Trigger Warning- mention of treatments, hospitals and cancer.
When I was younger, I had to sit a mock English language GCSE paper. I had done so many of these mocks by the time I sat this one, but this one was different. The evening beforehand, Mum had been taken into hospital.
At the beginning, my mind wasn’t on the mock, which was unusual for me. It was on my phone; I had been allowed to keep it on in case my mum or her friends tried to call me. My mind was also only just running through what had happened the night before. Sitting this “mock” exam, which didn’t mean anything, whilst my mum was in the hospital, seemed pointless, and a little barbaric to me.
I threw myself into my work, as per usual, pushing everything out of my mind, as per usual. I had written two good essays, when I came to the last question. It was basic; to write about the hardest challenge you have faced, or something like that.
So, I wrote about going to hospital with Mummy. I was almost in tears when I finished.
At this point in my life, I used to be terrified of hospitals because I thought all they symbolised was bad news. Now I’m not afraid. Nurses are kind, caring and compassionate. A doctor’s sole purpose is to make you feel better. And they have hot drinks (and sometimes free snacks).
Maybe I like hospitals now because I associate them with relief.
When Mum did go into hospital when things got really bad in 2018, it was usually when Katie and I struggled to look after Mum alone. When Mum was in, I felt like I could relax and look after myself for a while, breathe and clear my head a little. We could relax because the real doctors and the real nurses would take over for a little while.
Last week I had to go to the hospital again, but for myself.
When I walked in through the familiar main entrance, I was shaken up by the mass of memories that gripped me. I couldn’t concentrate on any one in particular, they were just rushing through me. It was as if I was standing in a flood of trying to grab fish.
I walked past the WHSmiths where I bought Mum shampoo, conditioner and chocolate. I automatically looked for the blue zone where Mum’s ward was, on the map. I remembered when I had to stay with my friend for two days whilst Mummy was in, and I remember walking through the corridors with her, whilst her dad waited in the car park outside. I remembered losing my headphones and looking for them in the corridors. Getting lost looking for the toilet. Waiting for Mum to come out of radiotherapy. I remembered the smile she had whenever she’d see me walk into her room, and how it felt to crawl onto her bed with her.
This time, we didn’t go to the breast care unit, or the cancer wards. It felt wrong to be walking away from that part of the hospital to go to an area just because of me. I wished I was walking towards the blue zone.
When we reached reception of the Acute Medical Unit, I realised I had waited outside of this place late at night for my neighbour to pick me up and take me home after visiting Mum. Strangely, I felt a bit comforted that I knew this place, even if it was just a little bit.
My dad complained that there “is always waiting at the hospital… but I guess you know that”. I couldn’t help but remember the time me and Mummy waited for 4 hours waiting for a doctor to see her. Mummy always began by saying “it’s okay Doctors are very busy people, Evee.” I tried to revise, Mummy tried to sleep. When Mummy would get more tired and desperate, I would try to ask nurses when the doctor was coming. When the adults in TV shows did that, things moved faster. It doesn’t work so well when you’re an overanxious 17 year old clutching a revision guide on the history of India.
When I was in my own hospital bed, I wanted nothing more than my mum.
I had never had a drip put in or blood tests, ECGs, X-Rays, or doctors coming in and asking me copious amounts of questions about myself before. I found it scary and overwhelming. I wondered whether Mummy felt this way too when she was in hospital and whether I did enough to comfort her. I hope she never felt alone when she was with me. When I was having the blood test, I hoped and prayed to just feel her hand reassuringly squeeze mine. I wanted to hear her say; “I know. You’re doing really well.”
Afterwards, I felt stupid for being afraid; Mummy had been through so much worse than tonsillitis and glandular fever, and there I was; weak and afraid over it.
I didn’t have to stay in hospital for very long at all, and I was out in the same day.
I felt safe in that hospital because Mummy was everywhere. She worked there for 30 years, she had been a patient there. We had walked out of those doors together, and we walked those corridors together. How can I be afraid of hospitals now? I have so many memories, but even in the worst ones, Mummy is still alive when she is at hospital.
I had not expected to go back to the hospital for a long time, and I thought that if I ever did go, it would be a different hospital to the one I frequented with Mummy and Katie.
I felt like on this day, physically I was worn down, but mentally I was also stripped back. It was hard to go through that alone, but I did it.
And if I’m honest, I don’t think I was alone when I walked out of those doors.