I have to apologize first for not posting since late December. I honestly had no idea when I posted my 'December: Colors of the Month' that it would be my last post not just for the last few days of the year, but for the next month that followed. I wish I could write about some sort of really exciting news or an amazing adventure our family went on during my blogging break, but that wasn't the case. This image best sums up my absence:
This image is what my left upper arm looks like as of late. I wish I could say a freakish DIY accident caused this prominent scar, but that wasn't the case. My scar is the result of the surgery that took place on the 3rd of January to remove a melanoma from my arm. Cancer is never a word you want to hear. Especially when it's being diagnosed in yourself or a loved one. Especially not when you are in your very early thirties and have 2 young kiddos.
To say the week and a half that followed my diagnosis was terrifying would be a huge understatement. The day that I received the news that a suspicious mole was actually a melanoma was the same day I met with the plastic surgeon who operated on me 6 days later. Then I waited for the pathology to come back so we would know how deep and far the melanoma had spread. The good news was that the melanoma was caught early and the original mole biopsy had removed all of the melanoma cells, which meant that the surgery removing a large section of skin surrounding the melanoma (to ensure all cancer cells and a safety margin surrounding them were taken out) completed my treatment.
I thank God every day that I made an appointment to see my dermatologist in December, and I thank Him for gifting her with the skills to identify a suspicious area on my skin. For the record, since I was a youngster, I have made annual trips to the dermatologist's office thanks to my my fair and moley:) skin. I have never been (and will never become) a sun bather. In fact, as a youth I was not a fan of hot weather at all. I was an active child, however, and have been an active adult spending countless hours outside playing sports, working in the yard and chasing kiddos!
While the outcome turned out as absolutely best as I could hope for, the experience completely shook me to the core. It made me consider my own mortality. It put my focus on improving my health. It made me realize yet again the importance of family and friends, especially during difficult times! My mom came and stayed with us for 10 days, and I could not be more grateful that she gave us her time. When things get really bad, I swear I turn into an 6 year old and just want my mom, my childhood bed, and LeMutt (a childhood stuffed animal). I appreciated all the emails and texts and cards from family and friends, too.
As with any difficult experience, first you have to get through the ordeal and then you have to figure out how to move forward. In reflecting on how I was living before my diagnosis, I recognized a few things in no particular order:
1. While our family is relatively fit, we weren't eating the best. We had fallen into a rut of eating the same easy to prepare foods over and over again. We have now challenged ourselves to eat better. We have made detailed breakfast, lunch and dinner menus for the week so that we have variety in our diets, and we are striving to eat organically whenever possible. I'd never really considered our food sources prior to my melanoma diagnosis, but now it seems really important to avoid as many chemicals as possible both in our diet and in our environment.
2. Faith has been missing in our life. We haven't regularly attended church since we moved to Minnesota 4 years ago. Faith and prayer is so very important during difficult times, and we have not missed a Sunday mass in the month of January. It's really important to me now, and I love that our kids are being exposed to our Catholic faith on a more meaningful level.
3. Sleep is so important! While maintaining our household and this blog, my typical bedtime was between 12-1am. My wake up call comes every morning between 5:30 and 6am with this call from Charm: "Mommy, where are you?" I would run around all day long doing projects I really, really enjoyed, but I was wiping myself out without even realizing it. My goal bedtime is now 10:30pm. It's amazing how much better I feel the next day when I go to sleep on time!
4. Exercise is beneficial for body and mind! It's a no brainer, but it's also so easy to prioritize activities ahead of exercise. This month I've been trying out yoga classes, and will hopefully settle into a nice exercise routine a few times a week. It is a priority.
5. Sun exposure awareness is crucial. I was shocked to learn that both my dermatologist and primary care physician (who practice in cities about 30 minutes apart) both had seen an alarming number of melanoma diagnoses in young females in the last two months. While I do believe there is a genetic component to the disease that places me (and others like me) at higher risk of developing the disease, I can't help but wonder if the environment is playing a big role too. My experience will have major impacts on how we use sunscreen in our family. Our kids have never played outside in the sun during the summer without having sunscreen applied. We have been very, very strict about this and will continue to be. We've even been putting sunscreen on their faces before we go on walks in January! As for me, I will never go outside in the summer without a thick layer of sunscreen. I also have picked up the world's biggest sun hat that has spf infused into the fabric.
6. My entire family will have regular skin checks from here on out. We must be diligent at looking for irregularities in our own skin and make regular visits to our dermatologist's office to make sure any issues are caught early.
7. Too much 'stuff' in a house is really stressful!! We have too much 'stuff' around here.
Another example is our silverware drawer. It was overflowing with plastic IKEA forks, spoons and knives. I replaced those plastic utensils with stainless steel versions. We don't have nearly as many forks and spoons for the kids as we did before, but we don't need that many!! Our silverware drawer is organized and we can shut the drawer easily. Simple changes like that are going on around our house like crazy!! Simplify and organize. Simplify and organize! Our office will be tackled in the near future to address the paper filing issues that we currently have. Our mudroom is being organized so entering and exiting our home is less stressful and more organized. I'm taking it one cupboard and one drawer at a time. If I don't love it and/or don't have a place for it, it's not going to stay in our home! Our garage sale pile is huge already. I can hardly wait to see how much we'll have to sell come May!
8. Blogging takes up tons of time! I spent hours completing projects, uploading images and writing posts. And the time that I had spent on the blog will now be used for other things like exercising and sleeping!:) Also, there are lots of changes going on in our house, and they don't have much to do with home decor, which is mostly what this blog has been about in the past. Going forward, I will dedicate less time to decor projects than in the past, which means there won't be daily posts anymore. I need to continue getting solid sleep. I need to spend time exercising. I need to focus on spending more quality time with my kids before they head to school.
To wrap things up, this past month has been a perspective altering, priority shifting, faith and character building time for myself and my family. It's been quite the roller coaster, and I finally feel like were settling back into our new norm. As for this blog, I'm not sure what the future has in store. Please be patient as I figure it out. For now, I plan to do a post or two a week in topics relating to home decor, our family life and our new 'healthy' lifestyle. Check in now and then and leave me a comment if you like what you're reading:)!!
I hope you all had a wonderful start to the New Year! 2012 is going to be great!!
P.S. Please understand that I'm not writing this post to receive pity. I'm moving forward (but welcome any questions people may have about my experience). Instead, I'm writing this to encourage others to remember to take care of yourself (especially young parents). If you have a health concern, get it checked out! Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise! Make your body and your health a priority, and don't forget to wear sunscreen!