I was 19 when my mum was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer) in 2015. Although I was unaware of this at the time, she knew the prognosis wasn’t good. Mum was very much the protector of our family, so as well as this unbelievably scary diagnosis she was faced with how this was going to affect us – the ones who loved her most.
The first few months of mum’s illness were especially taxing on her. She was dealing with the initial shock and intense treatment. Travelling from our home just outside Bournemouth to Dorchester Hospital every day at ungodly hours to receive hours of dialysis was tough. Her treatment was always gruelling but she tried to be as positive as possible, both for herself and the people around her.
She was an unbelievably strong woman, but equally she knew she needed an occasional escape from putting on a brave face. This is where Wessex Cancer Trust came in.
Mum started going to art therapy sessions at the Bournemouth Cancer Support Centre. Here, she could let go and talk to people facing similar hurdles. Life with cancer and having to protect her family at the same time must have been one of the most exhausting juggling acts my mum had to deal with. The fact she had Wessex Cancer Trust as a support system made me so happy. She came back with this big folder of art that was so precious to her. She didn’t share it. It was for her. She then started having Reiki. She came back feeling rejuvenated and at peace with herself. I know that Wessex Cancer Trust helped her exponentially throughout her treatment.
In August 2019, mum lost her battle with myeloma. It was a devastating loss for me and my family. In this time of intense grief, Wessex Cancer Trust reached out to me and offered me grief counselling. The process was so easy. They fitted around me as much as they possibly could. I was given a date and time that suited me and within a few days I was going to the Bournemouth Support Centre.
Anyone who has lost a loved one knows it’s an extremely vulnerable time. You feel tired and confused. You’re sensitive to everything. So even though I knew I was walking into a place of care and support, it was still a daunting experience for me. When I walked in, I was greeted with warmth. Everyone working was so attentive. It felt as if they already knew who I was. It felt like a cosy living room where everyone was welcome. In times of grief, you’re not much in the mood for small talk but at other times small talk is all you need to just get your mind away from the constant waves of emotion. Whatever mood you’re in, that’s ok. No one is there to judge you, only to help and support you. This includes the other people the charity is supporting. Just walking into the Bournemouth Support Centre makes you feel like there is a feeling of mutual support.
I had counselling sessions and my counsellor was gracious and a calming influence on me. I was allowed to talk with no judgement and to understand the rollercoaster of emotions I was going through. I understood that some of the more confusing emotions I was dealing with were valid and nothing to be ashamed of. Also, I was able to give myself time to actually grieve.
When you lose someone, it’s a constantly busy time. There are so many forms to fill in, people to phone, people coming over (pre- Covid-19), funeral arrangements and so much more. Because of the support I received from Wessex Cancer Trust I was able to have an hour a week where I could step back from that, to allow myself to go through the motions of my grief and eventually to come to terms with the loss of my mum.