By now Moira had undergone a mastectomy, radiotherapy and several courses of at first curative, but latterly palliative chemotherapy. She had suffered and was suffering massive body image problems – she had lost several teeth and had an ill-fitting denture. Loss of her hair was as she herself put it, “Just one further indignity” and from time to time she wore what she once described as “One of those wigs that you only see on rather dubious tailors’ dummies”.
One day, the District Nurse was visiting and dressing this poor lady’s horribly fungating wound around the mastectomy site. The smell was awful, when just at that moment, Kevin ‘breezed’ in and – as he had so often done in the past – heaped scorn, abuse, insult and humiliation on his ‘boobless’ mother and her ‘stinking body’. The nurse, who had witnessed and braved similar outbursts in the past, could stand it no longer. In a moment of outrage and fury, she ran into the kitchen and grabbed Kevin by the hair. The nurse dragged him back into the room and pushed his face within inches of the open wound. (I need not repeat here what, through her own tears, she said to him).
The following morning, instead of either lying in his bed or going out to meet his chums, Kevin surprised his mother by making her a mid-morning cup of tea, thereafter going for what in the West of Scotland is described as, “A caery oot” (carry out”) for their lunch. In the weeks and months that followed, Kevin learned to cook and clean and was constantly by his mother’s side.
Once, not long before Moira died, I visited the home late in the afternoon. Over the course of our opening conversation I happened to mention that I had an evening appointment and would not be home until around 9.30pm. Disappearing into the kitchen, Kevin emerged some fifteen minutes later and to my astonishment, produced a tray containing a mug of tea and a boiled egg, complete with a plateful of buttered ‘soldiers’·. The last time I saw Moira she told me what in reality I – and those close to her – already knew. “I now know why” she told me. Then as one who had fully recovered that priceless inner composure and peace of mind added, “And if this is what it has taken to rescue my Kevin, it’s been well worth it”.
Happily, the situation in which Moira found herself and the circumstances with which she had to deal have, in my experience, been rare. However, there are many ways in which we too can triumph over seeming disaster. In my next blog, I will attempt to explain why I believe that you too can similarly overcome whatever adversity may come your way and how this might be achieved.
· Pieces of toasted bread cut into strips.