In my last posting I considered the underlying reasons for raising the question, “Why me?” at times of misfortune and adversity. The aim of this posting is to provide a partial answer to the question; in this instance, derived from experience. You will readily recall the instances I cited of two patients known to me. It was the first of those two who attempted to find a plausible explanation, in order, as much as anything, to wrest and restore some semblance of control over the immediate future. However, for the second, there was at first seemingly no comfort to be had from any source. Hence her agonised cry, “After all I’ve tried to do and live a good life, why? Why should this happen to me?”
Not so many years back in time, I knew a woman, Moira – a courageous and determined lady – who increasingly realized that she was now entering the terminal stage of advanced breast cancer. We met initially because she had requested an appointment with me of her consultant. Moira was in fact coping remarkably well but needed, as she put it, “To sort through this ‘old handbag’ of a mind and set things in order”. Her story moved (and still moves) me profoundly and since she once indicated her willingness for me to relate it at some future time, “If it might benefit someone”, I have decided to do so here.
Moira had spent her years from leaving school at fifteen until her early thirties, working during the day to keep the home together and doing housework in the evenings. Her father (who she remembered only vaguely) had had a chronic drinking problem and had left the marital home before she commenced primary school. He was now completely out of the scene. Since Moira’s early childhood, her mother had been crippled with rheumatism and arthritis. Then when she was nineteen (and her younger brothers seventeen and fifteen respectively) the mother contracted breast cancer. Moira continued to work full-time and do the chores as ever, until at length her mother died of her breast disease, leaving her daughter, now aged thirty, to manage the home alone.
From her mid twenties she had been “walking out” (to use her own admittedly rather ‘dated’ phrase) with Andrew, a member of a local church choir and a much older man, who had lost his wife also by death from breast cancer. They married and following seven years of trying for a child, Moira gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Kevin. Sadly Andrew died when Kevin was but three years old. However, Moira worked on and for a time was a typist in a healthcare unit. In those early years, both she and Kevin prospered. However, as time went by, she grew increasingly suspicious that he was fast developing ‘another life’ away from home. Her worst fears were realized when Kevin was arrested by the police for assaulting and injuring an elderly man and stealing his purse. Truancy, theft, crime, violent behaviour (from which Moira was by no means excluded), Children’s’ Panels, drugs and booze now became the norm. Then she contracted breast cancer. Almost every fortnight for well over two years this unfortunate but astonishingly courageous lady came to my clinic and from time to time, poured out years of pent up frustration, anger, grief, disappointment, rejection and humiliation. All such feelings and more beside, eventually erupted, with quite unexpected results affecting the lives both of Moira and her son Kevin, as my next posting will record.