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Real story: Edna

Edna Graham, who cared for her mother through pancreatic cancer

Edna Graham, 61, is originally from Jamaica but has been a UK resident for the past 47 years. She lives in south London. Edna looked after her mother Anita until her death from pancreatic cancer last year.

Although Edna had retired, she had more than a decade’s experience working in nursing homes and caring for elderly people, so she thought she knew what to expect. However, she wasn't prepared for the long hours and hard work needed to care for her mother.

Edna says: “I got the call in May that she had pancreatic cancer. From June she needed nursing. I had to come over and help out as my brother was working. I was there every day until six days before she died in November. I had to be there at six in the morning as she didn’t want to be alone in the house.”

She adds: “I had to put my life on hold because it was all so rapid. By the summer she was getting weaker and weaker, and I had to be there eight, nine, 10 hours a day. And she was forever calling for something, so it was hard.”

Her health suffered

Edna feels that her health suffered as a result of being on her feet all day because of the demands of her mother’s condition.

She says: “It came to a point where we had to blend the food and she was eating every half an hour, drinking all the time because she was feeling dry. When I wasn’t busy I was sleeping.”

Edna and Anita were lucky to find strength and help from their close family. Edna’s four daughters helped out a lot, as did her brother who had to spend most of his time at work. But Edna also feels she was well supported by healthcare professionals.

She says: “We’re quite a close family, and quite independent. But sometimes you have to ask for help, which we did get.”

How she found support

Anita received particularly strong support from her doctor, and a specialist Macmillan cancer nurse who was always on hand to help out.

Edna says: “We got treated very fairly. I have had no problems. The doctors were very, very nice, the Macmillan nurses were equally very nice. My mum was a nice gentle person so she got on with everybody.”

Anita was also supported during her illness by her pastor. Since Anita died, Edna also finds strength through church every Sunday, and her bible and church music.

Thinking back, Edna doesn't regret being a carer for her mum.

“I always said I’d never put my mum into a nursing home until she needed medical help 24 hours a day,” she says. Her only regret is that she couldn’t do or say more: “Now is the time when you think, ‘Is there anything more I could have done?’. There are things I could have said but didn’t because I didn’t want to upset her – and now I can’t.”

If, like Edna, you're looking after someone who's ill or disabled, or are dealing with life after caring, call the Carers Direct helpline for free on 0300 123 1053, or watch the video about life after caring, below.

Bereavement: life after being a carer

When the person you've been caring for dies, there is support available to you. In this video, former carers discuss how they coped with their grief and found a new purpose in life.

Media last reviewed: 14/12/2012

Next review due: 14/12/2014

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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