My Cancer, My Mother and Me by Natalie Jayne Clark

So I’m sat in the doctor’s office next to my mother

And they say that everything’s fine

That my back pain is something benign

In response Mum is kind and polite

But when we leave her face is set tight

It’s that mother’s intuition

We must go to another physician

He could tell something was wrong straightaway

My vertebrae on the x-ray were all misshapen and strange

So I’m being wheeled through the ward with my mother

I was 11 so all I knew was that cancer was bad

That all these other children were all bald and sad

I passed by each bloated exhibit

Pretending I was just there for a visit

But I was given my own enclosure

And still she kept her composure

She just sat and unpacked

And stayed matter-of-fact

We ignored each other as I played

Kirby, James Bond and Mario games

Which had to stop when they came

And we both cried the same

Because there were now drips in both my arms

And we could no longer pretend I was still unharmed

So I’m sitting on the hospital bed without my mother

This was one thing she couldn’t bear to see

Went for a tea and left me

Held up by my brittle arms of sticks

Shaking, as around me the clicks

From the hairdresser’s scissors are cleaving

My hair away, and I’m grieving

At least I won’t wake up each day

With all of those fallen strands getting in the way

So I’m lying on the hospital bed with my mother

She’d holding the bed pan under me

As I attempt not to cover her in wee

My life’s become liquids and solids in

And out of my body, my body that’s so thin

My mum’s voice a month ago

Was purpled and screaming and low

When I wouldn’t eat and ignored her

Scared her teenage daughter had an eating disorder

Here I am, so malnourished and sick

That I fractured my back just taking a shit

That I hadn’t been able to do

For days – my god, what a poo

The scream was the most intense mixture of relief

And pain, fucking beyond belief

So I’m walking up the steps towards my mother

I am not allowed to leave hospital until

I reach the top, and I will.

Lifting each foot is a shaking agony

My time in bed I’ve lost so much muscle from me

The moment eerily recalls when I learnt to swim

With my aching burning crying limbs

Her at the end of my test

Both of us equally distressed

Her arms out wide and radiating care

And me getting a load of snot in her hair

So, I’m finally at home with my mother

But we both know we’ve got years of it yet

That this is simply just the next step

That there’s no point in them getting anything new

For soon all of it will be covered in puke

Some days I manage school but

Other days I’m stuck

In bed, in hospital, but either way

Cartoon Network and soaps punctuate our day

Along with treatments, and pills and drips

But in between it’s almost normal as if

I am just another teenager with a mood and a huff

It’s only now that I appreciate just how much stuff

I put that poor woman through

Because really she was going through this too

So I’m at school, without my mother, it’s the one place she can’t be

And I think I am normal and cool

But I have missed so much fucking school

And everyone else’s summer was spent

Growing and growing and they underwent

Changes in height, and knowledge and friends

And I was left stunted and alone by the end

But I try my best, even though I do stand out

I refuse to wear a wig even though all my long hair’s fallen out

And I am so weak that more than once when I try and pull an old heavy door

At my old heavy school, I instead pull myself flat onto the floor

Sometimes they are kind, but kids are kids and

Kids are cruel, lack that empathy and don’t understand

Sometimes it was the teachers who didn’t know how to behave

And I honestly did not think I was so brave

I was just trying to keep on living

And sometimes actually giving

Me extra attention or leeway

Made me feel more strange and ashamed

So, I spend the next five years with my mother

Trying to carry on, trying to be normal

No matter how many times we’re in and out of hospital

My sister was just six when I was diagnosed

And now she’s taller than me and grown

Grown up too soon and I feel guilty

Because the one who was meant to be the big sister was me

And five years is a long time

To not know if you might die

And to have medicine that makes you feel shit

But also you’ll die if you don’t take it

But eventually there is in an end in sight

Eventually, we think, we hope, it will be alright

So I’m sat in the doctor’s office next to my mother

And they say that everything’s, now, fine.

Photo courtesy of J W on Unsplash

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