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AUTHENTICALLY BOLD: REBECCA

BETTER, NOT BITTER

Month

May 2014

 

collateral damage

Unintended damage, injuries, or deaths caused by an action, especially unintended civilian casualties caused by a military operation.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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Unintended damage caused by a war, perhaps a war against breast cancer in your very own body resulting in collateral damage. The impairments are very real and often reside behind the brave, smiling faces you encounter in a survivor. Despite asking a breast cancer warrior if she’s recovered and well after months of toxic treatments and debilitating surgeries, she is still suffering on a regular basis. How, you ask?

Often times you will not hear about the painful and balance compromising neuropathies in her feet. She hides the stumbling gait: the excruciating pain upon waking, trying to walk like a forty year old and not a ninety year old, from everyone except her husband. Yes, you did see her trip up those steps and hear her joke about her awful clumsiness; however, that smile hides the frustration in the numb feet that caught the lip of the granite and nearly caused a full on face plant, or worse, scraped hands that have braced many a fall.

Nor will she elaborate on the difficulties she faces in buttoning her young daughter’s sweater or fumbling and trying to tie the little shoelaces. The often- times illegible handwriting to the poor teachers in a school note, or the misspelled texts stem from stumpy finger tips that aim but do not always hit on target, are a regular routine event these days, one she just shakes off as a new “normal” post treatment.

Words do not come easy, surprisingly, even for the most motor-mouthed of them all. Regular words feel as if they are on the tip of her tongue, but are nowhere to be found in the circuitry of brainwaves. Disappointment and disgust enter as she tries, she blunders, and she finds a somewhat less-fitting replacement word to continue on in dialogue and unbroken conversation; followed with nervous laughter to disguise the aforementioned disappointment. New words are created as the synapses misfire between mouth and brain creating a weird, and often times hilarious, fusion of two similar words that spurt out simultaneously. Memory is far from what it was pre-treatment, while well-intentioned jokes about age from her spouse are smiled at, a sadness sometimes sneaks in as she *still* tries to get accustomed to the new normal, even five years out from completion of treatment.

Nagging joint pain continues to crash the neuropathy party in her body: a residual daily souvenir of the poison cocktails that surged through her blood vessels systemically; the sole mission of chemotherapy to seek and destroy those cancer cells that formed a mini-brigade against your immune system. The trudge against the very cells trying to mutate and possibly kill her, instead leaves her with a significant amount of collateral damage. While the surgeries may have been successful, the skilled surgeons’ knives left scar tissue and disrupted lymphatic flow – highways re-routed and blocked, further adding to swollen arms and hands as lymph fluid has nowhere else to now go. She does not complain about compression sleeves or pumping, after all she is alive and wakes each day grateful for another day of memories, even if they are foggy.

Phantom pains surface every so often, from breast tissue that is no longer there perhaps, causing her to grimace through the smile at the soccer field because she wants to grab her breast in pain, but knows it is inappropriate in a field full of tween boys. Radiated tissue is harder than non-radiated tissue, a reminder she experiences as she shifts from her right side in bed, to her left side instead and back again because it is too uncomfortable to lay upon that previously scorched side.

breast pain

Chemo weight is nearly impossible to remove, despite 4,552,854 burpees done each week or marathons run. Depression tries to overtake her brain with the weight frustrations, but she smiles again knowing she is alive and the continued efforts to perfect said burpees helps her health in other ways despite the flabalanche that surrounds her middle. Strength may be defined in her life, not only by the size of her deadlift, but instead by knowing she faces the ongoing collateral damage with every ounce of muster she may gather.

Bathing suits are anxiety provoking to most women, but add large surgical scars and uneven, lopsided breasts, and she has to summon the courage to find a flattering suit – one that covers the Frankestein-like marks upon her chest, the radiation tattoos, and helps to adjust the boobs from not being overly stared at for the discrepancy in size. She may want to wear a sign that warns the general public about the scars and misshapen body parts, but she quietly smiles and builds sandcastles anyway.

Despite her unconditionally loving spouse, she may still cover up and hide when he walks unannounced into the bathroom as she exits the shower. She cannot help but wonder what goes through his mind: will he notice the significant different texture in each breast? Will he be turned off by the drastic size difference? Wait, that won’t bother him as much as the anchor-scars that surround each breasts or the rippling or pulling skin from deeply buried scar tissue within? She will then escalate into additional worrisome thoughts: will he be freaked out by the hot flashes and the night sweats? Will he find her early morning hobbling eerily reminiscent of her parents’ old-age disabilities? The collateral damage finds its way into her personal relationships, as if to add insult to injury.

Everyone seems to consider cancer survivors are well after they have beaten their disease, or rather have remained in remission or have no evidence of disease. Many people are unaware of the residual side effects that remain in the weeks, months and years after treatment has long ended. Cancer survivors are told that many of the side-effects will lessen with time or go away all together; but for many, that is not the case and the collateral damage is with them for a lifetime.

Many of us may simply be so thrilled to be alive and to remain free of the disease, we feel this is the “price to pay” for life itself. There are some of us out there that do not cope as well, and wonder if the “price to pay” was worth the daily pain, the new-found disabilities, the slack performance in previously stellar areas of our lives like work and again; the regular amounts of agony left behind when the cancer was obliterated.

The war against cancer, especially breast cancer, leaves significant impairment on the life of the person affected. Many facilities are now only just focusing on survivorship; life after breast cancer and the well-being of the patient once treatment has completed. Recovery needs to be more than follow up appointments every three months to ensure the disease remains at bay. Breast cancer patients need to be sure to continue to advocate for their quality of life post-disease, being educated on residual side-effects that are very real, and knowing what pain is normal and what options for pain management are available.

In the meantime, she may be grinning and bearing it, so give your breast cancer friend a warm and gentle hug to soften the achy joints, offer her compassion as she stumbles in the grass unexpectedly and as she fumbles around for words to add to your conversation. She is learning to live within her post-war environment chock full of collateral damage, despite wearing her best outward smile.

In the meantime, breast cancer survivors are encouraged to participate in the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundations studies – more information may be found here: The Collateral Damage Project

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Friday’s Inspiration: Not about falling down, but more about getting back up again. Right?

http://www.godfruits.com/2208/runner-falls-during-the-race-of-her-life-then-gets-up-and-shocks-the-crowd.php?ref=8

Runner falls and then……what happens will make YOU cheer.

A Letter to YOU (My Advice On How to Prevent Breast Cancer)

Dear Ladies (and Gents):

I am going to tell you how you can prevent breast cancer. Yes, I am going to spell it out so that you may possible avoid the dreaded words from your doctors, “You have breast cancer.”

Within the past two weeks, I have learned of yet two more local women in my circles that have been diagnosed with a form of breast cancer. For someone who lives in a “small” city of approximately 50,000 residents, it is rather alarming and disheartening to learn of two women I know or know of having just heard those words, “You have breast cancer.”

Something has to give! Millions are poured into the pink breast cancer vehicle year after year after year and still “in 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 64,640 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.” Source:  Cancer.org

Something has to change! “In 2013, there were more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.” Source:  Cancer.org

I am not a doctor, nor am I a researcher so my disclaimer will be up front and center. However, I am a breast cancer survivor and I am an avid advocate for pervasive change. Never have we had a need to rally the troops more than right now this moment. Never have we had a more pressing need to make sure that YOU are doing what you can to prevent breast cancer.

Nearly every person that is young (i.e. 20-50 years old) with a cancer diagnosis has had a traumatic or life altering and very stressful event in their lives. STRESS. Many of us know that stress has a tremendous negative effect on our immune system, but in my opinion, many of us know all too well the actual effect – a cancer diagnosis – because of the result of that tension in our lives. We reside in a society, in modern times, where the amount of stress we perform under is tantamount to a badge of honor. For what? At the end of the day, do you really want to go to the grave with everyone remembering what a wound up ball of rigidity you were in your lifetime? I used to wear my stress in that fashion; everyone used to compliment me on how I managed my chaotic life like a graceful Superwoman with a corporate career, little children, aging and sick parents and then some. Newsflash: I did not manage it well. I nearly – LITERALLY – killed myself in the process.

Many of you may be aware that we all have cancer cells in our bodies. Yes, we do. Typically, our immune system is strong enough to destroy any mutant or wayward cells in our bodies; but what happens when our immune system cannot destroy or keep up with the rate of multiplication of the cancer cells? You often times develop a tumor (unless it is a type of cancer like leukemia, which is blood borne and does not create a tumor).

What can we do to ensure our immune system stays strong enough to battle? We can do a lot. Preventing cancer is not a proven science, or we would not be seeing my rage right now. However, if I told you that following Steps 1-10 would very likely help you prevent cancer, why would you not want to do it? Why would you not want to enable these steps in your children’s lives so they prevent their increased risks at getting cancer?

Ladies, we need to rally now. Men, you need to join in because even though your rates of breast cancer remain low; the ability to lower your risks for breast cancer are the same options that also lower your risks for other types of cancers.

Who’s in? Is everyone raising their hands? Let’s be the change we wish to see in the world, instead of being reactive and waiting for more cancer diagnoses in those around us, let’s be PRO-ACTIVE starting NOW.

  1. Reduce your stress. Starting right now. I am already stressed out worrying about how many of you will not undertake these measures (but I am employing my coping technique and hoping that even if *some* of you start making changes, then we have started the positive path of change). Limiting the stress in your life is not easy; we all know this. Just as we pick and choose our battles with our irrational toddlers in our lives, we need to pick and choose the battles of stress we allow to wash over us. That bill you are worried about paying – it will still be there tomorrow, and next month, and making yourself worried about it is simply not worth the money owed. The deadline your work has imposed, you can only do your best…..readjust the other sails in your life to implement your best, but at the end of the day – work is only work and you will not be remembered for that aspect of you at the end of your life. I felt trapped prior to my diagnosis: the lifestyle I chose to live forced me to maintain the unreasonably stressful job I employed; my parents residing with us was a choice I made to ease their lives but was a choice that nearly destroyed my life. Would a different job or having my parents move out have prevented my cancer diagnosis? We will never know, but my quality of life for those years would have been much better for my well-being.
  2. Do NOT smoke. I am calling myself out for being a hypocrite here, as I do not like being told what I can or cannot do by others. However, the statistics cannot be any more telling and forthright: smoking causes cancer. You would not inject yourself daily with a toxic disease would you? Every cigarette you smoke is akin to playing Russian Roulette with your health. Your smoking causes family members of mine to have asthma attacks. Many of you would never intentionally cause harm to another human, but smoking does not only affect your health – it affects complete strangers around you and seizes their lungs to the point where they may not be able to breathe.
  3. Exercise. Stop shaking your head, ha ha. Sure, we can all exercise a bit more in our lives but again, the statistics demonstrate how valuable exercise is for our well-being. You do not need to go all Crossfit on me, but daily walks, weekly hikes, a few minutes of stretching and simple exercises like sit ups or planks help your health with much more impact than you may realize. Find an activity that you like, join a friend and make it fun. Your body will thank you.
  4. Nutrition. The topic of what we eat will spawn a multitude of spin offs from this blog. Nutrition is key. In my opinion, part of how I have staved off a recurrence of my highly aggressive form of breast cancer is in large part due to how I changed my nutrition post-treatment. Our grocery stores are laden with processed foods that will not give us optimal health. Sorry, Cheetos are not fuel for immune system precision. The food industry has been allowed to alter our food and fill every bite with man-made chemicals; some of which we have no idea of the impact on us after years of consumption. Is the consumption of azodicarbonamide worth the risk? Again, this is a battle I choose not to take and I avoid for me, for my children and those around me. Join a CSA for locally grown produce (and you may inquire how they treat said produce with pesticides, if at all). Purchase your meats from a local farmer who raises their animals cruelty-free and without injecting them with all sorts of growth boosting supplements. Too expensive you say? My full year of cancer treatments, surgeries and related protocols cost in excess of half a million dollars. Over $500,000 worth of methodology to save my life and that does not touch upon lost wages, additional out of pocket expenses and the emotional price of cancer. $500 for sixteen weeks of more veggies and some fruits than my family of five can handle, plus $65/month for grass-fed, locally raised meats. Hindsight is always so clear.
  5. Wear your sunscreen. I will always wonder if those bad sunburns on my chest may have been the trigger for the wayward breast cancer cells.
  6. Watch your personal care products. We live in a great country that affords us so many choices, why not make the ones that are best for our good health? If we know parabens are known carcinogens, why would we continue to use them on our largest organ: our skin? The bottle of soap right next to the one containing parabens may not have parabens – read your labels and find what works best for you and your children. One more way you may empower yourself, your immune system and possibly dodge a cancer diagnosis.
  7. Be your own best advocate. If your body or your health seems questionable, ask, ask and ask again to be sure you get an acceptable answer. Your body has an amazing way of letting you know something is off, so listen to it. Your doctor may have an M.D., but sometimes, they are only human and it is OK to question what they tell you. Again, we live in a phenomenal country where choices are rampant – it is okay to pick and choose your medical team.

Ladies, I used to be one of those people who ignorantly spouted: “We are all going to get cancer or die anyway, I may as well die eating, drinking, doing the things I love!” (Head down, shamefully shaking my finger at myself). We all have the ability to make better choices for ourselves and for our families. We have got to take our health into our own hands, we have to make sure we stop taking our lives for granted and we have to stop and ask: “Am I making the best choice for pro-active, preventative health?”

YOU have the ability to reduce your risks for breast cancer. You DO. Find some friends, talk about what steps you will each take for yourselves and for your families. Teach your children how to put their best healthy foot forward, it will be a lesson they take with them throughout their lifetime and quite possibly pass on to their children. Empower not only yourself to possibly dodge a cancer diagnosis, help your friends and family. Maybe instead of hearing about two women in your town who were diagnosed in the past couple of weeks, you will be chatting with your peers about how POWERFUL your immune system is, or healthy our society has become and how everyone is living to be 80, 90 or 100 years old.

2013-10-07 15.35.01

Do you want to be a part of a team of superwomen/superheros who have armored themselves with the power of choice? I certainly do. Will you join me today?

Yours in health,

Rebecca

She Said What?

“She Said What” – a repost from original Confessions Of A Curvy Girl post on 17 January 2014 (*Note addendum update at end).

The day after my 40th birthday, I had a scheduled annual physical. You know, what better time to get on the scale after a couple of weeks of Christmas, New Years and birthday celebrations and libations. Happy Birthday! Oy.

For the past decade, the scale has NOT been my friend. Alright, what woman IS friends with her scale? I hear you moaning and groaning in agreement.  Further, I hear my scale moan when I step on to it. I am confident that I am NOT one of those women bound by the numbers on the scale. Seriously. I am not. I have no desire to weigh the beautifully perfect and lithe 135 lbs that I was at my absolute most fit self in college. I recognize that returning to a range of 145-155 would be ideal and a dream come true.  However, I will publicly announce that I get on the scale nearly every…..single…..day. (Yes, it bellows at me each time with a consistent reliability).

When I finished the third and final batch of chemotherapy, the medical staff informed me that the weight I had gained as a lovely side effect would indeed be more challenging to remove. I really wish they would have told me it sticks to your bones like freaking wallpaper paste and it is nearly impossible to remove EVER. (Yes, I have tried to steam it off in the hottest, most rocket fueled showers ever).

In any event, after questioning my oncologist about the stubborn Michelin tire that remains around my middle, despite regular works outs and low glycemic nutrition, he simply said, “You will be one of those people that this is always a challenge for.” BOOM. Knocked my ass to the floor with a dose of harsh reality; but I took that as a literal challenge and dropped about 25 pounds before getting stuck in yet another plateau.

As life will have it, more curveballs came my way and I have come to realize that I am an emotional eater….or rather an emotional over-eater. Those aforementioned 25 pounds lost, yeah, well, they “snuck” back on as I dealt with the skeletons in my closet……the emotions I *think* I know how to cope with, but rather I find it easier to shove those ugly emotions way down into your deepest core (which creates the Michelin tire affect around your mid-section). I would not recommend it.

People ask me, with some trepidation, how I can be the size that I am with all the working out and the healthy eating I do. I have had a doctor tell me it is in my genes; I am genetically pre-disposed to being a giant because of my Welsh/Polish and Russian heritage. I have had a doctor tell me, “Your parents are fat, therefore, you will be fat.” Remember, my oncologist even said it was chemo and just the way it was?

Yesterday, at my physical the new doctor I saw asked if I had any other concerns after announcing my clean bill of health. I said yes. After spelling out the reality of my habits, including a refreshed 2014 perspective on clean eating for my training regimen and upcoming races, I asked her if there was anything else I could/should be doing and if there is any truth to the lamest of excuses people have been offering me (“It’s hormones, women at your age have NO metabolism and hormones screw it ALL up!”). She looked me square in the eye and said, “Can’t you just be happy that you are healthy?” BOOM.

I was speechless. Yes, I had nothing to counter her response with. I was confused. I did not know how I should process this question/statement this new doctor had just uttered to me.

Am I happy that I am healthy? You bet your ass I am. Sorry, but once you have had cancer, a healthy body is the most compelling desire you would ever wish for. Am I thankful every day that my amazing body continues to function and perform well enough for me to carry out my daily activities AND to work out in multiple types of exercise? You bet I am. Do I wake up every morning and count my blessings that my heart is ticking, my lungs are compressing, my blood is surging…….yes, my blood is surging as I think about that statement more and more from this physician.

As fit as I am, regardless of the miles I can run or the monstrous weights I slam around, I am overweight. As long as I am overweight, my perspective is that I have the ability to be even healthier. Those extra 20-25 pounds that seem to come off and sneak back on, come on – we all know they are an added burden to my heart, to my lungs, to my bones……..yet, she thinks I simply need a perspective re-alignment.

With that, I am kicking this weighted (pun intended) negativity out the door – these ugly emotions will not be shoved down into the tire for added girth this time. Once again, the challenge is accepted. I refuse to ACCEPT the carelessly tossed statement from a medical professional that I should basically give up and be happy with my current state of health.

I will not focus on losing weight this year. Instead, I will focus on how this powerful body needs optimal fuel to perform and that is by clean eating. I have switched to a local farm for our meats (www.kalonfarm.com), so that I know my HORMONES are not being affected by hormone-laced meats tainted with antibiotics and more. During the cold, harsh New England winter when my CSA (www.harpersfarm.com) is not available, we make the trek to Idylwilde Farms in Acton (www.idylewildfarms.com) for fresh, vibrant and full of flavor vegetables and fruits to make it through the Artic Vortex.

I will continue to push my personal limits of strength, endurance and resolve at my local gym with the trainer that motivates me beyond any one before him and with the friends who share blood, sweat and tears by my side through grueling workouts (www.crossfit978.com).   I will run my long runs with my music pumping at hearing damaging levels (hey, I’m already hearing impaired) and enjoy the solidarity of the mental break these routes afford me. I will run the Boston Marathon a good deal lighter than I am right now, because honestly, I do not wish to carry an extra 25-30 lbs through 26.2 miles. I will walk into that doctor’s office again in a year and simply say “Boom!” because no one shall set limits for me nor do they tell me to give up or become complacent.

Have you ever been told something silly by a medical professional? How did you react?

Have you ever been told to give up on something in your life? What did you do?

**May 15, 2014 Addendum:  Having recently visited the same aforementioned doctor a few days after completing the Boston Marathon.  After determining that I had a torn hip flexor, said doctor jokingly announced that *THIS* is why exercise is bad for you.  My future medical plans include no longer making visits with this particular doctor.

Mother’s Day Revisited

April 17, 2014 was the one-year anniversary since my mother passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack in the back of a taxi cab.  Yes, my mother died alone with a stranger, a poor cab driver who had the misfortune of having someone die in his backseat prior to their arrival at their destination.

Did the driver collect his fare that day?  I have often wondered about that small fact.  Weird perhaps, but I am curious if he hung around after the attending doctors at the clinic began working to revive my mom on the sidewalk; or if he decided to move on to his next fare with a heavy heart.

At moments when my mind may be strangely idle, I find myself revisiting the day I went to my mother’s senior housing apartment in Fitchburg to take inventory of her assets and prepare to take care of her affairs post-mortem (aka clean up her messes).  My mother’s oldest daughter, my half-sister, flew up from North Carolina to “assist” me in taking care of business.  Out of kindness and support, my husband accompanied both of us to the high rise building knowing I would need him for a multitude of reasons.

When we unlocked the door to her small apartment, it was as if we walked into a time capsule:  the radio was playing, the light was on, breakfast dishes remained on the table, and my mother’s morning blood sugar log remained out and newly updated with the results of her last finger prick.  My mother had intentions of coming back home.  Welcome to the first of many, unexpected sucker punches to the gut.

As I took a deep breath to alleviate the aforementioned sucker punch, I tried to hold back tears (I do not cry) and remain stoic.  My mother and I had a cordial, civil relationship at her death.  Despite years of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse – I was now motherless and that kind of hurt in a way I had never planned for.

My mother gave me a priceless gift.  A year after her death, the gift of knowing exactly what type of mother I do NOT want to be to my children remains upfront and center.  How many of us joke about turning into our mothers as we age and our tendencies mimic the exact behavior we despised as children but coming from our mouths, our mannerisms, and our habits?

When I start to get angry at my children for their antics, a quick visit to not-so-pleasant memory lane allows me to recalibrate myself and parent differently and in a better manner.  Thank you, Mom.

When I start to manipulate my children into doing something for me because I am mom and demand they should; I again find myself having a one-on-one conversation with myself about changing my tune or perhaps doing said deed myself because it is not necessary for my children to be manipulated for my purposes.  Thank you, Mom.

When I have uncomfortable conversations with my children, perhaps about boundaries, instead of making dad the bad guy, I quickly and firmly announce that their father and I stand together, united, and that is the way decisions in parenting get made around here.  Thank you, Mom.

Much like any other injury, a broken-heart heals with the passage of time.  On Sunday, May 11th, Mother’s Day – I will be wishing my mom a heavenly Mother’s Day for the inadvertent messages she has gifted me with, as I celebrate Mother’s Day with my own three munchkins.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mommas out there. 

mothers day

RIP MOM

Originally posted at my former blog, Confessions Of A Curvy Girl:  RIP MOM

So, I am on a vacation with my family – a rare treat, indeed.  We are relishing the days of no routine:  no work to race to, no after school pick ups, no soccer practices to run to, and more.  You know the feeling!  Waking up with no agenda, we get to the beach/pool when we can.  We pack our snacks and our hydrating beverages when we feel like it.  We wear nothing more than lycra bathing suits with mere cover ups as we transfer from beach to pool to condo.  It is a luxurious feeling.

And then you get THAT call.

Mid way through my vacation, I received a weird email transcribed by Comcast from a voicemail left for me.  I have not been checking my phone, but I have been following the Boston Marathon explosions closely because of my history with running.  I was going to blog about my feelings of the terrible event of April 15, 2013. But I got the call today, instead.

The doctor nervously asked me if I had heard about my mother yet.  Of course not.  What is going on?  He sadly and stoically pronounced that she had passed away earlier today.

I stood silently and awkwardly in the cabana pool room of vacation wondering what to feel.  My heart hurt, but my brain told me to not feel the pain.  My mother just died.  I felt conflicted.  My internal emotional radar was flashing all alerts red, but my rationale ruled – reminding me that my mother and I have not been close since my cancer diagnosis and that any emotions trying to rear their head were to be surfaced and quashed immediately.

If only that easy.

How would I tell my children that their grandma just died?

My mind raced.  I know she does not have a will.  She did not plan for stuff.  Ever.  She just went with it and if there was a mess, well, by gosh darn it, someone would clean it up.

My mind continued to race.  Of course.  My mother would pass while I am in the midst of a vacation with my family.  That would be the ultimate way she could get her negative attention.

My mind went on and on and on.  My heart ached with the reality that now both of my parents were gone.  I was an “orphan” so to speak.  My children, swimming happily in the pool, now questioned their own mother’s whereabouts – who would she be speaking to on the phone for such an extended duration on their devoted vacation time.

My mother passed away today.  The woman she was today was not the woman who was my mother.  Despite a tumultuous upbringing with what I now know to be a bipolar woman, I did love my mother.  I grieved for the loss of my mother when she was living with me and I was her caretaker, along with caring for my father.

Despite a roller coaster childhood, filled with regular beatings and manipulative mind games, I still loved the woman who birthed me.  Are we not supposed to love our mother’s unconditionally?

It was only during my own fight for my life – my cancer battle, that I realized that not all mothers are created equal.  The mother I longed for, the one who would nurture me and return me to health, along with that of my then unborn child, while we went through horrible bouts of chemotherapy and surgeries and more…..well, she was non-existent.

My mother-in-law stepped up and filled the void, but I would be lying if I said my own mother was one I longed for.  I am envious when friends have that nearly sisterly relationship with their moms.  However, a year and a half of therapy let me know that it is okay that not all of us have healthy moms – healthy relationships with moms or anything in the remote vicinity.

I was cordial with my mother these past few years.  We visited when necessary.  The children retained their relationship with her.  I kept a safe distance away because the reality of who my mother was to me hurt too much.

I have learned what NOT to be as a mother to MY children.  Unconditional love is all they will ever receive from me.  Good, bad, indifferent – I am their mother and I will be there for them.

Instead of focusing on the less than stellar memories, I have chosen to focus on the positive.  Yes, there are some positives in all of this.  Part of who I am today is because of my mother.  There are the “Oh, god, did I just say that?  I AM my mother!” moments…….and then there are the “Phew, I will never act like that – I am NOT my mother!” moments.

My mother, she struggled with loving herself – so I question her ability to truly and deeply love others.  However, I see that she loved my children.  I know that deep down inside her core, aside from her mental illness, she did, in fact, love me.  She had a very odd, and often times demeaning, way of showing it, but I know she did.

I will start to pick up the pieces and put them away neatly; after all, I am a care taker, I clean up messes, I like organization and stuff all tucked away tightly. I take care of stuff.

I will let the good memories surface, and I will store away the unsightly.

I will hug my children tightly and I will hope that my mother rests in peace on the other side.

Hope M. Pritchard

January 15, 1936-April 17, 2013

Read more here about moving on and forgiving My Mother:

“Forgiveness”

 

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