Friday 14 January 2011

Stage Four

10th December

I didn’t expect to be in Harlow again so soon. It takes nearly two hours to get here from Angel. I wander through the concrete wasteland in the darkness, avoiding solitary baseball caps and suspicious strangers with beady eyes. Blue hospital signposts direct me to welcoming strip lights, the yellow-lit entrance of the modern Princess Alexandra Hospital. I’m pacing down corridors, a sterile labyrinth quietly peopled by pale blue scrubs. I glimpse fading elderly people breathing noisily in hospital gowns, I find the ward and in contrast to the grey faded paper-souls my friend seems to beam like sunshine at me: The Mellow Mum. Thank goodness she is still real, still here! We have spoken only in text messages since two weeks ago, when she was told that she has lung cancer that has spread to her brain. Before I have a chance to ask how she is, she is animated, chattering, and wants to hear my news. How are my girls? Will I really move in to a house? How do I get the pushchair up the steep sloping towpath in Angel when it is so icy? After a while, I encourage her to tell me her story. She asks me to draw the curtains around her bed for privacy. I trip over her drip stand twice and draw my chair closer to her. She tells me of her sore throat, feeling tired, then vision disturbance, numbness in left leg, dizziness, A&E, chest x-ray, the CT scans the MRI scan and how there doesn’t seem to be one moment when it all became fact. But it crept up on her and her husband and the professionals were saying, “We don’t give a prognosis, it could be nine months, eighteen months or five years”. She leans forward and confides in a whisper,
“It’s Stage Four lung cancer.”
“How many stages are there?”
“Four!” she laughs.
“So four is the worst?” I assume.
“Yes,” she smiles.
She has never really smoked.
“When I was younger, with a few drinks when you go out, you know.”
“Well I read a bit on line. It can be caused by passive smoking, asbestos, or Radon gas...”
“Really, I hadn’t heard that.” She is quite mellow.

The Mellow Mum is thinking about Christmas and writing cards, and taking her girls to see Santa somewhere. She’s heard there’s a good hospice near to where she lives. She is thoughtful; pragmatic. We chat about normal things, real things like our children. She asks me to give her some hypnosis tips and breathing exercises.
“But how is your husband finding it?” I ask.
“Oh you know. He’s so busy. He’s very tired. Looking after the girls and everything.” She pauses. “But then, he said, ‘One day I’m going to wake up and you aren’t going to be there’,” she sobs through her words and before she’s finished the sentence I am clutching her warm hand and I’m crying too.

24th December

Text from The Mellow Mum

Hi. Had last treatment (radiotherapy) today so feelin tired but really pleased. Looking forward to 2 moro with kids. Have been so wiped out I have done nothing with kids so that is why haven’t spoken to any one as well. So good to be at this stage. Happy xmas. M. x x

31st December

To The Mellow Mum:

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Happy New Year, see you soon xxxx
31 December 2010 at 08:58

The Mellow Mum:
Happy new yr Boat Wife hope to see you soon.....
31 December 2010 at 16:46

Saturday 8th January

It is a strange quirk of the modern world that sometimes the most efficient way to communicate bad news is on a social networking site. My friend’s husband announced that The Mellow Mum died at 5.30am on Friday 7 January 2011, seven weeks and two days after her initial hospital admission and subsequent cancer diagnosis. He posted a link to Charles Aznavour's composition, ‘She’ interpreted by Jack Jones.

"She may be the love that cannot hope to last,
May come to me from shadows of the past,
That I'll remember till the day I die."

The Mellow Mum was very kind and she was a very positive person. She was my main friend this summer when we were travelling around on the boat, because she was the only person I knew who lived nearby in Essex. She liked visiting our boat and she liked to go on narrowboat holidays with her family. Tears run down my face when I think about how her tiny girls may not even remember their mum. I feel shock, anger and immense waves of sadness. Every moment of life is precious. Love is precious. Friendships are precious.

This weekend I am staying with Tank Girl, a precious friend. On her kitchen wall is a framed poem that I had forgotten I’d written for her, more than ten years ago.

Being Alive

Being alive is electric and tingly
Feeling alive is jiving and jingly
Staying alive is thinking positively
Loving your life is livingly lovely

Uppity people are out of control
They bring down your day taking bits of your soul
Because they don’t understand it and cannot get with it
Don’t complicate lives, just get on and live it.

This post is in loving memory of Michele Evans 1967 -2011.


Slbma said...

life is so utterly cruel at times. What more to say? get on and live it; how true. xxx

Nick Evans said...

Thank you for posting this in memory of Michele. I know that the times she spent with you were very special to her, and that your visit to her in hospital before Christmas meant a great deal to her.

She was greatly amused by being given the title "The Mellow Mum"

Over the last week I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the messages of support and condolence that I have received. These have come from a wide variety of people, some of whom knew MIchele well, others who had only met her a couple of times; some who knew her many years ago and friends that the two of us have made more recently.

She was a much-loved friend to so many people.

She was my wife and best friend and I will never forget her.

RIP Mellow Mummy

Tank Girl said...

Such a sad weekend but in a way nice to have time to catch up xxx

Anonymous said...

Very moving. Another beautifully written post.


Woollycraft Wonders said...

What a very sad loss. My thoughts are with the family.