Going Offline Now

The time has come! I will be moving in with my parents tomorrow and will not have access to the internet for an indefinite period. Please refer to Life is Cruel for an explanation.

Should you leave comments, please be advised I will not be available to respond during this time.

I’ll be back in the future. No idea how long it will be. But when that time comes, I plan to share my experience.

In the meantime, stay strong and be kind to yourself.

My Dad has Lung Cancer

Two months ago I discovered my dad has lung cancer. It was a shock to hear because although Dad was a smoker, he gave up 30 years ago. He didn’t expect this. Neither did I.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation claim, “Lung cancer, which can be associated with smoking tobacco, is one of the most common causes of cancer death for men and women in Australia.”

They also state, “The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 14.1 per cent.”

That’s a low percentage.

My father has been given two months. We are hoping for longer, but doubt he’ll be here for Christmas.

The meaning of “lung cancer” differs from person to person. There’s “small cell carcinoma”, which is the kind associated with smoking and can stay confined to the place it originated. And then there is “non-small cell carcinoma”, which is more common and tends to slowly spread.

I’m not sure what my father has as he’s keeping most of the details to himself. And I don’t suppose it matters much as the timeframe has been set.

Lung cancer symptoms are a dry cough, spitting up blood, chest pain and chest infections. As far as I’m aware my father had back pain, but never coughed up blood. Since being diagnosed he has developed a cough. The cancer was discovered when Dad had x-rays to determine what was causing the back pain.

Although surgery to remove the tumor is often the best solution, it was too late for my dad. Dad has Stage IV Lung Cancer. He has been told it is inoperable. Radiotherapy did nothing to reduce the tumor. The only treatment left for him is pain management.

So, there you have it. Two months is not long. Unfortunately, we are a month into that time as I type this. I can only hope the doctors are wrong and Dad might have longer than they think.

Life is Cruel

It’s been eight years since my son, Barry, passed away. Eight years! For those just joining the road after losing someone to suicide, I can tell you it will become easier to bear. You will one day remember your loved one for who they were and not, so much, for how they died. You will find yourself laughing and loving, and even feeling happy, again. But you will never forget. Never!

For me, life’s road smoothed out and allowed me to think that I could join the ‘normal’ in their quest for happiness. I purchased a house. I found a good, well-paying job. I have a granddaughter now and another grandchild on the way. Yes, things are looking brighter and then…

BAM!

“Take that,” says life.

On 27 March 2014, my father told me he has lung cancer. Less than a month later, he told me (accidentally, mind you) that he has two months to live. And, to top it off, he tells me my mother has early dementia and will need ongoing care when he’s gone.

I love my parents, and I’ll do whatever I can to ensure their lives are happy, safe and comfortable. I’ll sell everything and will relocate to care for them. I’ll do whatever it takes, because they are my parents and they deserve my help. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not scared of what the future holds.

Because I’m TERRIFIED.

The one thing I keep telling myself is, “if you can survive the death of Barry, you can survive this”. And it’s true. Losing Barry was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I survived that. It was difficult and I didn’t think I’d get through it, but I did. And I know I’ll survive this too.

Now, I’ve gone from my son’s death by suicide to my father’s fight with terminal cancer, and later to my mother’s torment from dementia.

I suspect this website will document the journey. However, as the primary carer, I will be moving in with my parents in coming weeks and that will mean I’ll have no internet access until important decisions can be made. That will be two or three months down the track.

In the meantime, over the next couple of weeks at least, you can expect to see posts relating to caring for cancer patients to start appearing on this website.

The Passing Years

purple flowersOver seven years have passed since that tragic day when I heard the words, “Barry is dead.”

How the years have flown by, yet at the same time dragged its weary feet. At times, I believed we wouldn’t make it through the turbulence. That was when the evil face of suicide tempted my elder son to join his brother; and later, it tried to seduce me. Yet, although the fight was sometimes hard, we stayed to live our lives.

Then there were the times when life almost felt normal — or as close as it was going to get to it, anyway. Smiles were easy to find, laughter was a second away. For those looking on, they would never guess our hearts were not quite as full as the smiles on our faces. But that’s okay. We have learned to carry on regardless. Only sharing our pain with each other.

And the pain is still there — buried beneath the surface.

As is the guilt!

For me, the only person who can relieve me of this burden is Barry. And Barry is not here to give me the answers I require.

Having said this, I do not dwell on it as often or as long as I once did. I have accepted that Barry is gone and no amount of wishing will bring him back. I also accept that we will never know, for sure, why he chose this path when other options did exist for him. To dwell on these things will only torture me further and will turn me into a bitter, old woman. I don’t want that.

Instead, I look at the photos I have of Barry and feel thankful that I knew him and loved him. Although I yearn to see him, to hear him, to hug him; I am grateful that our last words were “I love you”. And I cherish the memories we created together.

On bad days I will wonder what Barry would be doing right now, if he were still alive? Would he have a wife or children? Would he have joined the Army and made a career of it while seeing the world? But it is best not to dwell on these things for too long either. It only upsets me more. So I turn my thoughts to my older son who is a man in his own right now. He has a one-year-old daughter. She is a (good) reason why we must move onwards.

Time heals all wounds. And it does. There may be a scar, which will be a permanent reminder, but eventually the pain softens and the heart and mind allows us to live a life that is somewhat normal. And when the scar throbs more than usual, I find myself going back to the one thing that has always helped me through the grief — nature. I take long walks in parks, botanical gardens, animal parks, by the sea, in the mountains, beside rivers. Anywhere where I can see the sky, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel relaxed.

I believe the worst is behind us. We cannot know what the future holds, but we intend to make it as good as we can … for us and for the new addition to the family.

Grieving Silently

by Author Unknown

Why must I grieve silently,
When my heart is so loudly screaming?
The emptiness I feel is consuming me,
Oh God, how I wish I were dreaming.

The silence around me is deafening,
For nobody knows what to say,
To comfort this agony I’m feeling,
Since my son went away.

And each day the sun continues to rise,
And the earth is still turning,
Though my world has come to a screeching halt,
No one can ease my yearning.

For a part of me has vanished,
And a part of my heart has died,
And no one can hear my heartache,
Or feel the turmoil I carry inside.

And I’ll go on grieving silently,
And exist on a different plane,
And I’ll keep my love for him deep in my heart,
Until we see each other again.

Time

by Sue White

I thought that time was healing
All the hurt you left behind
That empty spaces could be filled
My arms, my heart, my mind
And though my body looks the same
As it did when you were here
The emptiness is growing
Even bigger with each year

I thought that time was healing
All the agonising pain
That as the tears were fading
Soon I wouldn’t feel the same
And though I can be smiling
And you think that I’ll survive
The pain is in my blood now
I have nowhere else to hide

I thought that time was healing
All the loss a mother feels
That now you live within my heart
I had you near me still
But I need so much to touch you
To see you smile again
And those memories I’m told are mine
Can never feel the same

I thought that time was healing
All the while the mask was worn
That underneath a new me
Was waiting to be born
But now I find I am the mask
It helps to keep me safe
And though my heart is breaking
You won’t see it in my face

I thought that time was healing
All those tears my eyes have seen
That aching arms that miss you
Could be satisfied with dreams
But here I am, in pain again
And healing stands alone
And mother weeps, the world can see
For a son who can’t come home

Miss Me But Let Me Go

by Author Unknown

When I come to the end of the day,
And the sun has set for me.
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love we once shared—
Miss me, but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take,
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the maker’s plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds—
Miss me, but let me go.

His Journey’s Just Begun

By Ellen Brenneman

Don’t think of him as gone away–
his journey’s just begun
life holds so many facets
this earth is only one.

Just think of him as resting
from the sorrows and the tears
in a place of warmth and comfort
where there are no days and years.

Think how he must be wishing
that we could know today
how nothing but our sadness
can really pass away.

And think of him as living
in the hearts of those he touched…
for nothing loved is ever lost–
and he was loved so much.

Are you having thoughts of suicide?

Recently, I attended a seminar through my work place. I work for a Government organisation and they are always wanting us to ‘brush up’ on one procedure or another so imagine my shock when I discovered the seminar was about suicide awareness.

It is a shock to be sitting with a couple of dozen other people, several who you know well, and are confronted with a subject that is close to your heart. As soon as I realised what would be discussed, I welled up. The presenter, used to watching people’s actions and looking for ‘signs’, did not miss my instant reaction to her words. We were presented with video recreations of potential warnings … and all of them slapped me across the face and made my heart pound quicker. I watched as the mother on-screen missed her son’s call for help. Just like I did in real life. Is it any wonder I couldn’t speak, could hardly hold the tears back, was unable to stop the trembling?

The presenter announced a break and everyone left the room, except me. I was not able to speak aloud, so I whispered the fact that I had lost a son to suicide. Of course, she had already guessed that by my reaction. She thanked me for letting her know and told me I was free to leave the seminar, if I wanted to. I didn’t need to think about it.

I wanted to stay!

But I needed her to know why I would not be able to participate in active feedback within the seminar. She understood that I was struggling and asking me to speak would be my undoing. So, the seminar continued and I sat frozen faced and trembling in the middle of lots of people, but I felt as if I were struggling through a major upset … totally alone.

By the time the seminar was finished I was considered to be a qualified Care Assistant for the workplace. In truth, I spent most of the time focused inwards dealing with my own demons. Yes, I would be able to recognise (now) if someone was suicidal. And, yes, I would be able to ask the all important question, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”. And, yes, I would be able to look after that person until help was at hand. I never needed the seminar for any of that. I’ve spent over five years learning the facts about suicide myself. But now I have a certificate to confirm it.

The reason I’m writing this post is because I thought I was doing OK. I thought I had moved passed the tears, but those few hours proved I am not doing as great as I thought and have not moved on from losing my son. I guess there will always be moments in my life that will bring the past slamming back into full focus. I suppose I’m better equipped for those moments now but it doesn’t mean they will be any easier to deal with.

“Hope” is Here!

“Hope” is a project that is close to my heart. I have wanted to do something since I lost my son to suicide in 2006. In many ways, it gave me purpose, which in turn gave me hope. So the anthology is aptly named.

In late 2010 I decided to put my plans into action and I approached writers from around Australia, telling them my story, asking for their help. I was astounded by the response!

Yesterday, Hope was launched online. The book launch is still going and I invite you to head over to the book launch and say hello. You might even win a copy of the ebook. And there’s a real possibility that you’ll win a paperback book too.

My story “Boundaries” is included in the anthology, but for me the story is not important. To me, the message of the book in its entirety is the important thing. Hope gives the reader thirteen speculative fiction stories, but it also raises suicide awareness with short ‘snippets’ of information on suicide. I urge teenagers to read the book so they are able to ‘see’ when a friend may need their help. And I urge parents to read the book so they will ‘know’ when their child may be showing signs of being suicidal. Being suicide aware may save a life. That’s what this book means to me.

I will be forever grateful to the contributors to this anthology. Together, we can make a difference.

And I think it’s important to mention at this point that none of the contributions received payment for their time or their stories. They gave these things willingly because they want to help raise suicide awareness. All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to Beyondblue and The Anika Foundation.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Preface by Karen Henderson
Introduction by Simon Haynes
High Tide at Hot Water Beach by Paul Haines
Suicide: An Introduction by Warren Bartik and Myfanwy Maple
Burned in the Black by Janette Dalgliesh
Australian Suicide Statistics
The Haunted Earth by Sean Williams
The Causes of Suicide
Eliot by Benjamin Solah
Warning Signs
Boundaries by Karen Lee Field
Indigenous Suicides
The Encounter by Sasha Beattie
Drugs and Alcohol
The God on the Mountain by Graham Storrs
Suicide Around the World
Deployment by Craig Hull
Suicide: The Impact by Myfanwy Maple and Warren Bartik
Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden by Joanne Anderton
Helping a Friend Through Loss
Blinded by Jodi Cleghorn
Myths and Facts
The Choosing by Rowena Cory Daniells
How to Help Someone at Risk of Suicide by beyondblue
Duty and Sacrifice by Alan Baxter
What You Can Do to Keep Yourself Safe by beyondblue
A Moment, A Day, A Year… by Pamela Freeman
Where to Get Help
About the Authors

And this is a summary of the stories included by some of Australia’s best speculative fiction writers:

High Tide at Hot Water Beach by Paul Haines
A man dying of a terminal disease bets his life on one last chance at survival, a chance that looks like certain death from the perspective of his family.

Burned in the Black by Janette Dalgliesh
A jaded starbeast herder, with more secrets than she cares for and a difficult task ahead, is swept into an uneasy alliance with a troubled technobard whose unique gifts could mean her salvation … or her downfall.

The Haunted Earth by Sean Williams
Not all aliens are evil, but every first contact comes at a cost.

Eliot by Benjamin Solah
Eliot hides his dark memories in the pages of journals. But there is one memory he needs to uncover once the face paint washes away.

Boundaries by Karen Lee Field
With cursed blood running through his veins and boundaries touched by magic, an escaped slave battles for life as a Freeman.

The Encounter by Sasha Beattie
A woman’s desperation finds her in a small town where she learns of a dark secret that threatens to take away her only hope of happiness.

The God on the Mountain by Graham Storrs
An ambitious scientist’s career may be over if she dare not seek the god on the mountain and confront it.

Deployment by Craig Hull
After choosing the loneliness of deep space, a woman must confront her painful past to save the life of a child.

Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden by Joanne Anderton
In the ruins of a dying magical Garden, two people from opposite sides of a dangerous clash of cultures must learn to trust each other to survive.

Blinded by Jodi Cleghorn
The past and present collide for exo-biologist Dr Thaleia Halligan when the most recent addition to her exploration team is revealed as something other than a field medic for hire.

The Choosing by Rowena Cory Daniells
In a harsh, tropical paradise, a world of scattered islands where the poor live on boats and whole tribes live the canopies of sea- growing trees, two boys set off to prove they are worthy of being called men.

Duty and Sacrifice by Alan Baxter
In endless grasslands an assassin works her way towards the biggest job of her life, and maybe the last.

A Moment, A Day, A Year… by Pamela Freeman
The Oracle ordains everyone’s role in the Yearly Round, but there are more choices to be made than anyone knows, and some of them are deadly.

It’s a brilliant book, so please help us help those in need and you can become suicide aware at the same time. It can be purchased from the publisher’s website.

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