Today’s Mum’s birthday – Happy birthday Mum!

Today we’re setting off for Chicago and it’s also my Mum’s birthday. I’d better not write how old, as I’d be in trouble if that particular number was broadcast very far! I’m a little sad that we won’t get to see her, because she’s had a torrid year – battling cancer and dealing with all the many and various manifestations of pain and discomfort associated with her treatment. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have all continued for months and months. She’s suffered dreadfully and it’s upsetting to witness all that happening to her. For a while, we all feared that her cancer might be terminal. She’s getting better and better though – looking wonderful and now has hair again! That’s got to be good!!

We’ve seen something of a different part of Mum’s character, especially since her treatment began. She’s always been quite self-effacing, saying things like “don’t worry about me”, “I’ll be fine”, “you do want you want”, “I just want you to be happy” – all the while, (of course), doing what she wants or working to make sure that things turn out as she would like! Mum’s steely determination reminds me of Grandma – her mother – who I adored and who was an extraordinary powerful matriarch. But Mam’s been steadfastly brave – pushing herself to get well and extraordinarily forthright about “Beating this bastard”, as she puts it!

Mam’s been quite businesslike about it all, but of course it’s necessary to accept help and curiously it’s often harder to accept help than to give it. But also Mam’s illness has been responsible for bringing lots of people closer together and that’s been the best part of the last 16 months or so. I’ve been going over to see her and have really enjoyed staying with my sister Lisa and brother-in-law Stuart and my niece, Sadie. Lisa is a crazy runner, too. Come to think of it, our family seems full of individuals who really don’t do anything by halves! Even with cancer, Mam managed to achieve the unusual and have two different kinds of cancer simultaneously!

I’ve really enjoyed getting out and about running around Potters Bar with Lisa and sometimes some of her running buddies. Mam’s had amazing support from Lisa and Stuart and Sadie – who’s 12 now and who was with Mam when the cancer diagnosis came. Many other family members have been wonderful, too – Jane’s been going through the final year of her degree while all this has been going on and still managed to pull off a first! incredible!! My middle sister Lynn has a young son to bring up as a single mum, while holding down a demanding job but gets to bring Mam to Portsmouth from Hertfordshire to do her bit. Nina our cousin has lobbied clinicians and kept us informed about Mam’s prognosis in the early days. Cousin Catherine visited Mum in hospital and even gave us a private guided tour of Westminster Abbey as a bit of relief from the hospital! Mam’s friend Michelle and Catherine and young Ella have always been there and played a vital role in persuading Mam to face down her tech fears and learn to use an iPad! Now Mam makes FaceTime calls, sends Facebook messages, emails and even sends output to an air printer! It’s been rather wonderful that so many of our older relatives and friends are getting themselves connected and embracing new technology. There’s hope for all of us!

So, the best I can do today is say “Happy birthday Mam”, with a FaceTime call and a blog post. I miss you all. We’re looking forward to reading your comments on our blog and to treating you when we return.Mam on her birthday, with Lisa, Sadie, Lynn and JimmyMam on her birthday, with Lisa, Sadie, Lynn and Jimmy

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