The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster for my family. My mother is in kidney failure due to diabetes, and she has been on dialysis for 2.5 years. She’s also obese and has pulmonary hypertension and was recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. She’s a poster child for the damage obesity and stress does to the body. We’re very close, and she’s one of my biggest supporters. Seeing her decline has been excruciating.
11 years ago in June, my oldest brother was killed in a car accident. She was already diabetic and overweight but until that moment, everything was stable. But the stress caused her slow decline. I was pregnant at the time, and she was healthy enough to help us paint my daughter’s room. After Grace was born, Mom was a huge help in taking care of her those first weeks. Grace is almost 11 now, and Mom can barely get around.
Since she went on dialysis, I’ve felt as though I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, just waiting for her death to push me off. Her kidney doctor didn’t think she’d make it two years on dialysis because of her heart condition, but until the last couple of weeks, she’s done very well, and he admitted she surprised him. But she’s still very sick, and we could lose her any day. I try to take it one day at a time and be grateful she’s still here, but it’s a struggle.
I truly thought we were going to lose her this time. Shortly after she was admitted to the University of Iowa Hospital two weeks ago, it just seemed like all her systems were shutting down. I had a conference to go to, and it was too late to cancel the hotel or airline. We stood to loose thousands, and she insisted I go. She said she’d be hurt if I didn’t. Walking out of that room that night was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I really thought she’d die before we got on the plane the next morning.
But yet again, she rebounded and is out of the hospital. But she’s still sick, and the reality is we’ll be lucky to get another couple of years for someone her age on dialysis.
So much of my life is spent waiting for the worst to come and fighting against that. I know I should cherish every day, and I honestly try to. But every time the phone rings, my heart stops.
How do we continue to enjoy and live our own lives when someone we love so much is in such a perilous condition? I feel guilty when I’m not worrying about her, and then I feel bad because I’m not giving my husband and daughter my full attention.
And in the back of my mind, there’s always the single, terrible question: what will I do without my mom?
There aren’t any answers, and I know I’m not alone in going through something like this. Watching our parents age and suffer is an awful thing, and I’m lucky I’m close enough to her to help take care of her. But there’s another part of me that’s angry, at both her and life for putting such a good person through such terrible things. She’s only 74, and she deserves better. I think of all the time I spent with her that I took for granted, all the little memories that have evaporated over the years. I should have cherished those moments, stockpiled them, journaled about them.
But that won’t lessen the pain of losing her. So I’ll continue to take things a day at a time and be grateful for whatever time she has left. I’ll also use her health issues as a motivator for my own life, so that I continue to get healthy and avoid the issues she’s dealing with. I don’t want to put my own daughter through this some day.
And to anyone with diabetes, please take care. I know weight is usually a mental issue, so seek therapy if you possibly can. Don’t underestimate what it can do to your body, and don’t underestimate the power of stress. Find healthy ways to cope, seek therapy or other help as needed. We only have one life, and we need to cherish it!