Growing up I always knew my mom was sick. But, in my little naïve heart I just thought she was sick, like she had the flu or something. I had no earthly idea how much my mom had been through. I’ll give you a little backstory to get started…
My mom was born with double collecting systems. Her kidneys had reflux and at just seven months old her doctor began trying to re-implant her ureters into a bladder that needed to be reconstructed as well. She also had convulsions and her parents (my grandparents) were told she probably would not make it. But, SHE DID! Throughout her life she had numerous surgeries on her bladder and ureters to try and help the reflux and get the ureters to function properly. She had chronic kidney infections which only did further damage to her kidneys throughout childhood. When she was seventeen, her doctor went back in to re-implant the ureters and also help the reflux and infections. During that time, she had seizures and was put on seizure medication. The seizures were able to resolve themselves and after a year she was able to get off of seizure medication. Fast-forward to nineteen, and due to the chronic kidney infections her doctor advised her that it would be best to have a left nephrectomy. The left kidney had been severely damaged and had the most reflux, so it was no longer doing her body any good. In January of 1987, my mom had her kidney removed. The next month she was back in the hospital because her right kidney was unable to handle being the solitary kidney. Her remaining kidney was in acute renal failure. After that, her doctor went back in numerous times for day surgeries until her kidney was able to properly function on its own. Due to so many health issues my mom was told early on that she would probably never be able to have children. She was told that because her kidney was so weak, they did not think that it would be able to handle pregnancy. However, she proved doctors wrong once again, and in 1990, I was born. Three years later, was the birth of my brother. When he was three months old, my mom’s seizures returned, and she has been on seizure medication ever since. She has what is called Partial Complex seizures. These types of seizures cause her to lose focus and become unaware of her surroundings. She may also have small movements of her hands and face and becomes unable to respond to those around her. Thankfully, these are now very controlled with the medication. Throughout her life she has had to have further surgeries, which include a complete hysterectomy at twenty-eight, an appendectomy at thirty-seven, and a gall bladder removal at thirty-eight. My mom is now forty-nine and in her lifetime she has had over twenty surgeries. Whew! She now suffers from Gastroparesis, which is a condition in which the stomach muscles are unable to empty. She is learning daily how to manage this by eating better and taking medication. She is still in kidney failure, but other than periodic infections, she is doing very well.
You’d never know
I tell you this backstory, because to look at my mom you would have no idea what all she has been through. She is strong, and she is able. My mom has every reason in the world to sit at home and rest, yet she continues to work and travels six hours often to come and visit my little family. She truly exhibits strength better than anyone I know. Growing up, I knew my mom sometimes had seizures, and I knew she only had one kidney, but I had no clue how sick she truly was. My mom never complained, she never faltered in making sure we were well-taken care of, healthy and safe. To this day she continues to make sure of all of those things. My dad is a firefighter, so my mom was able to do all of these things while we were young, on top of being sick and not always having help. But, when my dad was home he taught me so much as well. Watching the way he has always loved and taken care of my mom has set the highest example for how someone should be treated. He has always shown compassion and grace. In today’s society you see so many marriages fail because one spouse cannot handle the sickness and issues the other is going through, but my dad showed me that there are people out there that will love you through it all-that will truly be there in sickness and in health. I am thankful that today I have a husband who exhibits those qualities as well, and who holds my hand through each day, no matter what we face.
Today, with my MS and all of its issues, when people tell me how strong I am, I owe every bit of learning how to be strong to my mom. She has taught me how to live with invisible issues and still stand with my head held high. She has shown me throughout mine and my brother’s childhood to live every day to the fullest with your loved ones. When I think of my son growing up, I pray every day that I can be the type of mother my mom was to me. I pray that when he looks at me he sees strength, not someone who is too sick to give him the life he deserves. I’m not saying that that kind of life is always possible, especially with an unpredictable illness. However, I believe I have learned from the best how to do it. I have learned from my mom how to live each day as it comes, to push through the bad and embrace every bit of the good. She has taught me how faith and family can get you through anything. I owe my mom so many things. She is one of the biggest reasons I am the woman, wife, mom and friend I am today. My mom has taught me many valuable things in life, but most of all she has shown me that true strength comes from within. You don’t always have to feel strong to BE strong, you just do it. And, you most certainly don’t have to feel good to be good to others. So, when people say to me, “Wow, you look so good, I would never have known you were sick.” Or “You’re so positive about what you’re going through”, I have to say that is because I learned all of that from the strongest woman I know. Every day I look at her in awe and wonder. She is someone that is truly a ray of sunshine in such a dark and sick world. My mom has every excuse to be a sad, miserable woman, yet she chooses to wake up each day thankful and happy. I pray every day, that even on my worst days I can be just like her.