Posted on January 25, 2017

We have been touched by asbestos in individual ways, yet we are joined together by a bond of community. As a testament to the strength of our global family, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) is highlighting the courageous stories of our members with the “Share Your Story” feature on our website.

This week, we would like to honor the story of Maureen, as shared by her daughter Victoria, who is a part of our ADAO family.

We encourage you to submit your personal stories by clicking here and following the simple instructions on the page. In sharing, comes healing. Remember, you are not alone.

When did we stop bringing her flowers?” – Maureen’s Story

Name: Maureen

Location: United Kingdom

Date of Birth: 1932

Diagnosis: Mesothelioma

Date of Diagnosis: 2014

Treatment: Pleurodesis to left lung, chemotherapy with Alimta/Cisplatin, radiotherapy

Date of Death: 2015

How has asbestos changed your life? (Poem — as shared by her daughter, Victoria, unedited)

When did we stop bringing her flowers?

My mother always loved the garden underdog
When April comes, I fill her room —
bleeding hearts, sad Black-Eyed Susans,
sea-blue cornflowers.
June sees the old traditionals —
sweet-scented lavender,
the pale-headed rose.
By August, I add sunflowers,
flashes of orange against the window pane.

It makes sense, to bring the garden inside
so that she can remember the beauty
her once strong hands had planted.
Looks like a florist on Fridays, she said.

As September drops its scattered leaves,
darkening mornings greet her medicated rise.
The offerings dwindle — one or two blooms.
Look, Mum, aren’t they beautiful?

October comes and with it the first frosts
but still I forage, a small bouquet beside her bed —
sweet marjoram, late marigolds, mother-may-die.
Even as November turns, I find something —
a twist of green mantle, a sprig of feverfew.
See, Mum, there are always flowers
if you know where to find them.

Her face turns away, cannot see.
She takes hold of my hand, pleads,
Why is this taking so long?

So, no more cards. No more florist store.
What can be said that has not been said?
What are they for then, the words,
the bright displays?
Clear them all away.
It is just us.

December hovers on the Advent hour.
I go into the garden, see stars rise,
feel the night-wind blow across the black.
She’s out there, you know.
My sister and I watch the empty trees.

Time to go but first, I cut
the last flowering rose, unexpected
open-bud against the cold.
Sweet-scented, one single stem.
I place it beside the bed
where her body lies.

There, Mum, look – even in winter
the flowers bloom.

Our Story…On Christmas Eve 2014, after a harrowing nine months of tests, surgery, illness and misdiagnosis, I sat with my mother as she was informed that she had terminal mesothelioma. She had already watched her sister and brother die from the same disease. Because of the delay in diagnosis and the mass, they offered her palliative chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and a lot of drugs, but not a lot else. From this moment on, I cared for her and in December 2015, I had to watch her die. She was my best friend, a wonderful artist, and an amazing mother. When she was a child, her father had worked as a joiner. My mother and her two siblings were all exposed to asbestos through his work clothes. All three have lost their lives to mesothelioma.

* * *