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Learning to Stop Rushing While I Face Multiple Myeloma

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One year ago I walked away from a job that I have loved for a long time to put my health, my family and myself first. This came after a diagnosis of multiple myeloma about 18 months before.

This was not an easy decision for me at all. It felt selfish. It felt overly dramatic. It just didn’t feel like… me. I was a full-time working mom and wife — that’s my thing.

But since then I’ve been “just” a mom and a wife and oh, someone who happens to have cancer. I am less stressed, getting better sleep, spending more time with my family and generally am just more focused on my own wellness. I have been moving so much more (10,000 steps a day —  some days I have that many before lunch). And I actually am sweating again from exercise (well, the 90+-degree summer heat is a part of that, too).  And my monthly blood work shows my numbers are good — really good.

Clearly, saying yes to me is working.

Being home has been exactly what the doctor ordered (both literally and figuratively). However, I am finding it’s not easy to change who we are at our core. I am someone who was always on-the-go. Rushing to get the kids on the bus. Rushing to work. Rushing from work. Rushing to get dinner on the table. Rushing to get the kids to their activities. Rushing to put them to bed. (OK, I think almost all parents can agree this one makes sense).

But the point is, what’s the rush? Why are many of us constantly running around, like our hair is on fire? Why don’t we really, truly enjoy the moments we are in?

It hit me today as I was walking our dog. When I take her for our morning walk, I am a girl on a mission. For me, it’s to get her to do her business and to get my steps logged into my Fitbit. But she’s a dog. Her mission: to chase butterflies, roll in the grass and pick up sticks.

She’s not in a rush. She wants to literally stop and smell the roses.

This morning I found myself getting irritated because she was slowing me down. Didn’t she realize I have a million things to do? Um, actually no, I don’t.

Let’s be clear. No one would ever describe me as a patient person. I am not proud to admit this. I wish I were more patient, and I try, really I do. But some days I can’t stop myself from the screaming in my head when the kids say my name over and over and over. The constant bickering can be irritating, even when I know I should be more tolerant and help them find ways to work through their fights (as ridiculous as they almost always seem to me).

And it is only because I bite my tongue while driving that my kids don’t have a growing list of curse words in their vocabulary, instead of me constantly screaming out expletives when the person in front of me is going too slow/stops short/generally does something to irritate me.

Patience may be a virtue… just not one of mine!

Now that I have this time to focus on my health and slow down, I am committed to trying to do a better job of not rushing so much and just taking my time. But I think many of us are guilty of this, aren’t we? It seems easy to say ”be more present” and “live in the moment.”

When you have a cancer diagnosis, you do truly appreciate the cliche that life is short, and you should enjoy each day you are blessed to have. And I do, on a grand scale.

But on a daily basis, it’s hard to stop the constant “go go go” mentality. I am still that mom and wife. I still have a million things to do.

Incredibly, that list seems longer now that I am not working. How is that possible?

Most of us know that stress is bad. But for a myeloma patient, it is really bad.

According to Lorenzo CohenPhD., professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson, “Stress has a profound impact on how your body’s systems function. Put simply, stress makes your body more hospitable to cancer.”

Long-term stress can have a negative impact on your immune system, and myeloma is a disease of the immune system.

In that same article, Anil K. Sood, MD, professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine at MD Anderson, confirms the negative effect on our immune system.  According to Dr. Sood, “This type of no-end-in-sight stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you prone to diseases like cancer. It also ups your risk for digestive problems and depression. Chronic stress also can help cancer grow and spread in a number of ways.”

So, my goal for myself is to stop rushing. Be more present and engaged. Reduce those things in life that are stressing me out and increase those that bring me joy. To be in the moment, whatever that moment is.

I can’t lie… this will take some serious, focused effort — to deprogram who I have been for a long, long time. But my health must come first.

Of course there are the medical things. I need to keep my numbers in check, including keeping away from germs and generally anything that will impact my treatment in any negative way. It is also about the mental elements of my ongoing recovery. This means less stress — and stress can manifest in many, many ways.

Leaving my job was without a doubt one of the most difficult but best decisions I’ve ever made. Putting yourself first is not an easy thing to do, whether you have cancer or not. So whatever it is that makes you happy, I encourage you to do more of that and less of the stuff that doesn’t.

This might mean the house is a little messy. It may mean you don’t cross everything off your too-long “To Do” list. But it could mean you get more snuggling in with your kids or partner. It could mean that you binge-watch that show you’ve been dying to see on Netflix.

Or it could simply mean you might actually enjoy that nice, leisurely “walk” with your dog… and maybe even stop and smell the roses.

A version of this post was originally published on (Multiple Myeloma) Mom.

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Thinkstock photo by fcscafeine

Originally published: August 7, 2017
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