It seems that I just need to constantly expect the unexpected. This one just about takes the cake. On Thursday, I got a call from the nursing home. The nurse on the other end of the line says to me, "Are you aware that your mother is smoking cigarettes?"
I almost flipped. I said to the nurse," She is not to be smoking cigarettes", and the nurse says to me, "I sorry, but the patient has rights and if your mom wants to smoke cigarettes, she can."
So I am asking all of you who are reading this – help me to understand. How can a health care facility give a woman who is dying of lung cancer a cigarette?
About a week ago, a nurse called me and told me that my mom was asking for cigarettes. When I asked mom about it, she said that she was only joking. Then I found out that she was not joking and that she was actually smoking. Not much, mind you. Maybe three maximum within a week. But in order to have a cigarette the nurses have to put her in a wheelchair and take her outside to a specific smoking area. There is no smoking allowed within the nursing facility.
I suppose there is definitely two sides to this story. After all, my mother is dying of lung cancer. Smoking at this time is certainly not going to make anything worse.
Two things bother me about this whole situation. First of all, I am in charge of everything else. I pay the bills, I deal with the insurance companies, I wrangle with the doctor, I close down the apartment, I manage the estate, I make the health care decisions. But when it comes to smoking, well a patient has their rights. A friend of mine who recently went through something similar with her father told me that I need to understand that a person in my mother’s place needs to feel like they have some control in their life. I guess I can understand that, but believe me I am not taking control of all these things out of choice – it is out of necessity so that my mother can be cared for, be pain free and so that her money can be used to take care of her needs. But, in trying to put myself in my mother’s shoes, I can certainly understand the need to feel like you have some control.
Fundamentally, I guess the thing that bothers me the most about all of this is that my mother lied to me about the smoking. When I asked her to be honest with me and told her how important it was that she was honest with me, she did admit that she lied when she told me she was only joking about asking for cigarettes.
That hurt the most, and I told her that. She promised she would not lie to me again. Now I am at a point where I am realizing that I need to really step back and deal with this from her perspective. Heck, I am not dying of cancer – I have no clue what she is going through and how hard this must be to constantly deal with that reality. I know in principle we are all dying, but to have that amount of specific information relative to it is something that I currently do not have, and I need to be more empathetic about that.
I am still struggling with why a health care facility would give a lung cancer patient a cigarette – and I am still confused about what exactly what my role is in all of this – but I will continue to go with the flow.
Another friend of mine put it all in perspective for me. I was ranting about this whole situation and how much I have done for my mother and this is how she repays me – by lying – and she said. "Jan, welcome to the world of having children." We both started to laugh. I made a conscious choice not to have kids – I knew I would not be a good mother – I am way too selfish – so I have no framework for having children and now, for all intents and purposes, I am thrust into the role of being a mom. The one thing that has been beneficial for me in all of this is that it has affirmed me in my decision about not being a parent.
So, today I am planning a special dinner for my mom. She is turning a corner in her condition and right now I never know when she may slip into something other than the lucid reality she is in right now. So we are celebrating her birthday a week early. I am going to her favorite restaurant and buying dinner and bringing it to her. It should be great and I know she will enjoy it. Yesterday she asked me what I was planning for dessert – I told her it would be a surprise. But guess what – it won’t be coffee and a cigarette – that’s for sure. Happy weekend, all!