Confessions of a Single Mom With Cancer Entry #18

About a week before surgery, a friend of mine said to me, “You haven’t posted anything in a while. I miss your confessions. What’s going on?” So I thought about why I hadn’t written anything in almost a month and I had to confess this to her:

 
#18. I can’t do it all.

 
I know the world would like women to believe that they can. I’ve even tried to convince myself of it for many years. But the truth is, there are times when we really need to focus on something and other things suffer. For me, I’ve been really focused on my health and not just treatments and meds and procedures, but my health – I finally got my act together in regards to healthy eating, working out, reducing stress and while doing it I discovered why so many of us don’t. We don’t have time and if we make time, something else loses. For me, it was my quiet writing time.

 
At the end of the day, after I’ve come home from work, cooked dinner, done homework, spent some time with the girls, cleaned up at least one of the rooms in the house and put them to bed, I pretty much have one hour before I can no longer keep my eyes open. In the past several months that had been my confession time. But as I prepared for my surgery, it became very important for me to get more physically active to improve my recovery. It was necessary for me to lose some of the weight I had gained during treatments but more importantly to get moving again so that my joints weren’t as sore and achy (side effect of the maintenance drugs). So that hour was spent on the treadmill and juicing for the next day.

 
And it was worth it. I had a little guilt at first about not writing, but I started seeing the benefits of my new focus and frankly, just stopped beating myself up. I knew I could pick up and start writing again at anytime, but our health will not always be there. I think about all those times I made excuses to not work out or to eat things I shouldn’t and on top of feeling bad about my choices, the little voice in my head would start in on me, making me feel even worse.

 
But I realize now, something has to suffer. There are only 24 hours in a day and that’s not changing anytime soon. So it goes back to choices. Most women I know who workout to the point of being triathletes don’t work or don’t have kids or aren’t married. There’s only so much one person can do. Before I was willing to admit that, when I was trying to do it all, MORE than one thing was suffering. I was stressed, so I’d yell at the kids more, I’d make unhealthy eating choices, I’d go to work events that weren’t necessary, and I’d feel guilty about all of it.

 
This trying to do it all, ‘my life is so busy’ stuff is for the birds. So many of us wear it like a badge. Busy is not the answer to How are you! Good, happy, tired, excited, sad, anxious, peaceful, even stressed – those are answers to how you are. Busy is a description that people use 1)because they are, 2)because they want to seem important, or 3) because it’s what everyone else is saying. Once being busy becomes how I actually FEEL, I think it’s reaching a tipping point and not in the good, Malcolm Gladwell way!

 
I saw a sign the other day that said, “Do more of what you love.” At first I thought, yes, that would be nice. But then, I thought, wait, what will I NOT do? If I could, not work and do more of what I love or if I could, not work out and do more of what I love, then I’d have to suffer the consequences of not doing those other things.

Then I realized, I came in on the middle of the conversation. Do more of what you love is preceded by doing a lot of other things first, so that I can do more of what I love. I work out and sacrifice other things so that I can BE HERE with my children because I love being with them and want to see them grow up. I work so that we can go on vacations, share experiences, and create memories because I love doing that with them. I do a lot of things so that I can do more of what I love and that’s what I balance. I don’t do it all. I can’t do it all, not all at once. But my life is filled with give and take.

 
I’m working on NOT beating myself up when I make a choice not to do something or let a certain area of my life lapse. I’m trying to make those choices consciously, recognizing and accepting the downstream effects of it. I know this is going to be very difficult for me. Doing it ALL has been a way of life for me for so long, but it wasn’t a good, healthy life, and that’s what I want – MORE than anything.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #7

There’s this strange pressure you feel after the cancer diagnosis to figure yourself and your life out. I’m sure it’s probably universal, especially if you have a pretty good prognosis from the beginning. You immediately start thinking about life after cancer. It’s part of what I think pulls you through.

So as you’re trying to figure out what you’ll do next and differently, you’re forced to look back on what you’ve done. As I started doing that, I discovered something about how I’ve approached life that I hadn’t expected. I realized that a lot of my life – not just cancer – had just happened to me. I hadn’t necessarily made things happen. So as I think about the future, it’s becoming clear to me that:

7. I’m so much more in control of my life story than I realized.

This may sound really crazy in the midst of something I obviously had no control over. But as I sat in a meeting today, listening to some people’s stories of themselves, I realized I can do so many things and frankly, I’ve prevented myself from doing them. That’s not necessarily bad. I’ve had 3 jobs over the past 20 years. My first lasted 13 years and if the company hadn’t been bought, I’d probably still be there. I like stability, and that has served me well. But there are other things I’d like to do and probably could. Other chapters of my story.

So I had to start thinking about why I don’t or why I didn’t.

The bottom line is FEAR – in many different forms, or for many different reasons, but when it comes down to it, I’m afraid.

Afraid of failure.

Afraid of disappointing others.

Afraid of making a fool of myself.

Afraid of being unsure.

Afraid of being unstable.

Afraid I won’t be able to provide for the girls.

Afraid I’m not as smart, good, or special as I think I am.

But maybe it’s not just fear. Maybe it’s also that I’m comfortable.

Comfortable knowing I’m pretty much guaranteed continued success on this path.

Comfortable knowing that paycheck is coming on the first and the fifteenth.

Comfortable not having to get to know new people.

Comfortable not having to learn new tricks.

Comfortable feeling smart and being experienced.

Truthfully, most of the changes I’ve made in my life have been somewhat forced. So I didn’t have time or the choice to be afraid and in most cases, things had actually gotten UNcomfortable. I didn’t make them because I wanted to. I’ve changed jobs because I had to. I’ve moved because I had to.

I want to make a CHOICE to do something different. I want to CHOOSE a new venture or company, even though I’m secure in my current one. Instead of reacting to what life has handed me, I want to pick my cards and make my hand. I’ve been blessed because the hand I’ve been dealt has been a good one. But imagine how much better it could be if I was driving it – with a little bit of faith. And yes, it could go bad too – but being able to accept more RISK in my life is important. Maybe I’m ready, because the last six months have been a lot about the RISK of recurrence and reducing it, but also accepting, there’s going to be some level of RISK! What I hope is to increase my ability to accept it in my life choices too.

I believe there’s a freedom pass for me, right now, in the midst of this, and it won’t last forever. I believe everyone can accept my need to make different choices for myself. I believe nothing seems that scary right now as I begin to put this behind me. I believe I deserve to live a full, unconstrained life. I believe it’s time to be uncomfortable and ignore my fears. I believe it’s time to be more trusting and have greater faith.

I believe it’s my turn to start making choices and writing my own story. Today. It’s time.

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.