Last week I was approached by two different organisations to write about my positive hospice experience.
Somehow it feels peculiar to use that word. In the context of a hospice experience I mean. Generally it’s right up there with all other inappropriately described moments.
It reminds me of last year when I had to have a colposcopy.
Don’t worry. I’m not about to launch into the detailed gynaecological nitty-gritty of the procedure.
But the basic explanation is it’s when they douse your noo-nah with vinegar – chip-shop style – and then use what is essentially a pair of hi-tech binoculars to look inside your ‘chips’ for any signs of early cervical cancer (fortunately my chips were fine).
Yes. It is as strange as it sounds.
To say I was dreading this procedure was an understatement. I whipped myself up into a frenzy of anxiety.
In the end it turned out the nurse was so lovely that the whole thing was nowhere near as bad as I expected.
When I left – very relieved and smelling like a jar of Sarson’s – I thanked her profusely. For making it such an enjoyable experience.
That’s right. That was the actual word I used. Note to reader: best not to describe a gynaecological procedure as being ‘enjoyable’. Especially not to the nurse who just did it.
Anyway. So. I was approached twice to write something about this positive hospice experience of mine.
Firstly by the hospice in question – the Isabel Hospice in Welwyn Garden City. Where Mum – almost 2 years ago – spent her last few days. They asked to print one of my blogposts in their newsletter. Wanted an intro and a photo from me.
My second request to write something was from a news resource organisation specialising in end of life care. They wanted a more detailed piece. About the whole hospice episode.
The reason they found me was because I’d been Twittering again. Responding to an article about end of life care protocols. Praising the Isabel Hospice for the care that Mum and our family had received in those last days.
It’s true. I can’t praise the staff at the hospice more highly.
I didn’t think twice about singing their praises in 140 characters or less. But I never expected for it to lead to being asked to write about it.
I was well chuffed. Honoured in fact. I’d been so appreciative of everything they’d done for us there. Not only how well they cared for Mum. But also the guidance they’d given to us, the rest of the family. Helping us to navigate what was an almost unbearably traumatic process.
To be able to write a piece publicly praising them. It felt like my way of properly showing my appreciation. Giving them something small in return.
I also think Mum would have loved it.
True, she wanted to keep her diagnosis secret. And I do sometimes wonder what she’d think about me blogging about it all now. But I think there was a part of her that would have wanted to share all this one day.
Not to mention the fact she’d be pretty happy with all the adoration I heap on her in my posts.
To have an article about her in the newsletter. Well. She would have felt a bit of a local celebrity I think. And no question of which reality TV show she’d choose if asked: ‘Strictly’ all the way thanks very much!
So. I sat down to write the introduction I’d been asked for. For the first piece. To try and explain how after initial reservations Mum had chosen to go to the hospice. How wonderful the staff were who looked after her. What a support they were to me.
And then something odd happened.
Suddenly. I couldn’t write.
It was like being tasered. Although probably without the cramp I imagine.
Nothing moved. My fingers hovered 10 cm above the keys. Frozen. The words were there. In my head. Disjointedly bobbing around like one of those word clouds. But it was impossible to put them together. To create a sentence. To transmit them from my jumbled head via my nervous system and out through my fingertips.
I sat there for about an hour. Getting more and more wound up. Frustrated. I can do this. I can write! For Christ’s sake. I’ve just spent the past month churning out over 10,000 words about all this on my blog. What’s wrong with me all of a sudden?
I tried to think myself through it. What do I usually do when I feel stuck?
Normally when I find it hard to find a way-in to something I want to write about – I have a process.
No Delorean or Tardis necessary.
I just mentally transport myself back to the actual event. Visualise everything as it was. Then I just re-play it in my head. As I remember. What happened. Who said what. How it felt. Once I’m back there it just sort of flows.
But this wasn’t flowing. This wasn’t even spluttering and splurting like an air-locked pipe. This pipe was well and truly blocked.
I started to get annoyed with myself. For not doing it properly. Forced myself to think about the hospice. What it was like. The smell. The different types of flowers in the garden next to Mum’s bed.
And then wham. I lost it. Total meltdown. A wave of grief just came out of left-field. As fresh as if it had happened just yesterday.
It was as clear as the freckles on my face: I wasn’t ready
Up until now I’ve been writing about the experience in a chronological order. I started with the diagnosis. Then the getting-used-to-the-diagnosis. Talked about moving back home. Then the chemo.
I thought I was doing that because that’s the way I am. I like order. Structure. For things to be clear. Logical.
But I suddenly realised it was because I was keeping the hardest part at arm’s length. The inevitable unhappy ending. The bit that was so awful I spent months trying to erase from my head. I hadn’t expected to be fast-forwarding there so soon.
Like an angry alarm clock, the question rang out in my head:
What can of worms have I opened?!
When I decided to start blogging about this story, had I really thought it through properly? To its logical conclusion? Surely not!
So far my posts have all been about the early days. That’s about 3 and a half years ago now. It’s fine for me to talk about them.
Don’t get me wrong. All of my posts make me emotional. And those first few ones were particularly tricky to get through. For every line I wrote I probably worked my way through half a loo roll!
But overall. It’s been okay.
The end of the story though – the hospice ordeal – this is a whole different kettle of fish.
That was only 2 years ago. Slightly less than 2 years in fact. And one brief introduction on the subject for a newsletter set me off into a spasm of grief. Just like the ones that came over me when she first died.
It felt like the stitches of an operation bursting apart suddenly. 2 years after the surgery.
But. After a while. It passed.
It’s a funny thing. Realisation. It made me feel better. Just understanding what had happened. Like a release. I was scared about re-facing that final period. Christ, who am I kidding? I still am. But that’s okay.
There’s no-one holding a gun to my head to write this. It’s my choice what happens next. I can just stop if I want. Right here…….
Or. I can get to it in my own time.
Hell. I can even make up a whole load of shit if I want… (I won’t)
But somehow by just acknowledging this. It felt better. Less scary.
After a few hours. I went back to the computer. And I wrote my introduction. Easy peasy.
So that’s one piece down. Now one to go. That’ll be trickier though I reckon. They want an actual article about the whole hospice affair. So watch this space. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’m sure it’ll be fine.
After all. If not, I can always just make up a whole load of shit if I want… (I won’t)
Or. You never know. It might just end up like the colposcopy.
No. I don’t mean smelling like a jar of Sarson’s and walking like John Wayne.
I mean – nowhere near as bad as I expected!
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