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Relief

By on Feb 15, 2018 in Blog Posts, Cancer, Summer | 4 comments

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The woman sitting across from my, calmly removes a small pot of chilli flakes from her handbag and sprinkles them on her toasted sandwich. I admire both her foresight and her need for chilli. She’s a funny, warm, intelligent woman who I instantly liked while still feeling intimidated by her many accomplishments.

“I know this is harsh but there is a piece of me that envies you at the moment,” she says. I’ve just finished telling her about Joshua’s last hours. There doesn’t seem much to envy. “You get to stop watching your son suffer. I know that my son will continue to suffer long after I am gone.”

More than a decade ago this woman, explains, she faced a choice: allow her child to die or approve surgery to remove part of his brain. She knew, even as she approved the operation that it would leave her son mentally impaired.

Fast-forward to today and that son, missing the parts of the brain associated with self-management and short-term memory suffers from autism and crippling anxiety. He’s a charming, sweet natured boy but even in the six months that I’ve known him I have seen the divide between him and his peers widen as they mature and move into the world while he remains trapped in a mind that struggles to learn knew things.

I chew on my toasted cheese sandwich and it dawns on me that Josh dying is not the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Josh being diagnosed with incurable cancer was.

Today's suffering (and there is plenty) is all mine. I no longer have to watch Josh as he steels himself for another day of pretending to feel better than he does. I don’t have to listen to him apologise for not being able to eat another meal. I don’t have to plaster on a smile and pretend that I’m not terrified of this test or this transfusion or this doctor’s visit. That burden has been lifted.

So has the ever-present shadow of knowing that he would die but not know when or how. There were days when I felt I would crumble under the uncertainty.

Of course I am sad. Sadder than I thought possible. When I think of the future: the hopes and dreams Josh had (and I had for him) it feels like a piece of my soul is missing.

But I also feel relief.

And guilt for feeling relief.

The burden of worrying if today would be the day is over.

4 Comments

  1. Cheryl Hammill

    15th February 2018

    Post a Reply

    Penny it is the relief that Josh, so beloved by you, is no longer suffering and is peaceful. Watching my husband struggle with this monstrous cancer was absolutely soul destroying and just so heart breaking to watch my fun loving, generous of spirit, musician really wish himself gone in those last six difficult months. I wish him here with me every day, but knowing that he is pain free and peaceful makes it manageable. I have discovered that you actually never get over the grief, but you do learn to accommodate it.

  2. Shelley Kingston

    9th March 2018

    Post a Reply

    You said it all for me Penny. My much loved stepson, Chris, died in awful circumstances on 6th February. Chris had been suffering for years after his sweetheart was killed by a train when they were crossing the Toti River Bridge above the lagoon. He blamed himself for her tragic death and suffered greatly emotionally. He still smiled and laughed as Josh did during his illness but the heartache was there. over the years he chose alcohol and dagga to ease his pain and grief albeit for a few hours. He chose to fish to make a living when he couldn’t function in an engineering company, he could not afford medical aid so relied on government hospitals. After a tonsillectomy in a filthy government hospital he caught a bacterial infection as well as tuberculosis. They sent him home, where he died alone after collapsing and hitting his head which killed him instantly. He was so vulnerable but chose to reach out to people who could not help him instead of those that could. I respect his choice although it saddens me . I too feel guilty that we were so far away in England, oblivious of his dire circumstances in South Africa, believing that he was living in harmony on the beach and fishing in the sea which eased his pain and grief. I’m relieved that he is no longer suffering.

  3. Shelley Kingston

    9th March 2018

    Post a Reply

    You said it all for me Penny. My much loved stepson, Chris, died in awful circumstances on 6th February. Chris had been suffering for years after his sweetheart was killed by a train when they were crossing the Toti River Bridge above the lagoon. He blamed himself for her tragic death and suffered greatly emotionally. He still smiled and laughed as Josh did during his illness but the heartache was there. over the years he chose alcohol and dagga to ease his pain and grief albeit for a few hours. He chose to fish to make a living when he couldn’t function in an engineering company, he could not afford medical aid so relied on government hospitals. After a tonsillectomy in a filthy government hospital he caught a bacterial infection as well as tuberculosis. They sent him home, where he died alone after collapsing and hitting his head which killed him instantly. He was so vulnerable but chose to reach out to people who could not help him instead of those that could. I respect his choice although it saddens me . I too feel guilty that we were so far away in England, oblivious of his dire circumstances in South Africa, believing that he was living in harmony on the beach and fishing in the sea to make his basic needs living.I’m relieved that he is no longer suffering.

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