Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 26, 2009 Chapters:  ...63 64 -65- 66... 


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Valerie's Mother is acting strange

A chapter in the book A Leaf on the Wind

Someting's Terribly Wrong

by S. Pumpkin



Background
Sexually abused as a child Valerie grows into an adult with severe psychological proglems. After years of therapy, several hospitaliztions and medcation she begins to put her life back together. Now

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

~Lao Tzu

When Dr. S's office called to schedule an appointment. I knew immediately something was wrong. His office only called to cancel appointments, not to make them. The cancer had come back. My recent CT scan showed a very small lump in my left breast tissue, a few inches above the previous incision. I knew the drill all too well, surgery to remove the lump, appointment with the oncologist, and more chemotherapy. 

I dreaded having to tell Mom the cancer was back. I knew she would be terribly upset. However, I had no choice. 

Hearing the news, she smiled and said, “Don’t worry. You beat it twice before and I know you will do it again.” 

I was worried about her and clearly she was also worried about me.

Without warning, she put her arms around me and gave me a big hug. I fought off the urge to push her away. Feeling her arms around me felt awkward, uncomfortable, and frightened me. I didn’t know how to feel. My ability to feel love was still absent. I know she cared but I simply could not feel it. 

Obviously trying to make me feel better Mom said, “I have a great idea. Let’s rent a movie, order a pizza, and ask Denise to come over. We’ll have a girls’ night. It’ll be fun.” 

I wasn't in the mood for company but I feigned a smile and  said, “Sure,  I’ll call Denise.” 

When I invited Denise over she asked, “What’s the celebration?”
I told her my cancer had come back and Mom and I were looking for a distraction. Her response was unexpected and sent me into a violent rage. 

“Valerie, don’t you think this cancer thing has gone on long enough?” 

Not sure what she was saying I asked, “What do you mean?”
Denise didn’t answer. 

“Are you saying you are tired of hearing about my cancer?” 

Again, she remained silent. 

“Are you saying you don’t care I have cancer?” 

More silence. 

“Are you saying you don’t believe I have cancer?” 

“If the shoe fits …” She responded, intentionally not ending the sentence.

"You  bitch!”  I screamed. 

Denise went on to say, “Teresa, Mary, and I talked about this at great length after your first surgery, and we each agree you are just trying to get attention and we are not going to play your stupid little game any more.” 

I was so upset I started cursing then slammed the phone down so hard I cracked the receiver. 

Shocked by my reaction, Mom asked me what had happened. 

When I told her what Denise said she grabbed the phone and immediately called her. 

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Mom asked. “Why would you say such a horrible thing?” 

Mom became so upset she cursed Denise and hung up on her. 

Furious, I began to pace back and forth. I went outside and screamed at the top of my lungs. I had not been this angry in years. I sat down in the middle of our driveway and began to cry. 

My sisters' strange lack of compassion finally made sense. 

When I went back into the house, I found Mom going through my file cabinet. She was pulling out all the doctor bills that documented every appointment, surgery, and procedure I had undergone. 

Confused I asked her what she was doing. 

“When I show this to your sisters they will have no choice but to believe you,” Mom said. 

I shut the drawer and said, “NO! I refuse to be forced to prove to them that I have cancer. They can all go to hell as far as I am concerned!” 

Denise had a reputation for using the word "we" when trying to make a point thinking pointing out others agreed with her would make her more credible.  I decided to call both Teresa and Mary and find out for myself if they also felt I was faking my cancer.  Both adamantly denied ever having such a conversation. I didn’t believe either of them. 

Thus began a year of fighting; angry emails and letters piled up. 

Mom was supportive and tried desperately to talk some sense into my sisters but failed. They refused to listen. Finally, I told Mom she could no longer discuss my health with anyone. Reluctantly, she agreed. I told her Denise was not allowed to visit the house when I was there. She agreed. I needed to distance myself from all of them. I had far more important things to deal with. But deep inside my heart I hid the fact that I was devastated. My sisters had hit a nerve. They had called me a liar for the last time. 

* * * 

The surgery was minor compared to the first two and I only required three weeks of radiation and three months of chemotherapy. The side effects were the same and I lost my hair for the second time. It meant a lot to me that Mom went with me to every therapy session. She desperately wanted to fill the void of my absent sisters. I appreciated her effort. 

Over the years of chemotherapy, I had put on a tremendous amount of weight. Prior to the cancer, I weighed a little more than 135 pounds but now I was over 200. I also developed a chronic case of peripheral neuropathy. It hurt to walk short distances and climbing the stairs was nearly impossible. The pain was excruciating. The only way I could describe it was it felt like someone had injected my feet with acid and it was slowly working its way up my legs. Once the pain started, it didn’t stop until it reached its peak. Sometimes it was so painful I couldn’t walk without a cane. My doctor was concerned and tested me for everything. For a while, she thought I might have MS but fortunately, that wasn’t the case. All I knew was every day it got a little worse. Working in the yard became difficult but I continued despite the pain. 

Mom and I continued to fight, talk and fight. Slowly we began to work out the past. I still felt the anger but at least Mom and I were finally talking openly and honestly. 

Mom and I had come a long way since Ari’s death. We had really begun to talk. For the first time when I asked “why” she tried to answer. 

“Why didn’t you protect me?” 

“I didn’t want to believe anything was happening. I know it was wrong but I wanted to believe everything was fine.” 
Her answers dredged up buried pain and inevitable rage ensued 

“Couldn’t you see what it was doing to me? Why did you turn your back on me?” 

“I was a coward,” she confessed. “I wanted so desperately to have a perfect life and you stood in the way. I am so very, very sorry.”
I believed her sorrow was sincere but my anger remained. The fighting was difficult and exhausting but little by little, we made progress. At least we were talking. 

When I was informed, for the third time, I was cancer free Mom and I had a small celebration. We got dressed up and went out for dinner. 

I continued to see Dr. L, but less often. He had been a great help but I was getting tired of talking about the same thing every week. One day I told him, “You know I am really getting tired of hearing myself talk. Everything I say, I’ve said a hundred times before.” 

“Talking is good,” Dr L said. 

“Yes, but pointless if you don’t say anything new.” 

I paused for a moment then added, “You know, I have all the 
answers already. I just need to figure out how it all fits together.”
For the first time Dr. L was silent. He couldn’t think of anything to say. 

* * *

One day I found mom upstairs in her bedroom. When I walked in I was surprised to see her hiding a box of jello under the mattress. I asked her what she was doing but she refused to speak. Over the next few days, I noticed other bizarre behavior. She hid her cigarettes in the flour container in the pantry and the salt and peper shakers in the medicine cabinet. She began watching soap operas on television. She hated soap operas. She said strange things. She told me the dog had spoken to her. When I asked her what he said, she said, “I’m hungry, feed me.” 

I called Teresa. I told her I was very worried about Mom.   I told her I wanted to call a truce for mom's sake.  Teresa ignored my concerns and said I was overreacting. 

Mom’s bizarre behavior continued. Late at night, I could hear her in her room talking. Sometimes she would get into terrible arguments with her invisible companion. I was frightened. Something was terribly wrong.


Earned A Seal Of Quality


Watching your mother slowly lose her mind is a frightening experience made worse when you try to get your family to help and they refuse. My anger with my mother was always just below the surface but seeing her so vulnerable, terrified me.
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