Did stubbornness kill my mum?

In 2012 my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and was advised by the consultant to have a mastectomy, this was her best option to beating this cancer and prolong her life.  She refused.  The doctors explained what would happen if she didn't have the operation to make sure she knew what her refusal meant, and still she refused.

She did not want to lose her breasts.

What my mum told my sister and me in 2012 is that the cysts she went and had checked out were malignant and the doctor has advised that she goes on tablets to reduce them!  The doctor had asked how she felt about a mastectomy and she had told the doctor she'd rather not if it can be helped...... Was she protecting us?  Was she afraid if we knew the truth we would not stop hounding her until she had the operation?  Only my mum knows the reasons why she did not tell us what actually happened with the consultant.

Going forward whenever my mum went to the hospital for checks she told us it was for her blood.  (She had an issue with her platelets producing too many cells and her blood would run the risk of clotting so she had 6 monthly checks at the hospital).  

When asked about the breast cancer / cysts, she would tell us that they were shrinking each time she had them checked.  When we asked if we could come with her to the next visit should say NO.  When we insisted, she would say NO, if we said we were going anyway she would say that she would not!  Why ? Was this because we would find out the seriousness of this illness and try and talk her into treatment? 

Unbeknownst to my sister and I the cancer was spreading and was now coming through her breast.  Possibly in denial of what was happening she told us she had a rash, she had 'picked up something' or 'been bitten',   When she showed me the top of the rash, I immediately asked her to go to the doctors, she refused.  I would ask her when I saw her about the 'rash' and she said the doctor had said it was an allergic reaction, whenever asked about the rash going forward she was either refuse to talk to me about it, tell me it was nothing or the doctor was giving her tablets for it.

6 months on mum developed a terrible cough which just didn't go, she said she had an appointment with the hospital for an x-ray - she said it was for her cough.  Was it?  Who knows!  When she went for the results at the end of January the consultant told her that her chest was clear, but she must have family with her from now on.  I said that sounds serious mum, to which she replied, it is now, I need Chemo!

We never made it to Chemo

Her final act of stubbornness was a week later.  I found her collapsed on her kitchen floor, where she'd been all night.  Poorly, dehydrated and unable to move I went to my phone to call an ambulance.  She shouted in a whisper not to call them.  She then screamed in her whisper not to call them.  Told me in a stern whisper that as my mother she demands I do not call them.............I called them!

The paramedics managed to get mum in a chair and told her she was going to the hospital - she refused.  They told her how dehydrated she was, how she was 1 point away from hypothermia - she refused.  They told her she could not stay her on her own unless she could stand and show she could look after herself - she refused.

I cried.

2 hours later they left - without my mum.

After another 2 hours, the doctor turned up, with the thought if he told her to go she would.  She refused.  He suggested we make her comfortable and say our goodbyes - what?  from a fall?  I'm so confused at this point, the dehydration was far worse than I thought.

4 hours later the district nurse came by, saw how poorly she was and asked her to go into hospital - she refused!

My sister and I tended to her into the early hours of the morning, watching her waste away and then at 4 am she asked to go to the hospital!

That Friday, we saw a consultant who told us the severity of my mother's cancer.  That was the day we were told the 'rash' was her cancer.  That was the day we were told she was so dehydrated her kidneys were failing.  That was the day we were told her new x-ray showed she had lung cancer.

That was the day we had to agree to stop the treatment for my mummy and let nature take its cause.  That was the day we knew she was dying.

We can't go back in time
We can't live on ifs and buts
All we can do is learn from this
All we can do is remember our mum


  1. I'm sorry for your traumatic experience. I also lost my mother to breast cancer but she accepted treatment and so we at least had time to prepare

  2. What a traumatic and difficult time this must have been for you - i'm so sorry to read of this - and so recently as 2012 - I'm still not over losing my mum and that was a decade earlier. So sorry xxx

  3. I have just had cancer and mum was the second person I told (after dh). She has had a pain in her abdomen for 6 months and didn't tell me til she was found 4 days ago, collapsed on the floor, having been there for 4 days. No food or drink etc. My mother is a nurse.....

  4. What a traumatic experience for you all. I'm just so thankful that son1's leukaemia was diagnosed so quickly. I count down every single day, as a day nearer to the end of his chemo

  5. So sorry to read what you all went through. My mum had Breast cancer and did opt for a mastectomy.I wasn't told anything until after her operation. She died 10 years ago and I miss her everyday. Be strong through this difficult time. Your mum's love will be with you always.


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