My Mum's Story
Not your usual start to a story, but just like my Mum; there wasn’t anything usual about her either. She was the matriarch of the family, the one who always kept everything and everyone together.
One September night in 2012 I was enjoying a regular chat with Mum on Skype. I was in London on my dream working holiday and she was in the study at home in Melbourne. Of course she didn’t let on that anything was amiss. Then halfway through our conversation I heard her say that my older sister was driving up the driveway to take her to the hospital. I could tell she wasn’t happy about this, by the angry tone of her voice. Little did either of us know this visit to hospital would have my Mum, Dad and sister waiting over 5 hours in emergency where she was eventually rushed into Emergency Department’s Resuscitation Room and then ICU, where there were many drips being attached to her arms by the doctors and nurses rushing around her. My sister later told me of her fright when she watched mum take her clothes off and saw her skin was fluoro yellow. It wasn’t till later that we were told that this was a result of her ducts being blocked by a lump that we then were told was pancreatic cancer.
As soon as I heard that she was in ICU, I quickly booked my ticket for Australia and within 3 days I was home and walking through the door to my Mum’s room at the hospital. But I didn’t get the happy reception I was expecting as just half an hour before I arrived, the doctor had come to tell her the results of all the tests taken. She was informed that she had pancreatic cancer and just to be different, (My Mum always had to be different and never did anything half-hearted.) they also found another cancer spot in her upper leg. Two years prior she had endometrial cancer and had a hysterectomy to cut it out. They believed it had returned and attached itself to her upper leg/ pelvis area.
Mum was disgusted with herself. She had always been the carer, the Mother Goose, the head of our family, always in charge and running the family and the many charity groups she was in. She was either secretary or president at some stage of the many groups she was involved in which included her local Red Cross, CWA, Lioness Club, Hospital Auxiliary, and the many more. She didn’t have time to be sick. There were groups of ladies meeting up who needed her direction along with her loving family.
There was no two ways about it; we were going to hit this illness head on. Side by side, the family members stood together, attending doctor’s appointments, taking in as much information as we could so that we were all on the same page. My family, including my dad, five children, respective partners and six adorable grandchildren helped hold her up to fight the biggest challenge of her life. She wasn’t going down without a fight, and fight she did.
First she started chemotherapy. In Mum’s case the chemo really only made her much sicker. She spent time in and out of hospitals with dangerously low white blood cells, bleeding ulcers, terrible nausea and exhaustion. In mid January 2013, she was at home and woke to find she was bleeding. By her side in support, triple zero was called and she was rushed by ambulance to hospital yet again. This time we were told her bowel had perforated and she only had days to live. We couldn’t believe it. That morning, even though frail, she played with the grandkids who were dressed up in the doctor and nurse outfits...And now they were saying she only had days to live. I felt ripped off. We hadn’t had enough time with her yet to fight, the grandkids shouldn’t have to lose this important person in their young lives, nor any of us or her friends. We all needed her. As per usual Mum and I poured all our questions onto God. Our strong faith never left us throughout this journey and we put our journey in his hands. Whilst we were all living in the hospital and saying our goodbyes, Mum’s oncologist came and checked in on Mum. He overruled the young ward doctor and ordered Mum to be put back on antibiotics for an extra 48 hours to see whether her body would mend. He said that on odd occasions bowels mended themselves. And mend it did. Within days she was up walking again, and by no time we were taking her back home. I remember telling the ward doctor at the time, we were blessed with some more extra precious time with her.
Before long, Mum was asking about her radiation options and so once again we were off to hospital to try this new avenue. It started well, but by the second week she had woken early and complained of pain in her upper leg. The doctor phoned to say that we better come into hospital. But I thought, “Ahh.. We have done this before..” But it was not meant to be this time. She slowly went into a deep and peaceful sleep. All the family were able to sit beside her, talk, laugh, tell her how much we loved her and give her one more kiss on her beautiful cheek.
It was the 21st March, 2013 and on that day we lost an amazing lady. Her well fought battle with pancreatic cancer lasted only a quick six months. It was an extremely great loss which we (Her family, 5 children and their respective partners, 6 grandchildren, but the many friends she made throughout the many charity groups she was a part of) are all still recovering from today. I remember one lady saying, “I just can’t believe she is not here” and neither could I. I can’t complain. She put up the fight of her life in this battle. She gave everything she could plus more. She loved her grandchildren and I am sure more than anything she wanted to be around to see and support them as they grew up to be adults.
I know she is watching down over us from a distance. Every time I see a rainbow or butterfly I know deep down in my heart that it is her giving me little signs that she is not far away. The grandkids love to pick a star out at night that is her. Always the brightest of course!
When I heard about the Avner’s Foundation Walk, about funding more research with pancreatic cancer, I thought what a great idea. Not only wearing purple which is Mum’s favourite colour but a lovely walk around our amazing city. I hope to organise a larger group next year, and I look forward to supporting this foundation to continue to make a difference, just like my mum did in many others’ lives.
Tara Edge on behalf of Team Lois. In loving memory of Lois Marian Edge. Our Mum, grandmother and wife. A wonderful person and friend.