A pacer for 35 miles and a life update

This might be a bit of a shorter race recap to my usual double posts(!) but I want to finally get something down on the blog about the Shires and Spires 35 mile race from the 20th May (six weeks ago!) before I forget all the details of the day.

The last few months have been absolutely insane when it comes to work and sleep and at times I have felt like I’m just existing and getting through the days, rather than actually living them.  Picking up 15 schools to mark coursework for an exam board and working extra night shifts unfortunately both fell at the same time that Oscar dropped his two hour daytime naps and began to kick up a fuss about going to bed.  This meant that some of his bed times dragged on for more than three hours before he was asleep and I could finally head downstairs to tidy up after the day before heading out for a nightshift/collapsing into bed myself.

We had it so easy for so long that it made it feel all the more difficult.  I wrote about Oscar’s eighteen month routine here – he used to be fast asleep by 7:45pm back then and it already seems like a lifetime ago, not just the three months that it actually is!  We’ve switched him out of his cot into a toddler bed now and this seems to have helped somewhat thankfully.

I’ve also handed my notice in at Tesco to finish at the end of the current rota (three more weeks), which is a relief (in some ways, but also a worry over the lack of guaranteed regular money coming in).  But it will allow for more family time, more me time, more running time, more relaxation time, less stress and upset and other opportunities to provide an income.  All in all, I know it’s for the best, but that extra guaranteed £1000 a month is going to be hard to do without until we settle into a new routine.

Tesco was never going to be forever though.  When Mum was very sick last year Oscar and I drove the 200 mile round trip to visit 3-4 days each week.  This is obviously something I do not regret, but our savings took a massive hit and after Mum died and I began visiting less I had to take action to try and replenish our savings again, which I have now been able to do.

Anyway, enough of the life update, more of the running…I’ve run a parkrun, 35 mile race and ran 78 miles of my first 100 mile attempt since I last blogged, so I’m hoping to have a bit of a catch-up blogging day today before my brain becomes mush and I forget all the details from the past six weeks!

The Shires & Spires 35 mile race fell the day before I returned to work following my maternity leave last year and so I never got a chance to write a proper recap of the race and still regret that now.

I love the Shires and Spires event.  35 miles of Northamptonshire countryside with lots of rolling hills and beautiful scenery.  It’s a Go Beyond event and with the start just a few miles from my running club base, checkpoints are often well stocked with W&DAC runners so it’s lovely to see so many friendly faces not only out running the event on the day, but also manning the checkpoints on route.

Shires and Spires was my first ultramarathon in 2013 and I have run it every year since apart from 2016 when I was 6 months pregnant with Oscar.  (2014 * 2015 recaps) With this being my fifth year running the event, and having run numerous training runs out on the course I know the route better than I know the back of my hand.  With my goal race (South Downs Way 100) just three weeks later, I knew I didn’t want to run Shires hard this year, and so instead offered to pace anyone who would like to complete the 35 miles in about 8 hours, as this was a time I knew I should easily be able to achieve without pushing myself too hard on the day.

One person took me up on my offer.  Somebody who regularly walks long distance events (of 100+ miles!) but who until recently has not really been doing a huge amount of running.  She had run the event the previous year with a group of runners who had just intended on getting round within the 9 hour cut-off, but knew she was capable of completing the race in a faster time than this, although not yet confident enough to navigate the race on her own.

It was a hot day (it seems like we haven’t had anything else for the last few months now!) and so I thoroughly applied a thick layer of suncream before setting off for Lamport Hall.  Although, in typical Mary fashion I rocked up just ten minutes before the pre-race briefing having still to pack my bag, collect my number and having to forfeit my pre-race trip to the loo!  After dropping my t-shirt from registration back at the car I even had to jog back to the start line in order to make it on time for the starting horn!  I was fairly relaxed with no pressure on this race – knowing the course so well and without any time expectations for the day.  Probably a little too relaxed in the morning to be honest!

The first few miles of Shires are all trail and easy running.  The first checkpoint falling about 4.5 miles in to the race.  This year for the first time alongside gels and cake, Go Beyond were also offering fruit and the cold watermelon slices went down incredibly well at each of the checkpoints in the heat of the day.

I took some nuun tablets with me.  I tend to have one bottle with just water and one with electrolytes when I run an ultra and so popped a tablet into the bottle on my right at the first checkpoint and off we ran again.  100 metres or so along the road I heard what I thought was someone making ‘shhhhh’ noises right behind me, so spun round to see nothing, only for the pressure inside my water bottle from the still-fizzing nuun tab to become too much and for liquid to shoot out of the top all over Vikki!  Haha!  It definitely made us jump!Shires and Spires 35m

The next checkpoint at 9 miles came round just as quickly and we were soon heading off on our way again.  There is a long section of road in the middle of the Shires course, and although the road is good going it is still super hilly.  I was told Northamptonshire was flat when I moved here!

Truth be told I expected Vikki to break into power-walk quite often.  She comes from a long-distance walking background and so I know she can cover the ground when she walks.  Turns out though, she can also cover the ground when she runs, and I am sure she would have quite happily have run much more of the course if it wasn’t for me walking the hills and through checkpoints, etc as per my usual game plan.

Shires and Spires 35mThe heat began to get to me after the third checkpoint and although I was still going strong I then needed to include more walk breaks in the open sections than I would have done had it been an overcast day.  We were moving at a pace much faster than the 8 hours I had intended to run which I knew I needed to rein back in anyway.

Salted up after Shires and SpiresI was replacing the salts I lost with the food I was eating and my nuun tabs but it always concerns me when I lose so much.  This is a photo of my shorts at the end of the event!Shires and Spires 35mMy legs were beginning to turn red, despite the coating of suncream I’d applied that morning and so I nicked suncream from a friend at the final checkpoint before we began the last long uphill slog to the finish and the final 10k.

By mile 31 I could tell that Vikki was capable of running much faster and more than I wanted to at that point and so I encouraged her to go ahead.  It had been a long while since we weren’t surrounded by other runners and I quickly reminded her of the directions to the finish, reassuring her that she would probably pass plenty of other runners along the way so never be far from others.  Her main concern for the day had been navigational issues.

Shires and Spires 35m

(My official finish photo from Adrian Howes)Shires and Spires 35m

Four miles later and I found myself running through the finish funnel.  Go Beyond had an announcer for the finish who was doing a fantastic job of announcing runners as they crossed the line.  Many club runners were still stood on the sidelines cheering us in, along with many others from our club who had just come to cheer at the end.  Always a lovely touch.
Shires and Spires 35m cheering Lorraine through the finish

(Photo by Adrian Howes)

I made sure to join our club members on the sidelines to see everyone else through the finish line.

Vikki rushed over to tell me that she had come in as third V45 female, so even received a trophy for her run, which was fantastic news to finish to!

Shires and Spires 35m timeI can’t believe how close my Garmin read to the 35 miles!

Official time: 7:47:47
Position: 131/164
Gender position: 28/41
Age category position: 14/17

It actually ended up being my second best Shires time, despite pulling myself back a fair bit, chatting to lots of people and not racing the event.  I’m sure I’ll be back in 2019 to see what I’m actually capable of!  😉Shires and Spires 35m medalThe medal was another lovely one detailing the route of the course through the Northamptonshire villages…Shires and Spires 35m medal on Oscar…although it was soon stolen by my child on returning home!At the end of Shires and Spires with Dan and OscarI managed to sit and chill with Dan and Oscar for a little while before heading up for a shower and pre-work hour-long nap.  Unfortunately I couldn’t book the night off, so still headed off to work that evening for a 10pm-7am night shift following running the 35 miles in the day.  All good training for the 100 mile event, right?!

Do you salt up when running in the sun?
Have you ever paced someone during a race before?
How early do you like to turn up before the start of a race?

Our first family holiday to York

Dan, Oscar and I headed away on our first family holiday to York earlier this month.

Dan, Me and Oscar on holiday in York

When I was younger, every June my parents would bundle my brother and I in the back of a car surrounded by luggage, sandwiches and carrier bags (to act as sick bags) before heading off to the same farmyard cottage in Derbyshire for a week’s holiday.  I loved my family holidays growing up and Dan always spent a similar week with his family when they visited the Isle of Wight in the Summer.

As a family Dan, Oscar and I have been in desperate need of a holiday for several months now.  It feels like Dan and I have barely spent any quality time together since Oscar was born.  The newborn days were a cycle of grasping at sleep whenever we could fit it in and then last year I spent a lot of time traveling over to Norfolk to visit my Mum when she was really poorly.  Since November, I’ve been working nightshifts and so it always seems like one of us is working and the other is looking after Oscar.  Dan and I are never both together at the same time.

We have been trying to stash away some savings this year.  One of my targets for the year was to raise an extra £500 each month.  So far, I’ve been hitting this target really well although more on that another time.  Therefore, in order that we didn’t dig too deeply into our fresh savings we needed to work our holiday travel on a budget.

Our holiday planning began checking our Tesco clubcard account.  When Dan and I first got together (11 years ago tomorrow!) we regularly used our clubcard points for stays away, but with everything that has gone on during the last couple of years we had just been accumulating points, so had quite a few saved up.

We need a suite rather than just a room now that we have Oscar as it means we can put him down to bed at his usual time of 7:30pm and then go into our room and hang out or watch TV until we’re ready to go to bed ourselves.  We ended up booking a very nice suite in York for just £80 from Monday-Thursday including breakfast, using our Tesco points to pay for the rest of our stay.

The hotel was so nice that they even lent us umbrellas for our stay and we were handed three warm chocolate cookies on our arrival.

York holiday - Oscar with a chocolate cookie

I’m pretty sure Oscar enjoyed his first experience of a chocolate cookie!

We also saved money on our trip by transferring some of our clubcard points into £40 of Cafe Rouge vouchers and £40 of Zizzis vouchers so that our dinner was ‘free’ for two of the nights that we stayed.

Oscar’s daily nap tends to fall between 10-11:30am at the moment and so we decided to work around his schedule for our holiday, heading down for an early breakfast each day, letting him nap whilst we showered and packed up his bag for our travels and then heading out on an adventure each afternoon. Me and Oscar at The Shambles in York On our first full day we headed over to the National Railway Museum. Me, Dan and Oscar at the Train museumOscar loves trains at the moment and can often be found pulling out his small train set and shouting out ‘CHOO CHOO!’ as he pushes the train around the track.  Dan treated him to a lovely wooden pull along train from the museum and Oscar has been obsessed with it ever since. Wooden pull along trainWe also visited the Jorvik Viking Centre on one of the days and Oscar enjoyed riding around the exhibition and pointing out all of the animals to us both as the car glided past.  Both Dan and I remembered the Centre as being much larger than it felt this time round.  I’m not sure if that was because we were both much younger and smaller when we visited as children ourselves?!

We also spent time walking along the river and enjoying the parks.  Oscar is obsessed with slides at the moment and we found one park with six slides.  We knew we were onto a winner! Dan and Oscar at the park in York It was so lovely to be able to completely switch off from everything that has been going on and just hang out as a family, making lots of lovely memories together.  I had initially planned to take my trainers along to get some runs in on a couple of the days, but had injured my calf on the Sunday at Milton Keynes Half, so in the end decided that four days without running wasn’t the end of the world and left my trainers at home.  To be honest, I’m glad I did.Oscar and I in York On the last morning, once we had loaded our car up and checked out of the hotel we headed out for the final time along the length of the York Wall.  Umbrellas were required, as there was a light drizzle when we set off.  We had been so lucky up until that point with the weather though with no rain at all.

I have hardly any photographs of me with my Mum from when I was growing up and I really regret not taking the opportunity to snap more shots of us together as I got older. . Now that I’m a Mum myself I’m trying my hardest to ensure that I feature in photos of Oscar as often as possible so that we can share memories of our time together as he grows up. . Here’s a picture of us along the town wall in York last week. It rained constantly on our final lday in the city but armed with a large umbrella it was just so lovely to be able to switch off fully and truly enjoy just spending time with Oscar and Dan. . I’m already thinking about holidays for next year! . #York #Yorkwall #17monthsold #babywearing #familyholiday #littlemoments #mumandson A post shared by Mary (@fromteachertomum) on

Dan and I both agreed that a week-long break is required at least once a year to give us the opportunity to fully switch off and reconnect as a family.  I’m already thinking about plans for our next adventure!

Did your family go away every year when you were growing up?
Where was the last place you went on holiday?
Can you recommend any other lovely areas in the UK to head away on a mini break as a family?

When a race doesn’t go to plan

Last Sunday was the Milton Keynes Running Festival.  An event of 20 mile, half marathon, 10k and 5k distance races all starting from the Xscape Centre in Milton Keynes.

MK half race number

I had entered the event a while back almost on a whim.  I knew I should be halfway into some serious mileage by this point in the build up to the ultras I have coming up for 2018.  I also knew that my half marathon PB is from a very long time ago (December 2013) and was in desperate need of an update.

My training had been going really well since the start of the year, but as always when I intend to race a short distance event I had a few nerves before the start of the race.  A lot of my miles in recent weeks had been treadmill miles due to childcare issues, and I was concerned about transferring my running from a flat, no bumps treadmill to the ups and downs of Milton Keynes redways.  A quick chat on Twitter with some other treadmill runners eased my nerves though, and ultimately I was feeling rather confident with my race plan when I set off for Milton Keynes on Sunday morning.

The plan was to run 9:30mm pace for the first 10 miles, and then if I could, to pick it up to 9mm for the remaining 5k, pushing for those final few miles, finishing somewhere between 2 hours and 2h 5m.  My current PB is 2h 9m 16s.  Just under 10 minute miling which, on paper is so far away from where I feel I actually am at the moment.

I rocked up on my own with a little over an hour before the start, cursing the fact that I hadn’t researched cheaper places to park beforehand as I handed over the £8.32 it cost me to park for four hours by the race start.  A positive being that I was in a car park literally right by the race start though, so there really was no chance of me getting lost trying to find my car again after the race!

I placed myself somewhere between the two hour and two hour ten minute pacer on the start line and planned to constantly check my watch during the first few miles to ensure I was running the pace I had set out to race and not get swept away with people running by too quickly or get stuck behind other runners who had set off too slow.

The gun went.  We all started pretty much on time and my first mile went by spot on as planned in 9 minutes and 30 seconds.  Lots of people from behind where I had started were rushing past me but I stuck to my guns and stayed at the pace I had set out to run.  I ran the second mile in 9m 20s.  With much of the mile either flat or at a slight downhill I struggled to slow any further without feeling like I was ‘braking’ all the time and I didn’t want to end up injured, so leant into the downhill, whilst trying to remain light on my feet.

My third mile went by in 9:41 (so still an average pace of 9:30mm).  Milton Keynes is actually a lovely area to run around.  There are lots of parks and green spaces.  You would never know that you were so close to such a large city.  (It’s not such a lovely area to drive around though.  All the MK roundabouts look the same to me!)

Mile four – 9m 29s.  I was actually feeling nervously excited by this point.  I began to pass by all those people who had raced off at the start in a hurry to get going and had already burnt out too quickly.  I was definitely going to smash my PB.  I felt so strong and the pace felt so easy.  I knew there were still nine miles to go, but I had never run a race before where the pace I started out at was so conserved and still felt so easy after four miles.

Mile five – still going strong.  The top of my left calf started to feel a little tight and I silently vowed to get the foam roller and compression socks out as soon as I got home that night, trying not to think any more about it.

Within metres of the five mile marker pain shot through the top of my calf and ground me to a complete halt.  I desperately tried to flex my leg before setting off at a jog again only to collapse back into a slump as I realised I could no longer run using that leg.  Glancing at my watch in despair, seeing the average pace creep up I hurriedly took myself to the side of the path where I fully stretched out my left leg, desperate for it to let me run the final miles of the race.

I let a few tears trickle down my face when I realised my leg wasn’t going to let me run and a few more fell as I watched my average pace creep up into the 10s.  I rang Dan, upset and angry that the race hadn’t gone to plan, and so desperate for him to give me some magic words of advice to get my leg working again.

He didn’t have any.  And neither did the running friend I chose to ring to cry to about my bodged race attempt, whilst seeing my watch now display an 11mm average pace.  But they did both calm me down and make me realise that this wasn’t my goal race, – that much better any problems rise now, before my goal race so that I could deal with them before they became an issue.

I was limping along the side of the path whilst I tried to ease the pain in my calf.  I wanted to smack every spectator who shouted in an attempt to get me to carry on running (although I do realise they thought they were probably being encouraging) but on the flip side I was so touched by the amount of runners who came past and genuinely asked me if I was OK.  One guy offered me paracetamol, another a spare layer, and several shared words of ‘Tough Luck’ or something to that effect.

By mile six I realised that I would be silly to try and hobble a further seven miles to the finish so stopped to ask a marshal the quickest way to get to the finish line.  He told me that I could either turn around and go back the way I had come, or continue the way I was going.  I figured that at least if I continued the way I was going then I would get a goodie bag containing food at the finish, so traipsed on.

Next panic: I rang Dan to fret that I wouldn’t have enough time on my parking ticket.  I had only gotten four hours from the time I arrived, and with some quick calculations I realised that I would be coming in somewhere around three hours for the half marathon that afternoon.

As Dan was calming me for the second time that morning I overheard a man wearing a 20 mile bib telling a woman that he was hoping to pull at the next marshal point and that he would not be completing the full distance that day.  I ended my conversation with Dan and joined in with the conversation the runners were having, sharing the information that had been given to me by the marshal I had spoken to.  This man (never learnt his name!) lived not too far from me and was honest in saying that he hadn’t put in the training to run 20 miles.  He was suffering with a painful stomach and had done too little, too late when it came to trying to fix it.  I fell into step beside him and having someone to chat to made miles 7-10 go by a whole lot quicker than the 45 minutes it took us to walk.

The guy I was walking with hoped to be able to run the final 5k of his race, so once we reached the 10 mile mark we thanked each other, wished each other well and I saw him run off into the distance.  My leg had begun to ease a little by now and I was able to pick up the pace to a faster walk, completing my 11th mile in just over 13 minutes.  It’s quite satisfying to know that even if it gets to the point where running is no longer an option during the later miles of my 100 in June, I still have a fairly fast walking stride so won’t lose as much time as some by dropping down to a walking pace.

I decided to try and lightly jog the final couple of miles left to the finish, stopping to walk any hills (as these were pretty much impossible without a great deal of discomfort).  (11:10, 11:02)  I passed the guy I had walked with earlier somewhere around mile 12.

The start of the thirteenth mile is on a horrible, horrible uphill slope.  I’d walked it before when traveling between the two Milton Keynes parkruns on the New Year’s Day Double.  I made a point of lightly jogging my way up this time though.  On my toes so as not to stretch my calf to breaking point.  I didn’t need to prove myself to anybody!

500 metres left until the finish after the horrible hill and my leg was feeling a fair bit loser.  I was gliding past other runners – many of whom were walking by this point.  I knew that my leg wasn’t right though and the finish line couldn’t come quick enough!

MK half marathon finish(Image from here)

The commentator shouted out my name as I approached the finish which was a nice touch and I crossed the line to collect my goodies.  Rather disappointed to be given just a banana along with my medal though – I don’t even like bananas!  (It didn’t go to waste…Oscar happily munched on it for dessert later that evening.)

MK half banana and medal

Side note: I find it rather creepy that Strava knows the exact location I took the above picture as shown below in my Strava screenshot…

Strava map of MK Running Festival half marathon

Chip time: 2:50:42
Position: 1387/1436
Gender position:
570/607
Category position (SF):
223/240

I drove home in a grumpy fed-up, feeling-sorry-for-myself state.  Sunday was Mother’s Day and the afternoon before Dan, Oscar and I had been down to the churchyard where my Mum was buried to add flowers to her grave.  She would have been the first person I rang on the way home from the race to have a whinge to and provide a guaranteed pick-me-up.

Mum's grave and Mother's Day flowers

The ground still hasn’t settled enough for us to be able to have a headstone fitted, so Mum’s grave still displays just a standard wooden name cross.

Oscar insisted on choosing a flower from the bunch I had bought for the grave which he then walked around the graveyard holding, smelling from time to time.  Mum would have loved that he wanted to be a part of it all and, as we left, he placed the flower on top of the mound of earth that marks her grave.  Almost as if he knew that’s where he should place it.Oscar at Mum's graveRunning wise, I’m OK.  I feared the worst initially, but a four day family holiday with lots of walking followed by a trip to the physio this morning has actually done me the world of good and I feel refreshed both mentally and physically.  I’ve got some exercises to work on from the physio but essentially I’ve been given the all-clear to continue running high mileage and high volume, just not to include speedwork or hills for the time being, with a follow-up physio visit scheduled for just before Easter.

Milton Keynes Marathon and South Downs Way 100 remain firmly in the calendar.  As does South Downs Way 50, which is in just 3 weeks time.

Bring it on!

Have you ever pulled from or walked a large portion of a race before?
Did you choose flowers for your Mother on Mother’s Day?

 

The reality of the C word

This wasn’t the post I had planned to write tonight.  I had planned on sharing my goals and aims for 2018.  To set myself some targets for the year ahead.  I had wanted to write about the 100 miles I’m so excited to run at the South Downs Way in June and my new training plan that began yesterday in order to make sure I see the finish line come race day.

But, I also want to write a post on cancer, and my Mum and to get everything that’s been swirling around in my head for the past few months written down somewhere before I forget how things have been.

If you don’t want to read this post, I won’t be offended.  Just skip over this one and come back to check out my next running post instead.  I don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable about what I’ve written – that isn’t my aim at all.

The last week seems to have been filled with stories of cancer all around me and on the way home from Dan’s Nan’s funeral today it’s all I could think about.  (Of four funerals that I am attending in the space of a month, this is the only non-cancer death.)

Everyone knows all about cancer.  Or at least they think they do.  They hear the word cancer and immediately think ‘incurable, chemo, ill, terminal’.  Even when you are told that the cancer is terminal, as in my Mum’s case, then it’s automatically assumed weeks or months before the end when in actual fact you can suffer with terminal cancer for many years.  My Mum was first diagnosed in 2013.  That’s a whole lot of suffering and unknown she has been through for the past four years.

There are so many different types of cancer and it almost seems to have become a generic word for an illness which varies in so many ways.

Cancer is a horrible, horrible illness and I cannot even imagine how hearing the type you have inside you is incurable.  In actual fact the worst part is often yet to come though.

The last picture I have of my Mum is from two weeks before she died.  It’s a picture of my Mum and my Dad in the lounge at their house.  I thought about sharing it on the blog, but I don’t think that it would be very appropriate for me to do so, so I am going to describe it instead…
Mum is lying asleep in the hospital bed that was provided for her when she was allowed home for her remaining days.  She has no hair left on her head due to the repeated batches of chemotherapy that she underwent during the year and she has a drip in her arm which administers the drugs the carers give.  She is several stone lighter than I ever remember her being before and dressed only in a nightgown under the thick duvet that covers her.  The nightgown has been cut from top to bottom vertically to allow the carers to easily clean her when they come in each morning because it has been eight weeks now since she has been able to stand.  To the left of my Mum is a hospital table.  The sort that is on wheels and comes across the bed, only Mum has not been strong enough to wheel or move it.  On top of the table sits a carton of orange juice, a beaker of water and some tissues, along with Mum’s driver medicine box, medical notes, a signed DNR form and a large platform which, when tapped, rings the doorbell at the other end of the bungalow in case Dad has popped out of the room for a few minutes and Mum needs assistance.
Hanging from the end of the bed is a large thick blue binbag – one of several which is filled every day with medicines and swabs and rubbish from cleaning up Mum.  She is losing a lot of blood all of the time by this point.
You can’t quite see it in the photo, but tucked underneath the bed is the bed of my parents’ dog, Blue.  He doesn’t venture far from her side and has often been spotted up on his hind legs with his paws resting by her arm so that she might give him some fuss.
My Dad sits upright in the armchair next to the bed.  Fast asleep, his head has tilted back and his mouth has fallen open.  His left hand limply clasps my Mum’s right, both hands resting lightly on the edge of the bed.  He too is several stone lighter than he once was and both my parents have an exhausted, almost haunted look on their face.

Because it’s not just my Mum who had a tough time, but my Dad also sacrificed a huge amount during the past year.  From the repeated visits to hospital to support Mum during consultant check ups, whilst she was receiving chemo, and the numerous trips up to the city in the back of an ambulance, later arranging just how he would return home again.  The hospital is an hour’s drive from their bungalow but I’m sure he could probably drive it in his sleep now.  In fact, there were several days when I worried that he would fall asleep at the wheel.  When my Mum was admitted to hospital for the final time in mid-September, my Dad visited her at least once a day, often for more than 8 hours at a time.  He spent hundreds of pounds parking in the hospital car park and experienced most of the cafeteria food during the hours he spent there.

When I got the phone call to say that 48 hours would be my Mum’s limit I rushed from work to be there with my family in the Norfolk & Norwich hospital, along with my brother.  My Dad was already there.  My Mum was there, only it wasn’t my Mum, – it didn’t seem like my Mum.  She was on so much medication that her words were erratic.  She kept insisting that we had to hide things from the nurses and that someone was ‘out to get her’.  It was scary, and left me rather shaken and upset.  It wasn’t the final memories I wanted of my Mum and I didn’t know what to say to her.
She doesn’t remember anything from that visit.

She remained in hospital for two weeks before my Dad convinced the hospital doctors to let my Mum go home to die.  I visited several times during the two weeks, sometimes with Oscar, and sometimes I made the two hour journey straight from work on my own.  On talking to her about it a few weeks later she vaguely remembers Oscar playing on the hospital room floor during one time, but doesn’t remember any further visits.

My Dad fought to get my Mum home.  The hospital wouldn’t release her without being able to schedule four care visits with two people every day.  In the end Dad told the hospital that he would act as an additional carer and got Mum home.  She wanted to come home to see Blue and to sort out her funeral arrangements with the vicar.

It was a lifestyle change for all involved.  A carer would arrive at 8pm each night to sit with Mum in the lounge.  Along with my Dad, they would then turn Mum over and clean and change her.  My Dad could snatch a couple of hours sleep at this point, as Mum would be exhausted from the cleaning and fall asleep herself.  He would then return to the lounge, to hold Mum’s hand, to pass her the straw from her drink and to help the carer if they needed to do anything further.

The carer remained there until 8am, changing Mum a further few times during the night along with Dad.  Before the carer then left, Dad would quickly go and get ready for the day himself as it wouldn’t be long before the nurses would arrive to administer the drugs to Mum’s driver.  A little later the doctor would arrive, and then another nurse to help change Mum again.  By lunchtime things would quieten down, but Mum would be worn out from the morning of visitors and often sleep through.  She couldn’t be left though, and on the two or three days of the week when I didn’t visit, my Dad would remain housebound – loungebound, looking after Mum.

Mum ate less than Oscar at every meal.  When she craved jelly, my Dad headed out and stocked up on jelly.  When she decided she’d like some melon, Dad made another trip out to buy some, after having waited for me to arrive to take over from him first.

The first time I visited Mum in the hospital bed at her home she was in an immense amount of pain, begging that the cancer took her that night.  She told me that I wasn’t to worry – she’d seen everything she had wanted to and that she no longer wanted to be in pain.  The tumour in her stomach now made her appear heavily pregnant, whilst also severely emaciated at the same time.  She went on for another eight weeks of existence at home.  It wasn’t living.  It was purely existing and waiting for the end.  It was very horrible a lot of the time, knowing that we could do nothing to help her when she was in so much pain.

Mum didn’t think she’d see my wedding to Dan in 2014, but she was there.  She absolutely never thought that she’d see Grandchildren, and not only did she get to meet Oscar, but she was able to see his funny, cheeky and affectionate personality begin to develop during the first 14 months of his life.

The last time I went to visit my Mum when she was still conscious was the Wednesday before she died.  Just like every other visit, when it was time for us to leave Oscar climbed up into the armchair next to Mum, madly waving at her and trying to play peek-a-boo between the bars of the bed, whilst supported by me so that he didn’t fall.  This time though, he finished his visit by leaning down and giving Mum a kiss on her cheek.  We both melted…he was very cute.  As I picked him up I told Mum that I would be back again in a couple of days, the same as I always did.

When I arrived on the Saturday her eyes were shut and she was breathing heavily.

On Sunday my Dad rang Dan to tell him that my Mum had died.

I was racing at the time, but headed back to Norfolk for the week as soon as I received the news.

Mum meeting Oscar for the first timeMy Dad was a rockstar.  I hope I made that clear in the eulogy I gave at my Mum’s funeral.  Their neighbours and friends, – also amazing.  On a number of occasions we would go out to the porch to let the dog out only to discover that somebody had made us a home-cooked casserole or a selection of sausage rolls.  Several times we would go to the door to find flowers.  Neighbours would drop by, sometimes only for five minutes just to share a funny story or stop in with a tale they thought my Mum would enjoy.

There were an overwhelming number of cards and letters my Dad received the week of her death, and I too received flowers, chocolate, such lovely words of kindness in a number of cards from friends.

My Mum – She loved our family, her dog, gardening, playing the organ, spending time out on the marshes, being a Nanny and helping others.

I spoke to her daily throughout my adult life and there have been numerous times since November 26th where I’ve gone to text her or picked up the phone to call her, only to realise that I can’t any more.  That she is no longer here.  That cancer did it’s thing.

I’m hoping to do some fundraising for cancer charities this year, but I’ll mention it on the blog when I have more details.