November 3, 2010

It's nothing, really

The other night, as I was leaving the gym, I noticed I had a missed call from my parents. I called them back, and Dad said he hadn't called and Mom was asleep but he'd let her know I called back. We talked until I got on the bus, and that was that. Yesterday I called her back as I was leaving work. It seemed like her usual "just checking in" sort of conversation. I kept asking what was new in Connecticut, and it was met with the usual "oh, nothing much."

Then, without warning: "Oh ... I'm having surgery on Monday."

My stomach clenched up.

The thing about my mom is, she's very private. Her mother was the same way, and so am I. Speaking for myself, I don't share most things with my family and friends because I want to make sure everyone else my grammy, 2001is taken care of first, and I just don't want people to worry about me. (Which is, again, one reason why my honesty here in this blog is really out-of-character for me, because I'm a very secretive person.)

With my grandmother, everything was a secret, always. When she went into the hospital in June 2006, she referred to what was going to happen as "a small procedure," yet when we all arrived at her home the day after she passed away post-surgery, all her important documents were laid out on the table and everything she owned was covered in Post-It notes saying who it was for. It wasn't small. It was actually really serious and her odds weren't great. But she didn't want people to worry.

So when my mom said this was just going to be a small procedure, tears welled up in my eyes, and I let the bus pass right by me.

My sisters and I have known that our mom hasn't been feeling well for a while, but she usually dismisses it with the same excuses her own mother used to give - it's nothing, really. And yet she sees specialist after specialist, refusing to let us know what gets said. It especially worries us when she goes to heart doctors, since that's what was wrong with her own mother. This most recent health issue started quite a while ago, and we finally convinced her to go get the tests that the doctor suggested literally months ago.

"What is going on, Mom?"

"Well, I guess I have something like a cyst on my ovary. It's only, like, seven centimeters."

Only, like, seven centimeters.

My honest first thought was frustration at not knowing the metric system better, because seven is a pretty big number when you're measuring anything, let alone something growing inside your mother.

"So what are they going to do?"

"They are going to inflate my stomach a bit, go in through my bellybutton, and take care of what they need to take care of. Might have to remove an ovary."

I am full on sobbing at this point, trying to do it as quietly as possible because once she knows I'm getting emotional, the details might stop.

"It's not cancer, though, right?"



"Don't worry. It's nothing."at dad's surprise 50th birthday party, 2008

We wrapped up our conversation, and I headed to the gym. My first reaction to news like this is to binge, usually pizza or some heavy takeout - I overeat to the point where I get tired, and then I fall asleep so I don't have to deal with my present realities. But I can't do that anymore, and even though I know in the back of my mind that it's better for me in the long run, right now, it really hurts.

I worked hard at the gym, ate a bowl of escarole and beans, and participated in the Fitblog chat on Twitter. And I really wish I could say it was enough to get me through. It usually is when dealing with work stresses or minor family/friend problems. But this is a pain that I really can't soften with exercise. I know coping with things like this is part of being a grownup (and one of the lousier parts, at that). But right now, I feel like a little kid, really lost and aching, and I'm not allowed to have my one, reliable security blanket.

So what do I do now? How do I cope with really big hurts?


Anne H said...

For starters, we all know now what NOT to do.
(Don't run to food - the answer is not there!)
In the meanwhile- *hugs*
They represent a wish to help!
Blogging helps - somehow, too!

Ann (-50 lbs in -60 lb challenge) said...

You take care of yourself the best way you know how, so your mother can focus on herself, and not worry about anyone else right now.

Then, you next take things as they come. Our minds often go to the worst possible scenario, when in fact, there are lots of less-dire possibilities out there. Enlist a family member (sister?) who is closer to home base, so you can get the real scoop - not the shiny version your mother may want to project - and take things as they come.

My prayers are with your mom (already said one, in fact), and if your soul needs to lay eyes on her yourself, make plans to fly home for a visit.

Exercising is fantastic for relieving stress, but it won't eliminate it, as you've found out. Just be sure to take care of yourself!!

Cyber hugs!!

Life as a Caterpillar said...

Oh Mary, i wish i knew, i wish i could help you. What i can tell you is i have had a 10cm cyst removed from my ovary, and the drs were all very hush hush beforehand about the procedure. They explained to me afterward, they do not know if a cyst is cancerous until they go in there, so they may not have told your dear mother much either.

What i can tell you is that 98% of ovarian cysts are benign, a cyst is actually formed every time a woman ovulates, but some don't pop, they fill with fluid or endometriotic tissue and grow. That's probably what your mum has. It is a simple procedure and she will probably be home within the day.

Sorry, this is very personal to you and i realise i probably should have emailled you. You don't have to publish this comment. You can email me if you want any more info about my expereinces


Jessica said...

I am so sorry you are having to deal with this! And I pray that her surgery goes well, and that she gets a good report.
I wish I knew how to help you with this big hurt, but I don't. Honestly, I gained the majority of my weight while my Dad was sick. I didn't know how to cope. I went from working out to sitting at the hospital when I was not at work. And eatting everything in sight...usually fast food or high calorie junk snacks that friends or family brought to the hospital.

My best advise would be to find someone to talk your feelings to. Here on the blog, a friend, or possibly a counselor at the University where you work. Talk out your worries instead of eating. Try to keep to your current routine as much as possible.

Please know that I will be thinking about you, your mom, and your entire family. And I hope you have a great report to tell us next week.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry that you're going through this and I'm sending good thoughts to your mom that her doctors fix the problem.

Don't turn to food. If anything, use THIS experience as a reminder to take care of yourself. The healthier you are and the more weight you lose, the less susceptible you are to heart problems (like your grandmother) or ovarian cysts (like your mother). Show her your concern by taking extra care of yourself. Call and talk to her when you can, write e-mails or letters, and send good thoughts her way.

Please keep us (the blog readers) posted on her progress!

Christine said...

What do you do to cope with really big hurts? Talk about it. With us, and with your mom. Hug her a LOT. Be sure to tell her what she means to you. Be there for her. Call her doctor to ask questions about this if you are wondering all the medical-ish-like things, like "is this cancer?" and "what are the risks of the surgery?" and stuff. The doctor can answer those questions for you. And don't be afraid to cry. Crying is the best therapy. Then go hug your mom again.

Anonymous said...

Aw honey, your pain is so palpable. I'm sorry you are having to deal with this. It's so hard to be far away from family when something like this is going on. I'm in Florida and my parents are in Tennessee. My Dad has had several big health scares, including heart attacks and strokes. He had bypass surgery. The worst was when he got pneumonia, was very close to death and ended up having to have a thoracotomy and thankfully barely survived. I made the trip up for that one.

I hope blogging about it helps. Do you have people you can talk to? I hope so. I don't really have any advice, but I am sending well wishes for your Mom and for you.

SheZug said...

My Mom & Granny have done similar things to me in recent years. My Granny was actually not expected to make it through the night and no one told me. I live 2000 miles away, so I can't be there for every illness and surgery. After my Mom had a hysterectomy without telling me, I had a talk with her about it the next time I saw her. I told her how much it hurt my feelings to be left out of the family loop. I can understand if there is a diagnosis that isn't known yet and not telling to keep the worry monster away, but that's different than having surgery. After our talk, my Mom started telling me about all the family illnesses. I know all the health issues and have even helped my Mom by looking stuff up on the internet with her on the phone and reading her what I find out. Not only do I know what's going on, but I'm helping my Mom to be more educated about her health and our elderly family member's health. In the meantime, if you need to work out like a demon, or cry, or blog all about it, you go girl! Just step away from the takeout!