Is It Us or Is It MS?

Is there a way to walk your Mom with MS into a social gathering and not be the center of attention amongst friends? Or is this just something that is going to come with the territory now? It is something I am sitting here wondering today after a wedding this past weekend.

Halfway through, Mom needed to move from the table to her wheelchair to go to the restroom. So people gathered to help but really we didn’t need it. And the extra people just stared. Finally Dad said, why don’t ya’ll go dance or something and they quickly walked away.

Later Sister K took Mom into the restroom and after being gone for awhile I went in to help out. But people wondered where we were. Our absence created attention.

People wanted to ask Sister K, Dad and Me how Mom was- and that created attention. For the first time though, that part didn’t bother me. Maybe you could call it growth…but I didn’t get angry or irritated. I talked honestly to two of Mom’s close friends and one of their daughters. And they listened. They heard what I had to say- they admitted it is a lot for Sister K and I to be dealing with, they expressed they are worried, they wondered if there was more to be done, and I listened and I answered…I was honest.

But now today I can’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t have said anything at all. My family is a tight circle and a quiet bunch..and we are getting quieter as far as Mom’s MS is concerned. But at the same time, MS is not exactly a disease you can keep quiet- especially when people witness the changes in Mom with their own eyes and how those changes seem bigger every time they see her. So what do you do? What do you say? These friends of Mom’s are close to her and important to her, therefore it gets sticky. I don’t walk around telling anyone and everyone- and sometimes I don’t believe people’s intentions for wanting to know are good. But in this case I did.
So I struggle with how much do you say/how much do you reveal. Dad has said he doesn’t want Mom to be stuck at home forever…but if we are going to do things where we take Mom to events like this are we then also opening ourselves up for questions. Maybe we invite it upon ourselves. I am not sure exactly.

Does your family have any similar experiences with this or do you think it could just be a symptom of my family? Is it possible to hide what is really happening with a progressive version of MS or are people just going to ask questions? Do we possibly just need to understand this is what comes with the territory of taking Mom out considering the stage her MS is in currently?

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The “Special Needs Family”

Mom has been having some issues this week with what the home health doctor thinks is her sciatic nerve. Dad had to practically commit an “act of God” to get someone from her doctor’s office to call him back with some pain medicine on Monday and Tuesday. I am learning that you literally have to take the motto “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” when it comes to dealing with neurologists. Maybe the ones where we live just are not that great or maybe it is the field of neurology- I’d be curious what your experiences have been? We are already on our second one and I don’t think there are very many others to choose from unfortunately. The doctor is good, it’s just the process involved if you have an issue outside of your appointment and the lack of communication follow through.

But I bring all of this up because this coming weekend Mom and Dad were supposed to come visit because we have a family wedding to attend. With Mom not doing so well, Dad has discussed with me several times the likely decision of not going to it. This is difficult because it involves Mom’s friends from college and one of their daughters. Going to the wedding is in many ways more for her than for us.

Aside from just the logistics of getting her here right now, I know Mom is not in the best shape and I don’t want her friends to see her like this right now. I was talking to Dad about how after awhile you just get tired of being seen as the “special needs family.” You get tired of the extra effort involved in getting Mom to these things, get tired of everyone treating us differently, the stares, people telling you how they think Mom is getting worse, wanting to get into your business about what you could be doing better….it goes on and on…

I know Mom has MS and I know this is just the card our family has been dealt. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired of dealing with the extra issues that come with the territory- the struggle to get easily in and out of places; the stares that come with this struggle; the comments that follow. It’s just frustrating, especially while I get to stand by and watch all of her other friends get around just fine. I have heard before it takes a special family to deal with everything we have going on and I know we are truly one of a kind to be able to handle it- but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get tired of it and wish it would all just go away. That’s how I am feeling lately as MS seems to be throwing more curve balls and I am struggling to keep up.

Do you think I am awful for admitting I get tired of being a “special needs family”? Do you ever struggle with how others treat you because of a disability either to you or to a loved one? Have you had issues with doctors being responsive outside of a scheduled appointment?

The Reality of Needing Help

“When it gets bad enough he will ask for help.”

Those words were told to me awhile ago by a friend when I shared my concerns with Dad being spread too thin between working and caring for Mom full-time. But sometimes I believe God forces you to make a decision you have been putting off by making other parts of your life begin to spin and that is exactly what has happened to Dad the past few weeks.

Dad was recently promoted which is really exciting but it also means more demands at work. At the same time, Mom seems to be digressing. She is having a harder time moving around lately and her MS is demanding more from Dad. I have been worried about Dad for some time but like I said above, I realized at some point I had to stop voicing my concerns and realize it was not my place to demand Dad get help with caring for Mom. The relationship between Mom and me verses Mom and Dad is different. They are married. They are husband and wife and I believe Dad is trying to do everything he can to fulfill his vow to be there for Mom in sickness and in health. I can’t get in the middle and force him into making decisions he isn’t ready to make.

But Sunday Mom seemed to be struggling and Monday she woke up with excruciating pain in her leg. Dad needed to be at work. This has happened before but this time his work demands are greater and he realized it was the beginning of being unable to be in two places at once. He was stuck. He called the nurse who had come to our house to administer Mom’s steroid infusion. She had spoken with Dad awhile back about staff she has that will come out and assist around the house. The nurse came out to meet with him and she and Dad began to move forward with making arrangements for someone to come out to be with Mom during the day.

So when I spoke with Mom during lunch yesterday, her new home helper/nurse/assistant…for blog purposes I’ll call her Nurse B…Nurse B was at our house with Dad getting acquainted with everything. I tried to talk to Mom like everything was normal but she was tired and explaining she was frustrated because she preferred to be by herself.

Even after all the time I have spent trying to get Dad to make this decision, I have to admit it was strange to think Nurse B was there. She was there to take care of Mom. My mom who has always taken care of us needed someone to take care of her. This is reality now and it made me sad and full of a mix of emotions…a big one being acceptance that this is my family now. It’s just strange. It feels strange. And even though Mom needs this, I feel sorry for her. I can’t help but struggle that her independence has been taken away and I played a part in that. Even though Dad ultimately made the decision I agreed with him. I don’t know why but I’m struggling with that realization because secretly I never thought it would happen- I never really thought we’d need to bring someone in to help Dad; I thought Mom would get better; Dad would figure out some magical way to manage it better. I just didn’t think it would happen and it has now.

Have you ever dealt with getting help for a family member that maybe impacted their independence? Have you ever felt the guilt of feeling responsible for taking it away? Do you believe sometimes life may force you to make a difficult decision?

The Family We Were/The Family We Are

MS has changed my family in a lot of ways and it is continuing to change my family in a lot of ways. My family that I have always been fiercely proud of and very protective over is changing in ways I cannot control. It is changing Mom, Dad, Sister K and me. Changing the way we interact, changing our dynamic at home, changing our activities- it is changing us.

This past weekend really shed a light on those changes as Sister K brought her boyfriend home for the weekend to celebrate Easter. All weekend I tried hard to fill in the holes that Mom should’ve been responsible for with a guest at our house. I didn’t mind but it made me realize even more that this is my role now and I needed to step into it for Sister K. I feel like I am doing that a lot in many capacities in my family- filling in the holes of where Mom cannot anymore.

But as the weekend ended and we were heading back in the car I was talking to Husband and I got upset. I felt uneasy after the weekend and couldn’t figure out why- and then it hit me…I was mourning in many ways the loss of my family as we were and realizing what we have become. I was sad because Sister K’s boyfriend will never know us without Mom’s MS. Because Husband and I started dating in college, he knew Mom before her MS and knew our family dynamic without all the extra added stress. At this point in my life I can define all relationships into two categories- those who knew my family before MS and those who knew us after MS. There are pros and cons to being on both sides of the line but I know that those who knew us before knew who were were- knew how we operated- they knew our true family. Those who know us now I am not so confident of the picture they get. I don’t know what they take away after meeting all of us in our current dynamic.

I still love my family very much and I am still obsessed with the people I am blessed to call parents, grandparents and of course Sister K…I would not change them for a minute. But I still feel like I am mourning the loss of my family as we were and realizing with both eyes open the family we are becoming.

Have you ever experienced changes in your family that make you aware your family dynamic is changing? Are there people in your life who know your family in the past as opposed to who they are in the present? Does what I am talking about even make any sense?