Read touching story by Bicknacre’s Jane Lomas inspired by caring for daughter with autoimmune disease

Jane Lomas with her daughter, Charlotte. Picture: PROVIDED BY CARERS UK

Jane Lomas with her daughter, Charlotte. Picture: PROVIDED BY CARERS UK - Credit: Archant

An Essex woman has been nationally recognised for a story she penned about her experiences caring for her seriously ill daughter.

Jane Lomas. Picture: PROVIDED BY CARERS UK

Jane Lomas. Picture: PROVIDED BY CARERS UK - Credit: Archant

Jane Lomas, from Bicknacre, a village near Chelmsford, has been announced a ‘highly commended’ writer as part of Carers UK’s Creative Writing and Photography Competition.

For the past three years Ms Lomas has cared for her 27-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who suffers with a rare condition called Polyglandular Autoimmune Syndrome.

The 54-year-old was inspired to write Egg and Cress on a Rainy Day after realising her expectations of what it would mean to be a carer didn’t match up to the reality, which was filled with just as many positive experiences as challenges.

“With this story, I wanted to show that caring doesn’t make life bad, it just makes it different to what you expected in younger life,” she said.

“It took me years to realise that I was ‘a carer’: I gradually slipped into the role without realising it and I know a lot of other carers do the same.

“I would absolutely like to use this win to encourage other carers to see themselves in this story and ask for support. From experience, I know that joining a charity like Carers UK online can you feel less isolated and give you a sense of belonging.”

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Carers UK, with backing from sponsors Specsavers Healthcall, will publish Ms Lomas’s story in an anthology called This Was Not in the Plan, set to be released on November 27.

Earlier this year, carers, former carers, and their friends were invited to contribute poems, short stories, and photographs for the national competition.

The front-runners were picked by award-winning poet Cheryl Moskowitz, who judged the prize for a third year running.

Carers UK’s chief executive, Heléna Herklots, said: “At some point in our lives almost all of us will care for someone or require care ourselves. Yet, caring can still feel like an isolating experience, often worsened by a lack of understanding from those close to us or society as a whole.

“With the support of Specsavers Healthcall, Carers UK is using the power of photography and the written word to shine a light on the experiences of more carers than ever before.

“In previous years, we have seen the competition’s winning poems, stories, and photographs help other carers feel less alone and better understood. We hope that this year’s contest will encourage even more carers recognise their role and come forward to claim the support they’re entitled to.”

Egg and Cress on a Rainy Day by Jane Lomas

Dear Nurin

Happy birthday! I hope this card finds you well and that you like the earrings. Another year on and we still haven’t managed to meet up. How is work? I hope you’re enjoying the promotion – it’s lovely to see that all your hard work has paid off.

I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch for a while but things have been a bit tricky here. You see, about six months ago Daniel had a stroke. It was completely out of the blue as these things are, I suppose. He’s recovered fairly well, although we’ve had to make some adjustments around the house.

We’ve got a stair-lift which sort of dominates the hallway, but it’s okay, I’ve even had the odd ride on it myself! And I’ve had to take up a couple of rugs because Daniel tends to trip easily; he’s unsteady on his feet and his left leg drags a little. I’ve had a huge clear-out and rearranged the furniture so there’s room for his walking frame. I feel quite modern and minimalistic!

How’s your mum? Is she still going off on her coach trips and hiking holidays? I suppose she must be in her eighties now; she’s amazing. And your sister, and niece? It’s funny how time moves on, isn’t it?

The other day I was thinking about our graduation. Your family couldn’t afford to travel all that way, so you’d hung out with mine. At dinner Dad asked about your plans and I’d jumped in saying that you were applying for a work visa. I was so excited by the future and wanted to show off about the job I’d been offered, certain that you would get something spectacular (your grades were always much better than mine). Later that evening you told me you were returning to Malaysia. You explained that your sister was marrying and starting a family, while your duty, as the youngest, was to look after your parents.

‘They’re fit and healthy!’ I’d been scornful. ‘What about what you want? What about your life?’

You’d stayed calm and explained how grateful you were to your parents, how indebted. To repay the debt was what you wanted.

‘But that’s not how it works!’ I’d said.

You’d smiled in your quiet way, head slightly bowed: ‘It is my duty. As it should be.’

You left the following week, as quietly as you had come. We promised to stay in touch and to meet up again one day.

It has started to rain. Big fat drops that smack at the window proclaiming they are here to stay. I was going to take Daniel to the park. I’d already prepared the picnic: egg and cress sandwiches, his favourite (if I remember correctly, they were your favourite, too!), and his wheelchair’s loaded in the car with the bag of supplies that goes with us everywhere. I was timing the trip between medication and physio but I’ve missed the slot. Each day dances to its own beat: time is measured not in hours and minutes but by Daniel’s wants and needs. Breakfast used to be a ten-minute rush of cereal and coffee before work. Now it can take an hour or more. There’s no rushing Daniel, and each day slides into the next, punctuated by night and, hopefully, sleep.

Did I mention that I left my job? Well, I couldn’t face the thought of carers coming in so it was the only thing to do. I don’t miss the daily grind and stress of the office but sometimes it would be nice to put on some work clothes, go out for lunch and chat with the girls. I am lucky, though, we’ve got lots of friends who pop in when they can. And thank goodness for the internet! It helps me keep in touch, and shopping is so easy - we don’t need to leave the house at all.

Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be able to travel as we’d planned. Retirement has come early for us and we have to make our money stretch as far as we can now. Besides, I’m not sure that Daniel will ever be up to it. If a trip to the park today is out of the question, I don’t know where I’d find the energy to plan a trip abroad. I don’t mind too much. I would have liked to visit you in Malaysia but I suppose it’s not to be.

It’s funny, Nurin. I’d railed against your sense of duty, not understanding how you would willingly put your life on hold. But now I understand what you were trying to say, it was more than duty, you did it for love. I made a vow ‘till death us do part’, but the promise is inconsequential. I am still in love with Daniel, and always will be: ‘in sickness and in health’.

Anyway, I can hear Daniel getting restless. I don’t want him getting up by himself and having another fall. So I’m going to set the table with the picnic tablecloth and pretend we’re at the park. I’m not fond of egg and cress sandwiches myself, but I’ve got used to them. You get used to anything after a time, don’t you?

Much love

Anna xx

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