Monday, 2 May 2011

Invincible - Inspiration Monday guest post

I’m looking forward to Mondays since I’ve started a series of Inspiration Monday guest posts. It’s amazing to read such beautiful and touching stories and it’s even more amazing to share those stories with you all.
Today I’m honoured to be hosting a very talented Bth whose blog Little light in London is very much worth reading. If you’re not familiar with Bth I strongly suggest that you visit her blog and get to know her a little bit.
But for a start you simply have to read what she wrote about Inspiration:  

The C-word. Cancer. You don’t think that it could ever happen to you. Even less so, that it could happen to someone you love with all your heart. You imagine that person to be invincible – always there, doing the things they always do. That’s my Mum.  My inspiration for this post. She’s the one who I thought to be invincible. 

She was the Mum who’d stayed at home, and put her children first. She made our house a home. There were always homemade soups on the Rayburn in our kitchen, when I got back from school. Time for walks in the bluebell woods in the Spring, then collecting pine cones to paint silver and gold at Christmas time.  In stormy weather she’d think up rides in the Land Rover Defender so we weren’t scared of the thunder; we’d be snug in the back with our pyjamas on, racing through enormous puddles and squealing with joy as the water streamed up the windows. She’d make up treasure hunts with lots of little prizes. Together we’d paint pretty pictures on pebbles; she would then varnish them beautifully to scatter in plant pots across the garden. She’d put on her tapes and turn them up loud, blaring out Bob Dylan and Alanis Morissette, and we’d sing from the top of our lungs. 

As I grew older, she became my very best friend. The only person who I knew I could rely on, who would tell me the absolute truth - even if I didn’t always want to hear it. She knew me inside and out. I would listen to her, and she’d listen to me, and together we’d keep our head above the difficult times. I learnt that my mother was a woman first and foremost, before she was my Mum. I spent twenty minutes crying with my back against the door after she’d left me in the little room in my first year away from home, after I’d moved into university halls. I sat on the single bed and read the note in the back of my diary, written in her artistic, familiar scrawl.

‘So proud of you, Baby – Love you. 

Mum x 

And remember, if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger!’

She was right. I truly believe that hard times are sent to try us, to test just how invincible we can be. Often, after the storm has quietened down, we surprise ourselves with how well we coped - a little shaken perhaps, but stronger and tougher.  My Mum is one of those people, one who copes and carries on. So it was only for a few minutes that I allowed myself to worry when she told me that the doctor had referred her to check a small lump that had appeared to the side of her breast.  Probably nothing, the doctor had said. No harm in just checking. In no time, she’d had the scan. And that strange little lump turned out to be nothing at all. Then they noticed something else. The doctors glanced at each other, and then looked more closely. They had spotted a clump of abnormal cells hidden deep in the tissue, right inside her breast, under where the small lump had appeared. Never would have found that normally, if you hadn’t gone for the scan. Waiting for the results seemed like forever. I was sure that everything would be okay and I told her so, again and again – after all, it was Mum – she was invincible. 

It was a normal day at work. Except outside it was raining– no, pouring. Then my day stopped being normal and my phone began to ring. I can’t remember the conversation or the bit where she told me about the cancer- I just remember the rain outside. It was dramatic rain, the kind you don’t see every day, like a million tears falling from the sky to wash the pavements all clean. I prayed the cancer hadn’t come to take her away from me, but instead to let her experience something about life - as hard and as horrible a lesson as it might be. No, invincible she wasn’t. She was human, faced with a real human disease. And as if to prove me right, when I travelled back home to be with her, I saw her experience every human emotion possible.

I didn’t know what to do with this human version of my super-hero Mum. She suddenly became very delicate to me - breakable, and I was beyond frightened that I might lose her. At this scary time, using one of the only ways I know how to express myself, when I can’t think of the right words to say, I painted her a picture. I held the paintbrush in my right hand whilst absentmindedly blotting onto the canvas the colours I felt drawn to. I flicked the brush in any old way, and all the time kept my thoughts fixed on Mum. I pictured her face, her dark brown eyes, a pale snow-white complexion, her soft bobbed brunette hair with a flicky fringe and her beautiful high cheek bones. 

Once I had finished, I took a step back. Like all of my paintings, when the energy of the person I’m focussing on takes over my paints and brushes, the canvas radiated Mum. She’d inspired the painting, and it spoke all about her. 

Soft and gentle like the green, but passionate and fiery like the reds contained in the brushstrokes that flurried together and flowed just like her sparky energy. I squinted a little, and noticed how the picture looked a bit like a tree. I could imagine her as a tree; strong and rooted to the ground, able to withstand the greatest knocks and the fiercest winds around her. Her branches stretched out far, seeming to reach for the sky. It was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to show her. 

‘Isn’t it funny how it turned out to represent you?’ I said, holding the picture back so Mum could have a look at it.

‘What’s more amazing is that it looks like you’ve painted my cleavage! Look! And where you’ve painted a star- ‘ 

‘Um, well, that was meant to be a fairy by the tree...’ 

‘Okay – but you’ve painted the fairy exactly where the cancer is positioned on my breast. Did you know that? That’s amazing– and look to the right, it looks like an angel.’

She kept my picture up on the mantelpiece. Whether it was a tree, as I’d thought- the symbol of strength, or a picture of an angel healing her from above; I really don’t know. But slowly over the next few months, although the tablets made her feel sick, the radiotherapy sessions made her tired and feel a lot of pain, with each tablet she took and each radiotherapy session she endured, I watched my Mum come into her own. Mum was lucky, where so many people aren’t, because three years on from all her treatment, the cancer hasn’t come back. She would, without hesitation tell you that it was the best thing that ever happened to her, because it taught her to appreciate her life. She suddenly lived for today- not tomorrow, or for next year. It was as if she had opened her eyes for the first time and had suddenly discovered herself: a stronger, more beautiful woman than she had ever been before, and as human as she could possibly be.  

Thank you to Starlight, for giving me the opportunity to write a post about my inspirational Mum in her guest post series of inspirational women. I am very honoured to have been asked.


  1. Beautiful post. I lost my Mom to Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The painting is beautiful also. What an amazing gift for you Mom.

  2. *gasp* I love the post! It's funny how 'invicible' our moms are and how precious they are. I feel the urge to hug mine and not let go. *hugs*

  3. Such a wonderful story with a happy ending thank goodness! Some don't appreciate their mothers until they are no longer around, so its wonderful to read about someone who felt about her Mum as I felt about mine.

  4. This was a beautiful post. Beautiful painting too.

  5. This is such a beautiful story and I especially enjoyed the last paragraph. I don't wish cancer or hardship or illness on anyone, least of all a mother. But sounds like she has defeated it rather than become defeated which is wonderful.

    love this line:
    She would, without hesitation tell you that it was the best thing that ever happened to her, because it taught her to appreciate her life. She suddenly lived for today- not tomorrow, or for next year.

  6. Beautiful - your writing and the painting too. All any mum wants is for her kids to love her - I'm sure she knows just how much you do.
    And thank you to Ms Starlight as well for giving you the prompt to write this.

  7. Everyone is using the word 'beautiful' - it's the word that came to me too.

  8. Thank you for sharing this story and the painting. Why does it take a earth shaking experience to open our eyes about enjoying life and nature and loved ones. But it does. Fortunately your Mom is ok. Even though my husband wasn't that lucky, for those 2.5 years he was still with me, he taught me how to love and enjoy each day and not to be afraid. Beautiful post!!

  9. such a nice and sad post! very beautiful painting.

  10. I'm so glad I read this post. The way you write about such a difficult time for you Mum, you and your family is very special and also inspiring. Also I am about do a charity event for a breast cancer charity so this has given me even more incentive to do my best at it. Wonderful post.

  11. I'm really glad that you all liked this story as much as I did. Thank you all for commenting. And thanks again to Bth for sharing this inspiring story with us.

  12. Barbara - Thank you, she did love the painting. I'm so sorry to hear about your Mum's cancer. I hope you could relate to the post. It is a terrible disease. All my love x

    Doria - Thank you! Go hug her!

    Technogran - Oh yes, I most definitely do appreciate her - I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    OWO - Thank you. x

  13. Shopgirl - Thank you. I'm so glad you liked that line, it was my favourite too - summed up how strong she was. A definite defeat!

    Sharon - I hope she does - she certainly loved having a post dedicated to her! Thank you, im so pleased you liked it.

    The Kid in the Front Row - And I am very touched, thank you.

  14. Bouncin' Barb - You are so welcome, and thank you for sharing how strong and brave your husband was in such an inspiring comment.

  15. Patti. D - Thank you for saying so.

    Happy Frog - I'm so so pleased I inspired you, and that I've given you a bit of oomph in contributing towards such a worthwhile cause! Well done you!

    Starlight - Thank you x