For a brief time that I remember – my mother truly escaped herself & the confines of her mind and the limitations that it imposed on her being – this was many years ago. It’s when that freedom ended again that I had decided that I needed to explore and to be free and never be trapped by my own mind and the fear of all the limitations that life, other peoples opinions, and this false set of rules that age builds like a massive wall – like a prison.
My mother struggled with depression and anxiety, and the drugs that she was told kept her feelings normal. When she died of cancer this past year – I haven’t wanted to really talk about it – because cancer wasn’t the thing that I felt killed her. I went to one of her oncology appointments after she was diagnosed. The day before this appointment we had a very long talk about what she wanted… she had already been through some chemo at this point with no results. Yet we sat there with the doctor to discuss her options going forward. As the doctor was talking, her eyes glassed over as I could see her giving up and going back into whatever everyone else wants. The Doctor stopped talking and my mother clearly said she did NOT want any more chemo. See – the chemo that they were trying was not proven in any way to help my mom’s type of cancer but the Doctor said we should still try it. But as she spoke those words I do NOT want any more chemo… nobody in that room heard her except for me. They may have heard her words, but they quickly dismissed them as un-true or not valid. The Doctor immediately pipped up saying that by not continuing to at least try with chemo it was like she was committing suicide.
MY HEART STOPPED WHEN I HEARD THOSE WORDS OUT OF THE DOCTORS MOUTH…. and I was screaming the top of my lungs from the inside that he had no right to say that and this was NOT anything like suicide… all that I muttered out was “I don’t agree with that statement at all” and then I squeezed my mom’s hand and told her “that isn’t true, and you make your own choice”. It was the most unprofessional thing I have ever heard and I will hear his voice ringing in my head for the rest of my life. He played the bully. He did not know her, and did not understand that she did have an opinion and a reason for her opinion – and that everyone has a right to choose for themselves. He pushed off her feelings of not wanting to continue with chemo as her depression talking. I don’t care how many cancer patients he has been through – he not ONCE asked her why she felt that way or tried to consider her feelings or understand that what she wanted actually had thought and purpose behind them. He boasted that “if it worked” instead of 3-6 months to live she could live 6 months -5 years longer.
STOP. But at what cost? Why wasn’t this part of the conversation? Why was everyone pushing off her feelings as invalid? Because she suffered from depression?
My mother describing her cancer to me is one of the most grueling horror stories I’ve ever seen. But… it wasn’t much different than what I pictured when she talked about her depression. She spoke to me about this dark hand that was reaching up from inside her and crushing all of her organs so much so that she couldn’t speak and nobody could see this or hear her screaming for relief. Her voice didn’t matter – all that mattered is she needed to make as many people happy as possible. Her pain didn’t matter. Her voice didn’t matter. Her thoughts didn’t matter.
She talked about her death like this all my life – she even had told me how old she was going to be when she died – and she was right. The last two months of her life were miserable, she wasn’t eating well, she wasn’t sleeping well… and all she said was I do NOT want any more chemo. She continued with the chemo because her Doctor and others said she had to at least try once more. She died 2 months after our meeting with her Doctor (with the additional chemo treatment).
I know this will be very disturbing to people and will be upsetting to others. My point in sharing is we need to become better listeners… and not just to a persons choice or reply – but to understand what is bringing another person to their choices. Not just for major things like life and death decisions – but LIVING decisions. We don’t all have to agree, and we don’t all have the answers – but listening to understand means that you value that person. Valuing their methods or madness to any decision affords that person value in themselves.
My mom was a strong woman that had many hard life situations to deal with from a very young age. MY MOM WAS AN ARTIST, A THOUGHT FILLED WOMAN, A SURVIVOR, A LISTENER…. she was just finally broken because she had to be strong for too long. She has given me strength to make life decisions that are best for me, and the strength to know that falling down means nothing if you get back up. I will forever be a seeker – and spend my time enjoying the journey instead of focusing on an end. ~love you mom
Artist: Sandra Cragin Title: Listening