Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

Caution! Speed-bumps ahead.

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In last week’s post I filled you in on my absence. I had hoped that current stress levels might reduce a smidge. Mum is being cared for in a great community hospital and Dad seems to have adjusted to the situation, albeit with understandable reluctance. It seemed the stormy waters had reduced to a gentle swell of minor ups and downs.

Alas, It was not meant to be. You can imagine the upset that ensued following a call from the hospital care team to say that Mum was now not sick enough to stay with them. We had no idea when she was moved to this hospital that this was temporary situation. Apparently they don’t do long-term palliative care anymore. It would have been nice if we’d know this in advance. It would have prepared us for what’s coming.

The healthcare team want to move her to a care home. Dad is 100% against this as he is worried about COVID-19. Mum, with her cancers (secondaries in the lungs), would not survive an infection. To add to the complicated situation, the team say she cannot be cared for at home either as community care would not be able to provide 24/7 carers. Well that narrows the choices to none at all. Dad being the person he is, has stopped answering the phone to anyone, in case he gets news he doesn’t want to hear.

Life dealt him quite a nasty hand on Monday this week. He had a belated bladder check following surgery at Christmas to remove some cancerous tumours. The bad news is the little buggers are back again. He will have to wait 12 week for surgery to remove them, The good news is they are sitting on the surface, so very low-grade. Now add in Mum’s care dilemma and you can see how stress levels have reached defcon 10!

Dad want’s her home but needs care himself, especially when he goes for surgery and post-operatively. Mum, with dementia and cancer, needs round the clock attention. Although Scotland and England are reducing COVID lockdown rules, my sister and I need to be super-careful not to introduce any infection to Dad and are banned from seeing Mum. Gah! I’m back to trying to square circles again, riding the hamster-wheel of doom at 3am every morning.

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How this type of stress manifests in me is centred on my communication area… throat, mouth and jaw tension. It’s quite painful. I’ve almost chewed through my night guard. As Dad is the only parent I can ‘talk’ to just now, this has triggered some crap from my teenage years.

I was, and still am, an avid journal writer. It was my only way to ‘feel’ my emotions in a house where this wasn’t tolerated. As you can imagine, I wrote some deeply personal stuff in my hidden journal. Only it wasn’t as hidden as I thought. Dad found it, read it, ripped it up and then confronted me about the contents. With that act, he destroyed my trust in him, my Daddy’s girl persona and the sanctity of my personal journal. He made me feel ashamed. And now he’s the only parent left to talk to. My teenage self is not a happy bunny.

EMDR is helping me deal with this long-forgotten memory. I will still remember it, but without the horrible physical symptoms which the memory currently stirs up. It’s a double whammy having symptoms where I do in the middle of COVID-19! The irony is not lost on me. The light at the end of the tunnel is I’ve had previous experience of EMDR and know how well it treats past traumas for me. I know this is a passing phase and it will end. I have to keep faith that things will work out for the best.

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Some things turn out to be a blessing in disguise even when it feels like I’m falling apart at the seams! Just gotta stay strong!

Wishing you all safety and health.

Cath xx

Blog Posts, Menopausal Mutterings

It’s been a while…

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Hey there my lovely readers. I’ve been AWOL for quite a while. I struggled to think of anything to write about. My mind was completely occupied with the current global crisis in general and the effects it was having on me and my family specifically.

Without a doubt times have been the strangest I’ve ever known. Since we locked down in the UK I’ve looked at other people through frightened eyes. Instead of seeing neighbours or fellow shoppers, I saw walking virus bombs. Even looking in the mirror, I saw myself as a potential threat. Did I really have a nasty cold or was it COVID-19? I kept myself isolated. The Dean household kept itself under wraps as all of us went down with what felt like a nasty cold. We didn’t fit all the criteria for COVID but we weren’t taking any chances. Unless we get an antibody test we will never know.

During the rise in cases and deaths my already sick mother was rushed into hospital. No family allowed in the ambulance or in hospital. We relied on the care team to keep us informed. Mum’s stage 4 breast cancer was on the move – this time into her brain. As a result she now has cancer-related dementia. She did not know she was dangerously dehydrated – regular care visits to look after her at home had to stop so this wasn’t picked up earlier. Just as well my Dad was on the case!

So Dad was locked down on his own. My sister who lives nearby couldn’t visit him. As I live in England I couldn’t visit anyone. Mum’s dementia meant we couldn’t send a mobile phone or tablet in with her to keep in touch. The medical team did a great job of bringing her back from the brink. She spent her 80th birthday in hospital, no family around. One nurse managed to arrange a FaceTime call with us so we could at least sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. It was bitter-sweet. Great to see her but so sad we couldn’t be there in person.

Then along came a couple of challenges. Now that Mum was no immediate danger what sort of care should she have? She wasn’t sick enough for hospice care but as her cancer has severed the brain-bladder connection she couldn’t come home either, much to my Dad’s disappointment. For whatever reason, he stopped answering calls from anyone. In the end my sister and I had to make the decision – to transfer Mum to a community hospital. There she would receive 24/7 care but due to COVID nobody would be allowed to visit. We knew it was the right thing to do but it felt awful watching our Dad crumble when we told him.

He still wasn’t taking calls when Mum’s cancer doctor called. So yet again my sister and I stepped in. This time the discussion was about continuing treatment. We decided that as the cancer was terminal and on the march we should only use what was necessary… in other words, palliative care only. You can imagine how well that call went when we finally managed to get Dad to answer a family video call.

The fallout was epic. My poor sister bore the brunt of it due to living 5 minutes away. I got the cold shoulder too. To us it felt like we were being blamed for doing the tough, but right thing. Endless nights I spent trying to think of another way to make everyone happy. I couldn’t. There’s nothing worse that ruminating at 3am, trying to square a circle. My own mental health deteriorated. Time off work for both sisters! Counselling for both of us. And I’ve had two more sessions of EMDR (more on this later) to help root out some of the worst trauma.

We are on the mend, but girding ourselves for the next inevitable round of trials… Mum will have an assessment in two weeks time to see if her current care is at the right level? I’m trying hard not to worry about something I have no control over… but it’s hard.

So now you are broadly up to speed with the reasons for my absence. I will try to stay focussed on the things I can affect and leave everything else to sort itself out.

Hoping this finds you safe and well.

Cath xx

P.S – if you are new to this blog, you might like to start here.