It’s ALL About Everyone Else

I grew up as many Irish children do. I never worried about being grounded or punishments. (Okay, many Irish kids did get punished, but not my point here).

No. What I got was the “Irish guilt” – the constant feeling of how I was disappointing my parents, not doing what was expected of me and/or a whole assortment of ways in which Irish parents make you feel like you’ve committed felony murder. Many times when I hadn’t actually done anything wrong, mind you.

They say there’s a stereotypical “Jewish mother”. Well, Irish mothers are that times 10! Yes, an Irish mother will love her children with every ounce of her being. Yet, don’t ever cross her, or do anything that she would interpret as crossing her. She will guilt you until you bleed – even if you’re sick.

Funny Because It’s True!

Given recent circumstances that arose within my family, I was compelled to write this post.

While this issue has come up countless times, this particular situation truly hurt my heart because as the perceived “sick” person – it’s not about me. It never is. It’s ALL about EVERYONE ELSE!

This unfortunate truth relates to family, friends, work, and on and on. However, this particular post is focused on my relationship with my immediate family.

I cannot begin to count how many times my mother has said, “I’m just worried sick over you” or “I can’t sleep I’m so beside myself over you”. Not once is it ever about how I’m feeling. It is ALWAYS about her. As for my father, he will not visit me in the hospital – absolutely refuses. Apparently, “he can’t handle” seeing me in the hospital. He does not call. He occasionally sends a text of a photo of our dog, which my parents take care of when I’m hospitalized. I may get an email or two, if I’m lucky.

Yet, because he is a doctor he constantly has an opinion on the course of action my doctors take, and it’s usually something I do not agree with.

Just one instance that exemplifies this perfectly is when I consulted with a particular neurosurgeon at the hospital where my prior surgeon had retired. He was the Chief of Neurosurgery and a man I loved and respected. We had a fantastic relationship, so trusting my brain to anyone else was terrifying. While this consult was with someone who trained under my former surgeon, to say he paled in comparison is a huge understatement.

This man really only spoke to my husband and father, while he either ignored both my mother and I, or scoffed at our questions. He proposed an extremely invasive procedure. Admittedly, I ultimately did have the procedure but only after a much less invasive procedure failed to remedy the problem, and I had it performed at another hospital. Anyway, I asked very direct, difficult questions that this surgeon did not want to answer. Yet, when my father asked the same questions, he indeed answered them. He constantly diminished my concerns – the number one concern being that he proposed inserting a shunt into my brain that would drain fluid into my abdomen. Yet, when I questioned him on the fact that we were uncertain if there were cancerous cells in my brain and he was now proposing to drain this brain fluid into my abdomen, I was told, “You don’t need to be concerned with that. It’s unlikely”.

Well, sorry but “unlikely” is not good enough! What if there was cancer in my brain? What then? Oops, we made a mistake! Nope. Just. Nope. Not. Good. Enough.

I say all this to say that my father lit into ME after the consult stating “how obnoxious” I was to the doctor – as if I was to blame for his arrogance, male-chauvinist attitude and total ineptitude! I may not have gone to medical school, but I did earn a law degree, passed 2 bar exams and knew I was asking the proper questions for my own protection. I’m no idiot, especially when it comes to my health. Yet, my father chose to try and make me feel guilty, for some unknown reason, despite how openly disrespected I was by a stranger. He chose to berate me about pushing a doctor on serious issues related to MY health!

My father and this surgeon totally played into one another’s “God complex”. That ish does NOT fly with me though. Especially the male dominant BS. Not to mention, this man had us wait over 3 hours to even get back into the exam room and literally ran out the door with not even so much as a goodbye! The four of us just stood around looking at one another, asking “Is he coming back?” The answer was, No, he did not come back. About 5 minutes later his awful nurse entered the exam room as if nothing had happened. Needless to say, I found another surgeon who is so kind, gracious and much more competent.

Side Note: I did file a complaint with the patient advocate over this doctor’s behavior. He called and apologized, but clearly he did not even recognize how poorly I was treated. How could I trust my brain with someone so unprofessional and unaware of his behavior?

Moving on…

Now my mother has her own unique brand of guilting me because of my sickness. I am reminded pretty much daily that I’ve been sick. The constant barrage of questions: “How are you feeling today?” “Did you have a seizure?” “How is your hand?” “Are you walking okay?” “Any falls?” After 6 straight years of this, it’s gotten pretty old. Despite telling her that I don’t need to be reminded of my condition constantly, all I get in response is, “Well I’m just so concerned about you.” While that may be true, I’m 40 years old, not 4 years old. Also, Irish people LOVE misery. Walk into a local pub back there and there’s 3 topics. The first: Who died. Second: Who is sick, what do they have and a list of 10 other people who had it or have it. Finally: The weather. Always the bloody weather. It’s either “freezin” “roasting” or “lashing rain”. There may be some gossip about this one or that one, but guaranteed it always comes back to those 3 topics. It’s like misery is in our DNA or something.

Not only does my mother’s guilt involve feigning concern but also claiming she’d do anything to help. However, if I actually asked for help, I’d get 300 excuses why she “just couldn’t”. And every 300 of those excuses would ultimately circle back to one thing – work.

What it all boils down to is simple: my entire life, all my parents did was work. I often wondered why they even had a child because in their list of priorities it would be: 1.) Work; 2.) Each other; and, 3.) Me.

Do my parents love me? 100%. Have I ever wanted for anything material? Never. Did they do the best they could? Yes, but the caveat was always and forever will be, as long as it doesn’t conflict with work or requiring that they leave the 2-mile radius of their clinic/home. Yes indeed, their practice is in the home I spent the better half of my childhood in.

My parents are the epitome of the immigrant mentality that “America is the land of opportunity”. Yet, in order to build a successful practice, they’ve worked their fingers to the bone and still have not retired despite being in their 70’s. They do not believe in vacation or days off. And sick days? Forget it. So in a nutshell, this was the environment I was raised in.

Of course, when I was diagnosed with brain cancer over 6 years ago their work did not slow down. In fact, I was guilted into the notion that now, they’d have to work even harder to supposedly support me. I have a husband with a job. I don’t live beyond my means. I get disability. Has their financial support helped? Definitely, but as I mentioned, it comes at the price of constantly feeling guilty that because I got sick, they still have to work.

On top of all this, add my husband’s Irish family and you’d swear I only got sick to spite all of them! It drives his sisters insane that he loves me so much. One is in the midst of a divorce and the other… I could write a book on the dysfunction of that marriage! While my husband will always be a Mommy’s boy, I know deep down they all blame me for being sick and not giving him a child because well, that’s all women are supposed to do. Forget a career or anything except push out some kids. Since I was diagnosed just a year and a half into our marriage, I am once again the guilty party for failing at my “womanly duties.” It’s safe to say his sisters and I equally despise one another, but then again – my sickness is ALL about everyone else, right?

At this point, I’m done with managing everyone else’s emotions, feelings, etc. about MY health! I am no longer going to speak to anyone who I do not trust with my emotions. I will remain silent because as the quote below states: I am tired of fighting. So very, very tired.

Today, I was told to “DIE!”

Today was Mother’s Day in the States. Obviously, with a pandemic in full blast people celebrated a bit differently. Some families are together, so maybe mom got breakfast in bed or a nice lunch set out for her. Many families are separated though, so they turned to Skype, Zoom or an old-fashioned phone call.

Presents or flowers were likely shipped. Perhaps some gifts, like mine for my mother, dwell “in the cloud” of the “due to the coronavirus your item may be shipped at a later date than normal and we will continue to keep you updated” category. Maybe others were home-made, well because we’re all home!

I am not a mother, and an only child. All my family besides my parents is back in Ireland, so no aunts or cousins around. Beyond my amazing friends, the only other woman directly in my day-to-day life is my mom.

My mother is incredible and literally the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and she’s 70+. We did the old school conversation over the phone today. It was hard not seeing her, but it doesn’t bother either of us much. I’d say though she’s a bit high-strung, (sorry, Mom) we’re quite alike. Neither of us become pit-bull, Fighting Irishwomen until you /the situation offends us or our ideals. Otherwise, we’re both intelligent, rational people. I think so anyway.

I won’t get into much detail, but I don’t have a fantastic relationship with my in-laws. We’re all opinionated, stubborn, pit-bulls. Don’t get us angry. It’s ugly. You’d think being so similar we’d get along. Nah. No. Nope. As the line in the movie My Cousin Vinny goes, we don’t “blend”.

Not having a child is an underlying issue. By not giving my husband and their family a child, I’m really of no worth. “Being a mother” is the only thing they do. As a couple with no children then, my husband and I naturally matter less to his family. The fruitless, barren ones! His entire immediate family also all live within 5/10 minutes from each other. We live a nice 40 minutes away. Thank god! Nevertheless, they’ll constantly be together and my husband never gets a call to come by.

The reason, in my opinion is simple: ME. I’ve achieved in blackballing my poor husband from his family because his sisters switch-hit on who hates me that particular day. First, they don’t want to be around the “sick person” or “expose” their children to a sickie like me. Add on the fact I don’t have a child, and it’s safe to say it’s been less than an ideal situation.

Well today, on Mother’s Day (and the irony does not escape me) after a huge argument amongst my husband and his family, I was screamed at by an insane SIL to, “DIE!” Yes, I was told to leave my husband, leave their family alone and “DIE!” I wasn’t even involved in the argument! Yet, who does the blame fall on? ME. The fruitless, barren one worth less than, hmmmm, dirt.

It’s hard. No, it takes every single bone in my body not to stoop to that level and just go after her and all his family, who would want nothing more than to see us apart. As an aside I joke, although I’m not really joking, that they’ve probably got a line of women ready for him hoping I do in fact die. Every surgery I go in for, they’ve likely got the rosary beads out, because after all they’re such devout Catholics, praying this time I finally go.

So, so true

My husband is so much more important than their evil, petty attempts to drive us away from each other. However, if I was in fact to succumb to this horrid disease one day, there would definitely be an all-out, no holds barred extravaganza!

So, here’s to all us fruitless barren women out there! Let us enjoy sleeping in, doing what we want when we want, vacations when we choose, oh and quiet! Lots and lots of quiet. And to any single women reading this: Find a man with ONLY brothers!

You just can’t make this ish up…

It’s okay to be married and NOT have kids

When Do You Walk Away?

I’ve been told that I give more to people than they deserve, and that it only winds up hurting me in the end because I’ll never get back what I give in terms of my heart. So, when someone I let close to my heart, hurts me it hurts even more than the average person.

I have what’s known as a “highly sensitive personality”. If you’d like to know basics on this personality-type, here’s a link: https://highlysensitiverefuge.com/highly-sensitive-person-signs/. A more in-depth article from someone with this personality can be found here: https://medium.com/invisible-illness/highly-sensitive-person-hsp-637295745aa

Some traits of people with this type of personality:

1. We absorb other people’s feelings no matter whether we know them personally or not, and it’s overwhelming for us (trust, I’ve cried through literally EVERY Disney movie);

2. We withdraw a lot, not necessarily because we want to be alone, but we NEED it;

3. Change comes very hard for us, and not just, “Oh no one likes change” – it’s extremely challenging;

4. We are always thinking, not just about something like the weather, but deeply and intensely. It typically comes off as being “shy” or even “cold” (Yes, I have Bitchy Resting Face, but I’m not angry, I’m just constantly in deep thought)

5. We notice everything and it can lead to an immediate sense of like or distrust of a person we hardly know. So, we’re labeled as “judgmental”.

6. When we hurt, we really, really hurt!

Do I expect people to be perfect? Absolutely not! I’ve got plenty of flaws, myself.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “When is it just time to walk away?” Recognizing that I do take things more personally than the average person, when does a relationship become toxic enough that I just have to let go? For me, this isn’t a romantic relationship, but so-called “family and friends “.

I don’t have any magical answers to this one, but I imagine, in fact I know, a lot of people who are ill face this dilemma. When we face our own mortality, we can’t help but look around at who has been there for us, who has offered help, who has sent well-wishes, cards, flowers, etc. On the other hand, we also see who hasn’t. People are supportive in different ways, but if you haven’t gotten one iota of support from someone, and you’re tied to them because they’re family or you have multiple friends in common, it’s tough.

I’ve made a promise to myself that in 2020, a new year, a new decade-I’m going to be cutting out a LOT of people. I can’t handle the pain of hoping this person, or that person will suddenly be there for me. They won’t and no matter what I do, I can’t “teach an old dog new tricks”.

So, it’s not me, it’s actually you. Buh-Bye!

“Losing Yourself”

“Losing Yourself”

It’s fitting I’d find this quote on Instagram today, because I do feel like I’m “losing myself”.

It’s partly due to losing connections with certain people who I’m supposed to consider family, as well as the loss of some friendships. These relationships were important to me in the past. As I noticed these people distancing themselves, I didn’t think much of it. I had a lot of other people supporting me.

As always, my fellow cancer “thrivers” understated the most. I mean, they had been in the trenches too. Even if we weren’t in that metaphorical “foxhole” at the same time, they know everything I go through, all the terrible things that run through my head way too often. They know that sometimes even replying to a text message is too much. They have perspective others in my life don’t and hopefully, for their sake, never will.

I could only wish my biggest complaint was that my nail polish chipped right after I left the salon. Or, that my order from Amazon came late.

So, No, it “literally” wasn’t the worst day of your life because say, your boss yelled at you. Yes, it sucks, and no one wants that. “Literally” the worst day of your life is when: you hear “you have cancer”; or you have to say “goodbye to a loved one; or that lump they found is not just cancer, but that you’ve actually been diagnosed with “terminal cancer” and you should start “making arrangements”. I’d say picking out my own coffin would “literally” be the worst day of my life.

I know you don’t have to suffer tragedy to empathize. I also know that people are people, and what seems like a bad day for them isn’t what a bad day for me is like. My bad days usually include, falling flat on my face just trying to get up from the toilet, or being so fatigued I can’t walk without my cane and someone or something next to me. The really bad days include trips to the ER, or so many doctors’ appointments back-to-back, I leave my apartment in the early morning and don’t get home until after dark. Of course, the really really bad days are spent in the hospital (and I’ve done my tour of so many a friend joked I should start a blog on the food service in each).

Anyway, back to “losing myself”. Throughout these last 5 1/2 years, I’ve remained consistently positive. Sure, I’ve had bad days, some bad weeks, but now it’s very, very different.

I’m heading into procedure Number 6 on Thursday.

Well, this being “Black Friday” seems quite fitting. My last post discussed how I’ve now become one of “those” people who hates the holidays. I was never that person. In fact, I couldn’t stand those people! Since my diagnosis in 2014, I’ve lost count of how many holidays I spent in the hospital, or separated from my husband because MY sickness caused problems with his family (ya know, when you get married you think, “oh, now we’re all going to be one big, happy family!” Ha. What a joke!)

Some fences have been mended. Once those relationships are fixed, then others suddenly crash and burn. People you thought were “family” are no such thing. Friends you thought would stick by you, don’t want to be around you because it’s “depressing”.

I do know ultimately that removing the toxic people from my life is better. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt losing more and more relationships. I find myself becoming angry and bitter. It truly feels like I’m losing more and more of myself – that strong-willed “have no fear” cancer thriver. I just hope I can find the will to find myself again.