It dawned on me a few weeks ago... there is something I don't easily discuss in any forum, and that is my family of origin, specifically, my parents and any issue that greatly affects me, involving them.
I haven't blogged much about my mom here on TCIE, except where it had to do with my own struggles through infertility, and wanting to model my own motherhood after hers, and my faith story.
I haven't blogged about my mom on the private blog at all, even though her part of that story was always felt, in strong, supportive, and loving ways.
I haven't even Facebooked about my mom or dad, except for an occasional Mother's Day and Father's Day post. And it's not just because they are smart, old people who think Facebook is stupid and would never set foot there.
It's because it's a part of me I am, for some reason, not so apt to open up about. I share freely with friends and strangers alike about my gynecological escapades for years on end, but talk about my mom, my relationship with her, and her current health situation? No.
I think I realized this in therapy recently. Having opened the conversation by giving the latest update on my mom's situation, I moved onto other areas of my personal and professional life and how my anxiety was trickling into all of them... then I backtracked and said "I don't know why I'm focusing so much on everything else except the biggest, most important issue, here." My therapist said, "Well, it was the very first thing you said when you sat down. You're not ignoring it." I replied, "Yes, but that was so I could get it over with and move on to other topics."
Because nobody wants to sit and dwell on the fact that their mother is dying.
And when Max, my therapist, told me he was sorry to hear the news and that it was awful... I sat in silence. Having already shed many tears in that room over all kinds of other stupid shit, here I was trying to hold back the tears that actually meant something.
I'm not a cryer. Not in front of other people, anyway. Unless two things are in place: 1) I really, really trust them, and 2) what I'm crying over helps me to feel better once the crying stops.
A good, cathartic cry is always good. I generally do them privately.
But, if I don't see a resolution, or a step towards feeling better? Ima fight those tears like they're the devil and I'm St Michael.
Tears for Mom? I don't see those stopping any time soon. So, I won't start.
In August 2015, Robbie had just turned 4 months old, and already had lost his first house and claimed bankruptcy (Mommy's Little Overachiever). That's when the 2 of us moved to my hometown, and I went in search of a job for his father. A few months later, Mom was diagnosed with a very rare form of ovarian cancer, originating in a dermoid cyst that was starting to cause her pain. (It's called squamous cell carcinoma of a dermoid.) The cyst was large enough at that point to have invaded the uterus, and was classified as Stage II. She had a complete hysterectomy, and began radiation and chemo through March/April 2016. That was when I started my business, and Robbie had his first birthday, which she attended after treatment.
With follow-up labs and scans, everything seemed okay cancer-wise. However, she developed a bad hernia after the surgery and a year later went through another abdominal surgery for that.
Then, around the holidays 2017, she started complaining of pain in her back and shoulder...
A mass was later found in her lung, which, prior to biopsy we weren't sure if it was a primary lung cancer or metastatic ovarian.
Turns out, it was the latter. And, due to its location, inoperable.
Around this time, Robbie and I decided to pack up the bare necessities from our quaint little cottage apartment, and move into a bedroom at Mom and Dad's, so I could be there 'round the clock. The intention was to cook, clean, and take care of as much as possible around the house that my mom could no longer do easily. It was meant to be short-term, as she was going to be starting treatments and was told there would be likely a couple of years.
Mom started radiation, and chemo. Got through first chemo, then wound up in hospital on Robbie's 3rd birthday, with what was later diagnosed as pneumonia. Came out of the hospital, had a 2nd chemo of a lesser dose, back in hospital from complications of the ongoing pneumonia and dehydration. Transferred to a rehab facility after that. Released home in early June.
Met with oncologist who said the only viable options at this point would be immunotherapy or palliative care. Immunotherapy was iffy because Mom still lacked the strength to tolerate it, not to mention the transportation to and from the appointments (she cannot do the stairs and requires an oxygen tank, so getting out of the house is a huge ordeal). Mom and Dad chose hospice.
Right now, she is using an in-home hospice team, and they have been pretty good. This just started late last week. My Dad and I are the main caregivers.
Robbie and I just signed a lease on a 2-bedroom house, just 3 minutes down the road. Haven't moved in, yet, that will be a slow process, I'm sure. After 3 months of staying with them 24/7, I am struggling to maintain balance for Robbie with care-giving for Mom (and Dad). From our own space, it will be easier. I know that sounds weird, but trust me. It will.
And so now we all prepare. In our own way, on our own timeline.
If you haven't guessed it by now, my brand seems to be along the lines of "avoid by keeping busy" much like with my other crosses, in life. I am very much a Martha in times of high stress, and wouldn't know where to begin trying to be a Mary. So, care-giving I began and leaped in head first, 100%. Robbie has been... AMAZING through this whole thing, while yes, he is still three. But he is a good, good boy and I am so blessed.
I never thought anything in my life could be this draining. And, I have my Dad also giving 100% (even more than me, as he's with her through the night, right next to her). But, let me tell you... this shit is HARD. The visiting Hospice Team members only come about once per day or every other day, we haven't even started with the home health aide schedule (personal care like bathing), and my Dad and I are trying to juggle an entire medical team's work with our own guilt of wondering what happens if we screw up something... I repeat: this. shit. is. HARD.
In the meantime, I recognize that it is the hard, and the constant, that have become my avoidance mechanism. I do not have to think about what's happening when I'm instead thinking about the phone ringing with instructions for the next medication, jumping to assist in bringing her to the bathroom, and ensuring Mom eats when she can, and that food is on the table for Dad and Robbie's mealtimes... yeah, I'm not dieting. On purpose. I love food. It's just waaaaay low on my priority list at the moment.
My mother. It's my mother. She is the woman who shaped me.
Thank God for her faith, and the faith she gave to me. I know I'll get through this. But I know it's going to hurt like hell when I finally allow it to...
Please join me in prayer for Donna Maria. My beautiful, loving, self-sacrificing, quirky, Heaven-seeking (not to be confused with perfection-seeking as each of her 4 daughters often interpreted it as teenagers and beyond...), steadfast and conscientious mother.
Hail Mary, full of grace...