Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: advocate mom diagnosed with cancer

Looking Back Through Tears.

Matt, it’s been a while since I’ve written.  I’ve thought of you everyday but this cancer treatment and the two surgeries have really beat me down.  I don’t even have the energy to cry about everything that’s happening to me.  Your loss hits so hard every time I remember you complaining about your back pain after your surgery. 

Never in a million years could I ever have imagined that pain would one day invade my body as like you I’ve had back surgery and I’m filled with screws and rods.  

How I wish you could come back just for a few hours.  I would beg your forgiveness for not being more compassionate towards your pain.  I always thought you just wanted an excuse to use the opioids that finally got you addicted and contributed to your death.

All I wanted to do was get you off the pills so you could get your life back in order.  Little did I know how you were suffering every day of your life.  

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I guess that saying is true, Until you walk in someone’s shoes keep your opinions to yourself.  I now understand why you would never sleep in your bed.  I’d always come downstairs to find you sleeping on the couch with the TV blaring.  I blamed you getting high and falling asleep in positions that looked horribly uncomfortable.  I remember waking you up and urging you to go to bed only to have you scowl at me.  

Now I get it. I can’t believe that I have such a hard time sleeping through the night.  I start out in my bed but wake after a few hours in excruciating pain.  I need to get up and walk until the pain settles and then I find myself in the recliner just like I found you.  

I’ve also been given OxyContin.  I’ll admit I had no choice but to take a few as my pain was unbearable at times.  Every time I handle that prescription bottle I flash back to you.    It is the only thing that helps with the pain but I’m terrified of becoming addicted like you did.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to continue to live in pain every moment of every day.  I feel like God is teaching me a very valuable lesson in empathy.  I truly had no idea what you went through until now as I’m going through the same painful journey after back surgery.  

I wish we could go back in time.  Knowing what I now know I would have treated you with compassion instead of expecting you to go to work everyday functioning like a person in perfect shape.  Telling you I understand now really makes no difference as you’ve been gone for 5 years and 2 months.  

I hope you hear my prayers for you.  I hope you know how sorry I am and most of all I hope you forgive me.  I’ve been living like this for 3 months, you lived with this for 7 years as you struggled with chronic pain and the horror of addiction.  

There are no words to describe my grief over losing you and now losing me.  I can no longer advocate the way I used to.  I can’t walk the dogs or do anything that once brought me stress relief and a slice of happiness.  This is not the life I envisioned for us.   I saw you married with children, living at your happy place by the sea.  I saw family vacations with grandkids and grand pups running and jumping in the surf as you and I sat together on the sand sharing the beauty of life.  I saw you and Mike growing older together sharing the joys of fatherhood.  I never saw you dying at 37 or me fighting cancer at 63.   I guess it’s true, we have no control over how life will twist and turn.  That for me is the hardest to accept.  I thought I could save you.  Now I’m fighting for my life not knowing what the outcome will be.   I can only hope that one day we will be together again sitting by the sea, no longer in pain but in paradise. 💜♥️

Rogue Waves……

Matt,   You would think after 5 years, I would have a handle on my grief.   Maybe a small part of my heart started to believe the myth that time would soften the blow of your death.   Maybe to survive I had to think the pain would not always have the crushing power it did in those early days.   Perhaps to continue my journey on earth without you I had to live briefly the fantasy that society wants me to believe.

My reality is the polar opposite.   This grief continues to hit unexpectedly, but just as powerfully as it always has.   I call them rogue waves.   I thought that the passing of time would at least soften the edges of my grief.   Sadly, I’m finding those edges remain sharp.   Like jagged pieces of glass ready to rip my heart to shreds once again.

These waves continue to hit at unexpected times.   Days when I think I’ve got a shred of control over my emotions  I find quite the opposite.   I don’t know if it’s the stress of my cancer diagnosis or just the fact that I continue to rethink your struggle with addiction.   Perhaps I’ve got too much time on my hands now as I recover from back surgery and have had to put my advocacy work on the back burner.   I’m no longer physically capable of running to meetings or being your voice in Legislative Hall.   I’m no longer able to keep my mind busy with changing the broken system that took your life.   Time gives my mind the opportunity to relive it all over and over again.

My empathy for your pain is heightened.   I now get it.   Back surgery is no picnic and this recovery has tested my patience.   I think about how I just didn’t understand your pain.   It’s like any other situation.   Until you live it you can’t get it.

So now my insides churn like an unsettled sea.   I feel like I’m being turned inside out.   I want to lash out at people who think addiction was your choice.   Who think addiction is a moral flaw.  My anger rises to the surface when I least expect it.   Like those rogue waves it leaves me struggling to regain control.

I rethink your last days until I can think no more.   I want to physically hurt the man who dumped you off at a motel to die rather than doing the right thing by taking you to the ER or a detox center.   I want him to hurt physically and emotionally like your death has hurt me.   I want him rotting in jail with no hope of ever seeing the blue sky or hearing the birds sing.   I want him to die alone as much as I want you to be alive.

My grief is now multifaceted.   I grieve us both.   I grieve for what used to be.   I grieve the son you once were and the woman I once was.   I grieve for the future that could have been but now will never be.    I grieve the grandchildren my arms will never hold.   I grieve watching my boys grow old together.   I grieve the years we have lost, the future we will never share.

My grief and my anger walk hand and hand.  Dancing through my mind.   I am helpless to contain either when the reality of life hits with the power of those rogue waves knocking me off my feet  leaving me struggling to find the surface to catch my breath.   Grief is a powerful and never ending emotion.   It does not tell time.  It does not conform to societies perception that time softens the blow of death.

I’ve learned that my grief will last a lifetime.   As will my anger over your unnecessary, untimely death.   I’ve learned those waves are out there and will hit again and again.   I’ve learned that I am helpless when they hit and all I can do is ride them to the best of my ability.

Surviving my reality, your death and my cancer is a challenge.  Never did I see either coming.   I’ve learned life is fragile and full of unexpected events.   I’ve learned that grief is a part of who I am and will remain a part of my life until I cease to be……….

 

 

 

Walking The Path You Walked…..

Matt,   I feel as though I’m reliving your journey.   I remember so clearly your phone call.   “Mom, I was lifting an engine and I felt something in my back pop.   The pain is horrible.  I can barely walk.”   Little did I know that almost 5 years later I would be reliving your experience.

The similarities are mind boggling.   You lifted an engine, I lifted a stuck window.   As soon as I felt the pop and felt that searing pain shoot down my leg I thought of you.   They say you can never understand what someone goes through until you go through it yourself.   I am a living testimony to that truth.

Looking back I wish I had known how life altering your pain was.   I never thought it was as horrible as you described.   Living with your pain, I now feel so ashamed that I lacked compassion for your pain.   All I saw was your addiction to the opioids.   Your addiction became my focus.  Your pain was a secondary concern.

Now I get it.   I’m facing the same surgery you survived.   I’m facing trying to find a happy medium to this pain that has become a part of my life and a reminder of how you suffered.   I’m facing the possibility of becoming addicted as you did after back surgery.   I think back to how your life was affected and I’m terrified that I will become you.

Thursday I will be the patient.   I will be you.   I will be in the OR not the waiting room watching your name flip through the different phases of your surgery.   I remember scanning that board every few minutes searching for where you were in the process.   I remember walking next to your stretcher to those OR doors and giving you a kiss for luck.   Promising I would be there when you woke.   Promising to pray for a successful surgery.

So now I’ll be the name Ray and Mike will be following through the OR process.   I will be the one with the surgical scar on my back exactly like yours.   I remember seeing your scar and feeling chills come over my body.   I remember thinking how brave you were to have gone through what you did, never thinking that almost 5 years after your death your scar would be on my body.

We have always had this unexplainable connection.   You and I so much alike.   Now, even though you are no longer here,  I will be retracing your journey.   Feeling your anxiety as you waited for surgery.   Understanding your pain as it is now my own.

I pray that I will feel your presence.   That somehow, someway just for a brief moment I will know you are there.   I pray that neither time nor space will break our connection.   I pray that you have forgiven me for not understanding your pain………

 

 

 

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