This week I have a big birthday coming up – and no it’s not the big four zero. This week I turn 42 and it’s a birthday I have been thinking about for the last 30 years. You see 42 is the birthday that my Mum never reached.
My Mum died of cancer a couple of months before she turned 42 when I was ten years old. And from that moment I have never really been able to picture my life beyond that age either. I found out while studying psychology A Level that this is a common reaction to the death of a parent. Sometimes it can manifest itself with a fixation on your own children reaching the age you were when your parent died.
As a self obsessed teenager I remember feeling quite put out that this wasn’t unique to me. But there is comfort in knowing that these feelings are ‘normal’.
About 8 years ago I found out that I have inherited the gene that caused my Mum’s cancer and logically I know that this knowledge and the screening programs I am on will hopefully mean that if I do get cancer it will be caught early and treatable. But despite all of this I cannot help feeling that this birthday is significant or important in some way. My feelings around it have changed since becoming a mum myself. My grief as a child centred round the phrase ‘it’s not fair’ and that summed up how I felt for many years . I thought these feelings would re-emerge when I had my first daughter but as I was a child when she died I never imagined my Mum being there for me as a new Mum myself – and I am incredibly lucky to have an awesome step-mum and an equally fabulous mother-in -aw so I haven’t missed that support that I know mothers can give in these early years.
And you know – things have worked out pretty well – I married my best friend, I have my two gorgeous girls, I have family and friends I can count on, I live in a crazy house by the sea and I have a job that (overall…) I love. And Mum dying is one of the things that has made me who I am today and I like who I am and even in my most sleep deprived moments I love my life and the people in it. However, the phrase ‘it’s not fair’ has been preying on my mind again these last few months as I’ve started thinking more and more about my Mum’s death from the perspective of a mum. When I drive home a bit too fast because I haven’t seen the girls for two days due to work, the thought keeps popping in my mind – what if I could never see them again? And I cannot imagine how my Mum coped with that knowledge that she wouldn’t see us again, that she wouldn’t see us grow, live and love. And my heart hurts for her.
So folks to help me celebrate this big birthday I ask you this. Eat well, stay active – it’s no guarantee but it can’t hurt – and be informed – check your boobs, your balls and don’t ignore symptoms. I don’t intend to miss out on my girls lives and neither should you.