When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

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Now that it is nearly February, it feels as though we are well into the New Year and the holidays feel months ago.  We started to take down all of the snail mail holiday photo cards we received wishing us peace, health, and happiness in 2019.  

It's fun to see everyone's families and how they've changed in just a year - little Joey is now as tall as his mom, the Talles family got a new family member - their dog Lily, and the Hoffner family traveled to Europe with the kids and saw the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben.  

It's wonderful to see what everyone has been up to and how they are changing, creating memories, and enjoying every moment. That is what life's all about, isn't it?
Unfortunately, we cannot achieve these experiences and live life to the fullest if we don't have our health.  

This past August when my husband was diagnosed with Stage 2 melanoma our lives seemed paralyzed.  Living in fear, worrying about what was to come, we took each day at a time. Life is busy, overwhelming, and stressful as it is for our family; the added weight of a cancer diagnosis just made our world foggy.

Reality set in - we are getting older, we are not invincible, life is fragile and we cannot take it for granted. We are in the most critical years of parenting to help ensure our three girls are influenced and molded into responsible, sensible young women.  The thought of doing this alone sent me into a panic. A panic and feeling that I was compelled to mask in order to protect my kids and avoid them of any worry or fear about daddy.

After my husband endured a four-hour invasive face surgery, we were relieved to learn the cancer did not spread any further. We've all had our own "scares" and experiences that influence and change our perspectives.  

For us, this was one of the greatest. Cancer has become so prevalent among our contemporaries and those we know and love, it's been like finding out another person got the flu.

With the stresses of work and life in general, how does one manage through such a bump in the road when life gives you lemons?

Make lemonade. In the face of adversity,  we found a few ways to help us cope. Because life goes on and we needed some semblance of normalcy.

First, lean on your network and support system and overcome any fear of asking for help. Despite having no family near where we live, we are fortunate to live in an incredible community surrounded by friends, teachers, and clergy who were and are willing to help at any time. I have always been one to fight having to rely on others - especially friends - because they are busy with their own families and life pressures so the last thing I wanted to do was burden anyone else.

I had to relinquish that fear and lean on others as this was not just a situation of my nanny forgot to pick up my kid from soccer practice or my kid forgot their lunch at home. Don’t be afraid to phone someone and ask for help. You will be surprised how even an acquaintance may go above and beyond in a moment of need. People want to help.

Second, find your mechanism to relax.  Relaxing felt impossible.  We had to wait a month between the cancer diagnosis and surgery. There was nothing we could do. That month felt like a lifetime. I felt suffocated by time but I found a renewed connection with classical music (including pieces I used to play on the piano as a child) and started listening to it all the time.

This helped me to relax and breathe. It was my way of coping with the stress and anxiety that enveloped us.  And it worked.

Finally, align and communicate.  It was crucial that my husband and I agreed on how we managed the situation with the kids to curb the potential behavioral and emotional impact.  They knew something was going on with daddy but they are still young so we needed to make sure we approached the conversation delicately. We had to tell them about the surgery because we knew he’d come home looking like he was Freddy Krueger from" Nightmare on Elmstreet."  

For us, it was using simple terms (e.g. "daddy has bad germs that could hurt him" vs reinforcing.cancer) along with a more subdued tone to relay the serious nature of the situation without completely scaring them. Most importantly, we were unified on our approach and this helped pacify and alleviate some of the worries among the children. Bottom line is to handle it in the way that is most comfortable for your family and ensure any and all authoritative figures are aligned on the approach and nomenclature.  

So, this year, happy and HEALTHY new year has renewed meaning for us. Live life to the fullest. Don't sweat the small stuff. Continue to create moments and memories however you choose because that is what gives meaning to our lives.  And when life gives you lemons, although it may feel impossible, do your best to find ways to make lemonade.