Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #6

I have to admit, I’m really embarrassed to confess this one. But it’s really important because it’s one of those things that although the cancer diagnosis has brought it to my attention….I’m going to have to work REALLY hard to remind myself of the lesson, once this is all behind me.

6. I’ve always been focused on my looks – not my health.

In my adult life, I have been overly concerned about my weight. I got it honest. My mom’s been on a diet ever since I met her. So the minute I started putting on some extra pounds, sitting around in corporate America, I jumped into the extensive list of weight loss remedies. And over the years, I’ve probably done them all. I tried to put together a list of the diets I’ve been on and I’m just hoping I didn’t miss anything. Here we go:

Quick Weight Loss

Weight Watchers

The Lemonade Diet (back when Beyoncé was in high school)

3-Day Beets Diet

HCG

Nutri-system

SlimFast

The Cabbage Soup Diet

The 3-Day Diet

Apple Cider Vinegar Diet (now that’s desperate)

Atkins

Detoxing

Juicing

The Daniel Fast

And don’t get me started on the exercise list:

Beachbody

P-90X

Insanity

T-25

Tae Bo

A Marathon (yes 1)

Spin Classes

A personal trainer

Private Workout Circuit training (like Curves but not)

24 Hour Fitness Gym Membership

Yoga

Many of these are not inherently bad for you. Some of these are really great for you and wonderful for your health. But I’m admitting I never did any of them FOR my health. I did all of them for my dress size. So many times, I was trying to lose weight for the next girls trip or a reunion or a big event. Never did I stop and say – your weight is unhealthy and could lead to significant health issues. Nor did I think about the damage yo-yo dieting and my fluctuating weight could do. I didn’t think about how eating healthier could make me healthier. I only cared if it would make me skinny.

All of this from a woman who most people would never have considered overweight. I have thought, now, that some of that ridiculous dieting could have had some influence on my current situation. Not that any one of them caused the cancer, but any one of them could have impacted my body environment that was already prone to cancer. I also realize that changing my eating habits for life versus until I was the right size definitely could have had a positive impact on my situation and ultimately my health.

And even though I now recognize how ridiculous it was that I was so focused on wanting that magic pill to make me the size I wanted to be. I found myself jealous when I saw a girlfriend the other day who looks great and when I asked her what had she been doing her response was starving herself.

I was jealous, because what so many people don’t know is that most women on breast cancer treatments gain weight. The steroids and other drugs cause you to retain water, reduce your metabolism and increase your appetite. On top of that, you’re fatigued and probably don’t feel like working out and if your stomach is queasy, all you really want to eat is a loaf of bread…every day! So the treatment to save my life has put on some significant pounds.

I shouldn’t care about that, but this confession is real. I’ve been more concerned about my looks than my health and I’m still struggling with that now. I know I need to change the way I eat now – not to be thin but to promote an environment where cancer cannot thrive and return. Things like starving myself and eating beets for 3 days straight might help me lose weight but they won’t help me live longer.

I have to completely change my mindset about what food means to me. For me, this is life or death. This is no longer a choice or something I can wait around and take care of when that big trip is just 6 weeks away. I have to do it now and I have to do it forever. That sounds scary and hard, but so did chemotherapy and I did that. So did radiation and I’m doing that. I thank God neither one of them were forever, and what I know is that I never want to do them again.

So I’ll change my mind about food, health, exercise, stress. Because I can. Because I’m still here. But I’m not going to act like it won’t be hard. So I’ve confessed it now. Keep me honest.

 

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #5

I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not, but it’s not really nice. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it, I’ve always thought my daughter had a sort of annoying personality. She’s really excitable and over the top about everything. She has to be the center of attention. Loud. Goofy. Unfocused. And I’m not going to lie – I can get easily annoyed with that personality. And rightfully so, if she was 25, 30, 35. But she’s 10! What was wrong with me? The truth is, I think it was more about me.

5. I’m projecting my own insecurities onto my daughter.

I’ve been using this adult gauge to judge and measure my daughter. She’s SUPPOSED to be all those things – loud, easily excited, goofy. It may not even really be her personality. Some of it may just be attributed to BEING A KID! She’s still searching for who she is and what she will be like. Of course she is. So am I! But I’ve been acting like she should have already arrived. How unfair. And it took me 10 years and cancer to realize it.

I now recognize that I actually get uncomfortable sometimes thinking about how she appears to others. Does she seem well parented, well disciplined, smart, polite, dressed well, clean? That’s all about me. I’m really thinking about what others think about me as a person and a parent, not her as a child.

I think about what she wears and how it looks – not if she’s comfortable and how it makes her feel about herself.

I worry about if other kids like her or not or if she’s difficult to be friends with. And some of that could be valid, but it’s still not about how she feels. It’s about how I feel cause she’s never once come home saying she doesn’t have any friends and nobody likes her.

My daughter is not insecure and somehow hasn’t been programmed to even care that much about what people think about her, which is a gift. So why am I practically teaching her to burden herself with these thoughts and concerns?

Today as I watched her on the volleyball court, I saw an excited, sort of uncoordinated, overly dramatic, loud 10 year old flailing around the court. For the first time, I didn’t wish she’d act differently. For the first time, when she looked back at me, instead of giving her the look to settle down and chill out, I smiled at her and encouraged her excitement.

Despite me, my daughter wants to enjoy her childhood, which she deserves. She wants to not be perfect and worried about how people perceive her. She wants to be loud and snort occasionally. I’m not sure when I stopped celebrating who she was as an individual or enjoying her childhood with her, but I’m happy to say I started again today.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #4

I spend a lot of time telling my kids what to do. It’s second nature. I don’t even notice it. I’m sure it’s what we all do but the more I think about it the more I started worrying that it’s all I do. The truth is:

#4. I’m missing the bigger picture.

Let’s take a look at all the things I nag (discipline, correct, redirect) my kids about during the day.

What they eat

What they don’t eat

How they eat (smacking, too much food, too fast)

Watching too much tv

Not reading

Doing their homework

Cleaning their rooms

Using their manners

Being nice to each other

Sharing

Being respectful to me

Brushing their teeth

Getting to bed on time

Being careful

Covering their mouths when they cough

Washing their hands

Not forgetting their lunch

Being on time

That’s a pretty good list from today! I really am not a nag. That’s just regular parenting, right? We lead them. Teach them. Show them the way. But, I wonder if on their side, it just feels like they can’t do anything right.

Well, I’m sitting here today, the last day of school in the strangest year the girls and I ever could have imagined. Actually, we couldn’t have imagined it. My 10 year old says it’s been ‘this’ way since Thanksgiving. And she’s right. Our world was turned completely upside down when we returned from Houston after Thanksgiving and I got the call – it was cancer. And ‘this’ way is the cancer way, which has been a crazy roller coaster ride. One that as a kid was probably really hard to be on, cause as a mom in a totally new situation, sometimes I didn’t know when or how much information to give them. I didn’t know what they could handle or understand. I didn’t know what they needed to know or deserved to know. How would they trust and feel secure in me when I didn’t have all the answers? The one who guides, directs, tells them what to do constantly.

And I made some mistakes along the way. I gave them premature information about my treatment plan and it then changed drastically. I would come home from doctors appointments and say it went fine, even though every appointment seemed to bring to light a new development and often new concerns. Finally one day, my daughter said, ‘You said your appointment went fine when the doctor told you it was cancer’. She was right.

So I had to learn a new way to guide them. I had to be transparent in ways that seemed beyond their years. I had to be honest with them about what I did know and what I didn’t know. I had to be vulnerable with them. All while still being mom and running down my nag list – make your bed, clean your room, do your homework, be nice to your sister – many times shouted from where I laid in my bed- bald.

And guess what? They survived this school year. This crazy, upside down, topsy-turvy, unpredictable school year. Grades were fine. Behavioral stuff – fine. 2nd and 5th grade- here we come!

But truthfully, they did so much more than survive. They changed the list. The things they do everyday- changed. And in my new situation instead of directing, I watched them:

Have faith

Trust

Believe

Stay positive

Encourage me

Support each other

Love harder

Show appreciation

Develop compassion

Share their story

Grow stronger

Express their feelings

I realize now that so many of our days had been strung together by orders barked by me from the list of things I felt like they needed to do to be, I don’t know – good? And they are important. Many are things that have to get done. But they aren’t the most important. My kids were showing me so much more about who they were as people and I was missing it. Blinded by the nag list. But I’m not anymore.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #3

I’m just going to get right to the point on this confession.

3. I don’t spend enough time with my kids.

I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about this one, cause often times there isn’t a good solution to the problem. But if you don’t face it you’re not even going to try to improve it.

I hadn’t faced it until it was thrown in my face. During this cancer journey, I’ve had the luxury of being home more and spending more time with my kids. And even though there were times I wasn’t feeling so great, I learned Me at less than 100%, 90%,70% vs. No Me – is better for them. For us.

With my busy, full time job, I spend very little time with my kids during the week. Let’s do the math.

Mornings!

They get up at 6 am and we’re out the door at 7:30, so 1.5 hours every morning. And that clearly can’t be considered ‘quality time’. Most of it is spent rushing them around, getting them ready, fixing lunches and breakfast and finding out about things that should have been done the night before. It may just be my house, but the mornings are more like a little hurricane than a trip to the park.

Evenings!

On regular days I get home between 6-6:30 pm. Bedtime’s at 8:30 if we’re lucky, so 9 at the latest. So I get 2-3 hours with them after school.

Daily Total!

Anywhere between 3.5-4.5 hours altogether. Unfortunately my job requires at least 2 evening events a week. On those nights I may be home by 8 pm or 11 pm. Either way, I hardly get any evening time with the girls those days and only a total of 1.5 hours of their 14 hour (minus sleeping) day.

Weekly Total!

At that rate, on an average week, I spend a total of 15 hours a week with them. Sometimes, I spend that much time with my employees in one day. Am I raising employees or my children? Yes, I know I get the weekends, but as a single mom, we don’t even get all of those!

There are a lot of issues with this situation.

~Who are my kids with during the other 10 hours of the day? At school, in the after school program, with the sitter, at activities. Do I believe the messages they’re being sent support the way I’m trying to raise them? Are they being poured into with love and positivity, appropriate discipline, learning and health. Not always. I know that.

~I find the more time I spend with my kids, the better people they are. They are nicer to each other. We share more love, smiles and hugs. It’s not because I’m perfect. It’s because I’m what they need. I’m who fills their spirit up. That’s important to acknowledge and therefore try to impact.

~Some people will argue it’s about ‘quality’ not ‘quantity’. You don’t get quality time when you have NO time. Quality time defines HOW the time is spent, so it has to start with TIME!

As my cancer treatments are coming to an end, I have some choices to make. I already see people trying to pile on the night events and travel. I have to set boundaries for myself and my family. Even something as simple as committing to only one night event a week and max 3 for the month. And sticking to it! I have to take a long hard look at how I can build more flexibility into my work schedule and ask for it if necessary. If it’s not possible, I may need to start thinking about if it’s time for a more drastic change.

We can’t make more time. That’s a fact  – One a cancer diagnosis will throw in your face, even with an outstanding and blessed prognosis. We can be better with our time. We can be more impactful with our time.

And we have to face it and try. Being present is critical. Again, will my kids turn out ‘ok’ with our existing schedule and chaoticness. Yes. But like I said before OK is not good enough for them or me. Anymore.