Caregiving, Mental Health, StaceyFH

March 8, 2021

Health Scares Bring Gratitude

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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I’ve found myself at the point in my life where I never wanted to be, yet knew I would inevitably be here. The penny has dropped and the years of living in denial of my aging has been met with a stark reality check. Years of not taking care of my own health; not getting enough exercise, not eating healthy, not following up on medical appointments and not better advocating for my own health. Postponing bloodwork, cancelling ultrasounds and bumping my appointments down the list of what needed to get done and always insisting my kids’ needs mattered more. It has caught up to me.

Tonight I write this while I wait for test results that can ultimately shake my life up dramatically. I’m in a predicament that all of us have either been through, or will go through at some point in their lives, I’m sure.

Up until now, there have been scares, there have been some diagnosis that were worrisome but nothing that couldn’t be managed. Setbacks and management of both physical and mental health. But almost always, when there has been a scare, it has been nullified after the second round of testing.

This time there is more to worry about and my mind is in overdrive. I’ve heard the actual words spoken from my doctor that there is actually something to worry about that requires action. Now we wait just to see how serious that worrisome something actually is.

On one hand, there is relief. I now understand why I have been feeling so shitty for so damn long. Fatigue and exhaustion aren’t just due to that elusive scapegoat, “stress” that we blame everything on (justifiably so). But there is a real, physiological reason my body and brain aren’t reacting and responding as quickly as I want them to, and that is reassuring. It tells me I’m not crazy.

But on the other hand, I’m scared. And the crazy thing is, I don’t think I’m afraid of dying. But I’m afraid of all the things that need doing, that I might not be able to do, while I get better. I’m stating the obvious, I think, but who will take care of my kids? I’ve experienced a few weeks of fatigue so unbearable, where I wasn’t able to get myself up out of a chair to spread peanut butter on an English muffin for someone’s breakfast – and I’m not even that sick! What if I get sicker? And what about the fact that there is a pandemic going on? We have no one in our home other than their dad and he won’t be leaving his life anytime soon to temporarily move in to help out here. So who else is there that will put themselves at risk to be in our unvaccinated bubble – who else could take care of my finnicky guys with all of their quirky needs and anxieties?

I won’t let myself go down that dark rabbit hole to dream up more scenarios to be afraid of, but it’s there on the periphery.

There is something else that teeters on the edge of my thoughts that I know isn’t safe to examine, lest I tip over into the muck of negative thinking. I don’t want to voice it aloud because to give it oxygen almost validates it. But I will write it, because once on paper (or a screen), it’s out of my mind.

– Why me? Haven’t I got enough on my plate? There. I’ve said it. Now I don’t want to fuel it with more examination because I have worked really hard in this life not to think that way and I credit that mindset with getting me this far. So let’s get on with it.

The way I see it, I’ve got a few choices:

a) I can wallow and seek out all the negative possibilities and outcomes.

b) I can compartmentalize and set it aside and just get on with life until I have more information to deal with.

c) I can talk about it out loud in my effort to remain authentic, feel all the feelings that have come with this experience and hope that my sharing empowers or comforts someone else going through the same.

d) I can focus on gratitude.

I choose all of the above.

I gave myself the space to worry, stress and scuttle down the black hole of what if’s. I cried a little with my sister and voiced my fears out loud. Then I sought out the counsel of a good friend who gave me some advice on what I could do to prepare in the event the results are not good. I also had an appointment with our beloved Dr. Jen, N.D. (naturopath), who set me up with a diet and protocol that left me feeling empowered, so that I have some semblance of control with what is happening in my body. I’m sharing this experience here in my blog because I am so tired of living a life of phony pretending (inspired perhaps by Meghan and Harry’s Oprah interview this evening).

But most importantly, I choose to focus on gratitude.

It really does change everything when you shift your thinking and practise gratitude in your daily routine. I have a gratitude journal that I’m really lousy about remembering to write in everyday. But when I do, I love to look backwards and I’m always moved by what I’ve written in the past. Because it brings me back and those little reflections offer a whole lot of sunshine when you put them all together. I highly recommend it.

So in the spirit of gratitude, I’m going to list all of the things that have come to mind for me this weekend, noting that that when you live in gratitude, you realize how blessed you truly are.

  • Today I woke up to a knock at my door and found a surprise delivery of a fresh apple pie from my friends, the Archibalds, from the Archibald’s Winery. To know someone is thinking about you, out of the blue, reminds me how big my network of friends really is.
  • The pandemic has introduced me to my neighbours across the street. They’ve always been there but we never knew each other beyond a quick wave. They are landscapers and do snow-removal as well and one day, they cut my front lawn. And they kept on doing it. This winter, they plowed my large driveway with ever snowfall. They cannot know how much that has helped me. I’ve done little things to thank them; I pick up goodies here and there and drop them off. Last week I made them a lasagna and delivered it in my casserole dish. Yesterday they returned the casserole dish, but in it was a giant Rice Crispy sheet with M&Ms (Owen’s favourite). It seems we might be starting a new tradition with the casserole dish, so I’m going to have to think of a new item I can make to send it back to them. Good, ole’ fashioned neighbours. So grateful for them.
  • I miss Jake. My first-born, he’s been my heart since he was born and he moved to Toronto a couple of months into the pandemic. It was a very rocky road in the beginning and I have shared a bit of our journey before (read HERE), but you know what has saved us and helped us to re-build our relationship despite the distance between us? Yep.. the clear winner of this pandemic – video calls. Facetime. What was life before it? I am very aware of the fact that I am privileged to have this available to me. I’ve thought a lot about my grandparents during WWII and how letters were the only way that they could communicate while my Pop was overseas, with the letters arriving sometimes months after they were written. We are so fortunate.
  • The birds have been waking me up every morning. I hear them singing in my backyard and right after I curse the fact they woke me up before I my alarm, I smile when I hear them because they sound like springtime. My pair of cardinals have been out and about every day and I spotted a robin. Spring is just around the corner!
  • I have a happy place and it’s only ten minutes away. Will and I snuck off to the beach this week. The weather was warming up, the waves from Lake Ontario were rolling in and the sound almost fooled us into feeling like we were at the ocean. We counted three white swans on the marsh and we watched flocks of birds flying overhead. It was the sweetest escape and I have access to it whenever I want.
  • Most of all, I’m grateful that I’m able to shift my mindset when times are tough. I’m not always successful and I can’t always control the mind racing that keeps me up at night. But with some intention and practice, if I come back to gratitude, I can usually pull myself out of despair. As cliché as it sounds, #gratitudeattitude is a hashtag I aspire to live my life by.

Now I’ll wait for my news and pray it turns out to be just another scare, or something minor that won’t overturn the applecart. I suppose I can even find gratitude in this experience, as it’s slowed me down to appreciate all that I have.

Stacey aka WillowjakMama

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  1. Tom says:

    Hey Stacey. We’re waiting and staying positive right behind you.
    U of T

  2. Marilyn O'Coin says:

    Mom and us will pray that all will be well just rely on the Lord. There is always a reason for everything.

  3. Deb says:

    Girl, I got you. Any day or night, for anything. Stay grateful, it’s gonna be alright…love you!!!

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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