It's June, which means Summer.
Summer used to mean days at the beach and hanging out with friends and family.
Life slowed down, and nothing seemed as serious as it did any other time of year.
But then, I became a caregiver to first one parent, and then another, as they battled their individual, yet very similar diseases. For both, one that they brought upon themselves. And now, for both, Cancer.
For an emotional eater, their diagnosis might as well have tacked on a side-effect of 'Obese Daughter', because for 3/4 of the caregiving stress, that's exactly what I became.
I'm young. And ten years ago, I was even younger (I know, right? Amazing :). What I mean is that, although I have always been responsible and mature, I have been dealing with life-altering stress since being in the single digits, but even that did not prepare me for the decade+ of handling the illnesses of my parents.
Basically, it is safe to say that I have never had a mindset of putting myself first. I have always been concerned about others, and especially, about not adding stress to my parents.
When I lost my father in 2008, it was after months of caring for him. While I wouldn't trade it for the world, it was also the most horrifying experience, because I knew that when it was over, he would be gone. My whole life had been defined by worrying about my dad in some capacity or another, but the thought of losing him didn't bring relief. Just pain.
And losing him was awful. It was worse than I could have ever imagined. I think about him every single day, and I miss him more than I could ever find the words to express.
I tried to get healthy after he died, and I succeeded for a while, but the grief of losing him took its toll, and, well, my mom had been fighting her own demons during my father's illness, and once he died, I had to turn my attention to her.
A few years later, and she had survived that battle only to face Cancer. Last summer was the first round of chemo. This summer will start the second.
This time around, however, I am one full year into a solid fitness routine, and I am putting myself first. I cannot say that I don't have days when I get really down about everything my day seems to demand of me. To be honest, one would have to worry about me if I didn't have an honest issue with some of the stress somedays. But, the gym has truly been a stress-reliever for me.
One thing about looking at life from the view of the Cancer Suite is that it is possible to truly see how fragile it all is. And life is about choices. Sure, most of what I am dealing with is through no direct choice of my own. But I have the choice to walk away. I have the choice over how I handle the daily strains.
Life is not going to offer a "perfect" moment to get healthy. It isn't going to stop the stress train any time soon (at least, not my life).
I have to hold down a job and pay the bills. I have to care for my family, and I have goals of my own.
Nothing is just going to fall into my lap. I have to work for it.
My hope for this post is that for anyone who stumbles across it, and is dealing with the stress of life, and wondering how to put health anywhere on the list, you just have to do it. Otherwise, none of it will matter, and none of it will be done with any kind of justice.
If you're a busy mom or dad, work it into your family time. Your getting healthy now may mean that your children will not have to do what I have had to do for my entire adult life---being a caregiver is truly noble, but when it begins in the teenage years, it's not entirely fair.
If you're a workaholic...ask yourself, what are you working for? If it's any kind of list I think it would be, doesn't health also belong on it?
If you just don't know where to start, take a step. Then another. Get off the couch. Life your knees. Take deep breaths. Push yourself until you feel like you're going to die, and then go just a little farther. Then, eat a vegetable.
"Diet" begins with "Die". "Lifestyle" begins with "Life". Make the right choice.