A tribute to Claudie Knight from her daughter Janey

Claudie Knight – Christmas 2003, two months before she died

My Mum

My Mum was 49 when she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer which had spread to her liver, lung and scalp. She was an immensely brave person, and fought it for two years, despite being told that it was a very aggressive form. She remained positive throughout her illness and died peacefully in hospital on her 51st birthday.

Cancer has been quite a big presence in our family. My Mum was the third generation to contract the disease. After a mastectomy in 1997, she had a reconstruction in 2000 and had fun sharing wine and stories in the ward after her op. To me, this is typical of my Mum’s attitude to illness, trying to find something positive about it and make the best of it.

It was almost by chance that my Mum was diagnosed when she was, in April 2002. She had had some nodules on her scalp, so her plastic surgeon offered to “whip them out”, then sent them for a biopsy. What was strange to us was that there had been very few signs that there was anything wrong with Mum before this. She had been very tired and had gone off coffee and alcohol but hadn’t felt especially ill.

As is often the case, this changed when she started chemotherapy. She was put on a very aggressive course of six treatments, one every three weeks, with continuous tests and check ups between these. This course was luckily effective, and at the end of the year Mum felt well enough to splash out on a holiday of a lifetime! In late March, however, she had to go on chemo again, this time in pill form.

My Mum dealt with the side effects of chemo in the same way she dealt with everything - swearing very loudly when walking the dog if she was upset, or looking forward to positive things. She would set herself targets, such as holidays or going to a show. One of the worst side effects were pulmonary emboli. These are blood clots in the lungs, potentially very dangerous, and so she had to take drugs to thin her blood which meant more trips to the hospital. One of the chemos also seemed to strip the skin from her hands and feet, making it painful to walk.

And of course, she lost her hair. It was cut short when she started chemo. Mum’s first comment was “I look like my mother!” She had a prescription for a wig and we had fun choosing a stunning one. I know compliments on it gave her ego a real boost, especially when one of her doctors remarked that she was a real “glamour-puss”. When her hair did grow back it was very different in colour and style. However, the wig was very hot to wear, especially in summer, so she mostly stuck to wearing bandanas, baseball caps and scarves.

I know that we were very lucky in that my Mum had a fantastic support system of friends, all of whom were ready to drive her to the hospital, or do anything they could to help. Now I realise how vital this was and how much it helped mum stay positive, knowing that she had people she could call on if she needed them. Also, our local Macmillan centre was extremely good in the support and care they provided for all the family. My Mum realised how important good support was to people who suffered from cancer, which is why I think she would love the idea of this web site.

My Mum was a bubbly person and this is what stays in my memory. Not the tears, of which there were many, or seeing her in hospital in that last week. Even during the two years when she was ill and unable to work, we had many very special times, her 50th birthday party for example with all her friends and family…and there she truly sparkled.

If you’d like to discuss any of these issues with Janey, you can contact her via:

guide4living@gmail.com

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