Dear Bobbie was told a few weeks ago that she had just one month to live. She has gallbladder cancer that has spread throughout her body. The news was a big shock to us all. I don't know if she was expecting it - she just went in to hospital to have an exploratory operation - we just thought she had gall stones. She seems to be handling things very well - too well many would say.
Bobbie is a wonderful lady that runs a mothers and babies coffee morning each Friday. She charges nothing and asks for just a small donation for tea, coffee and her homemade cakes. Each week she arrives early and sets out several themed areas for play - a kitchen with old fashioned cooking utensils and dough, a dressing up area, cars and trains with garages and stations, baby slides and cushions...At the end of each session she packs everything away with meticulous care and attention - everything has its place - mind you don't place the large cars in the small cars box, and make sure that the tiny dolls clothes go in the little box inside the cotton bag. Everything is brushed down, cleaned and disinfected. Her perfection is somewhat intimidating for those who do not know her better.
This is the first time that cancer has had a personal effect on my life. My grandad died of lung cancer, but I was quite young and didn't know him very well, and my parents know several people who have died from cancer, friends of the family. But this is the first time someone that has made an impression on my life, all be it for a short amount of time, has got ill with cancer, and the first time that I have known anyone with a terminal illness.
Just one month to live! Doesn't seem real at all especially since she appears to be quite well. Bobbie has been busy sorting out her house so that she can leave things as organised as possible for her husband - who just a month previously nearly lost his own life due to a nasty fall off a ladder. She talks candidly about her illness - uncomfortable to some, but a relief to myself, since I wanted to talk to her about her predicament, yet was not sure how to approach the subject. She told me how her son, who works for a pharmaceutical company, has sent her several crates of Chinese medicine, that has apparently had some success in fighting gallbladder cancer. We are all hopeful that it will work somehow, and that Bobbie will prove the doctors wrong, to outlive the estimated four weeks with which she has so unfairly been dealt.
I wanted to ask Bobbie if there was anything I could do to help - but how can you honestly help someone who has been told they have just one month left to live? I've offered to assist with the maintenance of a garden that Bobbie was working hard on. She has made it into a beautiful sanctuary of semi-wild flower, with a vegetable patch, and was intending on creating a gazebo and play area for the children. I enjoy gardening and know that I would be sad to see my efforts come to nothing should I be faced with such a short amount of time in which to see them come into fruition - maybe I can help to continue the work that she started.
I used to wonder how anyone could stand working in a hospice, with people that you knew were going to die. Now I think I understand that it is in fact a great privilege to know someone in their end days - there is much to learn from those who are nearing the end of their life.
Better news is that Minerva, who I blogged about recently, is in remission, having beaten breast cancer for the second time. I would like to say 'cured', but know that she is constantly faced with the threat of its return.
I spotted the 'Journal of Cancer Survivorship' as I was feed fishing for MedWorm. A wonderfully positive title that I liked - but I guess I was expecting to read about lots of triumphant stories inside, of patients being cured - but it is actually more about the difficulties that cancer survivors are faced with following their 'cures' - since there are still many difficulties they have to overcome as they rebuild their strength following their struggles - often with continuing side effects of drugs to deal with, disabilities following surgery or even a new identity to build. Minerva wrote a beautiful piece about her 'identity theft' in a letter to Mr Carcinoma.
Here's an interesting feed, for anyone wanting to learn a little from cancer, built from medical blogs with the 'cancer' tag.