In memory of my beautiful sister Jackson Jae Tito
Today marks nine whole years since you have been gone and I still remember like it happened yesterday. For those of you that know me will know about my sister but for those of you who do not – we lost my younger sister Jackson to cancer nine years ago today. In her honour I have decided to dedicate this blog post to her as I explain how losing someone so special has made me become the mother I am today.
I will give a bit of a background of Jackson for everyone who doesn’t know her story. In October 2000, mum was only 32 weeks pregnant when she experienced stomach cramps and lost started bleeding; she was transferred to Taranaki Base Hospital for bed rest and given some steroids to prepare if she went into premature labour. On Tuesday the 10th of October, Mum had a caesarean at just 33 weeks pregnant because they were unsure what was causing the bleeding. Jackson Jae Tito was born on the 10-10-00 at 3.04pm at a tiny weight of 4 pounds 4 ounces.
Fast forward six years and we also had a little brother who was then only two! We all loved each other but would fight with each other as your typical siblings do! Little did we know that things were about to get very different in our household.
Jackson started showing signs to mum that something was not quite right. Mum had been to the doctors many times with Jackson but nothing would ever really come of it, it was always something else. She was diagnosed with coeliac disease and double vision problems but still things persisted. On Monday the 24th of September 2006 mum had, had enough. She had written a list of Jackson’s symptoms and asked my grandma and aunty to accompany her to the doctors because she was not leaving until she had answers – however at the time I was only 12 so was completely unaware of all of this.
I remember staying in the waiting room with my cousins and little brother. Jackson was sent out by us kids eventually and then mum left crying – I knew something wasn’t right. We went back to my auntie’s house for a while and then went home. Dad had left work to come home so now I knew something really was not right. Dad never came home from work and everyone was at our house. Mum and dad called me into their bedroom where I sat in the middle of them. Mum and dad both very upset told me that Jackson could have a brain tumour. I did not know a lot but I knew it must be really bad. I cried because I was scared but I was unsure of what really was ahead.
A couple of days later it was confirmed that Jackson did have a brain tumour in her brain stem and it was inoperable. There was nothing they could do and our lives have never been the same since this day. Jackson was given six to twelve months to live and told it would be closer to six months. She managed nine. She passed away, early hours of the morning on June the 18th 2008.
The last nine months of her life was really hard to watch. I may have only been 12-13 but I took everything in. I watched my dad be her full time carer right from beginning to end, I watched my mum hold us together as a family and keep everything in life a float, I watched all of our family come together to enjoy every moment but the hardest thing to watch was my beautiful little sister become sicker and sicker as the days went on.
Since becoming a mum and actually understanding the love you have for your own child, I now have a new appreciation for my mum. I really don’t know how she managed to hold us all together so well when she would have been struggling so much. I have a blog post ‘To the mum who is hurting on mother’s day’ that you can also read here. Even as a mum I cannot understand or try to comprehend the hurt, you must feel when losing a child.
One of the biggest life lessons I have learnt from losing my sister is to live and love like there is no tomorrow – sounds a bit cliché right? But seriously, a lot of us take our lives for granted every day. I try to start everyday as a glass half full kind of person but I do understand this is not always easy, especially as mum because we all know this mum gig can be hard sometimes. However, I do look at my little healthy girl who always seems to smile at me at just the right time, then I am reminded how very lucky I am. I’ve learnt it’s not always about money and materialistic things – sure I love having nice things and extra money in the bank but I try not to let it consume my life as so many of us do. Because is having the best house on the street, the flashiest car in the driveway, the latest cell phone or the trendiest clothes even worth it if we do not have our health or the people we love? I know which I’d prefer! Although I still manage to forget this valid piece of advice and sometimes find myself saying ‘I want, I want, I want’, I do try pulling myself back down to my morals really quickly. It is easy to be caught in that cycle but if you have woken up today, are healthy and have the ones you love then try using that as your motivation to get through and be happy!
Growing up, I do not really have many memories that mum was not around. She was always a stay at home mum and I am very thankful for that. I realise some people don’t have the choice and I really think working mums are doing an awesome job being able to do both but I am lucky enough to stay home for now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My mum has pointed out to me that she is so happy she was at home for Jackson’s first five years, she spent every day with her and watched her grow and created many memories that are now embedded in her heart. She may have only had her for a short seven years but she is so happy she does not have any regrets of missing out because she was in day care or with someone else while she worked. This has been a major influence for me, I really do not want to miss anything in the crucial first few years while my little girl and little boy grow up! I am so thankful I can stay home for now.
Everyone gives me shit because I hate leaving Harlee anywhere, I love being her mum and I think I’m just trying to enjoy it while it is still just her because soon I’ll have another little human to mind and I won’t be able to give Harlee my full attention as I do now. The only place I ever really let her go is my mums and even then, it is only if I really have to. I think part of my not wanting to leave her has to do with losing Jackson. I feel like I did not fit in as many memories as I could with Jackson and I feel ripped off from what I could have had. It’s the little things, like my kids only knowing her from pictures, not being able to call Jackson for a sisterly chat when you just need your sister, not being able to have her as a bridesmaid when I get married (hah, listen to me talking like I’ve got a ring – should really say if I get married :P) and just not having her around when we are together as a family. Now, with anyone I love and care about I try and fit them into my life as much as possible because I don’t want to feel ripped off if I was to ever lose someone else. So, as you can imagine when it comes to my own kids you could almost call it separation anxiety – Hah. I just really want to enjoy them while they are young before they grow up and only visit once a month!
Losing my sister has also made me a super cautious parent. Not in everything, like I do not wrap my kid in cotton wool or anything but with certain things I am very cautious. One thing I am more cautious of is doctors. Do not get me wrong doctors are amazing but they make mistakes too, they are only human. The downfall for them is their mistakes can effect a life and that’s such a big role to take on – so honestly big ups to them. However, I will always follow my gut instinct as a mother and if I do not feel like something is ever right I will push and push until I feel satisfied. Sleeping is another thing I am super cautious of, I never thought I would be that person but I am. Thank god for the Angelcare movement monitor! It has been a lifesaver and helped me sleep much easier. I do not think it’s a bad thing being a cautious parent especially in this world, but I do try to not let it take over!
Over all these things, the one thing I love is that it has taught me to really appreciate my children. From the good times to the bad times, I try and find the good in it all. We all know how hard it can be but I find taking a step back and remembering I made this little human and she is going to grow up so loved by everyone around her. When she was born the mother in me was also born and the crucial life lessons I have learnt leading up to her arrival have all made me become the best mum I can be. But most of all watching my little sister fight her journey has made me into the women and mum I am today.
Jackson Jae, nine whole years without you and it has never got easier. This last year has been one of the most testing. Not having you here to meet your first niece has been hard. You would have been an amazing aunty and I have no doubt you would have visited every other day. You would be nearly 17 years old and I truly believe these would have been our years; our years of finally being at a good age where we would have also been best friends. Although you may not be here, your memory is still truly alive. My children will always know who Aunty Jackson is and I will make sure they are a part of keeping your spirit so alive and around in our everyday lives. I miss you more than words can express and I love you to heaven and back a million times.
I hope that this blog has been somewhat helpful for anyone who has also lost someone special or I hope that this has been a bit of insight if you ever wondered how or if this would affect you as a mum. Sorry if it got a bit long but I could have went on even more!
If you know of anyone going through a similar situation don’t hesitate to email me below as my mum has written a book about Jackson’s Journey in the hopes to help other parents going through what she did.