I don’t do sentiment. I was one of the alleged minority unmoved when you know who died at the end of August 1997.
But two things I have read today have moved me.
First, the news that the parents of a boy with a rare cancer have decided to stop his treatment so that his last days can be lived as normally and as happily as possible.
This boy was diagnosed six years ago with a rare form of cancer affecting his brain and his spine. Now aged ten, he has had to undergo several operations, and both chemo and radiotherapy. After each bout of surgery a small part of the tumour remained, and grew. Last August he had his latest operation, which confined him to hospital for nearly five months. The procedure led to complications, which meant a tracheotomy was needed to help his breathing, and he had to be fed directly into his stomach. And, the final blow, he contracted MRSA during that stay and had to be in isolation for much of the time. He has no pelvic strength and is unable to walk.
The parents, who are now separated, have decided together that their son should no longer have to endure painful procedures and lengthy hospital stays. They want him to spend his remaining time enjoying himself, and the first plan is a visit to Disneyland Florida, which had already been planned twice and then cancelled because of the treatments.
What a terrible decision for parents to have to make. But they have shown their love and care for their boy by agreeing to all these difficult treatments over the last six years. Now I think they have made the right decision. Their son can be spared the painful treatments and hospital stays, can be with his parents and his brother, and have some enjoyable and exciting experiences before his life ends. The parents can spend some quality time with their son, free from hospital wards and machines, and will be able to remember him enjoying his remaining time.
The second piece I read was part of the appeal The Times is conducting for the Princess Royal’s Trust for Carers. The story was of a young teenage girl who lives with her sick mother and cares for her. If the details in the story are correct, it appears that the only help the mother receives is a carer who gets her up each morning, and another who takes her once a week to do the supermarket shopping from her wheelchair.
Other than that, the daughter does all the caring. She cooks, cleans and launders. Each night she undresses her mother, drags her upstairs because the stairlift does not work, gives her a shower, and puts her to bed. She goes to school, but comes home at lunch-time to make sure her mother is OK, and often does not go back because of what she finds. So, her school work has suffered. She cannot stay after school anyway for clubs and so on, because she must rush home to look after her mother. And the other kids tease and bully her because she is different.
The little family is so short of money that there is nothing spare for luxuries. After buying school uniform, there was no money for other clothes for the girl. Social Services provided a loan for a new bed for the mother, that was urgently needed, but she is having to pay it back at £20 a week out of her benefits. The daughter was told there would be no money for Christmas presents for her.
We hear a lot about poverty and some of it is not what would have been understood as poverty 50 years ago. But the story outlined above is real poverty. How can we allow this to happen? It is not the woman’s fault that she is so ill. Even less is it the daughter’s fault. But in addition to all else they have the constant worry of no money.
Why does this woman not receive a proper level of care? If she did not have a daughter she would be completely alone, and the state would have to care for her. Why should a child be expected to take on this totally unacceptable burden? Why do the authorities expect her to do it?
I have no doubt the daughter wants to do all she can for her mother, but she should be given much more support. There should be carers calling at the house several times a day and taking over most of those duties which no child should be expected to perform for a parent.