There are many kinds of spells in the world. Probably the most well known are magic spells where some claim to have powers to force changes in people, nature and situations. There are myths, fairytales, children’s books, novels and historical as well as Biblical texts that mention these types of spells. However, more importantly to the subject of this blog, there are the spells we cast on ourselves without even realizing it. They have nothing to do with magic, but they can block us from our own happiness, and they make us forget that we are worthy, accomplished and acceptable.
My mother has fallen under the power of a spell like that, and I did not realize it until someone else said the magic words.
Mom is doing great, I mean really great and yet she cannot see it let alone verbalize it. The physical therapist, the visiting nurse, the occupational therapist and a slew of other medical professionals can say it, but mom remains unconvinced.
It is frustrating. It is beyond frustrating. It is the kind of thing that almost makes me want to give up and finally, after all this time and struggle, say “Uncle!” However, I do not say it, because I am in this fight and on this journey until the end, and so here I am.
So I try everything from praising her, to teasing her and she does not budge in her beliefs that she is not doing well in the face of daily improvements.
I can see it, others can see it; mom is more mobile now than before the time she broke her ankle. All the physical and occupational therapies have been great for her, yet sadly, she cannot see it.
On Tuesday, her occupational therapist Roberta came over, and she praised mom for doing so well and I said, “I wish there was some way to make mom see it, because she doesn’t seem able to at all. I can ask her if she’s in pain and she’ll say, ‘Not now, but I will be,’ she sounds like Eeyore from ‘Winnie the Pooh.’”
We both laugh, and then without missing a beat she says the magic words, “It sounds like she’s afraid of breaking the spell. That if she says she’s OK something will happen somewhere and she won’t be OK anymore.”
The spell is broken, at least for me.
I get it. I finally get it; being sick; especially with cancer, along with being sick for a long period of time not only takes a huge physical toll on a person, but a huge emotional one as well. At first, mom was afraid to call herself a cancer survivor because she wasn’t sure if she would survive, and now that she has, she’s afraid to say she’s OK.
Thankfully, she has not given up. She is still fighting every day, and yes, improving. Yes, sometimes she’s afraid and needs some coaxing from me, but in the end, she continues on her journey.
Mom amazes me. She really amazes me. Her physical and emotional strength seem almost boundless, and this is another step that we’re going to make together. Someday soon, she will embrace being OK as much as she has embraced being a cancer survivor. I can’t tell her when and I have no idea how. I can only sit back and support her until she is able to break the spell herself.
I agree with the therapist, but also, as a survivor myself (and I don’t like that word at all…I have a friend who likes endurer better….I dunno….but I don’t like survivor), there’s more to it, I think, especially when there are life long consequences to the cancer. There are constant reminders. Every time I move, I feel new, different boobs. Although I’m healthier in many ways than before cancer, I’m also left with things that will most likely end my life earlier than if I’d never had cancer treatments, especially the effects of radiation on heart, lungs, and skin. Heck, I even seem to have incurable, chronic tendonitis is my one elbow. I didn’t injure it, so no one knows why I’d have it, except that….that is the side that I had lymph nodes removed from and that’s the side I had radiated “and there must be something about all that….” Meanwhile, I live with that pain constantly and for over a year. I’ve sunk thousands of dollars into treatments, but nothing seems to work. Can’t risk surgery on it for something so small….not on that arm….but meanwhile, at 50, lifting the lid to the garbage can sends shooting pains through my elbow.
And then there is the emotional havoc cancer treatment entails.
So, yes, saying “better” opens up the opportunity for “not better” to happen again. But also, sometimes permanently different is not “better” at all. I’m certainly not “better” than I was before. I wonder if any of that is going on with your mom?
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Dawn. As a caregiver it’s impossible to get any of this. I hear the doctor say she’s fine, and to me, she’s fine. I have clue of all that’s going on inside of her or anything about how she really feels. I try to tell her how to feel and that’s wrong. I mean well, but meaning well and doing well are two completely different things.
Thank you again for such a great comment, Dawn.
“You can only railroad when it’s time to railroad.”
A facetious comment, perhaps, but some of the underlying concept may well apply – as I think you’ve come to understand, Rachel. Your Mom can only move along her path at the pace she will go – you can’t “go” it for her. Help, certainly. Hold the mirror of your perception up for her for sure – because we aren’t always the best judges of our own reality.
Yet, at the same time, Dawn’s comment applies. It’s next to impossible to truly understand what it’s like for your Mom within her own skin. The battle for survival was horrendous and she has been permanently changed. And “better” or “OK” may no longer look to her as they did once.
By the same token, you have also been permanently changed. Not in the same way, but changed nonetheless. Make sure you’re “OK” also, whatever your definition of that might be.
This is so very true, Kevin, and no your comment is not facetious. We have been changed, whether or not we always want to acknowledge it. There’s this need to want to go back to that time before cancer, but it’s not possible. We can only go forward as we are, one step at a time. Thank you as always for your support.