Letter To A Sick Mom

Dear Jill,

Last night you and your diagnosis were on my heart to the point where sleep became impossible. Although I know we’re fighting two different kinds of illnesses, finding out about someone else’s crappy health news has a unique way of initiating a PTSD-kind of anxiety as I try to remember what was most helpful to me in the first months after I got my own “News That Changes Everything” seven years ago. It’s pretty typical to bring food, but since I hate to cook, at best you’ll get a gift card to Panera, and let’s be honest–I’ll probably forget I purchased it for you and accidentally use it on myself before I get around to mailing it! So I did the only thing I can offer at a time like this while your world kinda just spins apart: I prayed.

I prayed that every time you can’t sleep because you are panicked about how your illness is affecting your sweet girls, you feel good enough to pull yourself out of bed to sneak into their rooms, cuddle next to their vibrantly flourishing bodies, and draw strength from the beastmode level of love you have for them, and in theirs for you. I prayed that even as they nervously watch as their once-fiercely active mom collapses in bed for another nap only an hour after she got up from the the last one, they don’t forget it’s still ok to laugh and have fun and be silly little girls. I prayed they don’t suffer by keeping their fears about what’s happening to you hidden from those who want to help them through this tough time, and they courageously reach out to the family, friends, and teachers. I prayed those who seek give them encouragement know that sometimes a big hug is more valuable that trying to figure out what to say. And I prayed that although your girls will be forever changed because of your illness, the experience of having a sick mother might also gently shape their resilient character in a manner that brings you deep pride through the heartache of their lost innocence.

Although I know you’re a tough single mom like me, I am beyond grateful that you’re not alone as you wade through appointments, medications, doctor-speak, insurance, and oh yeah–still try to do all the “normal life” stuff like clean the bathrooms and help with the girls’ homework. I’m so terribly sorry you’ve had to postpone your wedding, but I prayed in thanksgiving that you have someone by your side who will see you through this time. I prayed he will know when to push you, when to back off, and when to take you in his arms to just cuddle the s*** out of you. I also prayed his needs not be overlooked, because it’s damn hard to be a caregiver and he’s fighting a unique battle while you struggle with yours. I prayed he will receive his own necessary support and acknowledgement. And I prayed you guys will spend the next 50 years together, the bond of your relationship even more deeply strengthened for this terrible experience you suddenly must walk through together.

I prayed for your family: for your parents, who may struggle with a private guilt that it is you who is sick and not them–something you, as a mother, can no doubt understand because at some point since your diagnosis, you probably gazed at the strong, healthy bodies of your own children and thought “Thank God it’s me and not them”. I prayed for the health of your siblings, who might now fall into a new risk category because of your illness but that they simultaneously benefit from this bittersweet awareness of a set of rogue defective genes that may permeate their DNA as it has yours.

I prayed for your medical team to be blessed with a supernatural wisdom and your treatment plan to be exceptionally successful. I prayed they see you as woman, mom, daughter, and friend you are, and not Patient ID #247987-013(B). I prayed for the insurance hassles to pass with the ease of a small kidney stone–because let’s be honest, that’s about as good as it gets when it comes to that particular beast! I prayed that you continually amaze your doctors with how well your body responds to treatment and you quickly elevate to the legendary “One & Done” squad.

And finally, I prayed for you, Jill… That you maintain your great sense of humor and conquer this beast so “epic-ally” (hell yeah, I made up a new word for you!) that it never returns. There is a special grief that happens when your body turns against you, interrupts your plans, and you have to deliver news that will terrify your children out of their innocence. I prayed that in the moments when the heartache and rage about your situation inevitably hit, that you let yourself buckle under its heaviness for as long as you need–because I think you will find that allowing yourself the right to feel the kind of emotional pain which unfairly hitches a ride on the tails of the loss of your health will allow its sharp presence to lessen with time. I prayed that you find a unique patience required of the chronically ill: the patience to deal with the questions, inquires, and suggestions of the “well meaning”. And I prayed that you can easily navigate a particularly weird part of any diagnosis, which is trying to figure out how to fight an enemy that’s doing some bad s*** inside of you, yet simultaneously not view your body as a bit of a traitorous bastard because you need it on YOUR side.

It probably sounds like I was up all night for hours praying for you, but honestly it only took a few minutes. With the burden of your circumstances gently lifted from my heart, I started to drift back to sleep. Because like you, I have to get up tomorrow morning, love on my sweet kiddos, and fight for my health another day.

Love,

Em

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