goodbyeWhat 15 minutes has changed your life, what crucial conversation meant everything shifted? For me, a recent example was coming home from the hospital after having a routine scan to tell my Husband I have a lump in my breast.

I still remember the look on his face, scared but holding it together for my benefit. Why was this so scary for me? It was because my whole life I have lived under the shadow of breast cancer. My Mother was diagnosed at 39 years old when I was a new born. She has a mastectomy and went on Tamoxifen. A couple of years later when the Tamoxifen was stopped (as is usual with this treatment) she had car accident and they found a metastatic growth in her spine. She had radiation treatment.

A few years later, she was seeing her GP. She told her GP of a lump in the other breast, her GP talked it down and told her not too worry. Perhaps a missed opportunity for a crucial conversation or otherwise a crucial miss.

She persisted and a few months later found she had a second different, more aggressive cancer in her remaining breast. Again she had a mastectomy and began Tamoxifen for a third round. By the time this happened I was 17 and doing my HSC.

After this she slowly but surely developed metastases all over her body and fought the hard fight until she went to heaven in 2003. By this time the cancer was in her bones, liver, stomach and brain.

So I guess another opportunity for a crucial conversation was the last time I spoke to her. She was unconscious and had been for a couple of days. The Palliative care team had told us, any day now. I wanted so badly to be by her side when she passed but was called away on some urgent family business with my ex husband.

I wanted to ensure that she knew how I felt so I read to her what I was planning to say at her funeral. Some may say this is sad or macabre but I wanted her to know how I felt, not just for the rest of the world to know. I think so many times eulogies are filled with things our loved ones needed to know while alive.

So with lumps in my throat and tears streaming down my cheeks I read her the eulogy I had written. She squeezed my hand when I finished which was such a special thing for me, some acknowledgement. Another beautiful but painful crucial conversation albeit one way.

On the way back from my “emergency” I received a call to say she had passed away. I had missed her by 1 hour. I cried tears I thought were impossible to cry. I cursed my ex husband blaming him for pulling me away in another selfish act.

However in hindsight, this was how she wanted it. She had always said she did not wish to be a burden and wanted to be alone to die. I don’t think any of us understood this or believed it so we faithfully sat by her bedside hour after hour.

It was only when I was gone, one sister was in the bathroom and the other was called away to answer the door that she passed away. Then I thought, poor love, was just waiting for a peaceful moment to slip away.

Crucial conversations can occur anywhere and any time, ensure you are open and ready as you may only get one chance.