Carly Telford reflects on an emotional few weeks following the passing of her mother, Yvonne, and opens up on dealing with grief.
I had a message from my sister on the Friday saying that mum had gone back into hospital. Nothing to be alarmed about but just letting me know. Friday and Saturday were pretty normal, she had a slight infection but my dad and brother had seen her and things weren’t too bad.
On the Sunday things got a little bit worse. I got a call saying she wasn’t great but my dad would let me know if anything changed. But again, nothing massively to worry about, just part of the infection that was happening.
Unfortunately, at this time we’d found the cancer had spread. I didn’t find out until the Monday night but they told my brother, sister and dad it had spread to her lungs and her liver. I went to training on Monday morning and trained like normal.
Receiving the call
I actually tweaked my back so I was in the physio room waiting for some treatment but the physio was out on the pitch with Neetz [Anita Asante] and Jade [Bailey] doing some rehab stuff. I went in and got showered, went back to my locker and was just sitting in my towel when I saw I had a missed call off my dad and a voicemail.
I just thought ‘Oh s**t’. He never rings unless it’s something bad. I listened to the voicemail and he just said, “Carly you need to come home” and in the meantime the physio burst in and said they’d been trying to get hold of me through the club.
I was upset and the tears had set in a little bit at this point because I knew it was bad. I threw everything in a bag and just left. Our goalkeeping coach Stuart [Searle] and our secretary came dashing after me to see if I was ok to drive home and Kaz Carney came out and offered to drive me up too.
I think they knew how serious it was from the call that came through to the club. God knows what I packed, I later found out when I got home I’d not packed any underwear! I got home and went straight to the hospital at about 7pm on the Monday night and mum had fallen unconscious over the Sunday night.
When I got there I was just kind of in shock. She’d not gone, she was still responsive but she couldn’t speak, she was past that point. The doctor came in and told us they’d given her the strongest antibiotics they could and if she didn’t respond to those over the next 24 hours, the chat would be had in terms of that’s all that could be done for her.
By 11pm nothing had changed so dad told us to go home and he was going to stay with mum. We’d been home about an hour when dad rang to tell us we needed to come back. She’d had a change and it wasn’t a good one.
We spent the night and the day in the hospital, pretty much all day waiting for news. The doctor took us into a room that night and unfortunately told us what we didn’t want to hear, she was dying. It’s a weird decision because it’s not really a decision. It’s out of your control. The antibiotics weren’t having any affect, they were just prolonging the inevitable.
That happened about 10pm on Tuesday and then it was just about making her as comfortable as possible. We got the family around her, a few of her close friends who wanted to say goodbye to her. We just held her hand and I don’t imagine many people do this but we sat there and just watched for her last breath.
I’d done it before with my grandad so we kind of knew what we were looking for. It’s that moment where it just happens and you say your goodbyes. You’re just sat there and she’s just passed and you don’t really know what to do with yourself. You just pack your stuff up, go home and take in what has happened.
She went in there having an infection and unfortunately got pneumonia and never came back out of it. After speaking to the doctors, I think it was probably best that she passed when she did because of how aggressive the cancer had got.
We got to hopefully see her be peaceful and pass with her family around her. Then you have to tell everyone, my dad let our family and friends know before it got announced on mum’s social media. I was in contact with the staff at Chelsea. Emma [Hayes], Paul [Green], Stuart and our secretary, I had in a little group of chat and I started getting messages from the girls pretty much that next morning.
The amount of support we had, personally and as a family, we never thought would happen. The girls turned up to her funeral the day before we played Juventus. I know Toni [Duggan] let her team know and Barcelona and Chelsea held a minute’s silence and so did Juventus.
Casey [Stoney], Phil [Neville] sent me flowers. He was texting me to make sure I was alright and if I needed anything he was there for me. The same as Casey and Emma and Paul and all my friends. Jill [Scott], Steph [Houghton] and Beatts [Jennifer Beattie] were all in touch.
I just never imagined they’d be there as much as they have been. Bass [Laura Bassett] came up and all of the Scandi’s at Chelsea came up. They’d probably never met my mum but felt that being there would be a nice thing and it meant so much to me. When I saw them at the end of the funeral, God it set me off even more.
Me and my family managed to stand up there and speak about her in front of about 300-400 people, which was overwhelming. We’re from a little mining town but the people who turned up had come from London and it just meant the world to us that she meant that much to so many people.
Making your parents proud
Now it’s a process of trying to get back to a normal life. I’ve had a lot of text messages and tweets and Instagram messages from people who have been through this at my age or a younger age. Fran [Kirby] was one of the first to reach out to me, her situation is a lot similar to mine. Obviously she lost her mum at a much younger age but has to live with that every day.
I remember when we won the FA Cup and the FA WSL she was kind of quiet. I remember speaking to her and she told me how her mum hadn’t got to witness any of it. It makes me think about the stage I’m going into in my career is going to be the hardest just because of that reason, but also it gives you more purpose.
Everything you do is about making your parents proud and that’s something I know I have to do, not just without her but for her. I want to make her proud and I said to Fran that we’d do that and hopefully they were upstairs together cheering us on.
She actually hated watching me play football in case I got injured which was typical of her. But she’s got the best seat in the house now and can pick and choose which games she watches instead of having to sit with dad for every game.
She got to see me lift an FA Cup at Wembley and win the league. She might not get to see me at a World Cup next year but it’s been an emotional rollercoaster and I have no doubt it will continue to be.
The grieving process
I wanted to do this not for sympathy but because there are people out there battling things and there’s such a stigma on talking about how you feel and the more I talk about it the more it helps. I don’t want people to be scared of talking to me about it because my mum was my pride and joy and I have nothing but positive things to say about her.
She brought nothing but happiness to my life so to share those moments about her help me deal with what’s going on, and I know that I’m going to have to speak to some people who know how to deal with moments of sadness and anxiety.
There will be days where it’s harder to get out of bed and go to football but I’m quite open to talking to those people. I’m fully aware grief is not an easy process and there’s no simple solution to it and it’s an ongoing thing now. I think I’ll be forever dealing with it and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.
People say to me that you never get over it, you just find ways of dealing with it. I’m cool with that, that’s kind of how life goes.
I’m back training now and I’ve kind of had to start pre-season all over again. My body hurts but it’s good to be back and it’s been good to be around the girls again. People come up to you and say sorry and they don’t have to apologise but I know it would be the first thing I’d say in that situation as well.
I’ll probably never get to reply to everyone who messaged me personally but if this does help and anybody reads it, I would like to say thank you for your support because it has helped so much. I also noticed on Twitter that people were actually having conversations about their experiences and I hope that helps people.
Nobody tells you at 30 years old what you’re supposed to do when you lose your mum. There’s no book so the more you lean on each other and the more honest we are with each other makes it a little bit easier. You’re never alone. That’s kind of the story of my last three weeks really.
There’s been some difficult conversations regarding football. I didn’t really know when the right time to come back was. I didn’t want to leave my dad, my brother and my sister, especially my dad. We’re quite close. We’re a very small family and I think he just wanted everyone around him but this is an important year for me and getting myself back involved with England has been amazing for me. I had my hopes set so high this year for having a good pre-season and the best possibility to start for my club.
But sometimes things out of your control come along so it just means I’m a couple of weeks behind. I’m at a good club surrounded by a lot of good people and they know my ability. I’ve just got to work hard now and what will be with England will be.
We have a big game to win, probably the biggest since the semi-final last year. I haven’t had as many minutes as I’d wanted but whatever part I play in Wales, I’ll just be thankful that I’m there and I’ll do whatever I can to help us get to that World Cup.
This column is dedicated to Yvonne Telford, who passed away peacefully on the night of Tuesday July 24th, 2018.
Follow Carly on Twitter and Instagram @carlytelford1