When I had been back in the UK in the summer, my mother had been diagnosed with cancer. It seemed to take an age for the doctors to decide how to tackle it, but she remained relatively healthy for a month or two. Sometimes she had suffered bilious attacks and a painful swelling in the abdomen that could only really be relieved by draining the fluid out. The clinic decided to give her a course of chemotherapy but the drugs made her very weak and ill. However, we decided together that I should return to Mauritius for my work, and that if anything went seriously wrong, I could be on the next plane home. I’d had conversations with my brothers at various intervals and they gave me updates; I don’t think I ever saw the full horrors of how mum deteriorated so quickly in the autumn. She had been into hospital a couple of times, but had been discharged soon after. The doctors had decided to halt the chemotherapy for the time being, to allow mum to recover from it. But the cancer continued to vigorously attack her and she was very much weakened. One of my brothers, David, rang that night and told me that Mum had been taken into hospital and had specifically had asked to see me.
The decision was instantaneous. Mum was one who was never liked to be seen to be fussing; she wanted everyone to carry on as normal. For her to ask to see me meant it was truly critical.
I’d warned Mike in the summer that mum had cancer and that I might have to change my plans at any moment. This made things easy on his side and I am so grateful to the support I got from him and Jeremy, and from the consulting firm back in the UK. Mike and I drove into Grand Baie and I found a travel agent. They booked me on the next BA flight the following day. Mike dropped me off at the airport, saying that he and Jeremy would head off to Rodrigues at the end of the week, and that I could rearrange my ticket when I wanted to catch them up after I had seen mum. Nobody had mentioned the word “if”.