Mum cried when I got back from Egypt. She picked me up from the airport and started crying. 'You're supposed to cry when I leave, not when I come back,' I said. And that's when she told me about the lump she'd found in her breast. They did a quadradectomy and then they discovered that the cancer was in most of her lymph nodes. So the chemo started. She jokingly called it Blue Loo, and my Aunt Brenda bought her a Sharpei dog soft toy, who she called Chemo, and took to the sessions with her.
Mum nicknamed the cancer 'Rotten Rodney' and was determined that she would beat it. I sat up late one night on the computer and made a comic book of Tommy Toxall beating Rotten Rodney to a pulp, so that life returned to normal.
Unfortunately, despite mum's positivity and determination, the cancer won out.
18 months after the diagnosis, mum passed away and my brother, my sister, my father her sister, her nephew and I, were all with her.
I lost my best friend that day. The one I could always talk to, no matter what, and who never judged me. The one who always saw the good in people, always was smiling and laughing, and never let anyone get her down. The one who cooked the best roast chook in the world, excelled in chinese banquets and ran a 'cake decorating factory' in the dining room. The one who could rock a row of cinema seats with her belly laugh. The one who loved Stallone, Scharznegger and Australian movies with equal passion. The one who stopped and talked to everyone, and would embarras me (as a teenager) by telling my life story to check out chicks.
There isn't a day that goes by when I don't want to ring her, have a natter, get some sage advice and laugh. But I guess she's still around.
There have been signs. A couple of days after her passing, we talked about giving everyone a mouse from her ornamental mice collection. As I walked past the collection, a piece of icing lace that she had been working on, jumped off the tray onto the ground and shattered. I took that as a 'no'. Then when I returned to my own home, I was telling a friend about mum, when I heard a crash. A light fitting had fallen off the ceiling in the stairwell. And then there was her funeral - the minister had a car accident on the way, one of mum's friends who was waiting on the funeral was on call as a paramedic and attended the accident, and the minister went ahead with his arm in a sling. And then there was the guy who looked like Fabio at the funeral. Nobody knew him. We joked he was mum's secret boyfriend. He'd probably just wandered into the wrong chapel.
And I still dream of her. Vibrant dreams that make me feel I have spent some time with her. It's hard to believe that it's been almost nine years since Mum died and I love her dearly.