I remember as a child sitting down with my mother as she counted out her pills for the week. She took over 27 pills a day. Throughout my whole life, my mother struggled with constant health issues including gestational diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, atrial fibrillation, multiple strokes, infections, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer, brain cancer, and the list goes on. Throughout all the pain and suffering my mother endured, she always had a beautiful attitude and a positive outlook on life. She dreamed, set goals, and never once complained.
My mother and I had an inseparable bond. I could tell her anything and she never once judged me. She always beamed with pride no matter what I did or the mistakes I made. My mother gave me her full trust and allowed my sister and I to be on a loose leash to make our own decisions and own mistakes. When I disobeyed her, I knew I could always run back into her loving arms. She not once yelled at me, criticized me, or demeaned me if I strayed from the path she set before me. Her disappointment in me was enough. No words will ever describe the special bond or love we had for each other.
I would always feel a pit of dread drop into my stomach when I stopped doing homework, looked outside my bedroom window upstairs, and saw the red flashing lights of an ambulance. No words can describe the amount of pain and suffering my mother went through during her life. My mother practically lived in the hospital. A year after being able to buy her own home, we had to move in with my grandma because she couldn’t walk up or down the steps. My mother slept on an uncomfortable couch in the living room in my grandma’s house where she was close to the bathroom.
I remember one summer night, everyone was outside around the campfire talking, toasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire and my mother was inside on the couch, laying in the dark with the TV and lights off. She was in a lot of pain and was trying to sleep. I remember going inside and sitting next to her. I can still hear the laughter outside and the smell of charcoal. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat or enjoy anything knowing my mother was inside suffering alone. I sat next to her in the darkness and cried. There were many holidays like this (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day) where there was a ton of food, desserts, and family laughing in the background and I would always look over to see my mother laying on the couch, sick, in pain, and unable to eat. Something would consume me where I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t enjoy my food and I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t enjoy hanging out with friends knowing my mother was home in pain. This thing that consumed me, I realized was immense guilt. I couldn’t enjoy my life knowing my mother was in constant suffering. There was nothing I could say or do. I knew it wasn’t my fault. It was unnecessary and undeserved, but the emotional pain of seeing the one person you love the most, suffering so badly was a deep pain I could never describe.
My mother was diagnosed with gestational diabetes that caused irreversible damage to the nerves in her feet. Her little feet would go back and forth from the feeling of burning hot or burning cold needle pins puncturing the bottom of her feet. My mother could walk, but not far due to the pain. At one point between constant hospital visits, she was diagnosed with Kidney cancer for the first time. The cancer was fully encased and removed where she was able to go into full remission. Even after that, she still was in and out of the hospital. My mother endured multiple smaller strokes at one point after this and she could no longer walk. She was sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation to be able to walk again. My mother spent months in the nursing home, spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in there. She had multiple major surgeries due to kidney and esophageal cancer. Half of her stomach and esophagus were removed and brought all the way up to her chest causing severe acid reflex and inability to eat anything other than potatoes and bread. Any other foods would cause severe nausea. I would wake up in the middle of the night at times and hear her dry heaving because there nothing left in her stomach. The last years of her life, my mother was diagnosed with a re-occurrence of esophageal cancer and brain cancer. Having gone through three different cancers and a re-occurrence, my mother endured multiple vigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I’ve never seen anyone in so much suffering in my life. Anytime she felt any improvement in her pain, I would see her sitting up on the couch laughing with her bald head and scarf. I remember that last treatment my mother received was harsh chemotherapy and a zap of radiation on her brain. Still, the cancer metastasized throughout her whole body and on May 13th, 2015, my mother lost her fight.
My mother was such a special person and she did not deserve to live in the pain she suffered constantly. The guilt that consumed me on a daily basis was because I knew she didn’t deserve a life like that. My mother always loved and trusted God and loved her daughters. The worst part as a child, seeing your mother go through so much pain, is that there is nothing you can do other than cherish the time you have with her. Nurses would sneak around her hospital room and stare at my sister and I sitting on her hospital bed, talking to her like a best friend. She was my absolute best friend.
I tell this story because there are so many people that live with undeserved or unnecessary guilt. I want to tell you, feeling this way is absolutely normal. Anybody who sees someone they love hurting can be consumed by guilt. What you’re feeling is normal, and the guilt you’re feeling now is proof of your deep love and care for that person. I want to reassure you that the intensity of the guilt you feel will lessen over time with proper self care.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE HAVING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE, PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE AT 1-800-273-8255 FOR SUPPORT OR IMMEDIATELY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN/ NEAREST HOSPITAL