For all of her life, Phillipa cared for her daughter, Beccy, who was born with an intellectual disability.
Now Beccy is 37 and is caring for her mum.
The change in roles came after Phillipa was suddenly diagnosed with a highly aggressive breast cancer.
Within days she had had a double mastectomy and was in hospital, recovering from major surgery.
A widow with no other family, Philippa had no one to ask for help, even though her work colleagues were kind and understanding. They brought pre-cooked meals for a while, sent flowers and chocolates, and ‘made all the right noises’, Phillipa said.
“But in the end, everyone has their own lives to lead, don’t they? Everyone has their own family woes. Some have health issues of their own, or family issues. Everyone is working hard at work. No one has much time for you when you are sick and needy.
“I didn’t expect any great support from my work friends. Don’t get me wrong, they were just lovely. Kind and caring and all that. But really, what more could they do?
“I don’t really have friends outside of work because my spare time has generally been tied up with my daughter and her needs. I can’t really leave her alone on week nights or weekends, so I tend not to go out anywhere.
“More friends would have been great, but even if I had had them, I think their support is there only to the extent that it fits in with their own life and schedule. These days everyone seems so very busy. There are so many pressures on people. They are running from one thing to another, trying to fit so much in.
“I have found you can’t rely on others for support. They are there for a few days and then they drop off. I don’t want it to sound like I expect any more and am bitter or disappointed. Not at all. Everyone I know has been great. It is just that I am trying to make a point that people have lives of their own and you can’t really expect anyone to drop everything and run around after you if you get sick.
“My boss was sensational. She told me to have as much time off as I needed and that my job would be waiting when I came back. That meant the world to me. It gave me a goal to aim for. I work in a small allied health team and love my job, so I really wanted to eventually go back to it.
“But in the meantime, I had to cope with all sorts of new things in caring for my wounds, my subsequent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and ultimately breast reconstructions.
“And through all of that I was truly astonished at how much help, love, care and support my daughter was able to give me. She did things she had never before attempted in her life.
“She made simple meals for us, helped me with showering and wound dressing, did the washing, made the beds, answered the phone, helped with the shopping, and in general stayed by my side and kept me company for the 12 months of living hell I went through.
“I was amazed, humbled and incredibly grateful. I had no idea she was capable of so much. I have a new respect for her and a deeper appreciation of what a precious gift she is in my life.
“I am back at work part-time now. I have good days and bad days and don’t know what the future holds, but I have faced the reality of dying and that has forced me to do some future planning so that Beccy’s future will be secure if I pass on. That was not something I had thought of doing before.
“We are just enjoying the time we have together now. Every day is a gift.”