Bereaved blogger Rochelle Bugg shares story to help young carers

By Kate Scotter
BBC News, East

image copyrightJon Enoch/Hancock & Handsome
image captionRochelle Bugg said she hoped other people could learn from her experience and use her book as a guide

"You think, it was one thing for it to happen once but surely there was no way twice."

At the age of 25, Rochelle Bugg found herself as a full-time carer for her mother Shirley who was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.

It came just over 10 years after her father James had died from pancreatic cancer.

While caring for her mother, she created a blog detailing her experience - and it has now been published as a book in a bid to help other young carers.

Miss Bugg had not long finished university and was starting her career in London when she first found out her mum was unwell in November 2010.

It was initially thought her mum had had a mini-stroke but a second opinion in January 2011, sought privately, revealed she had a terminal brain tumour.

image copyrightRochelle Bugg
image captionMiss Bugg had not long graduated from university and was starting her career when her mum Shirley became ill

"It was such a shock and so surreal," said Miss Bugg, whose father died in September 2000, aged 47.

"Having already lost Dad, I didn't feel that it could be true, that my mum could have cancer as well. I thought there must be a mistake."

As a result of her mum's diagnosis, she put her "life on pause", giving up her job and apartment in London, and moved back to Suffolk to care for her mum.

She also took on the "parent role" as her sister Hannah, who was 20 at the time, came back from Middlesex University and her youngest sister Olivia, then 16, was at Suffolk College.

image copyrightBugg family
image captionJames Bugg, pictured with his daughters and wife Shirley, died from pancreatic cancer in 2000

During the 18 months of caring for her mum, who died in April 2012, Miss Bugg kept a blog, initially created to keep family and friends up to date.

"But as things progressed, the blog became a place for me to work through my feelings and an outlet for me. It was an emotional release for me," she said.

Miss Bugg said being a carer in some ways could be "alienating for a young person" but she wanted to do for her mum "what she had done for Dad".

The online blog, which she has continued with to today, has been turned into a book called Handle With Care.

image copyrightBugg family
image captionFrom left to right: Olivia, Rochelle and Hannah Bugg, now aged 26, 35 and 30, were supported by St Elizabeth Hospice

Miss Bugg, now 35, said it was a part-diary, part-guide, a "real blend of our story with practical bits that people can take away from it".

She said it was also "very honest" as she found a lot of information already available was "quite glossy, almost like the Hollywood way of dying, ticking off bucket lists and running sponsored marathons".

"The reality was so, so different and so unglamorous," said Miss Bugg, who was supported as a carer by Suffolk's St Elizabeth Hospice.

image copyrightBugg Family
image captionMiss Bugg, pictured as a child with her mum Shirley, put her life on "pause" to care for her mum

"I want that to be out there so people don't think they are failing or doing a bad job.

"It's OK if you are struggling, it's OK if you haven't washed your hair all week because you haven't had time, it's OK that you had takeaway last night because you didn't have the energy to cook.

"I'm putting it out there in the hope that it will help people."

She said she also hopes the book, dedicated to her parents, will raise more awareness of brain tumours and the symptoms to look for after her mum's initial misdiagnosis.

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