Hello. I think I'm in over my head. (Mother with breast cancer)
Hello, everyone. I am a 39-year-old writer, photographer and editor, and my mother has just been diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer. I am an only child.
The first time, it was ductal carcinoma in situ. She had a mastectomy and reconstruction (which had a lot of complications and didn't turn out well). No chemo or further treatment was necessary. She didn't go back for checkups or a mammogram for three years, because my grandfather died and she was caring for my grandmother with dementia.
I had moved home, but after she was better, I took a job in another state and am now 250 miles away.
She had a biopsy last Friday and we learned Monday that she has a very aggressive breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes. They don't know how extensively. They will begin chemo ASAP. [EDIT: They're saying it is Stage III, Grade 3 metaplastic cancer]
She can't tell me anything about it as to type, etc. All she knows is it is grade 3 and though the tumor itself is small, the cancer is spreading fast. I'm driving myself crazy reading things, trying to figure out what kind she has. I'm not hearing anything about a PET scan or anything but chemo.
I will find all this out when I go home. She is overwhelmed and fearful and probably not asking the doctor.
Here's the thing: I want to go home. NOW. And I am angry at almost everyone I know.
I had told my boss on the Friday of her biopsy that I may have to go home for a while, assuming it would be another DCIS. He said we'd cross that bridge later and suggested that I am not responsible for her care. (What if I WANT to care for her??? What if I love her and WANT to be there???)
He was out of town when I learned the news. I wrote a blog post saying I intended to walk this journey with her and he sent a text saying, "This is b.s. We talked about this before I left."
I asked him to call me, to talk to me, and he told me to do whatever I want. In the past week while he was gone, he has not communicated with me again. (I am his number 2. He talked to coworkers by phone all week.)
Not a single coworker has said they are sorry. One said her father has brain cancer and has two weeks to live and at least my mother isn't dying. (What? I don't know if she is or isn't. Since when did a parent with cancer become a contest as to who gets to hurt the most?)
One asked how she was, then when I started to tell her cut me off and said, "God, you're so dramatic."
A superior told me he had a building full of problems and didn't have time for mine. (I was just calling to say I had thought I would have to be off work but would be coming in anyway, but he cut me off before I could say that.)
A friend sent me a picture of a friend who died of lung cancer. He didn't warn me or anything. Suddenly it just appeared on my screen — a skeletal man lying on a couch with a bucket beside him. I can't shake that image from my head. Why send it? How did that help me? He said good people die of cancer all the time. (This makes it ok?)
People have told me I shouldn't give up my life, there are people who can be hired to care for her. People have told me there are people worse off than she is, as if that gives me no right to be sad or scared or angry.
I was told at work that they are not sure if I qualify for Family Medical Leave. My friends keep telling me to cool my heels about leaving and wait until she is sicker. (And what shall I tell her? "Hey, when you're too sick to care if I'm there, I'll come take care of you!")
I do have the complication that I have some serious health issues, though what is more serious than cancer? I have early-stage COPD, with uncontrolled asthma and severe obstructive sleep apnea. I spent most of January and February in the hospital, despite taking daily medicines that would cost $2,000 without health insurance. With insurance, they're around $300. I have an oxygen concentrator and a CPAP, neither of which I can go without.
A leave of absence (if I even get it) is only good for three months. What then? I can't take care of my mother if I am always sick, too. And she will end up taking care of me.
I am already stressed and overwhelmed. I just want to move home and begin this journey. But from a practical standpoint, not much is going to be accomplished if I become very sick, too. My employers do not seem open to allowing me to come and go as needed.
All I do is cry, and I have no real support network. All my mother does is cry, and all she has is me and my stepfather, who is great but not emotionally equipped to be helpful to her and is squeamish around needles, blood, wounds, etc.
I'm sorry this was so long. I am just so torn and I am already sick of the insensitive things people say. I just love her, you know? I don't think I need to apologize or ask permission to want to care for my mother because I love her.
Thank you for listening to me. I will try to make future sagas shorter. I am glad to find this group.
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