Saturday 5 June 2021

Life Before Lockdown Part 4- An Unexpected Twist

Above: with my parents in George Square, Glasgow after the Men's Health 10k in June 2017.

6 months into 2019 and everything generally appeared to be going rather well. I was in a good place with my work and running, getting to the Queen's Park games when the opportunity allowed and had a decent enough social life with friends and family. I also enjoyed the balance of time to myself having acquired my own property in 2018.  A lingering concern however lay in the back of my mind.

My parents, my brother and I had booked 2 weeks in Majorca during the last week of June and first week of July. In the days before we departed, I felt that something wasn't quite right with my Mum. She was off colour. She always looked pale and in discomfort, complaining of stomach pain. Her mood was subdued when we flew out. However, she seemed to perk up once we hit Spanish soil, enjoying all of the perks that an all inclusive holiday provides with some colour returning to her cheeks. All seemed back to normal as we returned home. Or so we thought.

Above: Unwinding in Majorca, unaware of what lay ahead.

The weeks that followed saw a rapid deterioration in my Mum's condition. She struggled to keep her food down to the point where she was hardly eating anything. The same applied to fluids. Every time I visited her, she seemed to be in her bed. To say that I was getting worried would be an understatement.

Things came to a head over the first weekend in August. On the Friday I had a half day at work for the Paisley Fair holiday. The Kilmaurs 5k was that night with an early start (6.30pm), hastily rearranged from the Wednesday after flooding forced a postponement. The plan was to head home for a nap and freshen up and eat then attend the race like a human being. So much for that. I had an extremely stressful day and only had enough time to go straight to the race. In hot conditions, I did enough to win, holding off a determined challenge from Martin Brown (Kilmarnock Harriers). There weren't many people there that I knew and I hung about a bit aimlessly waiting for the prize giving. In hindsight, I shouldn't have bothered with the race because my mind was on my Mum.

On the Monday, a day off work, alarm bells truly rang when I phoned my Dad who told me not to pay a visit. My parents then didn't turn up that night for a family funeral. Phoning my Dad again, I learned that my Mum had been admitted to hospital and had undergone tests. She had a tumour in her bowel and would be having emergency surgery that Thursday. Until the tumour was removed, we wouldn't know if it had been cancerous. The very mention of cancer was chilling. My Mum? Surely not. Thankfully, even if it was, it hadn't spread. I visited her the following night and promptly wished I hadn't because it simply upset me. I held it together in the ward but, once behind closed doors at home, my composure deserted me. I didn't always get on with her or necessarily see her every day but, at the end of the day, it was still my Mum. For the first time ever, I contemplated the possibility of life without her. Amazingly, once I got it all out, I felt a whole lot better. As the saying goes, better out than in. My Dad had kept me company throughout my outpouring. Having come to terms with what was going on, we shared a cup of tea, a blether and even a few laughs about lighter topics before he wished me good night.

Quite how I got through the working day that Thursday, I don't know but I learned at some point that my Mum had come through her operation and was in recovery. To keep my mind occupied, I ran Bellahouston Harriers' latest 2 mile race, clocking 9:52, my second personal best of the year. I noted in my training diary that I had felt fresh and up for it but, more importantly, recorded getting my priorities right and staying on this time for the soup and roll included in the £2 entry fee. I got a lot of support from good people during this week which was warmly appreciated.

Progress with anything in life is never a straight line and my Mum was to remain in hospital for the rest of the month rehabilitating. It had indeed been cancer. Training didn't seem to suffer though race performances did. Martin Brown claimed my scalp back at the North Ayrshire 10k on a sweltering day in Saltcoats then I had below par runs in two track races, the Scottish 5000m (15:14) and a 3000m at one of Shettleston Harriers' Open Graded Meetings (8:52) two nights later. When I read back my training diary and see that I wrote of being emotional about my Mum before the latter race, you can maybe understand why I was slightly off key. Happier days were to come though.

On the last Friday in August, I learned that my Mum was being discharged from hospital that Monday. On the Saturday, I was competing in the Scottish Masters Track 10,000m in Carluke. On a wet and windy afternoon, my closest challenger in the race sought to shadow me the entire way. I was visiting my Mum that night and felt absoloutely determined to win this race for her. The first mile was 5:15, the next, 5:02 and the next 3, around 5:10 each. My challenger was still there and, in all honesty, his tactics were getting under my skin. I dug that wee bit deeper than I already had and churned out the last mile in 4:58, enough to win the race, and Scottish M35 gold, in exactly 32 minutes. Of all of my race wins, this is one of my most satisfying every time I look back on it given how hard I had to work and the emotion surrounding it.

Above: post race with clubmates, Stevie Wylie and Chris Upson, who won their respective age categories (M45 and M55) in the same race. Photo courtesy of Scottish Athletics.

Off I went to Hairmyres Hospital that night therefore with a trophy and a gold medal for my Mum (and the new chums she had made in the ward, patients and nurses alike) to see. The nurses had become familiar with us by now. They also learned that I enjoy my cups of tea because, when they did the tea run for the patients at night, they always offered me one as well. The patients were also allowed toast with their beverages. My Mum always refused the toast and I found myself tempted more than once to ask if I could take it instead. Waste not, want not surely? I never succumbed to the temptation I must say. As I got set to leave that night, in a poignant moment, my Mum, admittedly with some difficulty, got to her feet and walked me out the ward. I hadn't seen her standing up for almost a month. She was obviously getting better. I joked to my Dad that the party at home was soon to be over for him.

The remainder of 2019 would see a return to the happiness and contentment of the early part of the year, starting with a welcome weekend away.

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