For those of you who follow my blog, you already know that my beloved mother is my full-time caretaker. You also know that birthdays are HUGE in my family. Today is a wonderful day in our household because it is my mother’s birthday. This is a day to celebrate the life of a woman who has done so much for me, for our family and for everyone she has ever encountered. As I have battled Chronic Lyme Disease over the past three years, this woman has dedicated her life to standing by my side every step of the way and I really don’t know how I would have survived without her support.
I have read so many stories from people struggling with chronic illness who have difficult situations at home. Some people don’t have supportive spouses, some have no one to help them at all, or worse yet there are people who have family members that cast blame upon them for being ill. I have been so blessed that my mother joined my battle right from the beginning. She attended a Lyme Support Group meeting with me and from that point forward, she began researching my disease and searching for ways to help. She has read books, asked questions, scoured the internet, attended doctor’s appointments and knows more about Lyme nutrition than I do! She never stops searching for ways to beat this disease and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
When my health deteriorated to the point that I could not live alone anymore, I moved in with her and she had to take on the role of primary caregiver. It should have been time for her to be relaxing in her retirement but she found herself in the position of cooking my meals, doing my laundry, running my errands and driving me to the doctor because I was too weak to even get out of bed. If you have ever taken care of someone who is sick, you know how exhausting this can be. A normal person can probably keep up this schedule for a few weeks while someone is recovering from the flu or a surgery. My mother has kept up this schedule for EIGHT MONTHS now. I honestly don’t know how she does it.
The most difficult part for her is to see me suffer. I remember how I felt when she had a total knee replacement and I was nursing her through rehab. It broke my heart to see her crying in pain. I felt helpless because I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t do the rehab for her, I couldn’t take away the pain, I couldn’t fix it. It was devastating. When I lived alone, for the first few years of my battle with the disease, I could hide how much pain I was in because I didn’t want her to see how much I was suffering. When I moved in with her there was no way to hide it anymore. Come to find out, she didn’t want me to hide it from her. She wanted me to share it because she wanted to take care of me. No matter how horrible things were going to get, she promised to be right by my side through it all.
As much as I hated to show her how devastating this disease really is she eventually saw me writhing in pain with Herxheimer cramps. I know that it was awful for her to sit on the couch in my bedroom not knowing whether she should touch me or not, watching me cry in agony and not knowing how to help me. She saw me struggle to move in the morning when I tried to get up from the bed to get to the bathroom. I am sure she still looked at me as her “little girl” trapped in this failing body. I am also sure that it broke her heart.
Chronic Lyme Disease has completely changed my mother’s life. She has witnessed me wearing sunglasses in the house every day because my headaches were unbearable so she had to alter her way of living in order to make me more comfortable…close the blinds, crank the air conditioner, keep things quiet, etc. It is hard to be a housemate with someone who has this disease, even if they are your child that you love with all of your heart. She has sacrificed HER comfort for the sake of mine. When someone has a child, I am sure they never expect that they will be taking care of them again as that “adult child” battles a life-threatening illness. My mother always makes me feel like she wouldn’t have it any other way. THAT is a mother’s love.
Looking back at the birthdays we have celebrated in the past, I am so happy that I made a huge deal out of my mother’s 60th birthday. I was still feeling good at that time and it was her first year living down south with me. I rented a limo for the day, took her to swim with dolphins, then out to eat, then for a private sailboat cruise at sunset (the photo above) and at each stop I gave her a charm for a bracelet that represented each event we had just accomplished. I also got her 5 dozen roses (60) and cards that told her what she meant to me. It was a wonderful day and gave us memories that I will cherish forever. I was so fortunate to have the means at the time to do something like that and we have always enjoyed spending her birthday together no matter what we do.
This year will be quite different given the fact that I am essentially housebound due to my illness. I wish that things were better so I could make it special for this woman who has done so much for me. Anyone with a chronic illness can understand the devastation I feel when I can’t do for others because my illness prevents me from leaving the house. Even though this past three years of illness has greatly limited our ability to do fun things together, I know that my mother and I will still spend the day together and that will be good enough. I have to remember that being grateful we are together takes precedence over everything else. Birthdays are not about presents, cake, limos, roses, cards, sailboats, dolphins or sunsets. They are about mothers, daughters, hugs, kisses, smiles, laughter, togetherness, saying I love you and celebrating the day of your loved one’s birth.
Happy Birthday Mama. I love you.