Chemotherapy - week 6: Enabling not disabling

In one of my previous blogs, I described how my mother was admitted into hospital after chemotherapy week 1 for Neutropenia Sepsis.  Before being admitted, she was still walking and climbing the stairs unassisted, she was fully mobile but in hospital, she lay in bed for 8 days while the kind nurses served her meals and washed her in bed.  I'm not sure why but the hospital environment does not seem conducive to light exercise for patients but it just seems like patients are restricted to either a bed or a hospital room - maybe all wards need a mini gym!  As a result, she was bed ridden for much of the time, only learning to walk again, 4 days before discharge , patients and hospital staff were aghast as my Mother, encouraged by my support and her drive to get better and get out of hospital wandered up and down the halls continuously, every 15 minutes .  The Oncology team also advised us that the tumour was blocking my Mother's drainage, lymphedema, I soon learnt .  As a result, on discharge, her feet were and continue to be quite swollen, this aswell as the the fact that she was bedridden, the ascites and the weakness from the chemotherapy has really reduced her mobility. This is very difficult for my mother and I as she is normally very active and independent and it's even more frustrating as we are unclear if this will be long term or whether it will sort itself out.  As such, we have had an assessment, questions asked and referrals made for mobility aids.

This is difficult for me to write but I do want to completely truthful in that it's very hard for me to accept that my mother needs these aids to walk and was very defensive about the suggestion that she need a walking stick.  I shrugged it off when it was offered as my mother can walk, albeit slowly and unsteadily without it and to be honest, I regard walking sticks as something that people with disabilities use and do not regard my mother as having a disability.  An incurable terminal illness yes, but a disability no.  I was also resistant to the disabled parking badge being offered and the other aids to assist her around the house.  I think what convinced me was my Mother.  I was speaking to the occupational therapist at the door about the stigma associated with a wheelchair and walking stick and she said that the aids should be regarded as enablers, not disablers, then she gestured behind me and my mother was walking up and down the living room, practising on the walking stick with a slight smile on her face.  She was free and I was convinced.  I've watched her using the stick and noticed that she puts very little weight on the stick and we talk openly about it together as we do pretty much everything else.  She's convinced me that she's not giving up hope and that when she's ready and feels stronger she will rely less on the walking stick.  In the meantime, she needs a little support she says, as she gets up in the evening, a little dozy as we all are after a few hours sleep, to travel to the loo.  More importantly, she says that she feels safe with the walking stick  and at a time where her body is constantly changing, I think she can have as much security as she wants.

I really like this picture of linus and his blanket as it's how I think my mum is with her walking stick. She may not need the walking stick but it is enabling her to walk more, give her confidence back and in turn, slowly but surely, the Independence she so values and cherishes.  If my mum were a superhero, which she is, then the walking stick is her secret weapon.  



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