Wednesday, March 12, 2014

mummy dearest...

Last week, after making great strides into new lands of painlessness and tumour necrosis, I got word that my mother had a bad fall, the result of being allowed to lapse into anorexia and depression in a nursing home built around pharmacological solutions to the problems of aging and dementia. For a very long while I've felt that 'if only' I could get mum recourse to the holistic treatments at the cutting edge for her complaints she might have a chance at health and happiness and a brighter end to her dark times on this earth. I also thought the timing was ideal as I had a new and welcome fund of energy in my body accounts and could reasonably expect to pay it forward somewhat. Even more, I felt a call towards to some new, more enlightened resolutions in relationship with my progenitor abuser, a mostly dysfunctional relationship that has many times fallen into a pendulum swing between either keeping distance or martyring myself in toxic immersions. Surely if I could achieve a more functional dispassion and higher sense here it would translate into other areas in my life affected by the fallout from this primary, right-to-the-bone relationship.

I drove down to St. Catharines (noting an instant inflammatory sensation in my lungs that felt part anxiety/panic and part feverish anticipation... my body clearly was distressed at the prospect of carrying out my rescue plans!) and arranged to take her back with me to spend the week in Toronto getting her back on feet. She was in a terrible state of dehydration, constitutional depletion and morose apathy. She could not walk unaided, stank of urine, and had extensive bruising on her left cheek, breast, leg, and tenderness in the ribs. We were able to exclude the possibility of a rib fracture, organ damage or any other serious injury. Angels!

We knew enough to rent a transport chair and buckled down in the face of the challenge of getting her in and out of the building where we live... it involves driving the car down a narrow side alleyway to a loading bay that was recently and stupidly retrofitted so that in place of an open bay that permitted vehicles to enter there are now double doors that catch on the asphalt and are prevented from opening more than a crack. A person can barely squeeze thru, nevermind someone in a wheelchair. I had to get her out of the car, into the chair, out of the chair, collapse the chair, bring it thru the doors while keeping her steady on her feet and ministered thru the narrow opening, back in the chair, down the uneven concrete to the freight elevator, up three floors to a victorian-era lift that terrifies me (but didn't seem to bother her in the slightest) ... you have to get on board, pull down on a handle that hisses in or out the gas that needs fill or release the pump for what seems forever (anywhere from 2-5 minutes) only to without warning have the platform lurch up or down the three feet between one level and the other. Only then were we on level hardwood with just one last hallway to travel to get to the studio. Then it was back downstairs to retrieve the car, reverse it down the narrow lane congested with parked cars on one side irregularly arranged and often sticking out into the passageway making getting out or in difficult on the nerves, and back around the block to our parking spot, cutting thru on foot by the unkempt garbage bins and back up three flights of stairs and across the inside of building to get back to the studio. No small sweat indeed.

The fact that she needed assistance with everything from toilet, to dressing, to eating was no bother to me, I actually quite enjoyed it since it seems I'll never have children of my own. In fact the best part of the experience for me happened when I tucked her into bed one night and in a lucid moment she smiled and thanked me for being her mother. I told her I loved doing it, something that was absolutely true. The only spot of irritation that came forward in me was on the weekend when my husband, who was not troubled with mum's visit except in helping me by going down to move the car on our arrivals so that I didn't have to leave her alone, offered that he was going away for the weekend. I lapsed into an old passive behaviour but only briefly. I smouldered for a few minutes making clear that I was furious (an over the top response, granted, but by day three I was doing poorly health-wise, in fact barely making it thru the day and could not see how I could cope logistically or emotionally if left on my own with her for two days)... so, as I am newly learning how to, I checked myself at the passive aggressive door and spoke up instead. He agreed to cancel his plans which, he shared, were only arranged an hour before I got home. I couldn't suppress another wave of anger at this, feeling that he made those plans in the first seeing full well what a struggle it was for me to manage, for I reasoned, rightly or wrongly, that I'd been set up to yet again be seen by his friends to be cramping his style because of this cancer... (if I had my full strength no support from him would've been required). Luckily wisdom interceded. I immediately recognized that I had been gifted this scenario at this exact moment so that yet again my overweening concern for what other people think (inherited from mother), and my indignation around the set-up of appearances, could be tweaked, not to consternate me, but to encourage me to release these and let the fuck go worrying about other people's opinion of me!

(My husband, it must be said, is a devoted helpmate, making the homemade lypospheric vitamin C on which I so depend, growing sprouts, and supporting us both financially while my own income is still arriving in dribs and drabs. We've discussed many times that for him, the best coping mechanism is to carry on with his life and interests as if all is well and I agree that this is a good strategy. If, on occasion, I need to ask for a special allowance or change in plans because of the new normal of the moment, I must reconcile myself to this and not denature into pride and unrealistic expectations of self-sufficiency. For all these reasons I am always grateful for the sequence of events these days that so pointedly keeps encouraging me to alter course, alter habit, alter notions for highest and best.)

Once I got mum cleaned up and a few meals in her belly I took her for hyperbaric oxygen which had a near miraculous effect. Prior, she could hardly string two words together and was chronically slumped over in her seat. Afterwards she was speaking in whole sentences, sitting up alertly, and cracking witticisms in the car ride home. The more nutrition and supplementation she got with lypospheric C, curcumin and coconut oil, the more she rebounded. It was only when she computed that a) she would eventually be returning to the home and b) that her return to health would circumvent her addiction to negative attention and the culture of complaint, did she turn sour on me again.

It was most notable when I took her to work with me one day and she met my employer and dear friend Barbara who is a source of unconditional warmth, kindness and support. We arranged mum in a chair at the kitchen table with us while we had tea and snacks and talked a bit about the week ahead in business. As soon as I diverted my attention to Barbara my mother withdrew her alertness and instantly put on a downcast, dejected and depressed mask. Within a few minutes she was back to her conversion routine, complaining of symptoms that were non-existent for days but now were reported with such conviction I had no choice but to set in motion plans to take her to ER at Mt. Sinai... with psychosomatic patients you can never be really sure if the complaint is organic or functional and with lower quadrant pains its better to be safe than sorry. In the meantime and with a view to the possibility she might right herself with some TLC, I took her into a treatment room and got her settled on a couch with a blanket, held her hand and put my other on her abdomen. After a half hour the grimace left her face, she resumed normal and declined the offer to go to the ER.

I have no doubt she had pain come up for I understand better now how people who are ill-equipped psychologically to deal with inner conflict communicate that distress into the body where it can be experienced as acceptable, concrete physical symptoms. Mother could not handle that, for a brief interlude, she was not the center of my attention. Being the center of my attention had become a narcotic for her and now her drug was, to her experience, abruptly withdrawn, even though she was constantly referenced and included in our discussion. I could tell she resented Barbara on sight, likely because she intuitively felt the affection in connection we share. Mother was always oriented to rivalry with other women and coquetry with men, something I squirmed with for decades. The other factor at play, with the advanced Alzheimer's, mental effort is obviously outside bounds. Between mother and daughter there was a communication that needed no words. Here at lunch she couldn't participate because it was all words and complex new ideas.

That night I took her for a second hyperbaric but the treatment was only half taken as she was so thoroughly distressed by the afternoon that she restlessly kept trying to sit up and exit the chamber and so we had to cut short her dive time, which meant cutting short mine as well since I was gifted a much needed dive for myself at the same time. This was our third day together and I was already in a clear second relapse trying to make the best of a deteriorating situation. My pain and inflammation were back and intolerable enough that I was chowing down on percocets again and sleeping poorly. Tumour activity was back in high gear and I was not surprised to find new nodules everywhere... groin, solar plexus and along the ribs and spine, and in the clavicular notch. After mum was put to bed my husband and I had a pointed conversation where he likened the situation to me sacrificing my life for a woman who had lived hers and lived it selfishly and at my expense... that it was insane to be putting myself thru another relapse for someone incapable of recognizing my sacrifice. In fact at no time during mum's stay with us did she ever ask after my health. I didn't expect her to, for the entire time I've known her she has never been able to see me as a separate person. If I do well and accomplish merits its not worth mentioning because its obviously down to the fact that I'm her daughter. If I don't do well, its because I'm not. Either way, I only exist as an extension of her ego, nothing more nor less.

I took her the next day for a consult with my ND and an intravenous treatment. The prospect of being seen by a male doctor is her joie de vivre and that morning she was radiant and completely transformed from the shred of a person I picked up a mere few days earlier...

my mummy. if you're human you will always love your mother no matter what.

The IV greatly boosted her physicals and for a short time she enjoyed some bonhomie, hugging and kissing all the strangers at the clinic before we left in a rare show of human warmth.

Sunday I was to take her home but she was so downcast and dejected I suggested she needed a day of full rest. She stayed in her pjs until dinner, something I don't think she's ever allowed herself to do in her life. I put on Ken Burns' documentary about the West since she has lately taken to talk of her early life on the farm as if it were yesterday. I was happy to see her entranced by photographs of immigrants, badlands and bison and such.

Monday I could go no farther so we took her back to the nursing home and as expected, the nurses lavished her with attention for the evident improvement in her comportment, appearance and health. As soon as they did and I chimed in with how amazed I too was with this fantastic turn-around, she got very angry with me and yanked my arm brusquely, insisting that she was still sick and I was telling lies. I got her settled in her room and diverted her vanity... she was easily drawn back into the mirror and her lipstick and hair and preparations for being seen by the other residents, and away from scolding me for suggesting she might find health and happiness where she clings to this poor-me identity of untold suffering that needs be inflicted on everyone else.

Even though I paid a heavy relapse price for the experience, I felt so much more psychologically robust after the experience. I could see my mother plainly for what she is, not for what I endlessly want to transform her into. I could also see there is limited use for any effort to improve her lot and that any further heroic measures are contra-indicated. She is now set up with some very good supplements on her dispense list and if she chooses she can always come for another weekend to get more IV or O2 treatment if she wishes it, but so far she's not indicated any desire for it, as it produced an improvement not deeply enough desired. This gifted me with a definite sense of closure and the advent of a healthy sense of self-preservation on my part. I will never again risk my own life trying to heal what cannot be healed. It was largely a selfish motivation anyway as I wanted to enjoy some semblance of a normal relationship with a mother capable of expressing love and compassion and interest in me. She has done quite enough for my benefit, being generous with her dividend earnings last year which paid for 90% my treatment. Nowhere is it written that we should have everything we desire of a normal life and that's as it should be.

The mother life gifted me with has taught me by indirect method what it means to be resilient, optimistic, constructive, adaptive, cheerful, charitable, and creative. To teach me these fantastic things she has had to live a life of pain, constriction, brittleness, negativity, destructiveness, bitterness, stinginess, and boredom. In the agreement between us she has sacrificed everything for me. Seeing it thru this new lens serves so much better than to feel badly that she was also a violent tormentor, a nasty, brutish, and selfish woman with distressingly loving and loyal tendencies overshadowed by the formers, entirely understandable as distortions produced by the incredible ordeal of her own life story.

The forgiveness I thought I'd achieved was often a shroud hiding a pestilent masochism underneath it. Now this forgiveness and this love feel real and vital and serving the self-respect so vital to my going forward.

I have been very ill since Monday but am happy to say that the simple knowledge that my worsening of symptoms could and would be reversed yet again has kept me from fear and anxiety. For the first time in three days I woke today feeling slightly better. That means that I will catch up to the lead the cancer got on me again in no time. I expect to be back off the pain meds by next week and to be into resolution of these new nodules shortly after that. It's in keeping with natural laws that to achieve psychological clearing and improvement in perceptual skills one often needs to endure an acute physiologic episode.


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