Oct 04, 2011 - 9:11 pm
Warning: I know I jump from topic to topic, but I figured I would rather type this out organically vs. manipulate it.
My mother has been battling cancer for the past 3 years. It started with breast cancer, spread to bonen (hip & back), stomach & now possibly brain. Her health in the last few months have rapidly declined. She was a single mother raising my brother and I, working 60 hours a week and never once complained. Always was the life of the party, you couldn't slow her down. Now she can barely form a sentence. It’s not only the disease that is destroying her, but also the medications. She constantly feels tired, has no energy, has trouble remembering things, goes in and out of sleep throughout the entire day.
When she first became diagnosed she hid as much as she could from us. Even now, she does the same. Every time I question something or ask what this new medication she is taking or how I don’t understand something she tells me with the most heartbreaking look on her face, “I hope you never understand what I am going through”. She is wasting away right before my eyes. There are so many reasons why this breaks my heart. The first is that she should not be sick. I know, nobody “deserves” cancer but I truly feel like God made a huge mistake. She was left all alone with 2 children, and had to fight this disease all by herself. My mom was (is) the most strong, independent woman I know. And to imagine she had to go to doctors appointments, surgeries, and chemo/radiation all by herself - it literally makes me want to throw up. She kept everything secret because she didn’t want my brother & I to worry. Her reasoning was she will get better & why worry us in the meantime. That did not happen.
All of her family & friends either live out of the state or out of the country, so she basically was dealing with all these horrible emotions on her own. To imagine getting a mastectomy, losing all of your hair, all these things we girls value as the fun of being a woman she is now seeing gone right before her eyes. It makes me think back to 1st through 3rd grade, where I used to take my mom to school as my show & tell item. She was that insanely beautiful, and each time she had the other kids fighting over who got to sit next to her at lunch time. It’s as if she went from 26 years old to 126 years old, I can’t believe this is what she has been given.
I would give anything to take her illness, anything. I keep imagining myself making deals with God if he would in turn bring her to what she used to be or at least make her healthier, he can do this/that to me. It kills me seeing an older woman walking her dogs, shopping, or doing anything - because I know that is not what my mom will ever be OK to do. At this point she has lost a lot of weight, is glued to the couch, and pretty much goes in & out of sleep 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the past few months. It is breaking my heart because I can see her trying to do something, or trying to interact but she just can’t. Just a few days ago she said something that nearly killed me. She asked for something to eat and I jumped up to the kitchen, when I came back she barely was able to eat saying she had a stomach ache. She looked at me with the most emotion in weeks and said she was so sorry that she had to be taken care of like this, and how she wished she could “help out more around the house”. She looked so defeated. I wanted to bawl right there but I didn’t, I’ve learned not to do that in front of her. I told her “Mom you took care of my & my brother from the day we were born, why wouldn’t we do the same for you?”
There were a few episodes where she was rushed to the ER for pain and ended up staying overnight in observation. One of those nights I stayed at the hospital with her, I woke up twice in the middle of the night to my frail mom who had crept out of the hospital bed with IV’s & cords still connected to her adjusting my blanket. She was hooked up to multiple IV’s, barely able to walk yet the second she saw my blanket falling off me or me moving around she jumped into action trying to make me comfortable. Every time I think of that I immediately breakdown.
I work a full time job, live by myself and my mom lives about 20 min from me. I would stop in every few days and take care of errands for her or hang out and that used to be enough. At this point my brother has now moved in with her to be with her full time. At no point have I ever felt like she is a burden, or feel like I’m “stuck” or anything negative. The only things I get frustrated about are what else can I do for her? What would make her happy or more comfortable? She keeps saying nothing but I know she is just trying to be polite. My brother got her a little vegetable garden started which is a great idea, it gets her up because she has to water & check on them.
I’m learning that the best thing I can offer my mom is my time. I can offer taking her shopping or doing a spa day, she always declines (and adds in, “why waste your money?“). Though it’s hard because most of the time she is going in and out of sleep (like 90% of the time) so it’s not like we are having conversations, taking a walk together, or watching a movie. I read somewhere that just being there for a person with cancer (or any illness), regardless of if you are really even interacting with them they can feel you and your love in the room. That thought makes me feel better.
Besides getting this off my chest, I do have some questions. What do you suggest about taking care of someone with cancer when she are always “out of it”? She refuses to be put on a good sleep schedule (instead just dozes all day) or take any sleeping aids. Not having good sleep hygiene is unhealthy; whether you have cancer or not. I just know if she had a set sleep schedule it would at least help a little, but it’s hard to have a conversation with someone going in and out of sleep 24/7.
Another issue I wish I could get some advice on is how do I encourage her to get up and be more active? Not necessarily go run a mile, but just little things like let’s stay up and watch a movie or do something out of the house that she feels up to doing. At this point, she can’t do anything by herself outside of the house. i.e. no way she could go to the store, the mailbox, etc on her own so I know it’s difficult regardless of if she wants to or not. The thing is I know it’s unhealthy to be stuck in a house all day every day for weeks & now months. It has to have some sort of physiological impact which I am trying to avoid for her. Any advice and/or encouragement would be appreciated - thank you.