Then what?

I ring Mum every morning, around 9 o’clock. Mostly our conversations are pretty mundane: what’s happening today, what happened yesterday, how are you feeling? The last question is obviously the key question, and what gets asked first. Often I don’t really need to ask. Often mum will the answer the phone and attempt to converse with me between hacking coughs. Sometimes it’s so bad I have to take the phone away from my ear. It’s always worse first thing in the morning, but never good.

I don’t know if I’ve written how mum is now off the chemo. It means she feels generally better day to day. It’s a tough gig allowing yourself to be infected with these toxins which, however, delay the spread of the even more toxic cancer. So mum is off that, feels better, but evident also now is the spread of the cancer now unchecked. It is to be expected, that’s the deal, the particularly tough equation: do the chemo, extend your life, feel shithouse; or ditch the chemo, live better, die sooner. At some point the cancer was always going to get the upper hand, now it’s only sooner.

I know that sounds bleak, and though them’s the facts I don’t mean it to be that way. Mum is in good spirits. Sometimes she thinks she’s another year in her. She still does things, sees people, is mobile. We, her family, look upon her not knowing what to think. It’s so hard to know. Think nothing seems to be the most simple option, but it’s hard not to. Of all of us I am the most successful at that. I preach the mantra: take each day as it comes, enjoy your life. She has now gone longer than the initial prognosis and every day therefore is a bonus.

We looked at having a Christmas holiday together. Mum wanted that, a last treat for us all. We looked at Bali, then thought if something happens it’s a long way from home. Besides, we don’t know how healthy she’ll be mid-January. Then we looked closer, a house down the Peninsula somewhere, Sorrento or Blairgowrie, but we’d left that too late. Now it’s more likely that mum will spend a few days with my sister and her kids down Torquay. We’re talking about taking a trip together to Queensland to visit my stepsister in Coolum. It seems to be travelling with my mum, but I think I’d enjoy it.

For Christmas day we thought we’d something different, and a little special. There are only 6 of us now, and it’s likely to be mum’s last Christmas. We booked to have Christmas lunch in the restaurant on the 35th floor of the Sofitel in the city. The kids will love that. I won’t mind either.

It still feels impossible that she might be dead soon. It’s a feeling almost without emotion. How can it be? Like if someone told me gravity was different in New Zealand? It’s a strange fascination that you can’t quite find yourself comprehending. Then what?

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