Monday, 21 May 2012

My Lumpy Life Lessons

I need to get something off of (and out of) my chest…

I have a confession to make – I’m one of those people who resolve to focus on things that really matter when confronted by tragic situations, but after a couple of weeks, real life seems to get in the way of my best intentions and I fall back into the same old rut. I get bent out of shape by the constant telemarketing calls, the fact that my son refuses to brush his teeth for longer than 37 seconds, the fact that the dog has made it his life’s mission to continually be underfoot each time I head up or down the stairs. I get caught up in conference calls, emails, field trip forms, and dentist appointments. Admittedly, I end up forgetting to just sit and enjoy the ‘here & now’.

Well, apparently the “powers that be” figured that I needed to learn my lesson – and they delivered it with a swift two by four to the side of the head… well, in this case, the breast. Yup, looks like I have cancer… the Big ‘C’. For the last week my world has been full of words like ‘invasive’ and ‘aggressive’… rather than some of my more preferable ‘ive’ words, such as ‘decorative’ and  ‘expensive’.

The good news is that we seem to have caught it relatively early. I would love to say I was one of those proactive women who routinely performed regular self-examinations and caught it that way, but again, I fell into the percentage of the population who checks (sort of) when something reminds me to, yet was never fully sure what it was I was looking for. No excuses – I’m fully aware of all of the statistics*:

•    One in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and one in 29 will die of it.
•    An estimated 22,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and 5,100 will die of it
•    On average, 62 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day.

Yet somehow it was so easy to fall into the “Its-an-awful-disease-but-it-isn’t-going-to-happen-to-me” camp. I work out, have no history of cancer in my family, eat relatively healthy (alright, who can say no to the occasional lemon poppyseed loaf??)… it just wasn’t going to happen to me. Right?

It did.

I won’t tell you exactly how the lump was detected (after all, my mom reads these blogs!) but suffice it to say, my husband deserves a big “high five” and medal of honour for doing what he thinks is his job anyway!

So it looks like we’re going on a journey – and this one won’t be to Disney, much to my son’s dismay. My understanding is that this can definitely be a time of uncertainty and unknown. And while that may be true about a number of things, I do feel that there are certain things that I’m more certain about than ever:

1.    Cancer sucks.

2.    I won’t ever give my husband a hard time for wanting to fool around again.

3.    Hugging my son is the most beautiful feeling in the entire world.

4.    I have some truly amazing friends. Seriously, you should all be jealous!

5.    It is incredibly overwhelming to navigate your way through the medical system but it’s just as important to be your own advocate. Push, question, and investigate. It’s not just a right, it’s a responsibility.

6.    I don’t have nearly enough pictures of my family – I mean, there are a lot of my son (never enough, of course!), a bunch of my son and my husband… but not a lot of “us”. Why is it that we moms never step out from behind the camera??

7.    The thought of losing my hair doesn’t thrill me. Just sayin’…

8.    There is nothing sadder for a parent than the thought of not being there for their children. That’s why for this particular issue, I am extremely content to be the ostrich with its head in the proverbial sand – even given my extreme bird phobia…

9.    You can never say or hear “I love you” enough.

10.    My husband is a true rockstar. A full-blown multi-platinum, Grammy-winning rockstar. And this time, you can actually tell him I said so!

So, why am I sharing my story with all of you? You may be thinking that its far too personal to talk about… heck, some of you might not even be able to pick me out of a crowd of two – so why does it matter? Truthfully, it doesn’t – but here’s what does… my lumpy life lessons may not be yours, but I’m hoping that by reading this, you’ll all take a moment to find your own life lessons to work with

1.    Public Service Announcement – your breasts are yours (and quite possibly, your partner’s!) – do yourself a favour and check them out on a regular basis so you know what you’re dealing with.

2.    Allow yourself to sweat the small stuff – get annoyed/frustrated/ticked off/upset/whatever – and don’t feel guilty about it. Feel it, own it… and then let it go. It just doesn’t matter enough to hang on to.

3.    Cry hard but laugh harder… and often.

4.    Take a minute – or two- to look around you and breathe it all in. Whatever your life has blessed you with, hug it, love it, savour it, cherish it and enjoy it.

5.    Every moment you have with the people you love is truly a gift – unwrap it and revel in it over and over again, each and every day.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Playing Without a Plan

By all definitions, my mom was a ‘single mom’ – my dad decided our family wasn’t his thing, so he got the lawnmower and my mom got my brother and I. A good deal, if I do say so myself – although perhaps our lawn may have suffered somewhat in the short term. But to us, she was never a ‘single mom’ – she was just Mom. Our mom. And I don’t remember the absence of my dad ever being an issue.

Even with no financial or physical support, my mom still managed to find a way to keep my brother and I involved in a ton of organized sports and activities – hockey, ringette, baseball, music lessons, summer camp… we definitely had our share of programs and events and I don’t remember missing out on anything.

But what I remember most about growing up isn’t the scheduled activities or organized events. One of the greatest gifts my mom gave to my brother and I is the ability to simply ‘play’. Playing without purpose. Playing without a 'plan'. We would spend hours playing on the front lawn – with neighbourhood friends or by ourselves – running, cartwheeling, watching the clouds, picking dandelion bouquets, riding our bikes, running through sprinklers, burying ourselves in leaves… and just generally being kids.

That's me rockin' the chubby cheeks & the red & blue swimsuit sensation!

Somehow Mom was always able to strike the perfect balance between giving us the freedom to see where our imaginations could take us, and still be there to be an integral part of our play. I’m sure sitting through yet another tennis-racket-strumming / pot-lid-drumming concert or watching us roll down the big green hill for the 187th consecutive time were not exactly at the top of her “to do” list, but she was always there. I’m sure she had better things to do than check out yet another ill-constructed fort or create another candlelight marshmallow toasting evening, but she was always there.

Admittedly, it was a very different time then. Yes, we grew up not only able to create our own fun but were actually encouraged to do so. Our days often consisted of a whole lot of nothing – and we loved it. We even had the freedom to actually get bored and figure out our own ways to entertain ourselves. We rarely had structured playdates but were always welcome to have friends over to play. I had years of swimming lessons – but remember being able to spend hours upon hours showing off our best ‘cannonballs’ into our pool and getting Mom to count who could hold their breath longest under water. I had countless piano lessons but it’s the hours of impromptu duets with my friends that I remember most. And who was our captive audience? Yep – thanks, Mom.

Over the years I remember people telling me how bad they felt that I wasn’t able to take part in certain programs, or attend certain events, or travel to certain places. But looking back, I don’t remember feeling badly about any of that. I remember sun-filled days, laughing hard and playing hard. I remember cartwheel competitions on the front lawn, bike riding until the streetlights came on, and coming back home dirty, tired and blissfully happy.

But most of all, I remember being encouraged to “just play” – without worrying about how well I was doing it compared to other kids, whether or not it fell into any sort of pre-determined curriculum, or whether or not it had any bearing at all on the adult I would one day become. We played because it was fun – and as kids, isn’t that the point? So thanks, Mom, for being the best kid-concert goer, cartwheel counter, fort builder and playmate a kid could ever have. We didn’t have a single mom – we had the single best mom!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw
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