IT’S National Carers Week.
A week that is dedicated to recognising the outstanding contribution unpaid carer’s make to our nation. A week that is personally important to me.
Being a carer for my mum was the most rewarding experience of my life. Being a carer is about making mistakes. Like a mother who learns the ropes of motherhood with her first newborn, a carer learns on the job and more often than not gets it wrong.
I made an abundance of errors as a carer, including forgetting to give Mum her meds and burning her tongue with hot tea I’d given her in a sipper cup. But falling to the ground with my mother was my biggest error.
I’d moved my mother from her wheelchair to the bed a thousand times before, but one day as I began the task of transferring I somehow lost my footing and toppled down, bringing my terminally ill mother down with me.
Mum’s brain tumour was growing and was stealing one of her faculties at a time. First, it stole her ability to walk. Then her ability to talk. Finally, it would take away her ability to control her bodily functions.
The tumour was a cruel and unapologetic beast and my mother was its victim.
What does a daughter do when she sees the woman who birthed her and raised her becoming a mere shell of her former self? And what should a daughter say in the pregnant pauses which are so silent, they’re loud?
My priority as Mum’s carer was to make sure her dignity was kept intact. Whether I was washing her, applying ointments to various parts of her body or feeding her I did it in a respectful way. I didn’t wish to make her journey any more painful than it already was.
My life had always been about me. My desires, my aspirations and my dreams. Her brain cancer diagnosis forced me to grow up, become responsible and reach into parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. It forced me to acknowledge the monstrous love I had for her, dating all the way back to the womb.
The tables had certainly turned. My mother had always been my rock, weathering my frequent storms but now she needed to rely on me mentally, emotionally and physically. Yet here I was falling back with her vulnerable body in my arms.
After a moment of shocked silence, I asked Mum if she was okay. At that stage of her illness, she had lost the ability to speak in coherent sentences and would blurt out single words to communicate.
“Toil…..toil … toil. et!” Mum gasped.
The nurses had suggested that I put Mum in nappies to make my job caring for her easier. And I tried it, but decided that no mother of mine would be put in nappies like a baby. I would take her to the bathroom, as many times as it was required.
“Number one or number two?” I responded.
I was working out in my head, how I was going to get up, get her into the wheelchair again and transport her to the bathroom in time.
“Weeeeeeeeee!’ she said laughing. I laughed and squeezed her tight, her frail body still lying on top of me.
As I attempted to move Mum off me, I lost all of my strength.
Mum was getting anxious and repeating the word “wee” over and over. But there was no way I was going to get her to the bathroom on time for “weeeeeee”. So I did what any loving daughter would do. I gave up. I laid back on the carpet and said “Wee on me, Mum!”
Mum’s body convulsed with emotion. Tears streamed down our faces. Then I felt this beautiful warm stream of liquid running through my clothes and drenching me. To this day, it remains one of the most poignant moments of my life.
Right now, all over Australia, these carers, these unsung heroes, are providing support to family members or friends who have a disability, mental illness, terminal illness or who are elderly. Consider donating to this cause today.