Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What do you do when your family is in pain?

I had something different planned today, but I really need to write this out. Last week my mom and step-dad came to visit us to meet baby J and to see my sister graduate from college. It was awesome to see them (its been over a year since we’ve seen them, that’s what happens when you live way on the other side of the country), but we witnessed close up the insane health issues that my step-dad is having. He has been having health problems for years, but in the last two they have spiraled into debilitating chronic pain and sickness. His official diagnoses is chro.nic fat.igue, but he has had several other issues as well (doctors keep going back and forth on whether these other issues are related to the chro.nic fat.igue or not). My step-dad and mom are constantly talking to new doctors, and trying new treatments and medications. Almost a year ago, he went on disability leave and he and my mom have struggled financially due to a lower income and medical bills. About a month ago, he went on a new medication that has been the best yet. He will go a week or more without having to stay in bed in agony all day—and yes this medication has been the best so far! A few months ago he was spending about four days of the week unmoving in bed.
I talk to my mom about twice a week so it’s not like I didn’t know all this. But seeing the destruction my step-dad’s illness has wrought on him physically and mentally was heartbreaking. He was originally not planning on coming since he had no way to know when he would crash, but the new medication he is on gave him hope he could make the trip. He did really well traveling here, and felt good Friday and Saturday, but Sunday he started to feel a bit sick. By the time Monday rolled around (the day they were set to fly home), he was completely miserable in bed. My mom was freaking out about whether or not they would be able to fly home. They did make it out, but it was not a pleasant flight home.
My step-dad has lost probably 60 pounds since he’s been ill. He was always a big muscular guy with just a little extra pudge (he gained after marrying my mom  ). He used to be a huge talker. He is quite well read, and knowledgable about things form theology to how to run a dairy. Now he is mostly silent even when he is feeling good. When he does talk it is mostly about different medical plans he has tried. My mom is completely his caretaker, making sure he has his meds on time, making him food, helping him walk when it gets hard, and constantly seeing if he needs anything.
It is so hard to see what they are going through. My mom is coping surprisingly well. She seems to still see the good in life. My step-dad seems to really be struggling with depression. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to live constantly in terror and worry of pain. I wish so much I could do something for them.


  1. It so hard to watch those we love in pain. The answer or "what to do" is so unique for each individual, I think it's important to ask the question "What can I do for you" and genuinely mean it and respond to the request and to of course pray.

    Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

  2. That has to be so hard to watch and feel helpless. Your step dad is a brave man to keep going and try all the treatments so he could find the drug that is working ... and your mom is so amazing for giving her all taking care of him. I'm not sure what you can do from so far away, but prayer and cards, emails, etc showing you are thinking of them ... which it sounds like you are doing a great job of!
    It's so hard to watch a person you love so much suffer. I've watched my dad suffer all my life from an in curable bowel disease, and while it's not as debilitating as your step dads chronic fatigue, I feel helpless just the same.
    I'll keep your family in my prayers!