It’s been a month today. Thirty times I have managed to get myself through the day and night since you’ve been gone. It’s been three months since my life was turned upside down and six months since I felt happy.
It still doesn’t feel real. It was only in November that we learned you were sick. I remember on December 2nd, when Dad told me the doctor suspected cancer. I cried immediately – but also kind of thought it was a mistake. “Cancer!?!??!” I thought – “but how? What happened to it being gallstones, surely they’re confused? It’s not cancer.”
I think I stayed in that confusion, (or was it disbelief?) up until the end. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t believe it. I could see you deteriorating before my eyes each day, but I thought they had it wrong. To be fair – they didn’t actually confirm that it was cancer until the week of December 21st, so who can blame me for thinking it was a mistake. After we found out, I started to feel numb – I was protecting myself and I didn’t want you to see my fear. You said you were scared; you didn’t need to worry about me being scared too.
I made the mistake everyone did. I thought we had time: time for you to give chemotherapy a go; time for you to get better; time to spend together. Even though I knew that a majority of cancer diagnoses end with death, I thought, “even if it’s hard and miserable, at least you’ll have chemotherapy and we’ll re-assess after that.” We all did.
I hate that we didn’t have that time. I hate that you couldn’t finish your PhD, something you worked your ass off for, something you were so passionate about, something that you were so, so, close to finishing. You were only six months out from finishing. I hate and it pains me that the last months of your life were fraught with worry, fear, pain, anxiety, sadness and stress.
That’s what gets me the most: you didn’t even know you were dying until it was too late. Everyone says to enjoy each day as though it’s your last, but it’s a bit fucking hard to do so when you’re bed-bound because of pain and you’re not even sure what’s going on with your own body.
Needless to say, but, I fucking hate cancer.
I think about you every single day – and sometimes I wish I didn’t because it hurts a lot.
I’m not OK.
Everything feels kind of hazy and grey; I am living, but I feel like as though my soul has gone and my body is empty. It feels like I am a Sim, someone is playing me in the game – I’m eating and drinking and have autonomy, but it’s not a real existence. I can typically manage throughout the day fine. I’m not working because I just can’t, and I don’t want to. On the surface I seem fine; I’m coping, but it’s the quiet, unassuming and random moments when I remember, and then I fall apart. I just finished eating lunch, for example, when I remembered your last week in the hospital: all of a sudden it feels like I’ve swallowed poison. It feels like I can’t breathe; I’m transfixed as I’m tortured by my own brain. Images of you during that last week flash by; it’s like my eyes have been glued to a kaleidoscope of painful memories.
I can’t sleep. Sometimes I turn on your mobile and look through your photos. I tried to smell it yesterday to see if it smelt like you. It didn’t.
I’m struggling with a depression that has robbed me of myself and a grief that’s left me an empty shell. You of course already knew this; my depression wasn’t new. It feels different now: before I was able to cope by supplementing with exercise, and lately through travel. However, I now don’t feel able to do the things I enjoy, nor do I want to. It’s easier to stay in bed comfort eating and watching mind-numbing TV, than it is to try and confront your issues, and your grief.
I remember you asking me to try and explain what depression feels like…even when you were in so much pain yourself; you still were thinking of me. I recently watched something that says what I couldn’t: “Picture someone you know, who you don’t like very much, but you’re forced to spend a lot of time around them. Now imagine that someone is you; that’s how you feel about yourself.”
It still feels like that, except now I don’t have you to comfort me, or to tell me that it’s going to get better. In fact I pushed you away from trying to do so many times because I thought you just didn’t get it. I’m still that person who I don’t like very much.
I’m sorry, mum. I don’t know if I can live up to the promise I made you. It feels like a mammoth task. I haven’t given up yet; I am trying. I hope I can.
I don’t really know why I’m writing this – it began as a distraction of sorts to stop myself ruminating. I want you to know I think about you and I wish I could be by your side. I want you to know that I am trying, trying to pull myself together. My therapist says I have fight in me still.
I know you want me to stay in London and be around the family, and you…but I cannot.
Doing so feels like pouring salt in the wound. It’s like breaking up with someone and then still living together. Everything in this house reminds me of you. I need space to heal. Space away from anything you ever touched. Anything that could bring more painful reminders that you’re not here.
I want to feel better already. I know that time plays a big part in that; I also want it to slow down because it’s a sneaky little fucker. In the…what — month? we had from your diagnosis to death, I so wished I could’ve pressed pause. Wished I was able to pause time so that we could have had six months, or 12, or 24, or forever.
They say that time is the longest distance between two places; If that’s true, I feel like I’m stuck in-between a past I don’t want to re-live, and a future that I can’t imagine.