*TW-topics containing cancer and treatments*
I used to think I was in control of my life.
I had a plan from a very young age about what my life would look like, who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, what job I wanted. At school, I was consistent in my grades, homework, meetings, and extra-curricular activities. I applied for Oxford, I got an interview, but I didn’t get in. My plan was to get 3 As – A*s at A level, and get into a Russell group uni. My days were filled with work, extra work, homework, revision.
This is who I was. At least to everyone else who had no idea what was going on.
I remember the day that I found out that I didn’t get into Oxford, and some people at school were whispering about my rejection. One girl walked up to me to offer her ‘condolences’ as I. She said in a sickly-sweet voice “I’m so sorry about Oxford.” I thought “If only Oxford was the reason I was crying.”
The events of the previous day were at forefront of my mind. I had walked out of school to a phone call from my mum saying the neighbour had taken her to the hospital. I remembered how daunting it had been trying to work out why she had been admitted. And I remembered my Mum coming home, the sound of the taxi door shutting, how much I wanted her to squeeze me and tell me she’s okay with a smile on her face. But I remember her being distant and eating a little bit of the dinner I made. Her mind was in a far away, scared place. And at school, so was mine.
Mum and I talked about university a lot. She came with me to nearly all of my open days, listened to me talk endlessly about all the universities I wanted to study at, we planned what I would pack, and Katie and Mum were of course the most excited each time my offers came through.
I feel as though I had a secret life to everyone at school. I think that revising was my attempt at trying to regain control; I worked and worked and worked, promising myself that despite everything, I would get my grades, and get into my uni. When my Mum was admitted into hospital in February, I would take my revision to the hospital and try to work. She had a feeding tube after a brutal round of radiotherapy to treat tumours in her neck and throat.
I remember climbing into her hospital bed and crying to her saying “I was so scared.” She said “I know, I know.” And cuddled me close. I felt like a child, and I realise now that all I ever wanted throughout 2018 was to stop fighting so hard and just be looked after by my Mum.
People at school would roll their eyes at me when I would get so angry, sad or overreact about getting a C or a B in a test, but what they didn’t know was that I was slowly losing it. My grades were the only thing I could even begin to control. I believed the only thing I could truly count on was that in March 2019 I would be at university. The hardest thing I had to do was leave my mum curled up on the sofa to revise for my exams. Repeatedly I beat myself up for being so selfish, but I promised myself that I would have all of summer to be with my Mum.
Two days into summer, we got told that Mummy had liver cancer and “this was it”.
When I found out it was like my body was shutting down; as though it had forgot how to be human and how to feel. But then anger over-spilled and I cried out, kicked the coffee table, leading to drinks spilling, swore, cried, ran out of the house, and collapsed on my front drive. Katie came out and lay with me on the ground, she told me she would always be with me. My Mum told me she would never leave me either, and I truly believe that.
Despite everything, I did have my summer with Mummy. It was painful, hard, but sometimes amazing and fulfilling. I got into my university, I got good grades, and I made precious memories with the most important person.
I am not in complete control of my life. I had to defer my university placement and watched everyone from my year go to university, including my closest friends, which, partnered with grieving made me incredibly depressed. Now I am on my gap year, which I can proudly tell people about. Four months ago,this would have been unimaginable with the amount of failure I felt from deferring. I felt like I had failed my Mum and also myself. Now I know it was the right thing to do, and Mummy would say the same.
Whilst we are not in complete control, we can still forge our lives into something good, despite this pain. 2018 has taught me that not being in control is almost powerful, because it forces you to face everything you don’t want to. It forces you to be adaptable and it can lead to unexpected moments you’ll remember forever.
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