Alarm goes off at 5:45 am. Head pops off the pillow… the military bugle is sounding, soldier! Time to rally the troops, get the 4 school kids up, uniforms on, breakfast made, lunches packed, find their shoes, put the dog out, let the dog in, get the baby out of the crib (& changed and fed), brush everyone’s hair (…and pull it up with hair spray because, well, “A spray a day, keeps the lice away!”), write the little notes on their napkins for their lunches :), Blah, Blah, Blah, (Deep breath – check pulse)… Aaaand it’s only now just 7am and time to hurry in to the car for morning carpool. But, oh, wait, MOM’s still not dressed! Oh well, sunglasses can cover that, no one has to see the p.j. pants, right? Hoodie sweatshirt on, and… GO! (Thank God, my husband spoils me by helping out with morning drop off as much as possible on his way to work, so his wife can avoid public embarrassment of holey, mismatched pajamas and ridiculous under eye circles disguised by celebrity style super-fly sunglasses!) Anywho, at 7am, that’s just the first hour of a mom’s morning. Especially, a mom of 5 kiddos under the age of 10. Just an hour or so later, (after I’ve made it home to throw some yoga pants on and workout top to motivate me to grab a workout at some point, if I don’t just count all my errands and laundry up and down my 2 story as my “gym”), I head to the grocery with the baby and am constantly asked, How do I do it? Funny question, really. How do any of us moms do it? My response lies in the title of an article I recently had published in our local New Orleans Catholic newspaper.
Although, this year, it needs a little update. As of this July, after a full summer of swimming, puppy training, and playing, playing, playing with my full house of crazies, I was diagnosed with an aggressive and complicated form of breast cancer, STAGE 3A HER2+, PR+, E+, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with Tumors in the Lymph nodes. It came as quite a blast to my family;however, somehow I just knew. God had been preparing my heart for quite sometime for this. I felt it in my gut and just didn’t know when, and didn’t know how. I can’t explain it. But now I know, and have peace in having an answer. What’s more, I have the best team of doctors on the planet!
So now, everyone’s question of “How do I do it?”, seems far more legitimate. How will I take care of my kids? Who will take care of my kids? Who knows about all the little things that I do? Who really realizes ALL of the LITTLE things that a mother really does to make the world go around? At least, that’s the question that kept pounding, and always has pounded through my head when I’ve felt overwhelmed, tired, unappreciated or even prideful about how much I do All. DAY. LONG. Let’s face it, a mother’s job is 24-7, right? I gave up sleep 10 years ago! (Hence the coffee grinds!)
Funny how these questions far outweighed any questions that I had about my diagnosis. Because frankly, as I’ve heard so many other mammas when facing a life challenge, “We ain’t got time for dat!” So My husband and I drove straight to the adoration chapel from the Women’s Pavillion (where I received my diagnosis just minutes before) and went to talk to the Big Guy about it all. I first started with all my kid-questions. Jotted every one of them down on the little slips of paper used for prayer intentions, planning to tuck them into the big urn where we ritually put our concerns, offering them up to the Heavens. Then it hit me. God’s got this! He already thought of all my questions. Why? Because these 5 kids that I “juggled” all summer, that I feed and clothe and prepare for school each morning, etc., etc, etc., aren’t mine at all. They are on loan to me from HIM. God has given me the honor of entrusting them to me while they are here, but they were HIS first! Don’t ya think, He knows more than I do and that He’s looking out for them. And He actually loves them more than me. I can barely even say that, because my heart could explode with how much I love my family. Really, they’re ridiculously cute and amazingly unique. Aren’t all of our kids amazing? But seriously, mine are the best! Ha ha ha! 😉 Who am I to think that I’m the only one who can take care of these guys? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s certain things that will always feel the best to them when they see that their mommy did it, but I’m not the only one that is capable. It’s a tough pill to swallow. But it’s true. I had to let go. I had to crumble that paper of all of my questions for God, as if I needed to micro-manage the Lord, and throw it away. Instead, what He needed me to do (what I needed to do) was to write on that little slip of paper these words:
“I give you my body, I give you my family, I GIVE YOU MY CHILDREN. I surrender it ALL to you. Your will be done.”
I think I may need to write that each and every day. It’s a doozy, but It’s the real deal. My life, my children’s life, aren’t mine at all. I’m sooo not in charge. Thank God. I’m so not afraid to admit that I’m a total spaz and a horrible decision maker! I’m so glad that the buck doesn’t stop with me! When people ask me tips on child rearing, as if I’m some kind of Yoda, I’m like, “Oh, don’t ask me. I have no idea what I’m doing! Thankfully, God does and He knows I’m a spaz. So it’s all coffee grinds and rosary beads for me! Ha ha!” It’s true! Motherhood has been the best marine training for my new battle with cancer. People act like I’m being so brave or some kind of a positive hero. But, I assure you that you mammas out there would act the same. When our kids all get the flu and we are just as sick, we press on cleaning up after them, kissing their feverish foreheads and throwing an icepack on ours at the end if we can maybe get a wink of sleep after everyone else has crashed (that is, before the next round of sickies wake up during the night for you to rally and go be the all night nurse again!). We don’t have time for little things like cancer. In the grand scheme, it’s just a little thing!
As I said in my email to my children’s teachers, God’s been singin’ to me and comforting me with Bob Marley. Yup, weird, I know, but apparently God is cooler than cool and sings rasta! “DON’T WORRY, ABOUT A ‘TING, ‘CUZ EVERY LITTLE ‘TING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT!” And it is. As a mom, I’ve become a warrior, but behind the scenes. It may not be glamorous, but the whole “changing the world one diaper at a time” kinda thing has been a big part of my life. We’ve had a lot of diapers. Still do. But I gotta keep praising God in the little things. It’s that or I’ll lose my mind at times (which I do… and hey, a little glass of wine or two here and there never hurt anybody. Jesus did turn water into wine for his first miracle, right? And his mama told him to do it! ) I digress… Soooo on the other hand, on the day to day, I strive to be more like St.Therese of Lisieux. Like her, I can evangelize the world in my little ways. St.Therese of Lisieux was little, but she believed in a God that was BIG and He did great things through her in all of the little things and her little prayers. Her little, but her constant prayers.
I can’t be afraid of the BIG diagnosis and the BIG long journey of my battle ahead. God lives not in the future, but in the present. So I will live in today and what the docs have asked of me today. Don’t look forward, don’t look back. One step at a time. Each day is a new day, and each day I have the opportunity to take this as just that. This cancer is an opportunity for a HUGE blessing. It’s an opportunity that each and every one of my friends, family, and any one that might read this blog could start to pray. If everyone just said one prayer, then that’s the miracle. That’s the healing. I know in my heart of hearts that I’ll be healed at the end of all this through a full treatment of chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation, and reconstruction. But the miracle that everyone keeps praying for has already occurred and will continue if each person that hears my story says at least one prayer. That will make my whole “situation” be worth every moment. I welcome it, I thank God for it. Truly. I thank God for all of you.
Until then, I’ll be continuing with my same old “coffee grinds and rosary beads” approach (Although coffee tastes yucky since treatment, sooooo, maybe chamomile and rosary beads??? ). I just will add some chemo on the side. No big whoop. Oh! And, of course, I’ll be playin’ my Marley in the background, morning, noon, and night.
“This is my message to you-u-u..” – Bob Marley