How Does A Family History Of Cancer Impact Us?

Hey everybody! I’ve been thinking lately about how our family’s health history influences our own lives. Do you let it impact your decisions? Do you feel your lifestyle choices are judged by people who know about your family’s health history?

If you wouldn’t mind, I would super duper appreciate it if you could take this survey and let me know how your family’s health history has affected you. Thank you!!

Just click here to get started!

And remember, I always appreciate the great community here and couldn’t have done it without your support!

you're the best

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Is A Chronic Illnesses Really A Secret Superpower?

Have you ever had a “light bulb moment” about an issue that completely changed your perspective? I’ve been struggling with the challenges my chronic illnesses present for years, but motherhood was a curveball I didn’t expect. But was I really as unprepared as I thought?

Light bulb moment!

What if…?

 

Today I had the privilege of sharing my story of chronic illness, motherhood, and attempting to achieve superhero status. Head on over to Mom Babble to check out the post and let me know what your “light bulb moment” was!

WebMD Gal Gone Wild!

I am beyond delighted to have the uproarious and talented Stephanie D. Lewis of Once Upon Your Prime as today’s guest author. Her post deals with a subject many chronically ill people deal with on a regular basis: the dangers of searching your symptoms on the internet. Prepare for a hilarious parody of the physician-kind and make sure to check out her bio at the end!

WARNING: If you have any post-baby bladder problems, grab a pad because this post can cause you to laugh hard enough that you may suffer a urinary accident!

The Doctor Is In But I’m Out . . . Of My Mind!

All my adult life I have dealt with a debilitating disorder – – it’s called, “Tell & Show Syndrome.” Someone will TELL me about a new rare disease and WHAM! – – all the signs of it SHOW up throughout my body.

new-girl-might-be-dying-gif

To say I am highly suggestible is an understatement. I can read an article in a woman’s magazine entitled, “10 Symptoms You’re Too Bashful To Discuss With Your Male Doctor (But You Should Before It’s Too Late!)” ~ Immediately I have all 10 plus 4 bonus ones the author wasn’t imaginative enough to think of. Fear and panic overtakes all my shyness. Gimme that doctor right this minute! I might even consider going to second base with him for a second opinion.

webmd-whats-wrong-with-me-kristen-wiig-gif

I do have a regular physician I call several times a week, and I’m sure the nurses give him messages that go like this – –

“That hypochondriac lady (who resembles a highly fatigued Amy Winehouse, minus the tattoos) is on the phone again. Today she’s claiming that when she walks, it feels like thumbtacks/paperclips are poking her feet. Should we advise her to proceed directly to the local office supply store?”

wont respond arrested development

Feeling rather unwelcomed there, I go to my beloved online medical information mecca – – “The Web MD.”

First of all, it never dawns on me that the word “Web” in their name is a subtle symbolic tip-off that I should stay far, far away. Let’s think about this, shall we? Who has webbed feet? Ducks! And what do ducks say? “QUACK!” Hello??

But this doesn’t deter me from typing, “thumbtacks sticking feet” into the symptom-checker box and obtaining a shocking diagnosis. Four shocking diagnoses, actually. One relates to my Brain, one relates to my Heart, another to my Lungs, and the final one to my Stomach. Interestingly, none of the diseases have anything to do with Feet. And all are extremely fatal.

dying ferris bueller

Having gotten C +’s in my Deductive Reasoning classes in high school, I know it isn’t possible that I would be afflicted with ALL four of these maladies. That’s only logical, right? So which one can I safely eliminate?

Next I do what I always do at 2:00 in the morning – – I log onto a hospital patient message board and post about my situation, asking if someone “out there” has ever experienced a symptom like this but everything turned out to be completely fine? I stare for hours at my computer screen waiting for anyone to type a reassuring response. And then it dawns on me. .

The reason nobody can answer my question. . .

Everyone who had this same problem has ALREADY died.

miss j scared

Should I start writing my Obituary or my Last Will and Testament first? And what about guardians for my precious kids! Why, oh why couldn’t my ex-husband and I ever agree on whom to name as caretakers in the event of our deaths?? His sister puts ketchup on eggs, doesn’t believe in orthodontia, and Danielle Steele is her favorite author. So what? I shoulda let all that go.

“Please God,” I bargain, “I know last week I hated this world and said I’d rather be dead than go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my expired driver’s license. But I promise to find gratitude and get a new lease on life – – just please don’t let me expire!”

please leslie knope

There’s nothing left to do. Except find a brand new doctor who hasn’t heard about my “Boy Who Cried Wolf” past. My previous doctors have issued, “WARNING: Circus Side Show Freak” bulletins about me to the medical community at large, so this will be no easy task.

I finally show up on the doorstep of an office in a faraway town. I watch as their “The Doctor is in” sign lights up. I’ve always believed first impressions are important so here is how I fill out the paperwork on the clipboard.

 New Patient Form:

NAME: (circle one) Miss/Mrs./Ms.    I’m divorced so technically it’s “Ms.” But please call me “Miss” as in “Little Miss Menopause.” Although Mr. may be a distinct possibility these days – – can you check my testosterone level?      

AGE:  I just caught a glimpse of you at the reception desk….I could be your mother’s big sister.

REASON FOR TODAY’S VISIT?   Look at me! Isn’t it obvious? I just need the Dr. to confirm how much time I have.

WEIGHT:  Who cares at this point? Just order me a size 8 burial gown. And yes, I’m banking on the fact that loss of appetite will kick in soon with this particular disease.

PROFESSION:  Writer (Pssssst! Hot tip: Publish this New Patient form. Everyone knows a deceased author’s last work commands a high price.)

EVER SKIPPED A PERIOD?  Yes, but I’m working diligently on eliminating my run-on sentences.

WHOM CAN WE THANK FOR REFERRING YOU?  You mean blame?

PERSON TO CALL IN EMERGENCY: Um…my two ex-husbands will deny knowing me. Let’s see….My kids will just ask, “What’s for dinner?” Oh, don’t call the neighbors, they’ll tell you I should have died 7 times by now.  Hmmm, I think you might call Mabel, my hairdresser. But when you say, “Died” – – you better spell it. She’ll think you mean Clairol Nice n’ Easy Deep Burgundy Brown.

I’m interrupted by the Doctor, who calls me in. He listens to my heart and pronounces it steady and strong. I resist the urge to ask when he’s last had his stethoscope calibrated. I describe how I feel (this time likening it to my feet being stabbed with steak knives) but he cuts me off before I can get to the Web MD part.

DR: Have you ever heard of Transient Paresthesia?

ME: Oh no, Doctor! Not that! I don’t even ride a train or bus!

DR: Not “Transit.” Transient, meaning Short-Lived.

ME: Good Lord, you mean I’m gonna go even quicker than I thought?

DR: Where ya headed to?

ME: Aren’t I dying?

DR: We all are. But I think you’re gonna survive this one. Transient Paresthesia = Limbs falling asleep.

As I depart, I glance over my shoulder to see him sketching a big-haired woman with the caption, “BEWARE OF CREATIVE BLOGGER WITH TOO MUCH TIME ON HER HANDS….She needs to be cut off ASAP!!” He then posts it on the WEB MD website!

gaga yes i'm judging you


 About the Guest Author:

Stephanie D. Lewis is a regular contributor for The Huffington Post and her work has been featured on Scary Mommy, The Mid, XO Jane, and Bluntmoms. She pens a humor blog called, “Once Upon Your Prime” and her novel, “Lullabies & Alibis” is available on Amazon. A single mother of six, she declines a full-time nanny/housekeeper but needs a live-in psychiatrist. Follow her on Twitter @missmenopause

 

Mommy Wants A Nap

Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to hit pause? Let me rephrase, do you ever have a day where you don’t want to hit pause? Lately I feel like I’ve been trying to chase an unwieldy boulder careening downhill… while wearing a blindfold… and with one arm tied behind my back.

I’m not exactly your typical working mom. My “day job,” if you will, involves working with children facing developmental or behavioral challenges and that has me driving to schools and students’ homes. My other job – and yes I consider it to be a legit job – is writing and I can fortunately do that anywhere and at any time. Both jobs require using my brain and I can’t really go on auto-pilot. Well, I could, but the outcome probably wouldn’t be great.

homer simpson job fail

“Just gonna check Facebook for a minute and – WHERE’S THE BABY?!”

Sometimes I wish I could just “check out” for a minute and not think about anything at all. I tend to be a tad neurotic and over analyze things, so when you couple that with being a working mom, you have the perfect recipe for a mushy brain by the end of the day. But that’s just the thing – there really isn’t an end of the day for most moms, working or otherwise. There’s usually not a beginning either, just a continuation of whatever chaos preceded the momentary silence. I could be a bit biased, however, since my toddler still isn’t sleeping through the night. No, that’s putting it mildly. He refuses to sleep through the night. He abhors bedtime. Perhaps my son was a Welsh poet in his previous life?

Renamed "Ode to a Toddler's Bedtime"

Renamed “Ode to a Toddler’s Bedtime”

Work becomes at best a hiccup and at worst a reprieve from the routine of the day. I don’t ever want to treat work as an escape from motherhood nor do I want to resent work from tearing me away from my son. It’s a conundrum and not just a maternal one. My husband similarly knows this back-and-forth game as well. He works a full-time, physically demanding job and usually has weekends off. He occasionally is jealous that I get, as one could call it, our son’s “best” hours. For the most part, I’m the one that has him during the fun, play time of the day while my husband is there just as Max is waking up or getting ready for bed. As the old saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Or as parents say, “How come the baby never cries when he’s with you?”

This might have something to do with it

This might have something to do with it.

I often think, “If I just had more ____, then I could breathe easier.” Whether it’s sleep, time, money, help, etc., I’ll convince myself that it would be the miracle cure to whatever happens to be stressing me out at the moment. Yet my biggest realization about motherhood is that I can’t control everything and micromanaging is rarely the answer. Yeah, sure, I had the realization, but that doesn’t mean I acted on it. Despite my repeat viewings of Frozen, my Type A Personality prohibits me from letting it go.

Grumpy Cat gets me on so many levels.

Grumpy Cat gets me on so many levels.

Like most working parents, I wear many hats in a 24 hour period. I’m an employee, a mother, writer, wife, sister, friend, and the list doesn’t end there. I’ve found it’s healthy to complain, sometimes I should say no, and asking for help is never a sign of weakness. There are huge life lessons I’ve learned and growing pains I’ve gone through in adding “mother” to my résumé. Yet with all the soul-searching, usually the answer to my problem isn’t some grand sentiment that you’d find in an”inspiring quotes” Google search. Sometimes the solution is quite simple: Mommy wants a nap. Who’s with me?

"So that's 1, 2, 3, 4... 957,015 in favor?"

“So that’s 1, 2, 3, 4 ….. 957,015 in favor?”

What To Do When You And Your Baby Are Sick

This is one of those posts I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t have to write.  But, alas, my little one got the flu and a bonus ear infection a while back and then just kept getting sinus problems coupled with (BONUS!) teething.  For all the fellow autoimmune disorder moms out there, you know what that means, right?  Yup.  It means you’re getting sick, too.  Over the course of the past couple months, I also got the bonus ear infection (full with perforated eardrum) plus a super sized sinus infection and limited edition stomach flu!  So here are my first-hand tips on what to do when both you and your baby are sick:

1. SANITIZE ALL THE THINGS

Not even kidding with this one.  My husband usually teases me because of my OCD and proclivity for decontaminating things, but this time of year no one is joking about the Purell!  Your little one, no matter the age, is carrying a copious amount of germs.  Whether your baby is sneezing in your face, putting everything in his mouth, or touching everything with sticky hands, he or she is spreading germs.  Your first line of defense?  Sanitize things and do it often.  Wipe down hard surfaces and plastic toys, wash bedding and soft toys, and pay special attention to communal areas (like the living room or bedroom) and shared objects (like remotes or pillows).  So even if you are already sick, this will help limit the length of your sicky days and will hopefully prevent it from being reintroduced into your family.

Dean knows what's up

Dean knows what’s up

2. Limit Time in “Danger Zones”

Whether you’re trying to prevent getting sick or you already are, it’s a good idea to limit your baby’s and your exposure to germy hotbeds.  Now may be the time to cancel play dates, say no to Chuck E Cheese, and avoid busy malls.  This goes both ways, too.  Not only are you trying to reduce your chances of getting sick, but you also don’t want to be “that mom.”  You know the mom I’m talking about.  It’s the mom who brings her clearly sick child to daycare or a group play date and seems oblivious to the fact that he’s snotting all over the toys and is coughing directly into your child’s mouth.  So yeah, don’t be “that mom.”  And limit time in potential danger zones so you don’t have to run into “that mom.”

You know the type. Won't even turn away to sneeze

You know the type. Won’t even turn away to sneeze

3. Rest, rest, and more rest

Easier said than done, right?  While I’m inclined to agree, there is one exception to the rule.  You can’t properly care for your sick child if you are running on fumes.  Take it back to the newborn days when you repeated this mantra like a bloodshot-eyed zombie “you sleep when the baby sleeps.”  If your baby is sick, hopefully he or she will actually be taking more naps than usual since they’re feeling pretty rundown themselves.  So forget dishes and errands.  Seize every opportunity you can to nap and take it easy.

God bless this girl for having the courage to do what we all wish we could

God bless this girl for having the courage to do what we all wish we could

4. Ask for (and accept) help

Thankfully I live within ten minutes of both my mother and mother-in-law.  And thankfully we all got sick when people weren’t terribly busy.  So thankfully (again) I had no shortage of help when my baby and I needed it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, don’t mistake pride for courage and remember it’s not a Mompetition (remember that one?).  No one is going to judge you for letting your mom watch the baby while you get some shuteye or if your mother-in-law graciously brings over dinner.  And if anyone does judge you, they are either jealous or… well no they’re probably just jealous and you should feel bad for them.

Let yourself feel a little braggy for a minute

Let yourself feel a little braggy for a minute

Mom Jealousy

Oh jealousy, you fickle fiend, always rearing your grumpy green head at the absolute worst moment.  As if I wasn’t stressed enough – planning my son’s first birthday and traveling back and forth between the Florida coasts to visit family – that familiar feeling decided to come creeping up recently.  Logically, I know it’s just my own insecurities making me feel like I’m losing some imaginary mom competition (Mompetition?), but that doesn’t seem to help me shake the feeling.

Just can't shake it!

Just can’t shake it!

I’ll be honest.  I get jealous.  A lot.  I get envious of moms who appear to have it all, moms who seem to be able to do it all, moms who don’t worry, healthy moms, moms who have all the answers.  You name it, I’ve either been jealous of or insecure about it.  But I don’t really linger on the jealousy.  It’s more of a fleeting thought that flickers across my mind when I see a woman at the grocery store, hair perfectly in place, bright eyes, carrying multiple things with ease, that I wonder to myself how I must look in comparison.  Messy ponytail with strands pulled undone by little hands, bleary eyes, struggling to find where I last put my debit card.  How could I not feel a little twinge of envy?

yup

Riiight?!

It’s not all pity party, though.  Sometimes I get these “epiphany moments” where I’m inspired by some random BuzzFeed article, convinced that I’ve found the ultimate life hack to turn me into Super Mom or a Pinterest board with the perfect sensory play project to guarantee my baby will be the next Einstein.  I’m full of optimism that I can finally be the best mother my child deserves and the best me that I deserve.

Such blind optimism

Such blind optimism

Of course things never turn out that way.  Something will inevitably go wrong and then those insecure feelings come back.  It can be a vicious cycle.  And normally, if I find out that I’m not alone in my self-doubt, I’ll start to feel better.  Yet somehow this isn’t one of those times.  I’ve heard every woman I know, chronically ill or not, vent about their issues of Mompetition (I’m trying to make this word happen, if you can’t tell).  And sure, we get together for a GNO and all chime in with our own horror stories and commiserate with each other, but most of the time we still go back home full of angsty sighs that would make a 90s grunge teen look like sunshine.

Angela Chase ain't got nothing on me

Angela Chase ain’t got nothing on me

But you know what snapped me out of my ‘Envy–>Self-Doubt–>Repeat’ cycle?  It may seem totally insignificant, yet it was a game-changer for me.  Not too long ago I was out to lunch with my best friend and my son.  On paper he should have been fine; he had just eaten, napped, and been changed.  Except, right around the time when I was getting ready to eat, he decided to have a meltdown.  So there I was, in a restaurant full of judge-y eyes, feeling the “shame sweat” begin to bead up on my forehead, trying to gently bounce him on my knee and maintain a smile as if he wasn’t letting out a demon-summoning shriek.

...basically

…basically

And you know what happened?  My best friend, God bless her, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hey, you are doing great right now.  We all need to feel validated and I’m here to tell you that you are doing great.”  At the time, I just shrugged, nervously laughed, and mumbled out an awkward thank you.  But as I drove home, with my untouched lunch in a to-go box and my mini-monster blissfully asleep in the car seat, I let her words really sink in.  She saw, as only another woman can, the exact kind of panic I was in.  And she didn’t try to flatter me with superficial cliches nor did she avert her gaze and pretend not to know me (which I wouldn’t have blamed her for).  Instead, she told me exactly what I needed to hear.  It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else; it’s about being told you’re doing great, warts and all.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

So to all the women (mothers or not) who have validated me, I sincerely thank you.  And in case no one has told you yet, you are doing great.

How to Survive Baby’s First Holiday

The holiday season is upon us once again!  This time last year I was on bed rest, beyond ready for the baby to come, and feeling like a beached whale.  This year, I’m always on my feet chasing my mini monster, beyond ready for a nap, and… actually I still kind of feel like a beached whale some days.  I guess some things don’t change *wink wink*  Another thing that hasn’t changed is the high level of stress that the holidays can bring.  So here are some tips to help you survive your baby’s first holiday season!

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than that ‘trying to keep my head above water’ feeling when it comes to getting overwhelmed by the holidays.  Okay, well maybe a few things are worse than that, like explosive diarrhea in a bathroom with no air conditioning or driving on I-4.  But holiday stress is still pretty gnarly.  One way to try and make the season more manageable?  Plan ahead.  Things become a lot less intimidating once you start breaking them down.

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

If the thought of driving 3 hours with your baby to go see relatives is keeping you up at night, try envisioning the actual situation in your head.  For instance, if you know you will be going somewhere your baby is unfamiliar with, bring a blanket or toy from home to make them feel comforted and safe.  Thinking ahead makes things less scary and helps you figure out what you need to do to be prepared!  Speaking of prepared…

Extra Clothes (for mom AND baby)

You can never have too many back-up outfits when you’re getting ready to take your baby on a trip.  Whether it’s a quick visit with Grandma or an all-day event, always pack extra clothes!  My son has acid reflux issues so he spits up frequently and thus goes through more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga.  But it wasn’t until one day early on, when I was still a wide-eyed mom full of optimism, that he puked all down the front of my shirt (and missed himself, of course) and things changed.

I call it "The Embarrassment Sweats"

I call it “The Embarrassment Sweats”

 

I had tons of onesies for him in the bag, but nothing for me.  A lesson I only needed to learn once!  So save yourself the embarrassment and subsequent awkward explanations – “Oh this?  Haha yeah, it’s pureed squash and puke. Hashtag ‘mom life,’ riiiight?? Haha okay bye! – and pack a back-up shirt for you and your partner.

Don’t Underestimate People

If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, then you know I’m inclined to convince myself that the worst case scenario will happen.  I also carry a nice British-sized dose of guilt and awkwardness around.  So I tend to get nervous about how people will react when something bad (inevitably) happens.  What if my baby spits up on my in-law’s rug?  What if I have to say no to an event invite altogether?  What if we have to leave a party early because my son is reaching a nuclear reactor level meltdown?

It's about to get real

It’s about to get real

Having actually experienced all of these things, I can tell you firsthand the surprising outcome: everyone was actually super nice and understanding about the situation!  Unless someone is just a major Grinch (get it? Holiday humor!), people are actually fairly accommodating and sympathetic to life’s little mishaps especially when it concerns your health and/or babies. So breathe a sigh of relief and don’t underestimate the kindness of people.

Smile… a lot

This one may sound a little cheesy, but hear me out.  As a mom with multiple chronic illnesses, I’m often in some degree of pain or discomfort.  Don’t go pulling out the violin, I’m just stating fact here and I’m sure all you other moms with similar issues can appreciate my candor when it comes to health.  And since I’m no stranger to feeling uncomfortable, I’ve mastered my “serene” face.  However, upon looking at some photos a few weeks ago, I noticed just how calculated my “serene” face looked.  It was a cross between a mannequin and a the snob who just has to mention that she knows those are last year’s  shoes you’re wearing.

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

Basically, my face didn’t display the kind of mirth and joy one expects to see in family holiday photos.  You may think this sounds a bit superficial, but trust me.  Any other time of year I would say, “Hey, I’m gonna wear sweatpants, I don’t care.  Deal with it, blah blah feminism blah blah.”  But since this is my baby’s first holiday season, I don’t want the pictures of our new little family to remind me of my disease every time I look back at them.  I want the photos to capture all the wonderful emotions my heart feels in spite of my health.  So if that means having to summon the majestic power of a thousand bald eagles to keep a smile on my face for a few minutes, so be it.

Make time and BREATHE

If you remember only one thing from this post, let it be this.  Take a moment during this busy season and just breathe.  Everything will be okay and the world will keep on spinning even if things don’t turn out quite the way you had pictured.  If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that it’s all temporary and things will be calmed down and back to normal soon enough.  Try not to let the little things get you down.

Rise above it!

Rise above it!

And most importantly, take time to just celebrate your wonderful baby and allow yourself to forget about all the hullabaloo for a little bit.  My partner and I always make a point to snag a moment where it’s just us and our baby.  Granted your baby will have no idea what’s going on, but it can be special bonding experience for you and your partner to revel in the awesomeness of parenthood.  Treasure this first holiday season with your little one because it only happens once!

Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Soyal, Yaldā, Yule, and Festivus to you all!!!

(Sorry if I forgot anyone!)