Sunday, June 7, 2015

Parenting, with Cancer

Or should it be called, Cancer, while Parenting... I work on this every day, both of those words are my number one priority.  One I chose to be such, one I did not choose.  Both take all of my energy and devotion, I constantly learn from both, both have changed me in ways I may never even fully understand.  

This time of year is always extremely busy for the girls and I.  With spring weather arrives renewed chores outdoors, a bunch of birthdays in our family, and the final push in school to get everything done before report card time.  May and June have been a write-off in my books for a few years now.  I used to have control over the pace of our activities this time of year, ie. annual girls' weekend up north?  But now I fully participate in helping drag my girls to the finish line... more A's on those French Immersion report cards and lots of pats on the back. Almost summer vacation then a well-deserved sigh of relief.   

We started May with a busy Toronto blast, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was fantastic to be able to take my girls and teach them Toronto and hang out behind the scenes of a morning television news show and meaningful publicity event.  It was a busy reminder that the entire world is our childrens' school.  

Since that crazy first week of May we have slowed things down a bit, brought focus back to our household, got our new puppy, celebrated the girls' 13th birthday.  Yes, 13.

Last year I missed Claire and Cassie's birthday, I was on strict bedrest, two weeks post-surgery. Worst weekend of my life.  I missed the annual sleepover bash we have here, and the entire time I was missing it I was afraid it was my last time to see the girls have a birthday.  I was afraid for my life.  

All of my experiences are now peppered with that fear, or that perspective.  I am "positive-thinking" yes, I know I know... but the reality of the situation calls for me to make decisions very carefully, things are different now.  I no longer approach situations as my former immortal self who may occasionally have been  impulsive.  I have to see the big picture, all the time.  No wonder I am always so tired! 

When making decisions now I have to weigh both sides of the equation, will I be here for the outcome of this?  Or will I not be here for it?  

Financial choices, career goals, home renovations, getting a dog, all of the every day dealings of a normal middle-class adult are on my mind, as they are on the minds of my friends and peers.  
But for me it goes one step further.... do I get a dog? When I'm gone will my family want to be saddled with that burden too? (Yes, the girls will have Reese as a reminder of me and how close we are)  
Should I renovate my kitchen; spend that money now? (Yes, the kitchen will be more functional and easy for me to use while I am here and then will be nice and complete for the girls to inherit)  These are every day dilemmas for me.  

A couple of my friends have criticized me for the negative overtone with which I phrase these questions to myself and others: they say everyone has those worries, that any of us could be hit by a bus one random day.  Aha yes, you could, I could, we all could, but in the meantime I can't be frivolous with my decisions as I live with melanoma.

I have always been a "seize the day" type of person, and in some ways that trait is there now even more than before, I have to reign in my habitual desire to participate in reckless behaviour - I may live long enough to regret the reckless?  On the other hand I feel bored by the level of responsibility I force myself to put on everything I do - must live for today!  But also must pave the way for a successful future, for myself and for my children... as has always been my goal, despite the sometimes bumpy roads I have chosen along my journey. 

These thoughts greatly shape my parenting these days.  I strive to teach my daughters to be adventurous and ambitious and live for today!  But I also must teach them to be conscientious of their futures and how every one of their decisions affect their lives.  

Recently they have encountered some family conflict regarding time missed from school this year.  Their grades are great and they are busy with school-community and extra-curricular activities, very well-rounded kids.  But they (I) have received criticism for their extra missed days this year.  Because of "my cancer" they have missed some school.  I beg to differ:  because of the LIFE EXPERIENCE they are gaining right now, they have missed some school.  Plus the usual snow days and sicks days I might add, wasn't just me...but I digress...

They are not behind in their work, they always stay caught up at home when called for, we work closely with their teacher in that regard.  Their health is mostly okay, some typical 13-year-old-girl ailments slow us down here and there but given their big picture they pretty much rock everything they do.  (well, except for keeping their rooms clean LOL)

So how do I encourage them to be true to themselves and do what they want, and listen to their feelings and trust themselves, and make smart choices, and still take some time to relax, know when to call it when they are tired, not stress out too much over the small stuff?  
There are books written about all of that ...Don't Sweat the Small Stuff is a saying I grew up with and now it is on coffee tables everywhere.  It is that popular for a reason:  everyone needs to learn to relax, don't sweat the small stuff!  

BUT still be conscious of the big stuff.  Find balance.  Find peace.  Be confident in yourself and respect your own needs. Trust yourself.   Be gentle with yourself.  

Ahhhhhh... how much easier that would be to do if we lived in our own little bubble and didn't have the rest of the crap to deal with. 

The kids will be home soon from their weekend, we are having prime rib roast for supper with fresh asparagus and baby red potatoes; I am teaching them to cook in between all of this parenting and cancering.  :-) They are recording their favourite recipes in the Mother-Daughter cookbooks I got them; we are filling up on memories and traditions that they can cherish now and take with them into the future.  Then I think we will take Reese for an evening walk on the beach and maybe light some sparklers.  Then start again tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Claire and Cassandra! xoxoxo


  1. Well said Natalie! Decisions I think about every day - the balance of small things and big picture in the face of your own mortality.

  2. You couldn't be more right in your words. You are being realistic, not pessimistic. You have come to terms with your diagnosis and are taking care of the future but living in the present. It is all you can do. Live today for today. You are an true inspiration to us.