Martin was just 12 years old when he discovered his mum had breast cancer. His two older sisters who were 14 and 15, found themselves growing up quickly to care for their mother. Martin’s Uncle Michael also stepped in to help.
“My Uncle Michael was a big support, he’d frequently come and help out and was seen as the ‘rock’ of the family” says Martin.
When Martin moved away to Leicester, the distance meant that he couldn't be as hands on as his sisters and this caused tensions in the family. He realised they needed to arrange a stronger support system, a meeting was held with his sisters, Uncle Michael and mum to talk things through.
“Mum was always adamant that she wanted to pass away in her own home, so we collectively agreed that it would be a good idea for my mum to move into a bungalow near my sisters.”
The decline of Martin’s mum’s illness meant that she was frequently in and out of hospital and Saint Michael's Hospice. Despite the circumstances, Martin’s mum still looked really well and took pride in looking after herself.
“She wanted her hair doing and didn’t want to be seen in her night clothes. It was a really positive time for my mum, she had lots of visitors and everyone was looking after her. We always made sure we kept her informed about everything and talked to her about what she wanted. I learnt to always consider mum’s feelings and wishes, so that every decision had her in mind.”
Martin describes how the family worked together to manage the situation.
“As a family, we all had a very clear understanding of what care was required. At times we had to stand firm with the doctors who wanted my mum to be in hospital. That was difficult, but we achieved the outcome that mum desired. Never once did anyone of us show a weakness as a team. If a family is caring for a parent, draw on each others strengths and just keep talking.”
As Martin's mum condition worsened, more professional help was available and she had extensive respite at Saint Michael's Hospice.
"It enabled my sisters especially to relax and take a holiday at times. You're always on “stand – by” but it gives you time to recharge. You always need to be contactable but you know her care is exceptional."
The attitude at the hospice meant that Martin's mum could have a break, they organised trips out and it was a change of scenery for her.
"Going into a hospice isn’t all about being put in a 'hotel room', it is about making the experience as enjoyable and comfortable for my mum. My mum went in and out for 2 years, making friends and she actually did look forward to it! Probably to get a break from all the fuss."
In the run up to Christmas, Martin’s mother took a turn for the worse.
“Me and my partner had just had our first baby and travelled from Leicester up to Harrogate to see mum. As the distance was so far, I drove back home knowing that I wouldn’t see her again.”
Sadly, Martin’s mother passed away on Christmas Eve.
Martin has fond memories of his mum, she was very quirky and quick witted and she didn’t let cancer slow her down.
“Mum was always very positive and independent, she even went on safari to Kenya. She played a big role in the community as a youth club leader and also worked with physically disabled adults.”
You can also join our discussion on respite care.