Have you ever stopped and thought how the hell have I got through this?
The last 12 months have been by far something that none of us could have ever predicted, and one we choose never to repeat – I know that for sure. So much has happened for every one of us.
I sat recently and reflected over the past 21 months (my nightmare being before Covid came along) and thought to myself how on earth have I managed to get through this time without cracking.
Rewind to July 2019, my daughter was due to take part in a performance with her school at Manchester School of Music, she was super excited and my husband, myself, and both sets of grandparents were going along to watch. As I arrived home to get ready, I rang my mum to make final arrangements, and she told me that my brother wasn’t feeling too good. Not five minutes after this phone call she rang me back with the news that I never imagined I would hear, my brother had had a suspected stroke. I felt numb, this could not be happening to my little brother; he was too young. My head was spinning, I couldn’t go to the hospital as I had to get to Manchester for Ella’s performance. How would I explain this to her? How could I hold this together?
We left for Manchester and I kept close contact with my mum during this time. Meanwhile, my brother had been taken straight to Salford Royal, as the paramedics had confirmed it looked like a stroke. As Ella had gone straight to Manchester from school, I wasn’t sure if we would see her before the performance; what if I did see her, what would I say? Luckily, we didn’t see her to talk to but just in passing as they made their way to the auditorium, and the first thing she said as she passed us: ‘Where is Nan, Grandad, and Uncle Stu? How I held back the tears I have no idea. As the concert was due to start and the kids came out I could see she was looking to see if they were there; I knew she would be devastated to not see them there as this had been a huge achievement for her to be performing here.
The journey home from the concert wasn’t easy.. I decided it wasn’t fair to tell her what had happened so late at night, and that I would leave it until morning. The conversation with her the following morning was heartbreaking. I didn’t want to lie to her so I told her what had happened; she was totally devastated – the bond she has with my brother is like no other; they are so close. Stuart spent a couple of weeks in hospital before being discharged for his recovery to continue at home. It wasn’t going to be an easy journey, and would probably take over 12 months but we would get there.
Fast forward now to 30th December, my dad had gone to the hospital for some routine tests (which apparently should have been done sooner), this was results day. Another devastating blow to my family, as dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The diagnosis was that it was treatable but not curable. What an end to the year which hadn’t been the best already.
Dad started his chemotherapy treatment in January which was full days spent in hospital having intravenous treatment. This didn’t start well with a bad reaction to the first lot and them having to stop partway through. His second round was another reaction, so they had to stop one of the drugs which was halving the chances of it working. My dad went through several months of suffering from the treatment, plus Covid had come along in the meantime. My mum was struggling at home looking after my brother and dad on her own. And I was helpless, as I couldn’t be there for her due to lockdown.
March saw my dad lose his elder brother to cancer, and he was unable to attend the funeral due to Covid restrictions and being shielded due to his treatment. It was heartbreaking him not to be able to say goodbye.
May saw another huge blow to our family: I was working from home at the time and woke one morning to a message from my mum asking me to ring her as soon as I got her message. My first thought was that something had happened with my dad, but it was my brother.
The previous day he had been experiencing stomach pains but nothing that seemed anything to be overly worried about, these had gone worse during the night bad enough for my mum to ring for an ambulance. Due to the Covid restrictions, Stuart had to go to the hospital alone, and it turned into an agonising two weeks (four days of which he spent in ICU) of him being there alone. He had suffered from an unrelated illness to any of his pre-existing conditions. It was heartbreaking face-timing him every day seeing him stuck in a side room on his own with no TV or anyone to talk to.
Two weeks of my life I never wish to repeat. Finally, we got him back home and on the road to recovery.
How had I carried on working through all of this, kept everything together. I think a lot of the time I pushed through as if I wasn’t working and doing the usual ‘mum life’ duties I would have cracked. After all, I had to keep it together for the rest of my family, didn’t I?
July saw me make a massive decision and leave my job, it wasn’t ideal in the middle of a pandemic, but I needed to do it for me and my mental health.
August, we found out that my dad’s chemotherapy wasn’t working, and that the treatment he had been on was not one they would continue with. An appointment with The Christie in Manchester would be the next step to see if there were any other options (what if there weren’t, we could only hope and pray there was).
November brought more worry for my dad when his brother was admitted to the hospital with Covd; he spent quite some time in ICU but then moved to another ward as his condition improved. Sadly, he took a turn for the worse, and passed away; to lose one brother in the middle of a pandemic was hard for my dad but to lose both of his brothers was a huge blow.
Good news finally came in when my dad was told there was an alternative treatment which would be a tablet form, so much easier for him to take and no long days spent in hospital. Fingers crossed this would work; he has now done several months on this treatment, his results are good, and all going in the right direction, he looks like a different person (back to himself again).
So, I started with how did I get through this?
We have always been a family of fighters from my brother suffering from a brain tumour at the age of 9, and as I’ve said to my mum all through this, we’ve always fought, and don’t give up, and we can get through anything.
The last 18 months have brought some amazing people into my life, who I am now proud to call my friends. To every one of them, I am truly grateful.
An earlier version of this article was published on MyBump2Baby.
Julie Green is the area manager for MyBump2Baby Wigan, Bolton, and Salford.