health

The diary of a 12-year-old girl whose mother was slowly dying.

In 1997 at the age of 12 my mother (aged 36) was diagnosed with cervical cancer that was terminal.

Watching mum wither away physically and mentally, hardened every aspect of me for years to come. Life was arduous once she had gone, and my adolescence suffered dramatically because of my loss.

I knew no better though, and I became accustomed to not having a mother, it was very much my norm to cope with life on my own. In my early twenties I suffered from a nervous breakdown and that triggered me to face all of my emotions that I had kept in my subconscious; determined not to let them reach the forefront of my mind.

It was during my years of recovering from the breakdown that I began to recognise that not having a mother was particularly abnormal. I pine for her now in my thirties, more than I did in my teens. Each year Mother’s Day comes and goes and I am relatively unaffected by them, but there are defining moments in everybody’s lives that need to be shared, and I am incessantly deafened by the silent loneliness of her absence.

In December of 1997 the doctor gave her 12 months to live, in January of 1998 she passed. These are the diary entries that spanned over the final month of my mother’s life as her health rapidly declined before my eyes.

12-12-97

Dear diary,

The 12th of the 12th in the year 1997 at the time of about 7:15pm, was the worst moment of my life.

My mum has terminal cancer, it has spread everywhere and they can’t seem to control it with radiotherapy.

In about a year my mum will pass away.

My brother didn’t take it very well, neither did my dad. I didn’t take it well, but I will be strong for my brother and my dad and my mum. I love you mum.

End of entry

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"I will be strong for my brother and my dad and my mum." Image via iStock.

15-12-97

We got back from Melbourne at 6:00pm today.

Mum was happy to see us. She was sick a bit (like vomiting) and she has lost some weight.

We took her out on Sunday. We went to the gardens and had lunch. We took mum in a wheelchair which was fun.

We talked to the doctor about mum and she has a few different things wrong with her but they can fix most of them. The cancer is a bit more harder to treat, as it keeps coming back.

Keep fighting mum.

23-12-97

It has been a while since I wrote an entry. I have been busy just doing things for mum, looking after the house and being in Melbourne.

We just got back from Melbourne today. We got there Saturday and mum was not good, she was tired and drowsy.

Pavlina and Chris, Karen and Julie were at Peter MacCallum as well.

Sunday she was really good and happy. Monday she was tired but ok. Today she was good. Mum is coming back tomorrow.

Watch well-known Australians on the best advice they ever received from their mums. (Post continues after video.)

24-12-97

Mum is in the Mercy Hospital for Christmas. She got down to Albury at 1:00pm.

Mum is really happy and looking forward to coming to Pavlinia’s and Chris’s house tomorrow for Christmas.

Lyla gave me a Chrissy present today but dad won’t let me open it till tomorrow morning.

I can’t wait to open the present that dad bought me and Reece.

25-12-97

Merry Christmas!

Mum was too sick to come out for a while so we went to Pavlina’s for a few hours and the rest of the day was in the hospital with mum.

Nanny and poppy came down to see mum and they are leaving tomorrow.

I got a bottle of perfume off dad and that is all. The rest of the pressies are in Qld.

Mum had a high temp but was pretty good.

mum diagnosed with terminal cancer

"We spent the rest of the day with mum, in hospital." Image via iStock.

26-12-97

Mum was so good today.

Reece, dad and I went to the hospital at about 10:00am and mum was ready to go out for lunch.
We went to the SS&A club with poppy and nanny Di. Then we went to Pav’s house for two hours.

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Mum was really good.

Poppy and nanny gave us a talk on our mum and how we have to move to Qld.

It was good and I will give Colleen a go.

28-12-97

Mum has been good but she is so pale and thin it scares me.

We took mum out today. We just went to a friend’s house, Gay’s and John’s.

They have a sister who is a paraplegic and they are used to getting people in wheelchairs up the stairs, so mum was ok getting up the stairs.

mum diagnosed with terminal cancer

"Mum has been good but she is so pale and thin it scares me." Image via iStock.

29-12-97

Mum got to go out to Gay’s house. We had roast dinner.

It is funny the looks mum gets from people who don’t know what is wrong with her.

To tell the truth I am really sick of going to the hospital all day everyday and not being able to do things with my friends.

It’s amazing how nice your friends are when they know your mum is sick.

Hang on mum!

Jess Rowe, one beautiful mother, passes on the one thing she would want young people to know. (Post continues after video.)

1-1-98

Happy New Year!

Mum is having trouble with her left leg which isn’t the one that is swollen. Her right leg is going down but her left leg is swelling up.

She has pain in her lower back where the tumour is.

I rubbed mum’s legs and back today, she had bruises and broken vessels on her bum from lying down all the time. She had a couple days rest.

2-2-98

Bills! Bills! Bills! Caused a lot of sadness today for my family.

Dad didn’t pay the car bill as when mum dies so do all of her debts.

The place that the car money goes to rang mum and told her how overdue the payments are.

Dad got angry with mum because she got angry with him. Mum cried and everything is a mess.

mum diagnosed with terminal cancer

"Mum and dad fought. Mum cried. And, everything is a mess." Image via iStock.

4-1-98

We are definitely moving to Qld.

I don’t mind that much but we have to sell all our furniture and give most of mum’s stuff to lifeline.

I don’t care what dad says I am taking all the stuff I want that is mum’s.

We have to have something to remember mum by, even though I will never forget her.

5-1-98

10:20am we were walking into a place which we didn’t know. 10:30am we were talking to a person who we didn’t know.

It was all very strange to me, but not to Reece and Dad. They opened up about everything that is going on with mum. But not I. I sat there thinking if the lady had once been a man, not answering the private questions she was asking me.

That is counselling.

7-1-98

Mum is gaunt and pale. She is so tired from all the drugs she is on.

I can’t watch her sleep or watch her face while she is lying there in agony.

Dad thinks there is a tumour in her head because she had a bad headache today.

All I can do now is sit and wait for her to die.

In the early hours of the morning on the 10-1-98 mum passed.

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