I mentioned recently that my lack of social networking presence had been, in part, due to a close family member being pretty poorly. It’s been a terrible time for all concerned. There have been a lot of assessments and investigations and a few weeks ago we received the dreaded diagnosis of The Big C.
This jubilee weekend also coincided with my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. We had a planned visit to join my in-laws Darn Sarth and celebrate together as a family. Unfortunately last Tuesday, my mother-in-law was admitted to hospital with some complications. This meant that the plans would understandably have to change. We, of course, still went down to visit and thankfully the hospital allowed her day release to come home and, more importantly, allowed her to partake in a glass of Rosey.
In the months leading up to the visit, the children were blissfully unaware of the reasons for the numerous clandestine calls. As The Big C decided to bugger things up for my mother-in-law, it became clear that the children would need to be given some information about Grandma’s illness. We decided that there was no need to be overly detailed in our explanation and that we would drip-feed the necessary.
We mentioned to Gherkin – separately from Pickle – that Grandma was poorly, we were unsure what was wrong, but the doctors were carrying out some tests. Pickle was simply told that Grandma was poorly and her greatest birthday wish was peace and quiet. That was greeted with a nod, relentless spinning, and more machine gun style peowm-ing.
As the weekend approached, Gherkin started to ask more questions. He argued candidly that he thought he was old enough to know what was wrong with Grandma. The subtle changes at home were clearly being noted far more than we had realised. Could this also be one of the reasons for Pickle’s recent extremely testy behaviour? Ultimately, he was right. They both deserve honesty. Age-appropriate honesty, that is.
The dreaded conversation finally took place in TGI Friday’s, on Gherkin’s birthday. Not planned. Without warning, Gherkin blurted out ‘Does Grandma have cancer?’ Initially, there was stunned silence. OH remained dumbstruck and couldn’t utter a syllable. It was down to me. I answered with a firm ‘yes’. I wanted to say all the right things.
There was no pretence to soften the blow. I was open and honest. I explained that some cells just grow faster than others and that medicine would be needed to make her better. To a 10-year old who only really knows the negative connotation of the word, it was difficult answering questions in a matter-of-fact way. I told him stories of close friends and more distant family who have and are stoically battling this horrid disease. I reminded him of the son of one of our close friends – for whose fund he recently helped raise money – who is kicking cancer’s fat, wobbly tushy.
He got very upset and couldn’t finish his birthday ‘tea’. He’s concerned but ultimately happy that he feels included, and understands the need for positivity. I think, or at least I hope, I pulled it off.
Thoughts are with all those laughing in your face, Big C.
And for those whose fighting spirit you have beaten and have taken from us too soon, sleep well.