Trigger Warning: Cancer, Epilepsy, PNES (Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures)
This story is selfishly about me. I wasn’t the one with cancer but I have found out its impact is family wide. When my mum had cancer, and thankfully survived, our family was revamped to something I don’t know.
During her cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgery and recovery we were united. Everyone stepped up and did their best. They helped around the house and took over the housework for my mum, including my dad. Suddenly my mum’s birthday was critical, when usually it was overlooked and came second to everyone else.
Some moments stand out for me. I still remember holding my dad by the hand every time we left her hospital room and comforting him. I never cried around my mum as I didn’t want to burden her. I stayed emotionally together so my sisters and my nieces and nephews saw a calm adult.
However, by ’emotionally together’ I mean I suppressed everything around my family and particularly my mum. It is a weird talent I have which I call going into ‘counsellor mode’. Basically I can box away what I am thinking and feeling in the now to theoretically deal with later at a more appropriate time. This coping mechanism is usually okay, provided it is a short-term crisis. Unfortunately it was not and is still ongoing.
What I have stupidly developed is PNES (Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures), which is when you cannot express yourself emotionally due to some kind of trauma so instead you express yourself physically. Seizures come in various formats so I was initially confused as I already have Juvenile Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, photosensitivity and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.
Bizarrely, for me, after everyone’s panic over my mum’s survival, now that her cancer is in remission, my family has retreated back to old habits. I don’t understand this. Cancer is known for its reoccurrence. I feel we were given a reprieve to value every moment with her.
My mum came back from the cancer physically weaker and, not surprisingly, a bit bitter. For her entire life she gave all to everyone, never smoked, ate well, and had no chronic health issues until she got hit with the Big C. Due to my epilepsy I understand what it is like to have the rug ripped out from underneath your feet. There is no ending to this story as we are not there yet and I don’t know what the ending will be.