The Post I Didn’t Want to Write: Talking About My Mother’s Illness
Sometimes, we do not want things to be true. With all the insistence of a child, we WILL it not to be real, not to be the hulking shadow-monster in our lives. We ignore it. We hide it under the rug. We don’t make eye contact.
And, certainly, we don’t write it down. We don’t spell it out. You see, there’s something about writing it out that gives it more power. No, that’s not quite right. It simply makes it feel more true, because…there it is. In black and white. You can’t ignore it. You’ve written it down, and now…it exists.
Congratulations, you’ve unleashed a monster. Up until now, it’s been the Jabberwocky hiding in the dark. Sure, you KNOW it’s out there. You KNOW it’s a living nightmare. But you can overlook it, because you haven’t faced it. Writing it down? That’s facing it. By doing so, you’ve dragged the Jabberwocky out of its hiding place.
There’s one thing in particular that I don’t really talk about. I don’t write about it. I don’t show or share it. I pretend as best as I can, because it’s the only defense mechanism I have. But here’s the thing no one tells you about defense mechanisms: they’re faulty as hell and they’re not meant for the long term. They crack, seep, leak, and dissolve – usually in the moment you are on your knees, wailing, you need it the most. Here’s the truth: it doesn’t help. It doesn’t heal.
And here’s the thing about me: I am a fixer.
If you need a friend, I’m it. Call me. Email me. If you live close enough, come over. There will be coffee and baked goods. If I can help, I will.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra. Or maybe I watched too many episodes of the CareBears growing up. But that is who I am: the person you can count on, when the shit hits the fan, and you’re covered in crap. If you need a break from your life, somewhere to hide – and someone to confide in – I’m your girl Friday. Nothing you say to me goes beyond the room. Ever. I don’t care if you’re the girl I knew in second grade or a movie star. If I care, I care. End of story.
So, I am a fixer – which is why being helpless really kills me, sometimes. For me, there are few things worse than seeing a problem, but being able to do nothing. I hate watching anyone suffer, especially someone I love. I hate not being able to make it better.
Which, I suppose, brings me to this admission: my mom has stage four metastatic breast cancer. She’s had it for a little over two years. There are very few people I talk to this about (but you guys? You know who you are – and thank you, in case I haven’t said it enough). At heart, I think, I’m a private person. Yes, I write stories about my life, but I rarely open a vein for the sake of spilling blood.
Here is what you should know about my mom: she is the strongest person I know. She is also one of the best people I know. She is a fighter. She is a four-foot and some odd inches fireball.
I watch her deal with one crazy thing after another, facing down things that would make other people hide under the bed. She is a hero. She is my hero. Even now, if you need something – she will help you in any way she can, even if she feels like hell. That, I suppose, is where I learned it from. My mother is a fixer, too.
Despite the myriad setbacks (trust me, there have been so many – who knew SO much could go SO wrong? Also, who knew that doctors could be so terrible, inhumane, and uncompassionate? Oh, the stories I could tell you), she doesn’t give up. She also tolerates my extreme level of fussing over her. That means not only is she sick, but she has the patience of a saint.
It’s taken me a long time to write this post. But I need to talk about it, to put the truth into words, to not hold this kind of thing in, despite that being my modus operandi. The other day, a relatively new friend asked what my “story” was – and I gave a vague answer. It wasn’t a lie…but it wasn’t everything it should’ve been. Because at this moment, a large part of my story is this. Except now you know.