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Mum who revels in health issues now possibly ill - I just need to talk about this

(38 Posts)
emptywinebox Fri 07-Dec-12 21:28:27

Oh god I don't know where to start with this but I think I just need to talk about it and blurt out my mixed feelings . DP is out so can't talk to him but also think I want the anonimity here as my relationship with mum is not what it should be and I think I might be being a bitch.

Basically I've been thinking about posting about my mums revelling in health issues for ages but never got round to it - you know what its like, you get wound up and want to post but by the time you get on MN the moments passed. Also I feel bad about whinging about her despite the fact I find it increasingly difficult to spend time with her.

Anyway when we speak on the phone shes always updating me with her latest aches, pains, medical appts (mainly to do with type 2 diabetes, eye problems, medications for various aches). She is over 70 so a lot of it I guess is standard for her age. But its got to the stage where she has little else to say other than about her latest check-ups and appts or if you talk about something else she'll interject with a story about her bad nights sleep due to an aching hip or something. If its not her ailments its someone elses.

Last week she had a mammogram (wasn't called for one as they don't routinely scan women over 70 but she asked for one -no symptoms, just thought she would phone up and ask for one. Is that weird in itself? To seek out a scan when you don't have symptoms or worries?). It showed what they said was probably calcium spots but today she went for results and they now want her to go back next week for further biopsy/tests.

At first she told me that today they'd said the lumps weren't necessarily cancerous but they wanted to do further tests but then she went on to say that they would remove just the lumps if they could and if not, they would remove the breast. This would probably be before xmas "but don't worry I don't want you to not go to (my inlaws) for xmas". I kept reminding her that they'd said they weren't necessarily cancerous but she seems to have made her mind up that shes having an op.

My mixed emotions are kicking in in that obviously I don't want her to be ill but have to face she may have cancer. On the other hand I'm (not sure of emotion to use here .....cross/irritated/confused?) that shes telling me all this with almost a hint of excitement in her voice .

This is where the "am I being a bitch" bit comes in....I felt as if she was revelling in the fact that she might be ill, that it might affect everyones Xmas (as she dropped that bit in about us going to the inlaws before I'd even thought about it). It was all a bit "don't worry about me, I'll just spend xmas in hospital or at home on my own recuperating" (she didn't say these words but that was the tone and implication.

Can someone either give me a slap and tell me to stop being a bitch or give me some wise words on how to deal with this please. I don't know what anyone can say . Maybe I'm hoping for someone who can see their mum or gran or whatever in what I've said and can advise.

Oh and I'm going with her to next weeks appt. so hopefully I'll get an accurate picture of whats happening

emptywinebox Fri 07-Dec-12 21:29:30

jeeez thats probably my longest ever post on MN. Sorry.

(namechanger BTW)

gingeroots Fri 07-Dec-12 21:55:13

I'm afraid I have no advice but I understand completely where you're coming from ,and you're absolutely not being a bitch .
Or if you are ,then so am I .

I'd be cross - it's hard to know where you are with someone like this and being constantly on edge that she might be crying wolf ( but what if she isn't ? ) is bloody exhausting .

It's great you're going with her ,good luck !

emptywinebox Fri 07-Dec-12 22:11:03

Thank you gingeroots.

Is it your mum too?

Pancakeflipper Fri 07-Dec-12 22:15:22

I know where you are coming from too. It's hard to know the real truth but you feel like a bitch for little doubts on what the full picture really is. And whatever you do you feel Iike a bitch and then you feel guilt. And I am not cheering you up here am I or offering solutions?

But I know exactly what you are saying.

emptywinebox Fri 07-Dec-12 22:26:06

you might not be cheering me up or offering solutions but it means the world to me to know that I'm not alone, it really does.

I really expected to be flamed (and I know that that is still a big possibility) but to have 2 people who get where I'm coming from helps.

bradyismyfavouritewiseman Fri 07-Dec-12 22:33:46

The reason they don't routinely give elderly women a mammogram is because of the calcium spots.

In all honesty, you are not a bitch.

I found a lump a while ago. I had it checked at the doctors who was 100% sure it was fine, but wanted to have it checked just . So sent ke for a scan.

The doctors words were 'its nothing, but we like to double check'.

I bet that is what they have said. She sounds like my aunt who picks up on the bits she wants. So when the consultant has said to your mum 'it will be calcium deposits, but we like to double check. Just in case.'

She will have picked up on the 'just incase' bit.

My grandad also does this kind of thing to my mum before she goes on holiday. you can set you clock by it. Night before she goes there is a call about a doctors visit that 'might be serious' and that 'might have to have an op while she is away' but 'don't worry, i'll be fine and can look after myself'.

She has started telling him she is traveling on different dates, because when she gets back its always a false alarm and no operation took place.

Footle Sat 08-Dec-12 08:17:52

It sounds as if your mum has limited interests. Maybe she's lonely. Could you focus on helping her have things to look forward to ? Coffee out , a gentle walk in the woods ) when she haas your attention ? Maybe tell her you need cheering up, as a way of steering her off moaning ?

FundusCrispyPancake Sat 08-Dec-12 08:25:37

I clicked on this thread thinking you might be my DMIL, she has the same problem with her DM. You are not alone! DMIL has had years of false alarms, usually when holidays or other events are planned, her DM is an attention seeker. DMIL constantly worries that next time it will be real though.

gingeroots Sat 08-Dec-12 09:03:28

She has started telling him she is traveling on different dates
smile

She sounds lonely and seeking attention. To be hopefully you have cancer for some attention is very sad.

Hopeforever Sat 08-Dec-12 09:25:58

Sounds like there are rather too many mums out there with an unhealthy interest in symptom checking!

I dread calling my DM for the same reason, I try not to ask her how she is, but the topic always ends up on her health. Having been overweight for years she is now concerned about weight loss.

You are not being a bitch emptywinebox, you need to preserve your sanity.

Buy more wine

Find a good reason to stop the telephone conversation early when she rings, "great to hear from you mum, but I've only got a minute as I'm about to dance naked round the Christmas tree with the school mums choir"

Then give her 2 minutes and remind her you are needing to go

Good Luck

FlyOverTheMistletoe Sat 08-Dec-12 09:33:20

I agree with the other posters. You are not being awful, she is being manipulative. I too think she is probably bored and lonely, good idea to go with her, even prepare yourself with a few questions. Maybe get her onto Gransnet .............that might keep her busy grin

FlyOverTheMistletoe Sat 08-Dec-12 09:34:49

yy to hopeforever buy more wine grin winewinewine

IslaValargeone Sat 08-Dec-12 09:44:32

I sympathise OP.
My mil is very similar, in her case it was a situation of be careful what you wish for.
She was obsessed with illness and eventually was given a colonoscopy to try and get to the root of some stomach issues she claimed she had.
There was no problem, but during the procedure they nicked the bowel and she ended up with a colostomy bag.

nochipsthanks Sat 08-Dec-12 09:52:02

I know where you are coming from OP. My grandmother was like that. My DFather used to say that 'she enjoys illness'. I am rather ashamed to admit that when she eventually became ill (with something pretty nasty) the first reaction of both my DParents and I was 'Finally she has got something REAL!'.
It is the crying wolf thing that is exhausting, so you just never take it too seriously. But also the thought that they are secretly attention seeking.
My grandmother used to salivate over other people's illnesses too. It is a bit disconcerting.

gingeroots Sat 08-Dec-12 11:39:39

Yes ^salivate* is exactly the word .

I know someone who has plenty of existing health problems but who does the salivating thing .

For instance over the poo sample you get to send free for checking once you're 60 .
It was another potential illness to worry about .

HoleyGhost Sat 08-Dec-12 11:50:06

It is hypochondria and utterly miserable.

It is also passive-aggressive. I wish I knee how to handle it assertively.

GlaikitFizzogTheChristmasElf Sat 08-Dec-12 12:22:28

My mil is a bit like this. Especially when fil was diagnosed with bowel cancer, she upped her illness setting and was really put out by all the attention fil was getting from Macmillan nurses and the like. She was back and forth to the docs with this and that all of which turned put to be nothing.

What actually happened was she missed her actual diagnosis, and only now 3 years later, we have found out she has ms. She had either ignored the letter or not understood the doctor when she was told. We only found out because SIL went with her to an appointment about her varicose veins and the GP casually said, "well it's probably just a symptom of your ms" cue shock and confused faces all round!

So she is back revelling in illness, now that fil is no longer with us. She is a poor soul, but i find it hard to feel any sympathy for her, I pity her actually.

Can you call your mums bluff and offer to go with her to the hospital, so you are there when she is to,d it is nothing? Mil always refused anyone to go with her, so we only had her word for what was said.

nochipsthanks Sat 08-Dec-12 13:03:16

My DAunt has inherited her mother's trait too (and actually so has my mother a little bit).

DAunt's husband has just (last month) been diagnosed with colon cancer, and her way of telling us was to ring and begin the conversation not with 'hello' but with 'Peace. Peace to you all' before telling us that she was likely to be a widow before Christmas. (As it happens, thankfully DUncle has had a colon biopsy and is doing very well. )

emptywinebox Sat 08-Dec-12 15:32:11

I am really astounded at the feedback here and the amount of you that are dealing with similar mums/MILs etc. Thank you for your support.

A few mentioned that she might not have enough to occupy herself but she does have WI, another older womens 'club', she knits/sews/bakes etc for herself and others, goes off on day bus trips so she is generally quite busy. I don't think thats the issue.

She has a few close friends she sees every week and lots of other friend and acquaintances.

Admitedly my brother and I don't see her as often as a lot of people see their parents when they live within 30mins drive but I think we both find her hard work TBH (and we have our own DC, and busy lives).

MiniTheMinx Sat 08-Dec-12 15:44:29

You are not a bitch and I really empathise with the feeling of irritation you feel. I think with me it's partly because of a sense that I lack control over the situation. You can't even steer the conversation away from the aches and pains and general moaning.

Yesterday morning, I had one child sick and the other was due to go in for a learning report day which I had to attend with him. I couldn't miss the appointment with the teacher but I couldn't take the sick child in to school. I dash into my father's thinking I will leave the sick one with him for an hour. I open the door and find him sitting on the stairs " I can't walk, I'm stuck, my legs have finally gone now, that's it,"

I felt like crying. The irritation for me is because I can't actually do enough to help my father, I can't make him better, he is really very annoying anyway and I would prefer to see less of him, plus his need for company and consolation grows by the day. Grrrrrrr

I think you have my mum.

I empathise entirely, it's a bind and very very wearing. You aren't being a bitch.

My mum actually told me, a few years ago now, she had breast cancer and that she wont have her breast removed so I had to accept that she would die of it-she actually told me "I have breast cancer".
It turned out that she hadn't even been to the docs about her lump in her breast and it was nothing-not even a lump just a grainy bit like we all get from time to time due to hormones. I was utterly utterly furious with her but she denies ever saying it in those words.

IslaValargeone Sat 08-Dec-12 15:56:31

Not that I'm remotely qualified to diagnose, but I do question the comment above re hypochondria?
I feel that this kind of thing is more from an attention seeking point of view, whereas I thought that hypochondriacs really believe that they have something.
My dh gets episodes of hypochondria when stressed, he gets a small symptom and then googles for hours. By the end of the day he is convinced he has West Nile fever or some such thing.
At times it has been an utter nightmare, whereas I think some of the experiences mentioned largely on this thread are 'pay me attention' types of behaviour?

DoIgetastickerforthat Sat 08-Dec-12 16:21:17

I empathise totally with you. Both my parents are fixated on their health and their constant moaning/need to discuss symptoms has massively escalated since my mum retired last year.

I too, am really struggling to be in their company for any length of time. The day always starts with a blow by blow dissection of how each of them has slept (never good), the day is then punctuated by a series of dramatic 'Oh's' and 'Argh's' which are normally the conduit to a prolonged discussion about their relative conditions, what the doctor has said, what google has said, what treatment they need, when their next appointment is, how debilitating it is, blah, blah, blah... all of which i will have heard the previous day/week/month. The day ends with a debate about whether to take pain killers or not, which both of them will resist because, heaven forbid they should feel ok and have nothing to grumble about.

The awful thing is that they do actually have some health problems, not severe or in anyway life threatening but do have some debilitating features, so I feel like a total bitch when I'm screaming 'Just shut-up, shut-up, shut-up' in my head. I often think, 'well you don't know how it is to live with certain conditions so perhaps you are being unreasonably unsympathetic'. However, I do think there is a massive attention seeking element to the griping. They a) don't get out and see many people so the conversation between them must be very stale and b) they are then become very competitive for my attention and so are constantly one upping each other on who's in the most pain/most tired stakes, it is incredibly wearing and like having two further children to emotionally look after.

Since my mum's retirement, their world has become incredibly small and I am trying to encourage them to broaden, their horizons - they don't want to though, I feel a 'conversation' may have to occur, for the sake of my sanity but it's very difficult to work out how to word it without being offensive. Sigh.

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