I always thought of Tough Love as the discipline of an unruly child or the intervention of an addict, I never thought it would be a conversation with my Mom about my illness.
Jody and I had what started out as a typical lunch with my Mom on Saturday, but what transpired was a full-on, put your cards on the table, raw conversation about how hurt I was that my mother has never read my Caring Bridge site, has not much of an idea when I come and go for treatment, cannot bring herself to go to my local oncology appointments, and except for asking, "How are you," doesn't ask a single question. Conversations with my Mom over the past few months have become strained, labored and completely uncomfortable.
As I cried and poured out my heart, laying my feelings and justifications at her feet, she looked me in the eye, tears rolling down her face and said the only thing she could, "I don't know what to say to you." It was so simple and honest and yet I had not previously understood this.
I later realized that I had been so wrapped up in my own, "Where is my Mom" thoughts that I failed to recognize that she, my life long nurturer was more devastated by my diagnosis than I was. That the thought of her losing her baby was paralyzing to her and that it was easier for her to pull away than to embrace what was happening. Because after all, if she acknowledged I was sick, then it was real.
I would come to realize that sometimes people, including those whom you love the dearest, may not have the words to say when someone they love is faced with a terminal illness. That perhaps these people are not approaching you because they are being hurtful or uncaring, but perhaps because they simply don't know how. My mother again taught me one of life's biggest lessons: It's not all about you!
While I have been completely absorbed with my treatments and schedules and learning the language of cancer, with my blogs and support groups, new diet regimens and figuring out my crazy new sleep habits, my Mom was slowly, quietly slipping away as a mechanism of self defense. What my Mom needed and I failed to see, was the approval from me that anything she said was okay. She needed the acknowledgement that her baby girl was still there for her. She needed me to say it was okay for her to be just as scared as me.
I am learning that there are many people in my world that seem to need similar reassurances. This has been an eye opening revelation for me, that while the cancer is all about me, the relationships are not.