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At the age of 16 I've had to face one of the most painful, traumatic experiences anyone could ever have... losing someone close to you... This is hard for me to write as it's still something I'm sensetive about but if I can help someone with my experience, it's worth it.
My Nan had always been there for me. When I was born she gave up her job to look after me so that my Mom didn't have to. Everyday I'd see her, we'd paint, sing, I'd help her with housework... she meant everything to me, I'd even call her "Nanny-Mom" as I saw her as some sort of second mother.
As the years went on we regained our closeness. I'd still see her every weekday and phone her every Sunday night, I could tell her anything, things I couldn't tell my Mom.
When it came to me going to high school I only saw her every Thursday, I still felt close to her but I felt she was becoming more distant from me. I asked my Mom if anything was wrong with her, it did cross my mind she may be ill, she was like a cat with 9 lives, she had numerous scars all over her body, had nearly died once from internal bleeding and always seemed to have a cold, but my Mom said she was fine.
Around that time my Dad's father was in hospital having a hip replacement. I went along with my Dad to visit him and in the middle of conversation my Grandad said "Hows Edna? Have they heard anything?" Alarm bells started ringing in my head, why was he talking about my Nan? What did he know that I didn't? I asked my Dad shortly after, "What's wrong with Nan?" but he ignored me and my Grandad's expression changed drastically as if he knew he'd said something he shouldn't.
On the way home from hospital I asked my Dad again, "What's wrong with Nan?" he took a deep breath before he spoke and brought my world crashing down with the words, "She's got breast cancer."
I felt a mixture of emotions, the first was emptyness, I felt numb, I couldn't speak, I could just feel my eye's brimming with tears, the second was fear, I was terrified of losing her, yes she was a fighter, but could she battle cancer? It sounds selfish but the final feeling and most powerful was anger. Why my Nan? Hadn't she suffered enough? Then my anger went to my Mom, why hadn't she told me, why did my Grandad find out before me, he was nothing to her, did I not deserve to know?
As soon as my Mom answered the door and let me in I looked at her full of hate and screamed "What gave you the right to keep it from me?!" I then ran upstairs and locked myself in my room, crying all night.
My Mom revealed my Nan had asked me not to tell her as she didn't want to upset me, she apologised and promised to keep me informed.
The next time I saw my Nan was hard, she knew I knew and I was trying hard not to treat her differently, but I found myself having to go upstairs so she wouldn't see me break down.
My Nan had a complication. She had a rare kind of cancer which meant she had to have chemiotherapy first. She then had to have her breast off and then radiotherapy. It was a difficult time, she was very weak, depressed and kept having delayed treatment due to high blood pressure, but eventually she was given the all clear.
I was so relieved, she had been so strong and I was so proud of her for beating this. We could all finally get on with re-building our lives.... or so I thought...
Last year, my Mom comes up to my room, her eyes red and face solem. "It's back" she said, I don't know how those words made sense to me when said so randomly but they did, and once more my heart broke in two. All of the emotions I had felt before came rushing back, I just kept thinking, will she beat it again?
My Nan had seemed to give up this time, her hair had only just grown back and she was really depressed about losing it all again, treatment just made her feel ill and caused her irritations, but for the sake of the family, she put herself through it once more.
All seemed to be going well until a month in. Suddenly all Thursday visit's were taking place in her bedroom at her bedside. She always just said she felt tired and needed rest, we had no reason not to believe her, we knew she her body was under a lot of pressure. This carried on for a couple more months, it was later revealed during this time she lost the ability to walk or do pretty much anything for herself, but between her and my Grandad they hid it from us, they felt like telling us would be burdening us.
My Nan went into hospital on the 10th of May 2004. My Grandad broke down, he couldn 't cope anymore, she was deteriorating rapidly and hadn't been recieving treatment for weeks. They performed tests on her and checked the cancer hadn't spread.
I'd just got home from school, it was about 4.30 and I had just put the kettle on so I could make my Mom a drink for when she came home when the phone started ringing. I answered it and it was my Grandad. The conversation was short,he asked for my Mom then told me to let her know that, "It's bad news, it's gone to her liver, they can't help her now." He went about 5 seconds after dropping the bombshell. I didn't even hang up the phone, it dropped out of my hand and I slowly sunk to the floor, I was motionless, tears were flooding out my eyes, I was all alone and had no-one to turn to, It seemed like forever til my Mom came home, she found me on the floor and couldn't get any sense out of me, all I could say were "Nan... Liver..." she didn't look shocked, she had expected it, the odds were against her, she just held me and we cried together.
My exams were coming up, and I was terrified that if I went to them it would happen and I wouldn't be able to say goodbye. Everyday I lived in fear of the phone call from the hospital. Then came Friday 21st March, I was on exam leave, it was 8 in the morning and I was still in bed, all of a sudden my Mom comes bursting into my room saying Grandad has just phoned and they thought she wouldn't last the day.
I've never moved so fast in my life, we were at her bedside for 8.25, the first to arrive. My Nan was confused, she didn't seem to know what was going on and was very confused, I just held her hand and told her it was all going to be ok. They moved her to an end ward and drawed the curtains round. Soon, my Grandad, Auntie and her brother had arrived, we were all just sitting around her watching her helplessly, we were waiting for her to die.
It was obvious she was in pain, she kept screaming, nurses kept popping in and they were very helpful, trying to keep her comfortable and being very sympathetic with us. We were scared to move for fear of her passing on without us present.
After a couple of hours, her brother left, he'd been on night shift the night before and was exausted, he never had a moment alone with her or held her hand, he seemed emotionless.
After the nurse had changed her and checked her over, we all had a few minutes alone with her to say our own private goodbyes. We weren't sure she could hear us but at least this way we could get things off our chests.
As I spoke to her, I held her hand. I said to her, "Nan, if you can hear me, please squeeze my hand" I felt a tight squeeze, it was the reassurence, it was a relief she could hear me, I needed to tell her what was on my mind. "Nan, I love you so much, thank you for everything you've done for me, you'll never know how much I appreciate it, I promise I'll look after Grandad for you, I'll make you proud of me"
Time was ticking and she was deteriorating rapidly. Her pain was increasing and as much as we didn't want to lose her, we didn't want her to stay in this much pain. Eventually, it was 1.30 on Saturday morning, we were still with her, holding her hand, constantly bursting into tears. I was in disbelief, it couldn't be happening. At visiting time the night before I could hear patients telling their familys "They've been here all day, reckon she's on the way out" I found it so insensetive, who were they to talk about my nan like that? Had they no sense of discretion? But somehow their words made it all seem real.
It was 2.00 the nurse had come in to put a tube down her throat as her breathing was terrible, the cancer had spread to her lungs too, but the nurse stopped and said there was no point, she knew it wouldn't be long. My auntie heard her say "I've had enough", she'd fought as hard as she could. She finally passed away at 2:05am on the 22nd May 2004. We'd been at the hospital for about 18hours. I felt empty, she looked so restless, she was so cold, I didn't want to leave her, it couldn't be all over. My Grandad kept saying "All she wanted to do is see you get married and Liam (my 2year old cousin) grow up" that made me feel awful, I felt as if I'd somehow failed her.
I got home at 3:00 that morning, I cried myself to sleep. The next morning, at first I thought everything was ok, but then it all came running back to me and I felt sick, numb, cold and alone. The tears came flooding back, I couldn't move.
I spent that day looking for photo's of me and her. I could only find 1 recent one, and that's my main regret, not taking more.. I was scared I'd forget her if I couldn't find visual proof she'd existed. The family pulled together, to organise the funeral and wake. We all went to see her in the chapel of rest. I was convinced it would help me, to see her peaceful, but it didn't at all. The person lying in the coffin looked nothing like the Nan I knew and loved, so cold, pale, thin...
It helped the rest of my family, so it does work, but for younger people I don't reccomend it. Everyone was making a fuss of me, asking if I was ok... Thats the last thing you want to be asked, of course your not ok, you feel like your hearts been ripped out and stamped on, but people never know what to say, it's human instinct to ask that when something goes wrong. Don't bite peoples heads off when asked, if you don't want to talk, just say you need to be alone and gather your thoughts, but my advice is to surround yourself with family, they're going through it too, they need you just as much as you need them.
I wrote my Nan a letter which I put in the coffin. It helped me say a lot of things I couldn't bring myself to say. I think it helped with my grieving process, a huge weight felt like it was lifted from my sholders. A friend recently revealed that she did the same with her Nan and it helped her too.
I went through a phase where I did nothing but cry, I didn't eat, watch television, I just sat in my room listening to "Fields of Gold" and "Angels" because they reminded me of her. It was a dark patch of my life, I felt guilty at the thought of having fun.
It was my Mom and best friend that pulled me out of it. They made me see that my Nan wouldn't have wanted me to be sad, she always said I was her "Princess" and "Pride and joy" she wouldn't want me punishing myself, she'd want me to remember her fondly.
I find it hard to remember the good times. The night she died was very traumatic for me, as I'm still reletivly young and it was my first death I was very unprepared for what I saw. Everyone kept telling me I was brave for staying there all night and that they couldn't have done it. Everytime someone said it I just thought, how could I not have? She sacrificed a lot for me, she loved me just as much as I loved her, how could I have sat home twiddling my thumbs knowing she was dying? There was nothing brave about being there, she was the brave one.
They say time is the greatest healer. At the moment, I'm still very emotional about the whole thing, whilst writing this I've broke down a couple of times, but at the same time, sharing it has helped. Things have got easier, but it will take much longer before I'm able to remember her the way she was. I'm still plauged with nightmares about that night, I'm constantly reliving it.
I did however have a dream that made me feel better, it was of my Nan telling me that she loved me and was sorry for being so agitated that night and she is happy where she is now. Whether it is as some people I have told say that it was her telling me or if it was just wishful thinking on my part I don't know, but I like to believe she is watching over me.
My top tips for dealing with the death of a loved one are:
* Surround yourself with people you love and trust, share your feelings with them.
* DON'T be afraid to cry, people will expect it, you won't be looked down on for having feelings.
*Don't keep it bottled up, even if you don't want to talk straight away, write it down or contact a confidential helpline. Not talking about it won't make it go away.
* Find pictures of them at happy times, don't focus on the bad if you can help it.
* Ask people to share their stories of the person with you, you might find out new things and feel somewhat closer to the person.
* Don't turn to drink/drugs, they may numb the pain but your just harming yourself in the long run and they will never get rid of the situation.
I wrote a song for my Nan for my GSCE music composition, I put my emotions on paper, released a few emotions and earned myself a B grade in the process here's a snippet:
You were always there when I was young, You taught me how to be strong, I learnt a lot from how you lived your life, How to deal with pain and strife, When I was low, You'd show me where to go, Now that your gone, There's no-one for me to lean upon
I feel alone, Like my world is set in stone, And I miss you Yea I miss you I feel blue, It's lonely here without you And I miss you I miss you
I hope my experience has helped some people, if anyone is going through the same situation or has been and wants to talk I'm more than happy too, just drop me a message.
Thanks for reading what will probably be my most personal review.