Good news and getting it wrong and how it really doesn’t matter in the end.

Dad got great news.

His PSA levels are way, way down. Normal-down in fact. His cancer is responding to the hormone treatment.

We had a fight earlier this week.

He and Mum and I.

I am ashamed to admit that I:

a) decided to use some mediation techniques to ‘resolve the dispute’
b) forgot that I was talking to family members and was therefore part of ‘the dispute’
c) blew a fuse.

I am an arrogant fuckwit. You may well have always known that. I suspected but refused to acknowledge it.

Ach well. It all came good in the end. Mum stomped off feeling bruised and hurt; but reflected on some of the sensible stuff in the pre-anger exchange. Dad did not, after all, feel betrayed by me – though that feeling would have been justified. And I spent an evening worried I’d triggered a spectacular bout of ‘Mamie-fury’ (Mamie = my mother) and exposed my Father to its extremity.

In the end they had a peaceful loving night, talking out their fears and anxieties and reassuring one another.

Thing is, my parents have reacted to their respective cancers in a way that’s so out of character and which is so thoroughly confusing to me that I have just lost my bearings. I haven’t a clue what to do or say.

In some ways they seem to have swapped their usual ‘roles’. ‘Capable Mamie’ has become ‘incapable of dealing with reality-Mamie’. Dad – hitherto a gentle, passive, monosyllabic man whose life always seemed to be in Mamie’s hands – he’s become an unexpected beacon of strength and good sense.

This is very very so not how I thought it would be. I was wrong. I was so wrong. I was so wrong that I wonder if I hadn’t gotten it wrong all along?

Revisionism. Review of the past. Or my understanding of it. This is when I wish I was more Robert-like in my approach. If I were him I’d be able to accept that I got it wrong and that it really doesn’t matter and that there are more important things to be bothered about. And he’d be right. I can’t re-write the past. I can only deal with now. And now Mum and Dad have good news about their cancers and death is post-poned for another day. That is surely ‘a good thing’.

They are even making plans to do the 5 week road-trip of England, France, Italy and Spain I have been thinking about for next Summer….

Helen? I may need to rent your villa… x

14 thoughts on “Good news and getting it wrong and how it really doesn’t matter in the end.

  1. I think you might need more than 5 weeks to 'do' England, France, Spain and Italy' by road!! Roads in the UK (and you just might want to include bits of Wales and Scotland as well, while your over here!) are not like ones on the other side of the pond, and neither are the ones over the channel (& don't forget that in the UK we drive on the left). We took 3 days getting to the Isle of Mull (Scotland) from mid-Wales, and another 3 days getting back, last year – OK, do it's possible to do it in less, but we're not as young as we were, and I'm disabled, and we find it much more comfortable to travel more slowly and enjoy the scenery (which is spectacular in many places) And in Europe the driving conditions can be very different, and a bit more unnerving at times, and they have some very strict rules which differ from country to country. Yes, I know it's the EU, but it's not totally uniform all over yet (thank goodness!) Be aware! But if you do come, enjoy – all 4 countries have their own special beauty, and all need a lifetime to really appreciate. Years ago we had friends from the USA (Illinois) who used to come over for the summer vacation, base themselves with us in Portsmouth (on the South coast of England), and travel all over Europe by train (this was in the late 1940s and 50s) – the husband was Norwegian by extraction (probably 2nd generation in the USA) and sometimes visited his relatives in Norway as well. But that was just after WWII, and things were cheaper then – but food wasn't as plentiful over here either! One of these days I might do a blog (when I get around to starting mine!) about those times.

  2. The house is yours if the Belgians are not holidaying there….it is currently being test driven by English friends who ran a super B and B and gite operation in France before they retired…so it might even be civilised once I follow up on their suggestions!

    As to mediation techniques….when have you ever known families to know or accept the context in which professional mediation takes place.
    Family doesn't respect the text book and in mine a good row always used to clear the air!
    Apart from which your parents have had years to fine hone their own mediation processes … you note in your post.

    I'm so chuffed that your father has had good results…with Leo's health problems I know just how happy that can make you (even more then the person with the illness, I find).

  3. Dear Helva – welcome! And thank you for your comment.
    I should have been clearer and think I might have confused you with the reference to 'England' in my road-trip plans. However, I am Scottish, based in Scotland and the English part of the journey would really be restricted to an overnight with my Aunt in Leicestershire before the final leg to the ferry. The French leg would be the drive down from St Malo to the South and over into Spain – with a few overnights. Then I plan to drive all the way down to Seville – stopping en route. Hopefully we will return via Santander or Bilbao Ferries. I think it probably is too ambitious with Mum and Dad onboard and suspect that we'll fly to Spain as usual, hire a 7 seater and then travel down to Andalusia exploring en route.
    Your trip to Mull sounds about right for timing – it's not so far away from me but I know it's always a strangely long trip. Have you visited Skye? Or the Outer Hebrides? They are sublime…
    You sound as though you have so many interesting stories to tell – please start up that blog!

  4. It's such good news Helen – we are all just so happy and relieved. I also noticed that Mum seems to have had a weight lifted off too.
    Lord yes – I ought to have known better… Mediation with family! It was the blow-up which cleared the air and which led to meaningful discussion. Fear is so destructive – and it was preventing us all from talking about the illness. At least that barrier is lifted now.
    Now that Mum and Dad have said they want to accompany us I'm having to rethink the whole trip… We have 5-6 weeks and I think that if we do take our own car Mum and Dad will fly over to meet us in Spain. I'm not booking anything until Jan/Feb time when we can all sit down and draft the itinerary.
    Needless to say I cannot wait! x

  5. Thanks Cat. Yip – the past is always with us…and I can do nowt but accept and get on. My Ma n Pa are definitely fighters – they'll never 'go gently'… x

  6. So glad your Dad 9and your Mum) have had good news. The hormone treatment for prostate cancer can be amazingly effective. A dear friend of mine has been living happily with inoperable prostate cancer for almost 13 years, thanks to hormone treatment.

    As for the row, that really is part of the territory in any properly-functioning family. How can we possible agree all the time without being untrue to ourselves? I can understand your confusion about your parents' unexpected reactions to their own illness. We don't know ourselves how we will deal with it until it happens to us, so how can we predict it of others, however close and dear?

  7. Even though it's early days for Dad's treatment it's such a relief, Perpetua. We had heard such good things about the treatment – but were afraid to hope for too much… particularly when he was told it is such an aggressive and fast-growing tumour. He is doing so well – the only minor issues are his hormonally induced hot flushes!
    You are so right about 'the row' – and about how nobody is so predictable that we can predict how they (or we) will react…

  8. I think your mediation technique might have been more effective than you gave it credit for. Yes it ultimately resulted in a row but before that you may have raised issues that it was useful to raise and that don't usually get an airing.
    Families have the strangest dynamics; well certainly my family does. I have three siblings and it is fascinating the way loyalties and conflicts have moved and shifted among the four of us over the years.
    Great news that both your parents are responding to treatment. More and more I hear of people who are managing to live with cancer, as Perpetua said.

  9. Oh Lord, very very very difficult for you. I'm not surprised it's hard to cope. I guess your parents already knew about the secret selves that you are only just seeing. I am always surprised how wrong people can get their parents, and I indeed got my own parents wrong. You can't be objective enough about them. I hope you're getting a bit of help in coping with this frightful upheaval in your life

  10. During my recent absence from Blogland I also missed this on FB. Hmmm? Anyway I've now read it. So many thoughts; so little space. Actually so many thoughts but I'm not sure this is the space.

    Obviously I'm very pleased for your Dad. Long may his improvement continue.

    To give some more hope it's now over 15 years since my prostetectomy (the spillchucker is trying to correct that to hysterectomy: sexist thing that it is) and a combination of radiotherapy and hormone treatment are so far keeping it all at bay despite medical scares along the way.

    Strangely when I was told four or five years ago that nothing more could be done and then more was done and I was told I'd live another day or two (assuming a bus didn't get me first) I found that more difficult to absorb than being told I was going to die. The mind is a funny thing.

    On a light note about your Dad's hot flushes it may amuse you to know that when I had the pottery and was on one of my hormone treatment bouts (and, of course, one can't hide a hot flush) the girls used to say that it was the only workplace in Scotland where all the women and the man had hot flushes. It was, I have to say, as a 60+ year old male, very good for camaraderie.

    As for you being a fuckwit (spillchucker insists that it's fuck-wit by the way) if you recognise that you are then you are not. Simple really. Perhaps you just try too hard to solve the problems of the world and those around you. Perhaps that's your role in life. Wotthehellarchiewotthehell.

  11. It's true, Chloe, that the attempt might have at least stimulated a long overdue conversation… they certainly have seemed much more settled this last week. I was clumsy though – and ought to have handled things differently. I'll learn…
    It is good news though. We are all relieved – and have our fingers crossed for the next tests…Yx

  12. It's a funny old thing Jenny – how 'the awful' becomes an integral part of the general fabric of your life.
    I'm not saying that I don't wish things were otherwise. But it's now become our 'normal'… and the good news made our normal better…
    We're also lucky in that we are a large family and find help from within the group. Mind you I've been encouraging both Mum and Dad to access support groups – but their Scottish reticence (aka 'shut up and put up') is proving a big barrier!
    You're right – we children always get our parents 'wrong'. I'm just trying to reflect a bit more before I speak (especially in frustration and anger!). I'm not always great at that!! Lovely to hear from you as always. Yx

  13. So good to hear from you, Graham. You seem to have had a good time – in the 29 degree heat!!

    Do you think it's the uncertainty that we find so difficult? I've noticed that my Mum and Dad have been so very reluctant to make any plans – the good news gave them the boost they needed to think about next year and holidays.
    I've spoken of you to Dad – and he sees you as a beacon of hope. He's 72 and I suppose the cancer is different (you were so much younger and the treatment so much more aggressive) – but his fears will be the same. He has come into his own. He is coping so admirably and well – very stoical and matter-of-fact. Though this does make me worry sometimes.
    You'll be amused to hear that we tease him about his flushings and his increasingly womanly figure… we really are awful to him!! Poor man. But he takes it in good tid.
    Yip – I do a bit too much of the salvation thing… I suspect it's the driving force behind the mediation MSc… I'll email later…Yx

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