Relationships with our mothers can be complicated, and mine is no exception. Our past 12 months have been challenging owing to illnesses, schedules and the 600 mile distance between our homes. Through the help of a wonderful therapist, I understand the dynamic between myself and my mother – intellectually – but the emotional part still struggles to keep up. The funny thing about therapy is that it helps me understand the past but not how to navigate aspects of the future.
For example, my father recently left me a message on Facebook (of all places!) that my mother was going to have a bone marrow biopsy for a chronically low platelet count. Based on fuzzy memories of my heme-onc rotations, bone marrow biopsy = cancer until proven otherwise. I google chronic thrombocytopenia looking for answers and a differential. That’s the default setting on my brain – back to logic & science & evidence. I also pick up the phone.
“Hi, Mom. How are you?”
“I’m fine. I’m supposed to have this test tomorrow in the hematologist’s office.”
From the tone of her voice, I can tell she’s on the verge of being unhinged by the test – not the potential diagnosis – although to her credit she’s been through early breast cancer (DCIS) & a course of radiation.
“Dr. Bone Marrow is very reassuring that the test is not a big deal.”
“Mom, you need to ask for Versed & lots of it.”
Flashback to standing at the bedside in the wards of the Navy Hospital. My face is hot as the blood is rushing to my toes in sympathy for the 6’5” man who is howling as the team of physicians are drilling into his pelvic bone. Flash back number two is in the OR with our heme-onc attending as they are putting his 8 year old patient with ALL to sleep. He readies the biopsy tray with classical music tinkling in the back ground.
“You don’t need to be pain.” (Thus my reason for being in therapy in the first place: the complicated dance of daughter nurturing mother. Once again the choreography takes off before I’ve even got my shoes on. )
“How do you spell that drug?” She asks.
“OK, I’ll ask.”
She leaves me a message the next day thanking me. She and her doctor have decided to schedule the procedure in the interventional radiology suite with conscious sedation. She’s still somewhat unhinged by this. She wants to know more about conscious sedation. This time our exchange is mid-day by e-mail.
MWAS@gmail: It will be like your colonoscopy. Probably some Versed and monitoring.
MOM@gmail: OK. They have me scheduled for Friday with the radiologist.
MWAS@gmail: Talk to you later. Love you, Mom.
Post procedure was anti-climactic. She did well, and had glowing things to say for the radiologist and his nurse. With my father on the phone, some more piece of her puzzle slide into place. Mom’s been losing weight unintentionally for several months. She also has a low white cell count. She feels fine, otherwise. We all dance around the big C - and it leaves me wondering if that’s mom and dad’s doing or the doctors until they have a diagnosis. Intellectual mind whirrs through the differential: leukemia – maybe a chronic form like CML, viral infection (that’s the pediatrician in me), or some type of autoimmune problem like rheumatoid arthritis which runs in our family. There could be other reasons, but my adult medicine is rusty and inexperienced.
Emotional mind is reeling. Oh Crap! (and several other expletives) As much as I want just intellectual mind to deal with this, the therapy that’s trying hard to integrate the two aspects intervenes. I feel lost – not sure who is supposed to show up – the intellectual nurturer or the emotional daughter in need of her own nurturing but afraid to ask. To be continued….