I don't know why, exactly, but lately I have had a mental block with talking about the subject of breast cancer. Perhaps it is because I have been concentrating on my new line of hopeful heart sculptures.
Perhaps because I've been more concerned about my dad's Alzheimer's Disease and how to help his wife accept that he will never be the same husband she married. Today, my siblings and I met with her siblings and a counselor who is knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s issues. To try to get through to her, I expressed the sadness that we had when we heard the doctor say he could do no more for our mother’s cancer. Traditional and alternative medicine therapies no longer worked. I recounted that we kids did all that our mother would allow us to do for her during her last months. We sure attempted to find out as much as we could to ensure that she was taken care of the best she could be. We had to face her impending death, but we did it together, and gave mom the grace to die as peacefully and pain free as possible.
Talking about this difficult experience today brought back a flood of memories. Mom would not allow us to get her a helper. She wouldn’t let us stay with her overnight, or bring her meals, or anything. She had been so very independent most of her life that she did not want to “burden” us. So although we desperately wanted to help, we gave her the dignity of continuing to make her choices. But one night mom fell in her house. She couldn’t reach the phone to call for help and had to stay on the cold floor all night long. When I came to see her the next morning, she was nearly frozen, sprawled on the floor. She had hit bottom, literally, figuratively, mentally, physically. She accepted that she needed help and we got her what she wanted.
I shared this story today at our intervention in hope that my stepmother would accept that she cannot fix dad’s medical problem and that they both need help. The counselor urged her not to wait until something bad happened - like dad falling down the stairs at their house. Unfortunately, my stepmother is simply not ready to deal with her reality.
It was an exhausting experience, to be sure. But I was glad both families got to talk about the elephant in the room. As my stepmother takes dad back home tomorrow, 5.5 hours away, overlooking the ocean, we hope she will think about all of the information she was given. And that’s really the moral to this story. When we are beset with a setback like breast cancer, learn about it, stare it in the face, fight it, and ask for help. Namaste.