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When illness gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie

Opening up and sharing life in the midst of chronic illness.

My mother was 45 years old when she had me in 1970. Today, having a child at that age isn’t as big of a deal as it was back then. My experience of having a mother born of the pre-depression era was really a special treat because she was raised in the 30s and 40s to be ladylike, demure in speech and dress, and to keep private details of your life…well…private.

Nowadays, not a lot is left to the confines of our own lives with reality TV, rampant social media sharing and YouTube videos of every life activity from the mind numbingly mundane to the ridiculously dramatic. However, the downside of being very private is that when you face illness, it can be particularly tough to receive the kind of care and support that could help most.

I remember when my mother was in the midst of her chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer in her 70s. As many people living through chemotherapy treatment know, a lot of things just don’t taste right. My mother developed a real aversion to meat and other foods so it made it tough to keep an already petite woman’s appetite stimulated and her taste buds interested in eating.

Being a very private person, my mom didn’t complain nor discuss her illness and treatment challenges much. Yet, eating became a hot topic of discussion. Everyone just kept telling her she needed to eat more. Although she was supposed to be eating protein, good carbs and regular meals, she just wasn’t interested.

So, I took a different approach. I wanted to make eating fun, again, for my mom.

Each time I would visit, I would take her to her favorite diner under the lure of having pie. Creamy, dreamy and sweet, pie gave my mother a release from the pressure to eat and an opportunity to get out of the house, spend time with her daughter and relish in calories that actually tasted good. Banana cream, coconut cream, and lemon meringue were some of her favorites.

Over plates of pie and cups of coffee, she relaxed and shared more about her concerns with her illness, challenges that she was facing, and worries about the future.

Even though I couldn’t change her illness, nor her treatment or its outcome, I could give her something to look forward to and a forum where she could let go of her stoic self and eat pie to her heart’s content.

So, when life gives you lemons, and illness just doesn’t taste good, make some lemon meringue pie. And share a piece with someone you love.

Do you have a special way that you can encourage your loved ones to open up and speak about their illness (or to eat more food!)? Please join our community and add your comment below.

About @susanharkema

Susan is the creator of MyHealthVoice.com, built upon her 20+ years in healthcare and her experiences as a caregiver and patient. She is a writer, speaker and advocate for people living with chronic or life limiting illness as well as their family and professional caregivers. Learn more - www.myhealthvoice/susanharkema/.

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