There is a saying, “It takes a village”. It takes a village to raise a kid. It takes a village to get through hard times. Well, there is no village. When times are tough, there is no village to turn to.
It hasn’t always been like this. But since COVID, I think people are just burnt out. We’ve been in what feels like survival mode for so long that we no longer know what it feels like to act like a village and rely on one another. To help one another through tough times.
When Peyton was little there were times that were extremely tough and during those times it felt like I had the support of a village. People surrounded me and helped me through them. Whether it was with an encouraging phone call, letter, or stopping by with a meal and hanging out with me, I never felt alone.
But now, at one of the toughest times in my life, there is no village.
Sure, I’m surrounded by people. But they are not there to comfort me or to help me work through these trying times. They all want something from me. Sometimes it’s a report for work, or a donation, or to tell me about their great days, or to buy what they are selling but that’s it. It’s almost as if we have dehumanized one another and reduced each other to transactional relationships and are valued by only what we can do for one another.
If you had told me that 2 months ago I would come home from work to start dinner and the crockpot at lunch and never go back to the office I wouldn’t have believed you. But that is exactly what happened.
2 months ago I walked into the kitchen and found my mother near tears because she had intense pain in her head and the doctor’s office said they could not see her for 3 weeks. My mother is not the type of lady to cry or to see a doctor. So when I saw her like this I knew it was serious. I looked up the nearest urgent care clinic and put her name on the list which gave me an arrival time a few hours later. I stayed with her at home and a few hours later drove her over to the urgent care clinic. By this time she could barely walk. She couldn’t walk without holding on to me and she refused to let me get assistance or a wheelchair. So we shuffled through the parking lot while she held on to me in a bear hug trying to keep her balance.
We made our way into the clinic and I checked her in. We waited for just a few moments until an EMT called us back to take my mother’s vitals. They were so kind to her, listening to what she had to say and asking questions so they could try to help her. After an exam with a doctor, we were informed she had a sinus infection and possibly bronchitis but they wanted her to follow up with her oncologist. They sent her home with steroids and an antibiotic.
After a few days, my mom seemed a little better but not much. I’ve had several sinus infections over my life and always by day 5, I have felt so much better. But by day 7 she was only slightly better so we went to see her oncologist. And that’s when my mother told us about symptoms she had never shared with anyone. She had a swooshing in her head and periodically was seeing flashing lights. The look on the oncologist’s face changed instantly and she ordered an MRI of her brain. I knew right away this was not going to be good. Just by the change in the demeanor of the doctor, I knew there was an issue. And it was big.
That night, my mother went for an MRI of her head at 9 p.m. By 10:30 there was a new result in her medical records and we logged in to read it. What I saw on the screen was a shock. They had found 2 large lesions on her brain. TWO. And they were big. I went to bed that night and just cried. I didn’t know exactly what this meant but I knew it was bad. I was scared for my mother and my family.
The next morning the doctor’s office called and spoke with my mother. They wanted to start her on steroids and an anti-seizure medicine right away. She was home alone when she got the call and she didn’t tell anyone. She just disappeared for 4 hours. To this day I’m not sure where she went or exactly what she was doing. But I do know during that time she picked up her prescription and went to get herself a burger and shake. I was able to piece that together a few weeks later when I went to move her car and there were Culver wrappers on the front seat and reminents of a milkshake in the cupholder. That was also the last time she drove. Throwing the trash out was so bittersweet because it felt like I was throwing away the last piece of my mother’s independence.
The next few weeks were filled with what felt like nonstop doctor appointments. We met with a radiation therapist, and neurosurgeon and did more tests and lab work. The days blended together. Within 13 days of the MRI my mother underwent her 1st craniotomy to remove the biggest tumor. Then 2 weeks after that she had her 2nd craniotomy. Everything moved so fast and I don’t feel we were really prepared or understood what life was going to or could look like after the surgeries.
My mom sailed through the first surgery. She bounced back pretty quickly. Not much changed besides the swooshing noise was now gone from her head and she could walk better. She came out of that surgery being able to do things she had not been able to do.
Then we did the 2nd surgery. That one hit her like a brick wall. She lost her mobility. She lost her ability to take care of herself. And she lost herself.
This whole time it was still just her and I. I was the only one that was taking care of her. I was the only one cooking for her, cleaning her space, helping her with daily tasks, and helping her with her mobility struggles. The doctor sent no help. Even after I called and pleaded for help explaining to them she can not take care of herself or be left alone, no help came. I shared what was going on with family and close friends. Still, no help came. I found someone who was willing to come in and help my mom for about 7 hours a week at $40 an hour. That lasted about a week before my mom said she did not want her back in the house. So again, now it’s just me. I have begged and pleaded for help and been met with silence at what feels like every turn.
The village that I once knew and loved is gone.