The journey of chronic illness has taught me that our families are greatly affected by our illnesses. Spouses, parents, siblings, and many others can attest to their personal stories of loving someone who is chronically ill. My inspiration for this week’s column was a discussion I recently had with my parents.
My husband and I visited with my parents after an appointment. I walked inside and headed straight to my favorite chair. The intense heat had taken a toll on me and I was in more pain than usual. I should mention that added to my fashionable ensemble was my walking stick gifted to me by my dear friend. That topic will be revisited in a future column.
Moving along, I lay across the chair and began having a conversation. My parents are saddened by the difficulties that I am experiencing. They reiterate that I am a survivor and constantly tell me I am going to be all right.
At times, I feel as though my parents are in denial about my MS disease. They know the basics and that is it. Neither of them has researched the disease, and sometimes that saddens me. It feels as if the proclamation “you’re going to be all right” dismisses my current condition. I shared my sentiment. My parents’ responses were “we have faith” and “we believe that our prayers will be answered.”
Of course, I wanted to delve further into this discussion but I was too exhausted to do so. I abandoned the conversation by telling my parents to believe as they must. I declared that I have faith, too, yet the current reality is that MS is progressive and incurable. On the way home, my husband and I continued the discussion.
I recall the day I disclosed my MS diagnosis to my parents. It was a day or so after I received the official diagnosis. I wanted to tell them in person and needed to make sure I had enough time to ingest the devastating news I had received. I will never forget the look in their eyes. Tears filled my loving mother’s eyes and her words were, “I wish I could take it for you.”
My loving dad, a man of few words with great strength, said nothing. He looked above for a second, yet his eyes revealed his truth. My parents were devastated. They were afraid. They were in shock. They assured me that we were in this together and that I was going to be OK.
It was important for me to reflect on this day because I realize that my parents had been in the same situation on multiple occasions with my siblings and me. Those moments in which their children or physicians revealed both life-changing and terminal illnesses. Instances in which their hearts broke into a million pieces yet they held it together. The moment when their parental instinct kicked in and they anchored us. They prepared to carry each of us through our storms while simultaneously surviving their own.
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