My mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 2012. After the initial shock of receiving the news, my mind was just a blur. I was like a robot, just going through the motions on autopilot, just trying to keep on functioning.
I stayed on at work as long as I could – and to be honest, I found it a real lifeline. Being at work helped give me a sense of identity, and made me feel useful – as looking after my mum at home and knowing there is nothing you can do when a loved one is dying makes you feel pretty helpless. After all – you are the person who is well… so what do you have to complain about?
My mum had a number of other helpers who helped us get through the day, too – a district nurse, a McMillan nurse and a member of specialist agency staff, whom our local doctor helped us organise. As she had so much ‘specialist’ support, I had no idea I even counted as a carer!
My mum was on a lot of medication including morphine. She was having Chemo, but had been diagnosed as stage four, so her condition rapidly worsened. I spent a lot of time running around frantically collecting prescriptions, cooking, cleaning, food shopping – as her appetite was so poor I would desperately try to find any strange request of food that took her fancy. When my sister-in-law came to visit, she exclaimed “But who is taking care of you!?”
Sadly it was only after my mother passed away, that I became aware that Manchester Carers Forum even existed. I did not even know there was even such a thing as a support group for carers where people could meet up for a chat, and share their frustrations and experiences. I was very surprised my doctor had not even mentioned this to me – as something like this would have been a huge help to me. I can only think that the medical surgery was not aware at that time that Manchester Carers Forum existed; if they had I am sure they would have referred me.
All the time I was looking after my mum, I felt invisible – I didn’t feel as though I even counted. I thought there was something wrong with me! I had no idea there was anyone else I could have talked to – a whole group of people with whom to share experiences and frustrations. It would have saved me so much anxiety and mental exhaustion! All the while I was feeling continually guilty, that I wasn’t doing a good enough job… that I was just completely useless! I would have realised I wasn’t alone – it’s just how everybody else who is a carer feels too!
From this experience I would urge anyone who is caring for a loved one or relative to get help and reach out to other people who are going through the same thing as you. It’s completely understandable if it’s not something you want to talk at length about with friends, but unfortunately that means a lot of us feel we have to just grin and bear it. But don’t! Get in touch with Manchester Carers Forum for an initial chat… like I wish I had. Don’t forget you count too, and there is a support network there for you if you need it.