“There were daffodils and a pair of pheasants outside her window. There was so much kindness, and they gave her such gentle care. There was so little time left, we made sure we spent it all with her.”
Today, Susanna shares her mum's story of pancreatic cancer and how quickly they lost her.
Mum had been feeling tired for several months, but she was 85, it was only to be expected. She was taking a few more naps than usual, but perhaps that was because she wasn’t getting any younger. She’d had an upset stomach a bit more often than usual, but none of us thought much of it, she was 85; It was only natural that her digestion wasn’t as good as it used to be, wasn’t it? Her appetite wasn’t what it was, and she didn’t need so much to eat. You have to expect that when you’re 85, don’t you?
When the jaundice, dark urine, pale stools, and severe skin itching started, she was really alarmed. They seemed to come on so suddenly and unexpectedly that she called 111 when the itching became unbearable. She was advised to go and have blood tests immediately and a CT scan soon afterwards. She hadn’t really mentioned the symptoms to my brother, sister, or me until then, she didn’t want to worry us till she had to.
You shouldn’t Google. We Googled. Only one possible diagnosis came up, but it couldn’t be, could it? She’d only been ill for a few weeks. Mum saw a consultant the following week, and pancreatic cancer was diagnosed there and then. The tumour was large and inoperable – yes, they could try chemo, but it probably wouldn’t make any difference, and she might only have a matter of months, months. Surely not, the consultant might be wrong.
A lifeline of hope was that it might be possible to fit a stent to ease the symptoms and help her to eat, so we had to persist with phone calls to get the procedure organised. Mum was in the hospital for about a week and sadly the stent procedure wasn’t effective in relieving her symptoms. There were more conversations, and we were told that she might only have weeks left. At this point, she couldn’t eat and could only sip a few mouthfuls of juice or swallow a few tiny spoonfuls of sorbet at a time. I fed her, and we both cried.
She wanted to move to our local hospice as my father had died there a couple of years previously, and they’d had such a peaceful time. What were the chances that they’d have a bed? It had to be worth a try. We called, and they could take her – she smiled with relief. There were daffodils and a pair of pheasants outside her window. There was so much kindness, and they gave her such gentle care. There was so little time left, we made sure we spent it all with her. Just three weeks after her diagnosis, she was gone. We miss her, and we always will.