Writing my thesis and co-fighting cancer.

Stress, tears, laughter, happiness, a cold (or multiple of them, primary schools are germy places), a huge work load and a lot of food (my group likes to celebrate with food) were some of the many things I imagined over the summer would appear in my final year of university. One thing I didn’t expect was cancer. Unfortunately, however, here I am writing this blog.

A little bit of back story: my mum, an incredibly brave and strong lady, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the summer before I was heading into my final year of university not long after my auntie (my mum’s sister in law) had also been diagnosed with the same form of cancer. My mum recently asked me to write a little bit about how I was feeling so there was something to look back on so this post isn’t for sympathy or empathy; it is purely for my mum.

There was no way I ready or expecting the news my mum told me when I got back from Berlin, I still cry even thinking about that moment in our conservatory when everything changed in our lives. My mum told me there was a good chance she probably had cancer but was waiting for the diagnosis from the doctor. There and then I was ready to take a year out of university so I could be home to look after my mum. However, my mum had other plans, of course. Graduation is her goal and I know we will both be there. Since the moment of being in the conservatory, there have been so many ups and down since then; my mum was unfortunately diagnosed which was of course heart breaking but there was no better feeling than taking a couple of minutes out of a lecture (Sorry Anna!) to hear the first round of chemotherapy had worked and the cancer was shrinking. I remember going back into the lecture, sitting in between two of my best friends unable to put into words what I had just been told because I simply could not stop smiling. I was so unbelievably proud of my mum. It has been so hard watching her so ill for the first week after a round of chemotherapy but the good news, for me, makes it all worthwhile as we are one step closer to beating it.

For the lecturer, we were asked to cross stitch a slogan (I am not going to lie, I missed the bit where Anna explained why we were doing this) but between my two friends and I we made this (see below) which now has pride of place on my mum’s dining room wall next to our family photos. As awful as the situation is, I have never seen our family closer; we are a busy bunch, we live in different cities/towns and we often don’t get the chance to speak to one another as much as we would like but nowadays family is a lot more important to our household and extended family and we are all fighting this together which is what our cross stitch symbolises. There is a lot going on in the family but that means there is even more support which is what gets us, especially my mum and auntie, through this difficult time.

I expected to spend many hours of this academic year writing my thesis at the library, the last place I expected to write parts of my thesis was in the chemotherapy ward at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but there has been no better motivation to get my thesis written. I want to spend as much time as possible with my mum and have a good Christmas together so sitting in the hospital thinking if my mum can sit here fighting cancer with the goal of my graduation to do so then I can absolutely sit beside her and write part of my thesis with the goal of my graduation also in mind.

Over the last few months, in amongst my studies, I have tried to do as many fundraising events for MacMillan Cancer support from coffee mornings, walking across the Queensferry Crossing (even though I hate bridges) to Sober October as a family which I should say, easily the most challenging. After sending hours in the library staring at a computer screen, there was sometimes nothing more I wanted than to go out for a nice meal with my friends/boyfriend and have a glass of wine. However, I knew if my mum couldn’t drink because of the chemotherapy which I can imagine being much tougher than my thesis then I could go a month without a drink. My mum and I have the goal to be fit enough to do the Race for Life in summer hopefully to mark the end of this journey!

There is no way I would still be at university if it wasn’t for the constant support of the lecturers, my best friends, flat mate, boyfriend and of course my family! I cannot thank the wards and Maggies at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary enough for all they are doing for my mum and I intend to make her as proud as she is making me.

If nothing else comes of this post than giving my mum something to read when she is bored at home then so be it but if it makes the horrible situation that you just want to sometimes bottle up and not speak about easier for anyone else in a similar situation feel able to talk about then it has been worthwhile.

2 Replies to “Writing my thesis and co-fighting cancer.”

  1. This brought a lump to my throat. This is such a thoughtful post about the lived experience of being a student with a parent fighting cancer. Go #teamRennie

  2. Thank you for this post. The story that you relate is something I, and no doubt many others, can relate to. Sending you and your mum my most positive thoughts and warmest regards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *