Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Serious illness and narcissism

Sorry for the long delay in posting. I had a very unpleasant medical crisis unfold, and one that was potentially life threatening.  Long story short, I had a huge ovarian tumor that was the size of a honeydew melon in my pelvis.  Keep in mind I am a size 0 or 2 Misses (US) so my pelvis is not that big.  And I did not have a clue.  

Again, the cliff notes of how this situation unfolded are:

  • Lisabeth got sick on Sunday and on Monday night allowed a friend to transport her to the ER
  • At 2am Tuesday morning Lisabeth received this devastating news, and understood that there was a small chance at best that this was NOT malignant
  • 10am Tuesday Lisabeth saw the 1st oncologist
  • Wednesday Lisabeth was scheduled for emergency surgery to remove the mass
  • Thursday Lisabeth saw the Cancer Center oncologists
  • Friday at 5:15am Lisabeth reported to the hospital and surgery occurred, successfully...  The tumor did not rupture, they got it and the initial path report was benign, and Lisabeth did not wake up with a colostomy like was discussed in the Thursday consultation with the surgeons...
  • Lisabeth spent 4 days hospitalized, and is now home recuperating from a large mid line incision 

As you can imagine, the 75 hours between discovery and surgery were similar to being caught in the center of a tornado.  My focus was on keeping calm and not panicking until we knew what I was facing, and I did something different this time.  I reached out to my friends, my coworkers and colleagues, and was very open.  I allowed folks to support me, to express their fear and dismay, to express their love... And they all knew the deal, what I was facing.  They knew that if it was ovarian cancer, what the 5 year survivability of that.  We had just buried my friend on Saturday... the day before I got sick.

Now... as you can imagine, I was torn as to what to say to my hoarding mother.  I had folks giving me different advice... to not tell her anything, to play it by ear until I knew, etc.  

"Hello?  Where have YOU been?  I have not been able to..."

Look.  I have some news.  ... [telling her]...

"[Stammering]But how is that possible?  How did you not know?  How is it possible that something that large is in you?  Okay... one question for you... does your belly puff way out?  Do you look bloated or pregnant??"

No... Why do you ask?

"Do you think that is what is wrong with me?  My belly is over 50 inches!  I am..."

Gotta go.  I will call you when I know more.  
<dial tone>

<Sigh>  So initially she tried to have a reaction that was focused on me, even if it was a bit of 'shouldn't you have known something'/victim blaming in tactic... but then we took a left turn right into narcissism and plowed right into her inability to see me as a separate person from her.  I sat in my car with the most awful, stricken expression before I looked up and caught a peek at myself in the rear view mirror.  

I called on Thursday to let her know that I was scheduled for surgery on Friday, the extent of what I knew, and the hospital, the day and that I would be on a certain floor after.  My best friend was taking me, and I advised her that he would be calling.  She was starting to demand that he call, and if she was not there, to call again... and to ... I cut her off and said he would call, let her know I was okay, benign or not if that was known, and that was it.  He had a huge list to call/text.  

Friday he called her, apprised her I was doing well and that the tumor was initially benign.  He shared with me that she was very emotional, crying, thanking him.  It tore at me a bit, because I again felt empathy for her, sitting alone in that miserable house, not knowing if she was going to lose me today, or 5 years from today... and knowing she always goes to worst case scenario...

My hospitalization was ROUGH.  I did not call anyone, but Friday night my friend gave my iPhone back.  On Saturday the land line in the room rang intermittently, but I could not reach it.  Finally it rang and a nurse handed it to me...

"Lisabeth!  LISABETH!!! IS THAT YOU?  YOU DO NOT SOUND LIKE YOU!!!!! Geraldo never called me back!  He said he would call me back!  I did not know where you were, I did not know how you were, you would not BELIEVE ALL THE CALLS I HAD TO MAKE TO FIND YOU!!!!  I called there several times and no one answered!  It just rang, and rang, and rang..."

Okay- first of all, give Geraldo a break.  It was a really long, rough day, and I cannot believe he said he would call you back... I suspect you told him that as he was ending the call... Second, I told you where I would be, and the reason I have not answered is I am in bed and cannot reach the nightstand where the phone is due to IVs, the Foley, and other things hooked up to me right now.  I am exhausted, and I am ending this call.  If you need to contact me, call my iPhone, and I do have it on silent so if I am sleeping it does not wake me up, and the ringer does not disturb other patients.  DO NOT CALL THE LAND LINE.

Sunday she called the land line.  Luckily, a nurse had moved the phone to the bed for me.  I had a horrific day.  I had to have my IV reinserted, and Foley reinserted.  My bladder and bowels were not 'waking up' and there was no way I would be discharged that day.  I was devastated, I had had a horrible reaction to pain meds, and was again on 'nothing by mouth' status.  She immediately started commenting on how I did not sound like myself, (duh- major surgery and sore throat from being intubated!) and how she could not hear me, asked if I had the phone near my mouth, called back from her cell phone, put her hearing aid in, and then started to berate the neighbors and talk her normal crap.  I advised her the med cart was coming and ended the call.

I will spare you the rest, but I think you catch the theme.  And each time she has deviated into the crazy, I have just ended the call.  I am keeping my phone on silent, so I am not hearing the ring tones/message indicators.  I need peace and space to heal.  I simply cannot deal with this right now.

She has not yet started her whole 'hopeless cancer' routine and made statements about how I am going to die... YET.  She did get fired up the day I told her about surgery say that it was not fair, all I have done is try to help people, and some many worthless people are still living, look at me, look at my dad...

Dear gods it is exhausting.  And I need all the positive energy I can get.  This is going to be a long and physically arduous recovery.  And I suspect, this will continue to evolve as her macabre interest, questions, and etc. will grow and she will start asking vile things.  

My friends were amazed at her, that she would not drive 7 hours to see me.  I am actually relieved she will not, as I do not think I could take it.  So sad, eh?

Hoarding, no one wins.  No one.


  1. OH thank the stars and all the heavens you are well. My little cold heart is rattled - so happy to know you are well. Also, so sorry for this trauma. I'm really sorry you have had to deal with this. Geraldo is true friend and I hope all his dreams come true for sticking with you and making that call to your momster; he deserves a medal for that.

    You are one of very few people on this planet that understands (really understands) why I do not tell my family about ANY hospital visits I make. I can't risk it making it back to my own momster. She goes into "death watch" mode. I can not heal with her brand crazy over me. AND NEITHER CAN YOU. We are programmed to believe that she's our mother and we have to tell her. Maybe we do? I would have done the same thing you did in your situation. And, I would have felt the same way.

    I'm now curious to see just how alike our moms are. My mom's next move, if I were in your bed, would be to hurt herself. It's the only way she could turn the attention back on her. It is also a great way to use the phrase "but I'M really suffering and you aren't HERE for me". There is also the much used "just because YOU don't need anyone, I need blah blah blah" attempt at guilting me for having ever suffered my own "injury" because I brought it on myself.

    Here's my attempt to cheer/entertain but not make you laugh cause that can't be good for the healing and might hurt:

    A pit bull bit the the tip off my right (yes, I'm right handed) ring finger off at the first knuckle. Reconstructive surgeon. 7 surgeries that included removing skin from my arse and the toe nail/bed from a pinkie toe to relocate to said finger. (I'm a technical writer and my insurance wanted to be sure that finger functions. My mom didn't get to know about this until it was over. Two days after discovering, she took my sister's two very large dogs on a walk (never done THAT before) and fell over them two houses down from her own, breaking an arm and getting pretty scratched up. Neighbors called an ambulance because she couldn't get up. When the paramedics got her loaded on the gurney, she put her arm out to stop them from loading her up and insisted she be allowed to smoke a cigarette BEFORE they took her to the hospital - it was her last chance ya know. I only include this because the theater of it is amazing. The neighbors told us about this as it was a production of her laughing and joking with the paramedics. *smh*

    The month that followed she called me often and a repeated phrase was that I "don't understand the trauma of an old person trying to heal" or pain she was feeling. I don't understand real pain. She never calls me by the way. But she called almost daily after this incident.

    Momsters. We got 'em huh?

    Lisabeth, please be calm and think only positive thoughts for yourself. I want for you to heal your body 100%. That way you can concentrate on healing your battered soul. I'm thinking positive healing thoughts and sending them out there for you. Also, I respect your right to feel however you need to about your mother. This isn't our fault.


    1. EviLisaMe:

      Thank you. I appreciate your support and kind thoughts. This has been one hell of a ride. Today is 2 weeks, post op and I am doing very well. My final path report is back... and it is BENIGN! I was so relieved I could have just melted onto the examination table. I am finding that this recovery is tough, and is not linear. I have a really good day, down a day, meh a day, then a better day...

      Your reconstructive surgeries sound BRUTAL. And yay for you for ensuring that you gave yourself the space from your momster so you could do what you needed to do. And how mind boggling that mothers such as ours have to quickly pull the focus to them.

      I will be off in some capacity for almost 8 weeks. I can work a bit from home now as energy allows, and I can go for short 'visits' to the office after 5 weeks, and then return full time after 8 weeks. No running or lifting for 8 weeks. And must maintain current weight, no more weight loss. All in all, good news. There are some things that will take a while to see if they resolve, but I am okay with what I have now. I am still just so grateful and relieved that I am going to be just fine.

      And my mother... She has still not totally began whaling on the death gong for me, and the macabre questioning has not happened yet... but it will. I can hear her mind churning as we speak. She wants to do it... I pretty much am only speaking with her for a couple of minutes every few days. She is full of medical crises now. A tooth that is abscessed and ALL THAT INFECTION THAT CLOSE TO HER BRAIN! She had an MRI the same day as my surgical follow up and since they asked her about her ovary removal, hormone replacement, she went into hyper-red alert and high drama. She has tried to tell old surgery stories that I have heard 5 million times. I just inform her I have to go.

      Then she did it. She fell in the garage. No major injury, but quite a bit of drama. I guess it is her version of 'walking the dogs'.

      I am doing a LOT of thinking while I recuperate (when I am not asleep that is...). A lot of thinking. I have looked something personally terrifying in the face, and come out the other side with the best scenario/outcome. I suspect if I were a cat, I think I may have used up most of my nine lives, and this incident probably has left me in life number nine.

      And I want it to count... and to be everything it can be! You are so right, this is NOT our fault, and I am so glad we connected. I am so sorry though, that you are in this position to understand this as intimately as you do. And our mothers are the gifts that keep on giving eh?

      Maybe while I am off I will come up with a Hoarding Parent Drinking Game, or something of that mature nature...

      Have a great week. ((Hugs))


  2. Lizbeth,

    I really hope you feel better soon. I laugh at your blog even while I'm shaking my head.

    Best wishes,

    1. Margaret,

      Thank you for your healing wishes and thoughts. And I so appreciate your support, and it truly makes me happy that folks are finding the levity and sarcastic humor in my blog:-)

      Take care!


  3. I'm so glad that you are doing better now - and continue to not take the calls that make it hard to recover. Call display and voicemail are wonderful things.

  4. TC,

    Thank you for your solid advice! I am only speaking with her just enough to keep her from raining the crazy down at my workplace, and whomever else she could figure out to call. It is working, and although our short conversations are frustrating, she is being careful (for her) since I am so quick to jump off the phone, and then totally unavailable.

    I think even when I am back to my so-called 'normal' routine, I like this level of communication. And I am thinking... a lot... during this recuperation.

    Thank you for reading!