26: A Mother’s Battle for Her Boys

26: A Mother’s Battle for Her Boys

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

A Mother’s Battle for Her Boys

I live for my sons. I would be lost without them.
~Princess Diana

When the doctors diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis, I was twenty-five years old. I was supposed to be in the prime of my life. Not to mention, I had three small boys, ages seven, five and two. My illness also put a big strain on my marriage. Sometimes I think it was actually harder on my family than it was on me. My boys didn’t understand what happened to their mommy, my husband didn’t know how to deal with it, and my parents were in denial.

I wasn’t glad that I had MS, but it did explain some of the unusual things that had been going on with my body: numbness and tingling in my legs, blurred vision, lack of bowel and bladder control, and weakness and fatigue. My physical symptoms were difficult to manage, but my emotional state of mind was even worse. I had always been such an active mother. The boys filled my days with all kinds of activities, including going to the skating rink, the park, ball games and being room mother. When the MS flared up, this put a halt to some of these activities. For one thing, my vision seemed to be affected more than anything. When this would happen, I wasn’t able to drive. During these times we couldn’t even leave the house.

My boys wouldn’t let me give up. I remember when my youngest son, Kyle, would come in my room in the mornings to wake me up. He would lightly pat me on the cheek, as he whispered, “Mama. Mama.” When I opened my eyes, he would give me the sweetest smile. He would give me a little hug and then he’d pull back my covers and say, “Get up, Mama. I want some git-gits.” Those words actually saved me. That little boy needed his Mama to make git-gits (biscuits). If I was using crutches, he would even hand them to me, to speed up the process a little. He was very persistent and he really liked his biscuits.

My friends and family were very supportive. Some of them brought over dinner for us or took my boys to school for me in the morning. Sometimes they even helped me with my housework.

Even though I learned to live with my sickness, and my boys adapted to it just fine, this whole thing really put a strain on my marriage. Some people have a hard time dealing with sickness. When I think back on it now, I really do understand; yet at the time, it didn’t make any sense to me at all. Not only did I have to fight a terrible battle, but I had to deal with it on my own. Just a couple years after my diagnosis, my husband left us.

Trying to find a job was another obstacle I had to overcome. Since I was a stay-home mom for eleven years, I didn’t have experience at anything except changing diapers. Unfortunately, that was not needed in the workplace. Finding a place to hire me with no experience was one thing, but having an illness that hurt my attendance record was a whole new issue. I wouldn’t miss just a day or two; I would have to miss several days or weeks at a time when the MS flared up.

Somehow, I always found some kind of a job. I learned to keep my illness a secret until after I was hired. I felt like I had to work harder than everyone else, to compensate for my illness. It paid off most of the time. Many of the places worked with me and helped me through my bad times. I found that the smaller offices were much more tolerant.

One of the companies didn’t have any patience with me at all. It was a big corporation and the first time I was out for a few days, my boss reprimanded me in front of everyone. He had no compassion at all. I cried in the bathroom and then I called a place that I had worked for before to see if I could come back. When they agreed, I gave my notice the next day. I didn’t get paid enough to put up with that.

There were a certain number of things, of course, that I did have to put up with. There were mornings when I really struggled to get to work. By the time I got up, got myself ready, helped my boys get dressed and off to school, I was exhausted. Fighting the traffic and dealing with the aggravation at work was sometimes too overwhelming. Some days were a little more than I could handle. Each morning, when I got up and saw my boys’ faces, it reminded me why I had to keep going. They kept me strong. I kept pushing myself.

As the boys got older, our lives became more and more hectic. There was baseball, football, hockey, basketball, band, choir, Boy Scouts, and I even served as room mother on my lunch hour when it was possible. I wanted my boys to have a good childhood, even though they had to deal with some unusual circumstances.

As I watched my boys grow up, I felt bad sometimes that they had to grow up faster than normal. However, I realize now, that it probably made them stronger. I am only about 5’3” and all of my sons are about six feet. Luckily, I had their respect, and they always looked out for me. There were some nights when I would come home after having a bad day at work, and my oldest son would actually pick me up, put me on the couch, and tell me, “I’m cooking dinner tonight and you’re not getting off the couch.” Then he would cook dinner and clean up afterward. He loved experimenting in the kitchen and he is a wonderful cook.

I remarried after my two older sons moved out. My husband is a wonderful man. He knew what he was up against when he married me. It hasn’t been easy for him, I know, but he has still stood by me through some pretty rough times. My youngest son just moved out last year, so now it’s just the two of us. My illness has progressed in the past few years. I have to give myself interferon shots three times a week and I am on disability now.

I wondered what would keep me going since my boys have moved out. However, my family is growing now. Not only do I have my husband, but I have a daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, my other boys’ girlfriends, and a puppy. My boys are still a big part of my life and they are still very protective of me. They also make me keep trying. We have come this far, so why would we give up now? We have too much to live for—we have each other; and that’s a lot!

~Sherri A. Stanczak

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