Growing up with an ill parent.


Cancer is something that nobody ever wants to hear about becoming part of their family. At the age of eight I was introduced into the world of a person living with cancer. Words such as chemo and trail drugs became part of my everyday language. I was shoved into a world of hospitals and doctors that I didn't want to be in. I was in an unrecognisable place and I didn't like it, I wanted out but there's was no way out. There was only a long road of pain, suffering, good days, and bad days lying ahead of us. The only way out was to go through it. We had to pull together as a family and face cancer head on. We had to support my mam and help her along. We put everything from the past in the past and we came together as a family to fight against this and that is what we did, we stuck together and fought cancer as a family.

A long fifteen month battle with cancer was lying ahead of my mother, but we were fighting with her every step of the way. My mam would have good times where she didn't need to be in hospital but she had other times where she would spend weeks in hospital. Between chest infections and collapsed lungs there was a never ending road of complications. Not once did she complain and not once did she ever give up fighting. As much as we support her through her cancer she also supported us. She was the strong one out of us all. She kept us going with her loving smile.

Everyday after school and homework there was always a trip to the hospital to visit my mam. It didn't bother me that I had to go and see her in a hospital, to be honest I was just glad to be able to see her. When my mam was admitted into St. James's hospital in Dublin she was out in the Patrick kavaghanna ward. This ward was named after a famous Irish poet and it was my granddad that actually named the ward. For many years my granddad was involved in the building of St. James's hospital and was a huge part of the hospitals development committee. I guess my mam being on that ward gave us a sense of hope that she would beat her cancer and come out of it fighting.

Each day when going to see my mam in hospital my granddad would casually tell us again and again of the story of how he met Patricia kavaghanna. He told us day after day how he would deliver newspapers and packages to him while he was ill with T.B. “I was only a young lad” he use to say but he can remember the times he went up to  the now famous Irish poet. My granddad was a many of many stories, a man of thousand words and certainly a man who lived life to the full and had lived to tell his tales.

My mam didn't always spend time in hospital. She did have some good times when she didn't need to be in hospital. These were the times I found myself feeling like every other girl in my class; I had a mother who was at home. She went about normal everyday activities some taking longer than before, but she got things done. Sometimes she needed a little extra help making the dinner or cleaning something up and we were there to help her with that.

My mams home help Marie was more than a home help; she became great friends with my mam. They sat and drank tea and had endless amounts if chats. I was even given the chance to meet her daughter. We became friend To this day we are still in contact, Laura; Marie's daughter is even in the same year as me in school. It's strange how things worked out.

Anytime my mam was in hospital she was dependant on oxygen, soon this became a more common thing resulting  in her needing oxygen at home as well. We had this special machine that would take in the air from the environment, clean it and then reproduce it as oxygen for my mam. It lived on the landing outside of the hot press. My mam often used it for drying the clothes. It produced a lot of heat and figured she may as well put some wet clothes in the banister so they might dry. As weird as this might sound it became part of the family. I know I am talking about a machine but my mam christened it grumpy. There's a story behind that, when it comes to the Bradys there is a story behind everything that ever happens.

My mam called the machine grumpy because it would make a lot of noise. Sometimes it often sounded like an angry bull. I use to have dreams about it coming and attacking me in the middle of the night after turning into a bull. When I was younger I had a lot of different crazy dreams. It does make me wonder about what goes on in my mind at night. If you heard about some if the dreams I have had you would wonder too! This machine was incredibly loud as well by god it would make some noise. In the beginning it was very hard to get use to but in the end we didn't even notice it.

Anytime my mam would go out somewhere she would have to bring oxygen with her. She had small little oxygen tanks that would last up to four hours. I became a master at turning on and turning off the oxygen. I was very proud to be eight years old and no how to work an oxygen tank. My mam liked to name things, the oxygen machine was grumpy and the portable oxygen tanks were called baby oxygen. They were always left in a straight line in the hall and I use to count them every time I went through the hall. Every week or so we would have a guy call to the door to collect the empty tanks a give us new ones. I can’t remember the guys name but he had a head of bushy hair on his head. He became known as the Oxygen Guy in my house. That’s all I remember of him. It was weird, growing up in my house it was normal to almost be falling over oxygen cylinders but other people my age thought that was weird.

My mam had a lot of different treatment. She even tried some drug trials. They were hopefully meant to help her cancer but they didn't instead they helped her eyesight. That's mad isn't it? Something that is meant to hopefully help reduce someone's cancer did nothing for her cancer but helped improve her eyesight. At least something positive came out of it all. We didn't have to worry about her going blind and not being able to see us. I have some fond memories of all of the nurses and doctors in St. James's hospital. There were 100% committed to their job and not only did they look after the patient but they also looked after the family. I remember one time I was on the phone to my mam crying, and she was trying to convince me she was ok but there was no calming me down. She asked one of the nurses to talk to me and within five minutes the nurse had me calmed down and back on the phone laughing with my mam. They are amazing people and I know that my mam got the best care possible while she was in hospital.

Chemo, yeah that thing that causes you to lose all of your hair. That horrible thing that is meant to make someone better but in the mean time makes them feel even worse. Chemo was a huge part of my mams treatment. Luckily enough though my mam didn’t lose all of her hair, She did lose some of it though. My mam was often one for appearances when she was going out. So just in case she had to go off to some wedding or something she invested in a few wigs. I have to say that weren’t as strange as I thought they would be.

On the way to visit her in the hospital one day we stopped off at a shopping centre. I loved teddy bears and I loved going to the bear factory. I use to have millions of bears from the bear factory. On this particular occasion I got a new bear which I had named toffee because of his colour. Quiet content with my new bear and after everybody had a look in some ships we were back on our way to visit my mam. On arrival we were told she wasn't having the best day today as she was going through chemo. She was very sick, she couldn't keep anything down. That day there were endless about of vomit basins passed to my mam and endless amounts of time my brothers and me were sent to wait outside the room. That day I left my teddy toffee with my mam, who she renamed snuggles. I was alright with that and in many ways it kind of became her cancer fighting companion. I very rarely got to see the bear because it was always in e hospital with her. I still have that cancer fighting bear today, safely on my pillow where he stays every day and every night. No matter how bad things had got, my mam had a way to make light of a heavy situation.

Finally there came a time where there was a free in a hospice beside the Curragh. My mam had been waiting for a bed and when she heard one was available she took it. This in many ways was a blessing in disguise. We no longer had to go and see my mam in a crowed hospital. We would have a place where we could spend time with her on a one to one basis. There was no sitting on a ward trying to talk about what was going on in our family. There would be no more screaming and shouting coming from down the hall. It was a blessing. We had the chance to help my mam fight against her cancer in some peace and quiet.

She spent most of her week days in the hospice and if she was well enough she would come home on the weekends. It was a lovely place, nice scenery and a nice garden to go for a stroll in or in my mams case to go for a wheel in. By the time she had entered the hospice she couldn't walk to far without getting breathless.

At this stage of the battle I must have been about ten years old. I remember being in fourth class. I was doing a school project, everyday in the class was given a letter and we had to do our project on something beginning with that letter. I was given the letter B and me being me I chose to do my project on butter, I must say it was quite a challenge but I managed. Just a few days after I was given that project it had been arranged for me to spend the night with my mam in the hospice, it was the best night if my life. We talked about random things and we also talked about important things such as the birds and the bees. I will never forget that talk seeing as it was given to me while I was sitting on the floor in the hospice. It was a bit of a random time to be given the talk but I think my mam knew she had to give it to me sooner than later. We sat on her bed together and watched TV and read magazines and ate toast, I'm not the biggest lover of toast but the mammy side of my mam was coming out in her. She told me brown bread is good for me and so I should eat it. Even thought she was in a hospice with lung cancer she still let her motherly side show, she was still the mammy I grew up with and nothing was ever going to change that because my mam just would not let it.

Spending time in the hospice became part of my life. We even made friends with another family who would often visit someone while we were in with my mam. They were a great support for my mam and for us. We could talk to them; it was like any other friendship. They would always give me little bags of malteasers, nothing better than eating chocolate when you are going through a rough time.


Nobody wants to have to watch someone go through cancer but many of us have to. I watched my mam go through cancer and I guess it showed me who she really was. She was a fighter, a warrior; she was a mother like no other. She was a mother that always put on a brave face around her children; she never wanted us to see her in pain. She always wanted to protest us by making things seem better than they really were. As much as this protected us she couldn’t hide it all the time. We knew when she was in pain, we knew when she needed a little extra help. We knew most of all when she needed us to take a moment stop what we were doing and sit with her for a few minutes. She knew when see need some TLC and we knew when to give her some TLC.

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aislinnoc said...

The amount of love you had and still have for your mum is really clear in this post.
She's lucky to have such an intelligent daughter. I think this is one of your best posts.
It's heartbreaking to read, but it's beautiful as well.

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