidepressants’ road.
My journey through her cancer and suffering highlighted some major areas that I have not dealt with. Right now I have more issues than Vogue.
Compared to the woman who walked the hospital halls, I am unrecognisable.
Back then, I had a shiny new career as a published author. I had these huge goals and dreams for my writing career. I had a brilliant new job that I was really passionate about. Now… I am a broken daughter, who misses her mum, and is facing some huge life changes. My writing had stalled, and whenever I feel like I can again – something else smashes me down.
Two years ago, I knew who I was, and where I was going. Today, I am trying to find myself again. I have bowed out of the writing community temporarily to deal with what’s on the cards. A part of me misses it. The other part of me is relieved that I’m not letting anyone down.
A part of me is looking forward to my future life. I definitely need to get myself sorted out, and I will. But right now – I still need to time to piece myself back together. So I am not writing, but I am thinking about it on the peripheral of my other problems. And hopefully I will come out of this space in the near future, and start again. I don’t know who I will be then… but threads of my soul will still be the same old me. Just like what I saw in my beautiful mother, and I know that a part of her soul still lives within me.
I will find my redemption and reawaken.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” — Unknown Author