I use mealtimes in our home to teach my four young children about nutrition. Every meal comes with me cheering on the health benefits of a vegetable, and also me trying to sell them on how I prepared it. One evening, the kids were complaining that they were tired of my vegetable experiments. To keep the peace, I made them chicken breast and mashed sweet potatoes, while making a big show of taking lettuce out of my fancy salad spinner.
“Look at this lettuce! There are four kinds of lettuce in here, and each one is packed with a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, phytonurients, and fiber! See these red peppers? Loaded with vitamin C! These blueberries contain antioxidants, and some people call them a superfood! These walnuts are cancer-fighting crusaders AND they are giving me extra protein. These sesame seeds give me even MORE protein!”
I had Babies #3 and #4 hook, line, and sinker. It’s easy to get 4- and 2-year-olds excited, even if they are going to shoot you down when you put dinner on their plates. Fighting cancer cells by the power of food? Bring on the action! The older two, however, were a minute away from eye-rolling and crossing their arms. I plopped a handy nutritional guide on to the table. Baby #2, my scientific-and-fact-checking kid, looked up blueberries. He skimmed the entry. “She’s right,” he declared, “Blueberries are full of antioxidants.” He flipped to walnuts. “She’s right again,” he said with a sigh, “It says they contain cancer-fighting properties.”
My smug self sat down at the table, cutting up the salad and tossing the ingredients together. I took a few bites with a smile of satisfaction on my face. We settled into routine dinner conversation about their days at school, what vocabulary words we should review, and the report of he-said, she-said from recess. I nodded and “Uh-huh”‘ed in my usual manner, emitting pride from every pore as I ate my oh-so-healthy meal.
Then I saw something wiggle on my plate.
I searched around with my fork, and found an awful lot of somethings wiggling on my plate. Then I wondered how many somethings had I eaten off of my plate?!?
Yeah, so much for the salad.
Baby #3 quipped “Well, I guess you really DID make a salad with extra protein!”
Way to go, mom. Maybe next time proper produce washing should be the first lesson.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 1, 2013, with a positive test for the BRCA2 genetic mutation quickly following. Since then, I have had mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction, and a whole lot of mental baggage to work through. On the physical health front, it has lead to
* Eliminating most processed foods (microwaveable meals, summertime hot dogs, hoagies from my favorite local pizzeria, and pretty much everything I grew up eating),
* Limiting alcohol intake to that one beer I sometimes have after the kids go to bed and NOT having two more after I’ve tucked them in the second time,
* Choosing health and beauty products with “clean” ratings (no more wholesale club bargains for me),
* Making my own laundry detergent (which, consequently, cleared up eczema in the kids),
* Using complimentary therapies like acupuncture, massage, and yoga (I have nothing snarky to add here. These work and I wasn’t reluctant to use them),
* Working out on a regular basis (This one hurts the most. I simply don’t find exercise enjoyable), and
* Eating fresh, local, organic produce and ingredients at every meal (yes, it can be as expensive as it sounds).
I am empowering myself to control whatever variables I can. Fortunately, many in our society are finding ways back to better, healthier living, and they are sharing their knowledge. Every day I learn something new, and trial and error are a way of life. But daily doses of humility are what life is all about. There will always something to improve on and to strive for, and what better example can I provide for my children than to laugh at myself while I navigate these new waters. Taking an unexpected illness, all of the baggage that comes with it, and finding reasons to laugh every day is a lesson worth sharing. Not being a victim or a martyr, not dwelling on the challenges any more than it takes to adapt to them, is pretty important, too.
The unexpected should BE expected. A life worth living isn’t predictable, anyway. I’m not happy about the state of my health, and it isn’t a blessing. What I can do, however, is take the negative and turn it into something positive. I can embrace these changes, be open and honest about them, and find the funny in it.
Another positive: worms in my salad are a great appetite suppressor.