There is something that I’ve been trying to deal with for a long time now and that I have been using the counselling for. I’ve made big strides in learning how to cope with it and I am coming to terms with it. Now just to clear it up, my Mum is not dead but each day I find myself trying to deal with her death. The sad fact, the one that is tearing me apart, is that my mummy is killing herself. Day by day, I watch her health deteriorate and know I can do nothing about it. There’s a fairly long history.
My mum has never been a particularly healthy woman. Back when she was fit and active, working and playing an active part in Camogie here, she was slim but her diet was terrible. In her 40s, she was diagnosed with osteo-arthritis and it all started. Instead of taking this as a warning to lose what little weight she had on her and look after herself, she took it as an excuse to do absolutely nothing, even so much as walking to the shop that was 30 seconds from our house. With any semblance of exercise she may have done previously now gone, her diet caught up with her. In fact, I would go as far to say she started eating worse out of laziness. She put on a lot of weight, so much so that her knees crumbled under it and she was heavier than me, despite being a foot smaller than me and also the fact I was overweight.
After years of abuse, the horrible diet and the 40 cigarettes a day, my mother had a heart attack. It wasn’t a huge one. She got that warning broadside and was given a second chance. They put an arterial stint in and set her up for rehab to lose weight. Then she got a phone call one day, saying they weren’t happy with something in the chest x-rays when she had a heart attack. It turned out she had lung cancer, thankfully it was caught early and seemed to be treatable. They had to operate, but because of her size and her history of smoking, they couldn’t do it lathroscopically and had to open her up right around her rib cage. She had a really hard recovery, so much so that she was too weak for chemo (we were told it would probably kill her) but she recovered. The surgery and everything around it meant she lost almost 2 stone. She made a commitment to us that she was going to get healthy now she had been given this second chance.
After a few months, my sisters and I realised this was an empty promise. We all caught her smoking again, had several people tell us she was smoking again and her diet was probably worse than ever. She kept saying she was exhausted and knackered and blamed it on her cancer recovery, despite the fact she was given the all clear months before hand. She was either oblivious to or ignoring the fact that it was her lifestyle that caused all her problems. The tension was unbearable. My sisters wouldn’t come to the house and to be honest I was so angry at her. I was frustrated. I was heart broken. We all said things, we all tried to give her advice, tried to get her to go to weight watchers, told our GP. After her last meeting with her oncologist she said she was giving up smoking. That was in November and I was stupid enough to believe her. I know now that she has been seen smoking by family friends and my brother in law several times in the last few weeks. She is fatter and weighs a lot more now than she did before her surgery, despite losing two stone during her recovery. Our GP called her down and had a word with her but the only effect that had was for her to get defensive and say we were talking about her behind her back.
My mother is an adult. I know this. She makes her own choice and however hard they are for me to deal with I have to learn to. She doesn’t have the willpower to change the habits of a life time and to be honest she isn’t willing to change, regardless of what help and advice me, my family or anyone else has for her. I love her, she did everything for me all the times I was sick and has been a great, caring mother for the most part. She is only 61 but if she keeps going as she is it won’t be long until her second heart attack. My sisters and I have been told that when (not if) she has another one, it’s highly likely that it will kill her. And that’s if the lung cancer doesn’t come back first (which, if she keeps smoking and eating like she does, it is guaranteed to). Every morning I wake up hoping she has too. She can’t change, we can’t change her and I’m trying to respect that and try and enjoy what time she has left with us. It’s just really hard with this hanging over our heads.