My Mom in the Hospital
By Craig R. Bayer
My mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, a malady that she, like all women, always feared, even though she has smoked cigarettes for most of her life.
To make matters worse, the cancer spread to one of her legs and her pelvis.
To make matters even worse, my mother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, a disease which continues to complicate her medical treatment.
My mother and her side of the family have always had a love/hate relationship with doctors: when they cured somebody, especially without utilizing surgery, they were heroes. When somebody died, they blamed the doctor.
Now, it’s my mother who sick and she is very paranoid about her caregivers. The doctors, the nurses, the nurse’s aides, the dietician, the physical therapist, the radiologist…she’s accusing them all of being butchers and quacks. She lectures them on how to do their jobs, based on information and misinformation she has gleaned from reading magazines and Ann Landers. Every time something goes wrong, no matter how minor it is, she presses the panic button.
If the radiologist mistakenly causes her to bang her head during treatment, if she has to take an x-ray, which she condemns as carcinogenic, if the hospital food is bad or even mediocre, if the laxative gives her diarrhea…all the world must come to a stop and so must her treatment. She has refused to take her pills, blown off radiation treatments, verbally abused the hospital staff, threatened to sue the hospital, etc.
She needed ten consecutive days of radiation treatments. On days when I failed to accompany her because I was at a Fountain House colleague training, she refused treatment, so I had to withdraw from the training and be there for ten consecutive days, virtually all day, to make sure that she submitted to treatment. All day she would argue with me about taking the treatment and rant about all the people who “gave her cancer”: the cigarette companies who sold her and the public cigarettes, instead of wholesome food; my grandmother, who condemned her for drinking apricot brandy to ease her cigarette cravings; a woman at her former adult home, who reportedly stole from her and committed other evil acts and who mysteriously has the power to give her cancer, too.
Then after ranting all day, my mother would miraculously change her mind and submit to the radiation, without ever admitting that I was right and she was wrong about the whole process.
All I could do throughout the ordeal was ride out her rants and pray—and try to protect the staff from her bitter, paranoid, desperate venom. It was very embarrassing, especially after I developed a crush on no less than two of her nurses.
But my mother is my mother: she sacrificed her own mental and physical health to get me all the way through college, so I’m going along with her on this arduous journey, not knowing what the results will be. Furthermore, it could be me someday on the radiation table, ranting and raving about whose fault it is, because I am obviously a consumer, too. I need to show some empathy.