You know, I wish I could tell you that I have cured myself of ever worrying or being stressed since I was told "you have cancer". I will admit that I am MUCH better at trying my damnedest to live in the moment and not worry and to always realize what is "small stuff" but I do not always succeed.
I came up with an "IDGAF" test to help me prioritize and just recently it hit me hard in the remaining boob as I almost could see it going another way. You see, my "IDGAF" test is to envision the worse news possible, as I received it in November 2016, the news that I had cancer. I can remember vividly BEFORE hearing those words and after how much I wished for the problems I had had the day before instead ofthis disease.
So I try to think through every current situation with the grain of salt/wisdom that "it could always be worse" and realize that as long as we are all "healthy" (and again, I put that in quotes because who the heck really knows if they are healthy - our bodies are a mystery but lacking an active diagnosis, I side with "healthy" always) then the rest will just work itself out.
Recently, I felt very woozy and almost unable to stand - I was standing though and walking and able to talk but I felt just OFF and of course I immediately thought, "This is NOT good." But then I realized that I was missing my allergy medicine for a week and that the symptoms I had come on me (gradually for a few days until this bad afternoon) were potentially due to missing my allergy meds during the height of allergy season and maybe not, you know, a brain tumor.
I am still monitoring myself as we who have had cancer all know the drill - any weird symptoms that remain for more than 2 week (or severe symptom that happens like God forbid passing out or still for me fever due to my clinical trial meds) must be brought to the medical team's attention.
It does not make much sense but I still do feel as though my dx was longer ago in the past when it was only 1.5 years ago. I look back on who I am now and what I am doing and how I am (trying) to help others and it seems like more time must have passed. This month is my one year blogging anniversary and it really is my lifeline, my way of getting it out. Sometimes, though, I have to remind myself that I do not blog anonymously and that with over a million pageviews and 57k+ unique visitors, people are reading this stuff - but I still share and I still go there and I am not ashamed to share it and I hope you reading it helps you or someone you know...
Lately, I have been working so hard on my nonprofit and also on my small business, I sometimes feel scattered, accomplished, not good enough, overwhelmed, in charge, ready to help so many people, worried I will not help people enough and just everything in between. I also worry about the regular stuff - my house, bills, husband, kids, mom, dad, etc etc but I have had to shake it off time and again.
No matter what, I cannot get pulled under or back into the fears and worries of before - there is no solution to that and it is no way to live. Recently, I saw pictures of me from last year at this time, still bald, swollen and ashamed and then I saw pictures of me from the year before that (June 2016) before I was diagnosed and I knew in my gut looking at that face of mine that although I was smiling and had not yet been told I had cancer that I was not happy.
So my plan or goal is to keep on swimming- to focus on today's joys and try to get to today's deliverables all the while knowing there is always tomorrow and that so long as I am on this path of NED and can stay that way, nothing else should matter. The bills, the house, the craziness of family, being a mom, trying to stretch myself too thin - those things have to just be let go and the moment lived in.
This is what I do in the time between.
I love to read (and write) - finding books that I can devour is part of what brings me joy. Yes, devour. I find a book a like and I read it voraciously until it is over and then I think about it and wish I could write something a fraction as good. See, for me, reading is a visible thing - I see the story in my mind the way you see it on your movie screen or TV.
As much as I love to read, the mechanics are lost to me - so I cannot take lessons from what I read to write my own books though I am doing fairly well with writing short stories, so that is a consolation…
I read a book about the Radium Girls (link below)- and just thinking about it gives me chills. This book details the work young girls did from the advent of WW1 into WW2 working at factories using duh Radium. Radium found in the early 1900’s was considered for the general public to be a “health” product. It was included in water tonics and medicines and it also was used to paint watches and more during both world wars as it allowed for the dials to glow.
Despite the fad around radium, scientists learned painfully that it could hurt them as they found their bodies burnt from the liquid form kept in vials or other painful growths - despite that, the element was hugely promoted and “researched” by firms that used radium in products sold to the government and the public all agreeing that it was safe for use.
Young girls (as young as 13) found work in factories in the early 1900’s-1940’s painting watches dials for planes and more. The technique shown to the girls was called the “dip, lip, paint” technique in which they put their brush into the radium infused liquid, then put the brush in their mouths to shape it to a point and then to paint. They were encouraged to eat at their workstation and even paint their clothes and faces with the radium - despite the fact that the science men employed at the same companies had to wear lead aprons and hold the radium with tongs to manipulate the radium.
These girls were known as “ghost girls” as the radium made them glow - they considered it a sign of the health benefits to working with the new miracle element.
Within a few years of the first radium girls hire, they began to get sick and most of them died painful, terrible deaths attributed to the first known case of “workforce poisoning”. The radium settled in their bones and ate away at them - causing cancers, bone disintegration (most of them died via mouth disintegration - their jaw bones literally broke off in their hands.
They and their families fought tooth and nail for medical help, recognition and in so doing also provided help to protect future generations of workers from environmental / work related poisoning. Ones who survived worked with the government to do studies on the effects of radioactivity on the human body and donated their bodies to science - radium lasts for 1600 years so ALL of the radium girls are actually STILL RADIOACTIVE even those who died in the early 1920’s.
This book hit me hard because it brought to mind the countless other injustices that happen here and around the world, even now, today 100 years after these radium girls were lied to and told that the lip method they used was safe despite the few powerful folks who knew it was dangerous and enacted precautions for their more “valued” workers.
Of course, it led me to think of my experiences and that of countless others I know and love working in downtown NYC in the days, months and years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite being told it was safe, we now know it was not safe. The air we lived in, the dust we trudged through, the thoughts of those who died in the attacks always in our minds.
And then, 15 years later, I was diagnosed with cancer, the first in my family. My husband was a first responder and was being monitored and checked through the WTC (World Trade Center) medical program and now I am hoping to be, too.
Cancer sucks and the reality is that no one knows why things happen - and my own personal motto after cancer changed from “everything happens for a reason” to “it could be worse”. Here’s to us all staying someplace metaphysically where we can say, “it could be worse”. Here is to us learning as a world to protect others if and when we can, always.
Sometimes I feel like there are that many versions of ME and what I need to do and in all honestly, I think this is just a state of normal for anyone out there who has different "things" in their life - be it family, work, fun, etc - there is stuff to balance and manage.
Something I miss doing is writing and updating my blog more often - it seems I am down to once a week and I need this outlet so I have to take that splintered photo of myself and prioritize what I NEED to do to stay "sane". Writing is up there at the very tippity top of the list - it is my way of practicing self care.
I ran on empty for a LONG time and did not do anything for me like ever. As a mom, it is so easy to get swept away on what everyone ELSE needs and I was like that way before I ever gave birth. I will not run on empty anymore. I need to focus on what I need to do and how I need to do it but lately, it has not been easy and as all the parents in the land know, it is almost time for the most dreaded season of all seasons - SUMMER VACATION.
Now, listen to me, I love my kids so damn much. I treasure my time with them now but before I lived only for them - I planned activities up the arse each and every summer. I kept them rocking and rolling from 7am (when they woke, the little b-words) to 10pm at night for bed. Last summer, I was undergoing radiation so it was the first summer that I did not go balls to the wall in terms of activities and it was kind of brutal.
My kids, like all kids, love to fight, to complain about being bored and oftentimes now, I just have to let it go because I CANNOT do what I used to do. I mean, I could but I do not want to because then I wind up collapsing and not doing the things I need to do FOR ME.
I often have big plans for the summer academically - for summer reading, for homework activities and just to help with skills but it always falls to the wayside of fun, fun, fun. This year, though, my son needs to focus on his handwriting and his essay writing skills and I dread it with every fiber of my being.
But before all of that, in these last few days of school, I am going to work on what is nonnegotiable for me. I know I need to write, I need to promote my small business (check it out and let me know what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong - www.thenextstep1234.com) and I need to work on building out my nonprofit.
Of course I also need to have some fun and enjoy my kids - I see them growing up so quickly now - and I have tons of follow ups with Sloan for my clinical trial, Lupron shot and surgeon. I also have the 9/11 WTC program, which I am working on writing about as well. Oh and maybe a vacation at the end of August.
What are your plans? How do you practice self care? What is important to you? How do you keep your kids (if any) from kicking each other ALL SUMMER LONG? Asking for a friend. :)
Today is my first "Cancer Survivor Day" - last year on this day, I was still hiding out under my covers going to radiation and pretending like I did not have a story to tell and now here I am, a year later, living this day and dreading it and also focusing on the word "survivor" and despite knowing I could make this post ALL ABOUT my nonprofit initiative and what I can do to help people embrace their survivor life with work training and resume help and whatever, I won't.
(Well, in a way I did because I am a marketing person through and through but it was just an intro - here's the meat of the story).
Sometimes, when I am walking around perpetually smiling and thankful that I am still alive because YES I am a super smile-y happy kind of person now inside and out - before just on the outside ... well while doing this, sometimes, it hits me that there are people all around me that:
A- have no clue I was ever so sick that this was in question and
B-have never experienced "cancer" or an illness that could lead to them wondering these things chief among them the kneejerk"why me..." question.
In the beginning, I thought this way entirely TOO OFTEN to sustain life - I trained my brain to not think this way and to just change my life motto from "things happen for a reason" to "it could always be worse". Inside, I do not think I got cancer for a reason - there is no reason for ANYONE to get cancer. Despite that fact, more and more people of all ages are being diagnosed and either embracing this day or hiding under the covers as I did last year.
Cancer is something that once you have it, you ALWAYS have it - either in the front of your mind in fear or way back in a back file cabinet ready to jump out on a moment's notice. So, I have a headache - is it nothing or is it cancer? So I have a back ache - is it nothing or is it cancer? Cancer is one of the most insidious of diseases - you do not have a clue that it is there sometimes until BAM it is too late. For all of my times that I struggled with this diagnosis, I always was HAPPY that I found it before it had become WORSE.
That does not change the fact that despite my focus on wellness and being in the moment, sometimes, it hits me that I went from a spec on my mammogram in April 2016 to Stage 3A high grade, fast moving cancer by November 2016 with no lump, no family history and no capacity to manage being a cancer patient. I am so lucky it did not spread to my brain, bones, or vital organs. I also know that I have to stay lucky for the rest of my life for it not to rear up and do so - 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 3 of those women will become metastatic where the cancer spreads and ultimately die from it or beat the "stats" of 3 years survival rate and live 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years but always in treatment and trying to stay HERE.
I have written in the past how in the blink of an eye you go from worrying about every little thing in your life to realizing just how fucking little those things were and wondering why did you ever spend a moment thinking about them. It happens that fast. And it does not go away - and I embrace THIS as a good thing on this Survivor Sunday. I even have "do I give a f&%k test" that I will write about soon but it focuses on "does this have the capacity to kill me" Y/N if Y worry if N fuck it.
Of course, a really good thing (the best thing even) would be for cancer to be eradicated, cured and that each of us still living in this time between would know that we are GOOD CURED and not worry about the "what ifs".
I mitigate my "what ifs" in a way I never knew before - and a way I could never have done before. My old "what ifs" were the rigid constructs around which I built my life. My rules and living methods were stricter than strict and I could not draw outside of the lines.
My new way of mitigating risks is to just fucking embrace them. Who knows what tomorrow will bring - today I will do what I need to do to "survive". And if that means pouring my soul into my current day and spending it loving my kids (even my husband) and trying to build my nonprofit initiative and working on my small business on the side and NOT thinking about cancer and how fast it enveloped my life, my breast and my lymph nodes well then SO BE IT.
I wish you peace on this day of "cancer survivors" and I hope you feel it in your bones and in your heart. To those of you who have never heard the words, "You have cancer..." you also never learned that the small things are everywhere and worried about and for that I pity you. Ironic, right?
I am sure you pity me - thinking about how I had cancer and maybe you do not understand the disease and you are happy in that and you assume I beat it and why do I continually live it by sharing and talking about it and basing my life on helping others with it... Well, it is what it is. This is me, one boob and all.
I was diagnosed at 39 years old - making me not only the first in my family with cancer but also the dreaded "young" cancer moniker. I do not focus on the negative I spend each day doing
I have been "busy" but also decided to be "unplugged" this Memorial Day Weekend.
Well, as much as I love social media (and I really do) it can be all consuming. It can be the constant itch to check to see who looked at your stuff, who commented on your stuff and whose stuff you can see and love...
And I do love it - it is a lifeline for me to connect with so many women (and men) who have been through cancer or are going through cancer or love someone going through cancer, whatever their story may be...
I love sharing my story but have had issues making time for blogging because I have been go go go on the nonprofit me (see more here- nonprofit-methe-plan-to-help-others.html) but again, I am drawn back to writing my secrets, my worries and letting them go here...
Despite "disconnecting" this weekend (I did pop on and off here and there) I did spend time redesigning my website and sharing a little bit about the newest book I wrote (a workbook to get back to work after cancer - learn more about my books for #careeraftercancer here - Books & Workbooks). Oh and here I am on Sunday posting to my blog - but this is my therapy, my time to be alone with my thoughts.
And my thoughts are jumbled these last few days. I saw a family member who had been estranged and I was not happy with what I saw and it sent me for a loop - to the point that I had to go to bed like immediately after the visit.
That is the real crazy thing about life after cancer - you feel things more or maybe it is just that you admit things more to yourself - I have trouble figuring out which it is for me. I find myself being tired and going to rest - I know I was always tired but I never went to rest. I am learning how to say, "No" and I say it a lot. I am learning to let go and letting things just fall where they will instead of being the control freak, mom of ALL I surveyed that I was...
That is just it, you know - as a mom, you always have people to take care of - but they are usually little people and then as they grow your parenting changes with their needs and their wants or whatever. I know that I was not changing or letting go until I got cancer - but despite that diagnosis and the healing from the treatments and so on and so forth, I still have this "inkling" to parent the big people I was parenting - and there were a lot of them.
I was faced with something yesterday that normally, I would then have taken control and tried to fix and or manage the people around it to do it and how to do it and yes, controlling is something I am ... Instead, I recognized how much it bothered me, I respected that feeling but I unwrapped my grip on trying to fix it to get it better or to take it on myself.
In doing that, I recognized that my priority, my responsibility, is to my own health and the health and well being of those I am only responsible for - my kids and by default my husband, too. I do not like to group him in with the kids in a bad way but he is in ways like a kid - he is trusting and in need of direction lol ...
So is it just me or do you guys too find that things you once did or tackled or took on are now as impossible as flying? I look back at what I used to do like
-how I never went to bed until everyone in my house was asleep
-how I managed the lives of me and my family to precision detail
-how I managed to work part time / full time / as entrepreneur and teacher and more all while just smiling and thinking about inside how much I was going crazy or how much anxiety I had or how much I feared.
Now, I know I can only handle so much and I pick my battles - because I feel things harder now - if my husband and I have an argument, it bothers me so deeply - trust our entire marriage was an argument before and it never stopped me ... now, I have to make things right - or work with him instead of around him to get things together done instead of always being a lone wolf...
If I argue or disagree with someone else, instead of being like "Basta" and cutting them out, I now try to find the middle ground. I have learned I guess how short life is and how I want to live it - on my terms. I do not in any way let people walk all over me - the exact opposite, in fact - in that I do not walk all over myself anymore. I recognize that I am a person who has to be respected and cared for and loved by ME first and foremost.
Anyone else with me? This is what I do (and think about) in the time between...
12/16/2016 After my Mastectomy & Lymph Node Extraction
I am a big believer in education. It is partly why I taught college even with the 6 figure salary at my last full time job. Even while pregnant and swollen, I still commuted from midtown office to downtown classroom larger than life to teach.
It is why when I decided to get back to work, I focused on being an educator - especially in college, wrongfully eventually thinking that teaching is teaching is teaching (spoiler alert: it is not). There are differences, some nuanced, some grand. The difference from undergrad student vs the graduate student - big difference, but not surmountable. Online teaching vs in person - ah pros and cons to both. Then, the K-12 life - oh, the dreaded K-12 classroom <insert shudder> with its "the student is always right" mantra and no room for any error - to be a teacher today in K-12 particularly, you must be always right, always calm, never emotional and able to withstand the attacks of parents, media, etc.
Until, of course, you are in the break-room - oh my goodness, the THINGS I have heard in the break-room from teachers, OMG, you would collectively all home-school your children (well, just from the places I had been in the teachers’ rooms at...).
Anyway, I digress … I was the first in my immediate family to receive a Bachelor’s degree and the first in my family to get a Master’s degree. I even began a doctoral program when my daughter was 1 - I do not know what I was thinking, either. After a year and a half, I withdrew and focused on my growing family.
But I never lost my love of learning, my passion for reading and just being well informed about whatever was going on in the world. My husband complains that I know everything but without irony - he is serious. There is no news he can tell me that I did not already know of in some way, shape or form.
I researched everything. When I got weird ailments (like the time my lip blew up to the point that it appeared I did just one restylane injection and balked at the second) or when I was diagnosed as being allergic to “corn” - do you know how much food has CORN in it - it is unfathomable - well, I researched.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, though, my love or interest in learning STOPPED dead. I no longer wanted to research something - I did not want to know what was going on or what could go on. My information stream was now limited to my guru, my contact between both worlds, the only person I knew in real life who had once had cancer and now did not. She kept me calm when I stumbled upon a Facebook post commemorating the life of someone who had died from breast cancer. She supported me when I disabled my Facebook account to avoid finding that fact hitting me again that death was an option.
At that point, though, I was not sharing my story and thus my education was limited. I did not want an education. It was bad enough I was learning words like, “staging”, “cancer cells”, “lymph nodes”, etc. I had no interest in knowing more. I was good at accepting chemotherapy at face value and just saying, crazily or bravely, however you want to consider it, “I am here, start it now if you can!” as a response to my oncologist who seemed to be imploring me to accept the chemo…
When you google my oncologist’s name, you find a blog kept by the now family of someone who was diagnosed too late - or who had already been Stage 4 from the get go (stage 4 “de novo” it is called). I do not know which it was and at the time, I knew even less - I just knew her posts went from talking about appointments to her family’s service for her as she had died. And then I did not understand how but nor did I ask. I knew with my first visit to my oncologist that I would either be cured or if it spread I would be treated but not cured. I did not ask anything.
Slowly, I started to share my story, to go on Twitter and Instagram, to cobble together my tribe. My first real education in “what this shit means” was with the formidable Jo Taylor of https://www.abcdbreastcancersupport.org/. She created an infographic that talks about where breast cancer might spread and what to look out for regarding symptoms. This was eyeopening, along with the understanding that these symptoms had to last at least 2 weeks in mild annoyance level but if incapacitating should be brought to your doctor's attention immediately (in my words or understanding of the whole what to do if you have pains)...
I also found others, people who shared and I learned from and people I shared and they learned from me but through it all, I continue to learn and I continue to think in my mind that I am cured and that no matter what I will not worry because I cannot control it so why should I torture myself … the old me, that would have never been accepted, I would have tortured myself to death..
All we who have had cancer can do is just focus on the moment - we know the line between health and sick is thinner than the line between love and hate. We know that each day is not a given that the little things are just that, little things. We live scan to scan, mammo to mammo, appointment to appointment trying to make sense of the new world order in which our doctors can make one face, one shake of the head and we can be on the floor and destroyed. Or they can look at us and smile and we can live to die another day…
This is what we do in the time between… we wait, we hope, we pray (if we pray) or we just focus on what we can control (not much) and try to make it through to the 1 year, the 2 year, the 5 year, the 20 year … the natural progression of what we think our lives should go to - maybe 75, 80 for me - that is the goal. To die of anything OTHER than cancer. Because Fuck cancer.
This is what I do in the time between...
At my last "follow up" on April 9, 2018
It hit me that although I have written books before (sometimes with ease) that it seemed to be something in the past for me - something I would not be able to do anymore...
Well, I was wrong!
I wanted to share more about how to manage finding career after cancer. I know that the written word is sometimes not preferred - not everyone loves to read but I did think that with the video seminars and the written words here on my blog and on other sites (see Press) being great but it is in pieces and not a front to end guide book on what to do.
The information included in the book is:
Chapter 1 - Welcome to the "new normal"
Chapter 2- On Confidence
Chapter 3 - On Preparation
Chapter 4-Resumes & Blank Spaces
Chapter 5- Interviewing How-To's
Chapter 6- What Makes You Happy?
Chapter 7- Dealbreakers & Social Media
Chapter 8- Keeping an Open Mind
Chapter 9 -Listening to Your Gut
Chapter 10- On Balance
Epilogue - Next Steps
The book is slim with parts in it to add your own information to help get your mind going to think about what you want to do and how. My plan, however, is to give the book away for free with my training sessions, which I hope to be doing in person as well as online.
If you want a copy of the book, please sign up on my homepage Career After Cancer.
The book is also available on Amazon here.
This book joins the other 4 I have written about business / entrepreneurship and careers and of course my children's book that I also give away for free to other moms who have experienced cancer (sign up here - Children's Book if you want a copy of it - and sign up even if you want a copy in Spanish as a Breastie translated it for me into Spanish - for FREE! (Thanks, Mish!)
Let me know what you think about books vs video training - my goal is to have these things go together in so many new ways! Thanks!
If you want to help me reach more people by donating to my 501(c)(3), please do so below:
Do you know how to write the perfect resume? Something that makes the HR folk or Computer Algorithm say “hmmmm” and put you in the to be called (or emailed) pile? If a person looks at your #resume they spent about 3 seconds on it and one thing everyone hates to do is look at a resume and see:
It sucks because so many of us definitely have the 3rd thing ... we all took time off or got fired or laid off and now with the whole chronological resume thing, it’s glaring right there sooo obvious we missed time from our career and the question is, “why?” But most likely it becomes, “why bother?” to the HR or hiring folks.
I am going to tell you a hard truth - it IS (usually) easier to find a job when you HAVE a job. For most of us after treatment (or during as some of us are lifers with stage 4 or continuing treatments with clinical trials - I am on month 10 of a 24 month trial) if our doctors think we are well enough to work -and as we all know those bills don’t stop just because our bodies failed us - it is time to get back out there but for most of us, our bodies DID fail us and we still feel “off” in different ways. The best thing to try to feel normal again is to rock out our job search but helllloooo our resumes are old our hair is chemocut our bodies are different - where do we even begin???
Well, you begin behind your computer screen (for now) and watch my #free training that takes you through how to write that perfect resume - did you know you should:
Last week was a very big event - my son received communion! 3 years ago, my daughter received and it was so important to me as my faith has always been a big part of what makes me me. I brought Sofia to mass as a little baby and then when her brother was born, I brought the two of them to mass all of the time - and it was NOT easy. Waking up early as a mom of 2 kids, I would dress them and drag them to mass for 8am. They would often resist and / or complain. I did it anyway - even chasing my son up and down the aisles.
On Saturday May 5, it was the day. I kept thinking each week, “Ok, I have to get through these next few days…” - it seems every week, there was something else to do, some other event to handle between sports, homework, activities - having young kids and a new 501(c)(3) (on-helping-others-as-a-501c3.html) is fun and challenging as I keep trying to balance my need to write, my need to do more with my very much needed life at home.
A balanced woman is hard to be - it seems the kids school days are getting shorter and shorter and between working out and trying to eventually see my girlfriends and spend time with my husband and extended family, it is hard to balance.
Today is mother’s day and it is fitting that I am getting myself more on the “balance” train and trying to manage the many things I want to do and how.
We took photos together at communion and I have just a few of them. I guess if nothing else, we can all agree that I look hella different from 2015 and 2018 (see below).
To think, my daughter’s communion was exactly 1 year and 6 months before my diagnosis of breast cancer at 39 years old. And then, to also think that last year, I was still undergoing chemotherapy until May 1st. I was lucky that my chemo was a year ago and that I was able to kind of have gone through this “metamorphosis” for my son’s communion but really I am just happy to be here, to have been able to sit at his communion with my own hair and my one boob and just be ME.
It crossed my mind only once during the ceremony - the dreaded, "What if?" and I just pushed it away right quick to live and enjoy the moment and not worry about what cancer might do - if it does God forbid spread or come back or otherwise make my life be in danger. Instead, it was with a deep breathe, that I sat in that church and watched my son receive the body of Christ that I exhaled and said, "No what it's, just TODAY."
I am lucky and focused on trying to do the balance - it is hard. I do know that time goes quickly - well, in a “the days are long but the years are short kind of thing”.
So I try to balance and take care of me and the many goals I want to accomplish with my 501(c)(3) along with enjoying the moments, the moments that continue to fly by and change me from a mom of two babies to a mom of two young kids to someday, God willing, a mom of teens and beyond…
Fitting for mother’s day to share that…
This is what I do in the time between...
PS: Happy Momma's Day again :) XOXO
As I prepare for mother’s day - well, yes, we mothers prepare for our own holidays (we get it) lol. We have to clean the house and organize the events and make sure all of the other mothers are getting cards and/or gifts from the family (read: husband and kids) and more.
As I am getting these things "done", I cannot help but think about all of my past mother’s days and the different ways I focused on all of the wrong things, year after year after year and to forgive myself for it.
When my daughter was born in 2007, I was on maternity leave for 10+ weeks and during that time, I felt (as I guess most of us new mothers do) like I ceased to exist. For most women, maybe, this feeling passes or gets less with time but for me, it did not. I continued to feel as though what ever I needed was not even on the list of things "to do".
I worked full time in NYC and made a big salary and I hated leaving her but I also enjoyed a bit of pretending to be able to attend to my own needs at work for a few hours… but then, things got bad.
My husband got sick and by that first mother’s day, I was just clinging on and hoping, praying for a day where keeping my daughter ALIVE did not rely on me. (And yes, it felt that dramatic - there is no, “the baby will tend to herself” and at the time, I had no help officially available to me beyond certain set times…) I just wanted a day to sleep in - it seemed like such a luxury - to sleep uninterrupted without having to get up and do something for the baby, who I loved more than life itself but my body and mind wanted just one day. One day.
Reader, I did not get it that one day. It seems laughable now but at the time and in coming years, I continually held out hope that that random Sunday in May would be the day I could rest and be "me" without having to run around like a lunatic but eventually, I embraced it and I could see no other way to be so even that one day was not one for me to take off but to keep going …
My first Mother's Day 2008
I took this to the extreme even if help did become available, I was not interested in it. I had become a one woman machine - getting diapers, bottles and whatnot - toilet training, removing the bottle, nutrition, activities, homework, etc etc. I was a dynamo. People marveled to my face, “I do not know how you do it.” To my behind probably something more like, “That woman is a control freak!”
I was in this pattern and ready to continue on it - did not anticipate where I could let go or how. I had no clue. I was a bad friend and definitely someone who was not the best of “support” when it comes to my husband but he also had his demons and issues, towards me… So we can call it a draw.
Then, bam, I was hit with cancer. How in the world would I be able to keep doing what I was doing the soup to nuts of everything with my kids and work full time and survive? The main question I had was on surviving. I struggled with what hospital to go to, mainly because of the kids and my own fear of traffic.
Ultimately, I learned slowly and painfully that the old way was dead. That in order to survive, in order to truly live, I had to let go of being the control freak worry wart mother who did not allow sleepovers or play dates where I could not be present (omg, I hated that version of me but at the time it was all I knew how to be so I forgive that version of me and love her again)...
It helped immensely that my kids WERE 6 and 9 when I was diagnosed and not 2 and 5, though it was still hard for them (and me) and it continues to be hard for them to adjust to this new normal, too (and of course, me, too though it should go without saying - this new normal is one you have to adjust to each day, and it is different each day, too). I say all the time that it is not just the patient who gets cancer but the whole family - friends, too as most of them are close as family…
So on the eve of this Mother’s Day, I think to myself, “the kids are all right” part prayer and part belief in it and most importantly, or just as importantly, I am, too.
I have big ideas for the rest of this year and next - I hesitate to say, "plans" because the truth is we never know what the future holds but I have my ideas... I want to focus on my nonprofit 501(c)(3) career after cancer initiative - I want to travel and spread my training and books around the country and maybe beyond. I have so many stories to tell in my fiction writing, even beyond my first publication in the Visible Ink anthology.
I want to spend time with my kids and family, too - first and foremost and I am going to go easier on myself in terms of my “deadlines” and “planning” as though I am a project manager and this organization is my baby, my project but my kids are on the list, too. And every day, they get a bit older... pretty soon, they will be more and more independent and I know I will miss these days.
But, the big news for me personally and spiritually is my trip in February 2019 back to my second home, Rome. The home I left 20 years ago. Where I grew up. But listen, do not tell my kids yet - they do not know! It’s a trip I am taking without them.
I am not just going to Rome but also to see San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio is - I feel as though I am being called to go and so I am going. More on that in another post. This is what I do in the time between.
Slideshow of Mother's Day Past :)
PS: Happy Mother's Day to my golden girls in Heaven and of course to my mom who always has my back and yells at me only sometimes and to my mother in law, too, who also has my back. I am a lucky girl & my kids are lucky grandkids!
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