Less than two months ago, I received the devastating news of having breast cancer. After a series of procedures from sentinel node procedure, DNA test, PET scan, an operation to take the tumor out and meeting specialists (geneticist, surgeon, oncologist, radiologist and just recently an orthodontist) our summer vacation is turning into regular visits to the hospital.
Naturally we (my husband and I) felt that this is not how summer vacations should be for the children. Last year I wrote a summer bucket list with activities that we planned for the children. This year things are extremely different. This year we opted for the other end of the spectrum – to let go of control and see how things will flow. This summer we decided to take things on a daily basis.
But this doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be fun and pleasure. I may have a pressing health issue but it doesn’t mean I cannot spend the precious time I have with my family in ways that will get us involved while going through hospital visits. So how are we doing it? How does our summer look like?
Here are 3 simple ways that we ditched the summer bucket list:
1) Our focus is on TODAY.
“I know what we are going to do TODAY!”
Plans are easy to do and they are also easy to undo. This summer our family is taking on the perspective of let’s see what we can do for today (sounds familiar? yes, it’s what we learned from watching Phineas and Ferb) but instead of focusing on tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we decide on what we can do for the day.
Having an illness is making me rethink a lot of things. Today I chose to play with the family on the WII instead of getting the rooms organized. Kids were still awake and watching their second film for the day. We’ve gone through days were the choice involve getting toys and making stuff on the floor, giving the kids some technology time, doing chores, reading books, making puzzles, drawing, going out to the city center, or getting busy in the kitchen making smoothies or juicing fruits. What’s the plan for today? To get through each day with as much peace and happiness that we can create for our family.
2) We learned to enlist help when needed.
Going for hospital procedures is never easy. It can mean 30 minute visits or it can go for hours. What we have learned early on is to be knowledgeable of what the procedure entails and learn to ask for help when it is needed. When I got my sentinel node procedure, it took a total of 5 hours away from the kids. Having play dates set during appointments like that put me at ease while I go through the motions of poking, probing and diagnosing.
Play dates also give some time for the kids to be away from me during my most vulnerable procedures. We try to be open to the kids with what is going on and even had a wonderful nurse in the Mammacare clinic explain to them what I will be going through. However, at times when I am unsure myself of what is happening, I am comforted with the knowledge that our kids are taken care of and having fun with friends who treat them like family, while I and my partner keep ourselves centered.
3) We provide the environment for fun to happen.
In some appointments where it means just going to the hospital for less than 30 minutes, we opt to bring the kids with us and then have some time together outdoors after the appointment. But that would mean letting our 5 and 7 year old on their own in the waiting room while my husband and I talk with the doctor. For some parents the idea of letting their children unattended can be unsettling. Believe me it was to us at first (and there were days when they knocked on the doctor’s door interrupting the talk just to ask when we are going to be finished). But after talking with them and enlisting their help to get through those few minutes away we decided for them to bring their backpacks with some carefully selected valuables. So what is inside their backpacks?
Here are some of the things that we let them choose from:
Whatever we do or where we are, be it at home or in the waiting lounge of the hospital, we try as much to savor the moment together. Summer time after all is about that – having more time to be together and making memories to talk about for the summer periods to come. It doesn’t need to be fancy, we don’t need to go somewhere different. We just need to be together and find pleasure in the moments that we share.
Lana Jelenjev is a freelance educational consultant who recently got diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. She blogs about her activities with her children at Smart Tinker and just recently started writing about her musings on parenting as she navigates through a new territory of hospital visits, a whirlwind of feelings and in finding compassion as she battles cancer, a disease that her mom succumbed to at age 49. She advocates for the importance of early detection and encourages women to take part in her Breast Check Challenge.by
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