One month ago, I walked away from a job that I have loved for a long time to put my health, my family…myself FIRST. This was NOT an easy decision for me at all. It felt selfish. It felt overly dramatic. It just didn’t feel like…ME. I am a full-time working mom and wife – that’s my thing.
But for the last month, I’ve been “just” a mom and a wife and oh, someone who happens to have cancer. I am less stressed, getting better sleep, spending more time with my family and generally am just more focused on my own wellness. I have been moving so much more (10,000 steps a day? Some days I have that many before lunch!). And I actually am sweating again from EXERCISE (well the 90+-degree summer heat is a part of that too!). And my Myeloma numbers are good, really good. For the first time since my Stem Cell Transplant in February 2015, I have gotten my beloved “zero” (aka negative M-spike) FOUR MONTHS in a row (can I get a WOO HOO for this one, please!!). Clearly saying yes to me is working.
Being home has been exactly what the doctor ordered (both literally AND figuratively). However, I am finding it’s not easy to change who we are at our core. I am someone who was always on the go. Rushing to get the kids on the bus. Rushing TO work. Rushing FROM work. Rushing to get dinner on the table. Rushing to get the kids to their activities. Rushing to put them to bed (okay, I think all parents can agree THIS one makes sense!).
But the point is, what’s the rush??? Why are we all constantly running around, like our hair is on fire? Why don’t we really, truly enjoy the moments we are in?
It hit me today as I was walking our dog, Sugar. When I take her for our morning walk, I am a girl on a mission. For me, it’s to get her to do her business and get my steps logged into my Fitbit. But she’s still a puppy and only 9 months old. Her mission? To chase butterflies, roll in the grass and pick up sticks. She’s not in a rush. She wants to literally stop and smell the roses.
This morning I found myself getting irritated because she was slowing me down. Didn’t she realize I have a million things to do? Um, actually no, she doesn’t.
Let’s be clear. No one would EVER describe me as a patient person. I am not proud to admit this. I wish I were more patient and I try, really I do. But some days I can’t stop myself from the screaming in my head when the kids say my name over and over and over and over…. I feel like I will lose my mind with all the constant bickering, even when I know I should be more tolerant and help them find ways to work through their fights, as mindless and ridiculous as they almost always seem (to me). And it is a wonder my kids don’t have a growing list of curse words in their vocabulary but I bite my tongue while driving, instead of screaming expletives out like crazy when the person in front of me is going too slow/stops short/generally does something to irritate me. Again, patience is a virtue…just not one of mine!
Now that I have this time to focus on my health and slow down, I am committed to trying to do a better job of not rushing so much and just taking my time. But I think we are all guilty of this, aren’t we? It seems easy to say ” be more present” and “live in the moment”. And when you have a cancer diagnosis, you do truly appreciate the cliche that life is short and you should enjoy each day you are blessed to have. And I do, on a grand scale.
But on a daily basis, it’s hard to stop the constant “go, go, go” mentality. I am STILL that mom and wife. I STILL have a million things to do (incredibly that list seems LONGER now that I am not working right now…how is that possible??).
How often are we only doing one thing at a time? We are on iPads while watching TV. We are texting while making dinner (or walking the dog or talking to our family members). And how about this Pokemon Go phenomenon? Seems like everyone is searching for Pokemon on their walks, daily commutes and, apparently, even in a press briefing with the State Department!
We know, logically, that we shouldn’t do this but how can we stop? If you’re like me, your daily To Do List is the length of your arm. According to this article on Inc.com, a study “showed that subjects who multitasked while performing cognitive tasks experienced significant IQ drops. In fact, the IQ drops were similar to what you see in individuals who skip a night of sleep or who smoke marijuana….
Multitasking has also been found to increase production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Having our brain constantly shift gears pumps up stress and tires us out, leaving us feeling mentally exhausted (even when the work day has barely begun).” For any of this, this is a bad thing especially for me, someone who needs LESS stress in my life to keep my health and wellness in check.
We all know that stress is bad. But for a myeloma patient, it is REALLY bad. According to the International Myeloma Foundation, “Stress can be a very destructive force when it comes to myeloma. Stress really disrupts the immune system and myeloma is a cancer of the immune system.” Research shows that stress can absolutely have an impact on many areas of our health, including and especially that of cancer patients.
So my goal for myself is to stop rushing. Be more present and engaged. Reduce those things in life that are stressing me out and increase those that bring me enjoyment. To be in the MOMENT, whatever that moment is. I can’t lie…this will take some serious, focused effort – to deprogram who I have been for a long, long time. But that is what this time home is about. Committing myself to putting my health & wellness first and foremost. Naturally, this is about the medical things that I need to keep my numbers in check, including keeping away from germs and generally anything that will impact my treatment in any negative way. It is also about the MENTAL elements of my ongoing recovery. This means less stress – and stress can manifest in many, many ways.
Following the advice to take this time off has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. A difficult decision but the right one without question. Putting yourself first is not an easy thing to do, whether you have cancer or not. So whatever it is that makes you HAPPY, I encourage you to do MORE of that and less of the stuff that doesn’t. This might mean the house is a little messy. It may mean you don’t cross EVERYTHING off your too-long To Do List. But it could also mean you get more snuggling in with your kids or partner. It could mean that you binge-watch that show you’ve been dying to see on Netflix. Or it could simply mean you actually enjoy that nice, leisurely “walk” with your dog…and maybe even stop and smell the roses.
Until next time….#gameon
In October 2014, after being admitted to the hospital for an eye infection, I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma (never heard of it? Neither had I!). In the past year, I have had multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a Stem Cell Transplant (SCT) – and I am thrilled to say I have achieved a Stringent Complete Response (sCR). I am a wife and a mom of three young children ages 9, 7 and 5.