Being Single, Thinking Double – My Mom’s Illness

MomAIn 1979, young dumb and full of [energy] I matriculated from Highlands Boys and headed off to Wits University. It was a time of wine, women and song. The songs were by The Rolling Stones, the women were free and easy and I always promised I would not reveal who did all the whining! Too much freedom, too much time I and dropped out that year, found some part time work and returned to Wits the in 1981.

Cancer? Well in 1981 I had seldom heard the term. So when my mom developed some strange bruising on her arms around Pesach, no one had any idea what was to follow. Suddenly she was in hospital and I heard the term Leukaemia for the first time. No Google, no Wiki, we relied on “adults” to tell us what this was about. She was receiving treatment and initially asked that we not be brought to the hospital, I am pretty sure she was shielding us from the worst of it. I sometimes really wish she had not kept it from us, but I do know that she only did what she felt was best at the time.

We had no idea! Suddenly three children were living alone in a big house, even if I wrack my brains I can’t remember who shopped for us, planned meals for us, made sure we were cared for but knowing my mom it was done.

As I write this morning, a young lady of 49, a friend to so many and a mother to two young children is lying in hospital and awaiting the results of a biopsy. My thoughts and prayers are with her and if you could spare a thought and a wish for her, I would greatly appreciate it.

A while later she was discharged from hospital and was in “remission.” Chemo treatments, vomiting, loss of hair, weight gain… and trying to be both a mother and a father to three youngsters. She sold the house, sold the business she had put her heart and soul into and faced an uncertain future at just 46. It was only when I reached and then passed her age that I realised just how young she was at the time. How the heck did she manage?

Looking back I am certain I could have made it a lot easier for her but I was 19 and responsibility was not exactly my strong suite. By the end of the year my head was anywhere but on studying and with no real plan a few months later I was dressed in brown and marching the dusty parade grounds of Heidelberg. Despite having chemo, I remember her driving through to see me at every chance.

The chemo ended, the hair grew back, the weight came off, the big smile returned and she went back to work. In the meantime I completed my military service and began the hunt for a job.

Unfortunately this was not a fairy tale…

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