On Friday at about 10:30am I learnt that my grandfather has passed away hours earlier. In the hours following I found myself composing blog posts in my head. Words to remember him by; his gentle presence, his cheeky sense of humour, his incredible longevity. (He died just 16 days short of his 98th birthday). However, this is not that post.
24 hours later I rang my mother in response to her message about funeral arrangements. Instead of reaching Mum, her mobile was answered by one of my brothers, Sam. Apparently mum was on landline to my other brother, Fred – my youngest brother, my 24 year old brother. Sam relayed Fred’s conversation with mum to me.
Fred’s calling from hospital. [Why? What happened? It was here the dread started] He’s got cancer. They called him at work yesterday afternoon to tell him to get straight to hospital. [This was the moment, the one you see in the movies but you never think you will experience, you never want to experience. It’s the moment when it feels like a nightmare, where you hope you’re mishearing, or it’s not real, or something, anything, other than this]. The conversation was fuzzy after that, Sam had little more information, at least none that I could make sense of, but I was swearing and saying, “No…I don’t understand”. I stayed on the phone with Sam for a little longer while Mum finished her conversation with Fred and then switched phones to talk to me.
Yes, he is in hospital. Apparently he’d a biopsy done on a cyst and the results had come through yesterday afternoon and they (whoever ‘they’ were) had called Fred at work to tell him he had cancer, and that he had to come in as soon as he could. Once he got there they took some bone marrow. His prognosis was bleak, it was initially thought he had a virulent form of leukaemia. On Saturday morning he’d just learnt that the initial diagnosis was wrong and that his bone marrow is clean. But he still has some form of cancer, and his treatment depends on what it is. His future is now tests and treatment and his prognosis unknown. And that’s the point when he’d rang Mum. He didn’t call her the day before on account of that being the day she’d lost her Dad. He thought that was enough bad news for one day. It turned out that the decision to wait until Saturday morning to call her was wise, given that the news changed from terribly dire to bad and unknown.
After talking to Mum I spoke to Fred. His wicked sense of humour is still intact with the change in diagnosis he was upbeat. He’d faced horrible news and so was dealing quite well with the unknown and hopefully less horrible news. That was on Saturday at least. I’ve spoken to him since and in the days following he is not as positive as he was then. The reality of the situation is becoming apparent with the medical tests that he is undergoing, scans, more biopsies, having a catherta put in. His diagnosis is life altering at a minimum. I daren’t think much beyond the minimum at the moment.
We were finishing up a conversation last night and I apologised, saying that I have to get back to my family, he said “It’s fine, I have to get back to my cancer”. Oh gods.