Sunday, 10 April 2011


Last week I organised to speak to a doctor about my mother's medical history because I found myself questioning over and over again what happened.  I never went to any medical appointments with my mother because I was told that her cancer was highly treatable.  How did it go so fast from treatable to terminal?

And last week I discovered the truth. 

It was never treatable. 

It was always terminal. 

And I was not told.

Doctors suspected, via scans, that my mother's cancer had spread beyond her bladder and this became clear when my mother had her cystectomy in October last year.  The surgeon could see that the cancer went beyond her bladder and knew in that moment that she was terminal.  A few days after her operation the surgeon revealed the news to my mother.  She was terminal.

From there we don't know and will never know what happened.  Did my mother not understand the prognosis?  She was on a lot of strong medications, perhaps she didn't even really hear what the surgeon said.  Maybe she was in denial?  She was a fighter and wanted desperately to beat the cancer.  And there are always wonderful stories of success where people beat illnesses that are 'unbeatable'.  Or maybe she hid it from us, her family,  to protect us.

There's just no way to tell how much my mother understood.  But other doctors who treated my mother say she seemed to have no understanding of the fact that she was terminal.  And we had no way to know because no one told us.

And here we come to the part that really gets to me.  My mother's surgeon told us, her family, after surgery that the cancer had been removed and had been contained within the bladder.  Which is an outright lie.  If my mother had asked her surgeon not to pass on the fact that she was terminal to anyone, which she had every right to do, then surely he should have said nothing to us.  He should have said that due to my mother's wishes he could not talk to us about the surgery or outcomes.  Surely he should not have been able to lie about a patient's prognosis under any circumstances?

So doctors knew and thought mum knew that her cancer was terminal back in October.  But I did not find out until February 10th this year.  And 6 days later she was gone.  Rather than months to come to terms with things, to say my goodbyes, to say all there was to say, I had six days.  And those six days my mother was mostly asleep or delirious.  It was not enough.

I know we should always make the most of every moment.  And I was visiting her often.  But I would have visited a lot more often had I known she was terminal.  I would have organised for her to come see our home that we had just purchased.  Perhaps have some parties with Maya.  Mum could have written letters to Maya for her to read in the future.  And all of that was taken away from me, from mum, from all of us while we gave my mother space and time to heal from her surgeries.

But I also discovered last week that there was nothing that could have been done to save my mother, which has stopped all the 'what ifs' running around my head.  By the time she had symptoms it was already too late.  And there was no way of knowing she had bladder cancer before the symptoms.  She was always headed to this point and there was nothing I or anyone could have done.

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