Mom fell the other day and let me tell you, every time it happens, it kills me a little bit. She’s had quite a few falls since having chemotherapy, because the cocktail they gave her can cause neuropathy in your extremities, which may or may not affect everyone who takes it. However, for someone like my mom, who already had issues with peripheral neuropathy, it’s bad; really bad, which means it’s bad for me too.
So please excuse me for not posting my blog on the usual day. My head has not been in a good place. Plus I’ve been trying to get back to doing my job, which means I need to get back to a regular writing and working schedule, which might mean that until I figure something out, my posts won’t be as timely as I want them to be.
By the way, and much more importantly, mom is fine. She has a badly bruised toe, but it’s not broken; just purple.
She fell on Saturday, well to be honest her first fall happened on the Friday before. I remember once in junior high, a teacher asked us which one of our senses would we be willing to do without. I remember selecting “touch,” because by then I’d already survived physical and sexual abuse and was living with chronic pain as a result. So the idea of living without touch sounded glorious.
Now I see the importance of touch, because mom can’t feel her feet. Her Friday fall occurred because she didn’t see a medicine bottle on her bedroom floor and slipped on it. She thought she just kind of slipped down and wasn’t aware of the bottle until I pointed it out to her. It wasn’t a bad fall and she was strong enough that she was able to get up with just a little assistance from me. When she was doing chemo, I had to call 9-1-1 because she was too weak to get up and I couldn’t lift her. So I tried to concentrate on that instead of the fall. Mom is stronger than she was before, and that is something to celebrate. I told mom to do the same, because this is extremely frustrating for her. Mom was always the dynamo who rarely got sick. Mom was the one who completely enclosed the second-story porch of our old house with zero assistance. Growing up, and even throughout most of my adult years, I fully believed she could do anything.
I think she believed it too.
Now those beliefs are fading into disillusion, and I’m fighting it because once you begin a cancer journey, you have to keep fighting forward and beyond every obstacle.
The second fall happened outside of the beauty parlor. My dear friend Sue was in town to help us with a few errands and one of them included mom and I getting our hair done. Such vanities have become important since mom’s hair started to grow back. I guess it made her feel good to have a reason to go and for me, it gave me an excuse to get some much-needed pampering.
I had gotten out of Sue’s van and had placed mom’s walker on the sidewalk. Sue had mom on the other side of the car and walked her over to the curb. This is essentially the same way we’ve helped mom up the stairs since the chemo; one person in front of her with the walker and one person behind, who stands there in case she loses her balance. This highlights just how weak she’s been, and it’s something we’ve done many, many times before with no problems at all. In fact, the Sunday before she’d been able to get up the stairs without any assistance at all and was quite proud of that.
So anyway, Sue got mom on the curb with no problem and mom grabbed the handles of her walker. (I bought her one of those ones that has four wheels, a seat and a basket in front where she can place things.) Then suddenly, she lost her balance and I could see this look of fear on her face. She started backing up, which is what she always does when she loses balance. Seriously, she did it once on an escalator and I had to catch her in midair. Killed my back, but she didn’t get hurt and hell yes, I am that strong.
I have the biceps to prove it.
Just the same those biceps failed me on Saturday.
At first I thought Sue caught mom as she began to walk backwards off the curb. Sue’s pretty strong too, and it seemed that she’d somehow gotten mom propped up on the front of the van, but mom’s face didn’t have a look of relief on it, she suddenly started falling again. Sue and I were able to slow her fall down, so thankfully she didn’t land hard, but just the same she fell.
Thankfully she’s OK, but I can’t shake the feeling that I failed her. I suppose this is a feeling all caregivers have at one time or another. We want to make things better and the truth is that sometimes, despite all of our best efforts, we can’t.
In Native American storytelling the journey is usually more important than the destination, and this is how I view this journey. I have no idea what the destination is, outside of my mom being completely healthy and OK, but the journey there is the thing. Each step we’re taking together has begun with measures of fear and uncertainty, yet somehow we have managed in spite of that.
My cousin Barbara is a nurse, and she said that some of mom’s neuropathy symptoms may improve as the chemo drugs leave her system. It will take months to know for sure, so until then, it’s mom and me, going step-by-step on our cancer journey; sometimes falling down, but always getting back up.