My other lifePosted: June 6, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, literature | Tags: blog, book club, breast cancer, cancer battle, cancer diagnosis, family, kids, missing mom, my life before cancer, PTA, raising young kids, recovery, room moms, Scholastic Books, suburban moms, survivor, VIPS 5 Comments
One of the many blogs I read is a fine one published by a lovely woman named Marie in Ireland. It’s called Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, and Marie’s goal via her blog is to provide some guidance on how to navigate the “post-treatment limbo” that cancer survivors find themselves in once “it” is all “over.” There’s plenty of information out there for those who’ve recently been diagnosed and for those who are actively in treatment, but not much out there for the “what next?” portion of the “cancer journey.” I was honored to be a guest blogger on Marie’s site in February, and I always come away from Marie’s blog feeling enlightened and empowered. (And really, I’m not just sucking up because she’s giving away a copy of Sheryl Crow’s new cookbook, which I really, really, really want. I mean it. Marie’s blog is fantastic.)
Marie posed a challenge to her blog community to write a post about our “other” lives, about who we are when we’re not fighting cancer. We cancer-chicks who blog tend to know a lot of intimate details about each other, as is the nature of the beast we all have in common, but we don’t always know a lot about each other besides the beast.
Never one to back away from a challenge, I ruminated on my B.C. (before cancer) life. It took me awhile to remember, so wrapped up have I been in the cancer-vixen lifestyle. I racked my brain to recall what it was that I used to do with myself absent multiple doctor’s visits, endless testing, countless trips to the pharmacy, and hours of feeling yucky.
It was a perfectly ordinary life. I’m not one for a lot of drama; I’ve been to high school, and don’t have any desire to replay it. I have no patience for grown-up “mean girls” and so have a tight circle of true friends. We live an ordinary suburban life, most of us at home during the day, having forgone careers to raise kids, although several of my besties do work outside the home and do amazing things like crude trading and nursing. Ok, I’d better clarify: one friend trades crude oil, and another is a nurse. Since this blog is usually about all things boob-related, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m talking about crude nursing, as in off-color breastfeeding.
So my life was pretty ordinary, pre-cancer. Ordinary, but good.
I left my editing job 12 years ago, when Payton was born, to become a full-time mommy, and after Macy joined the herd my workload doubled but so did my heart. As my kids got older and started school, my life took on the pattern of theirs and I volunteered at their school a lot while also spending some time doing my own thing. I walked that fine line between being a full-time mom but still being my own person. Like millions of other moms at home raising young kids, I packed my kids’ lunches while doing laundry and tried in vain to keep up with the household chores. I stole some time from the domestic hustle & bustle every day to go to the gym or play tennis, and made my to-do list while waiting in the carpool line.
My pre-cancer schedule was pretty full of ordinary things: kids’ dentist appointments, play-dates, sports, lessons, and parties. I served on the PTA board, was a tenured room mom, and worked the school book fair every year. Shortly after my mom died I was at the book fair, surrounded by books and overcome with loss. I missed my mom so much; she was an avid reader and we always talked about the latest stack of books on our nightstands. I met another mom who was volunteering that day. Jenny was new to our school, having recently relocated to Sugar Land. We chatted about books, and she shared with me that her dad had recently died, and she was swamped by grief, too. I decided then and there to start a book club, and to invite her to join me. Instead of allowing my sadness to rule, I wanted to find a way to diffuse it.
I had no idea at that time that Jenny was a breast cancer survivor and would become my mentor and tour guide through the “cancer journey.”
Meeting Jenny was an extraordinary event in my ordinary, pre-cancer life. Along with my Runnin’ Buddy and our nurse practitioner friend Laura, Jenny and I comprise a quartet of book-lovers who meet once a month and discuss the book we’ve read. Five years later, we’re still going strong. We’ve read some amazing books as well as a few clunkers, and are constantly on the look-out for the next great read.
When I first started running the book club, I would research book group discussion questions and print out a list for each of us. Over time, I’ve gotten lazy and now just highlight an interesting passage, a particularly pivotal plot point, or a bit of prose that speaks to me for whatever reason. This is the basis for our book club’s discussions nowadays.
I’ve always loved books, for their ability to transport us to other worlds. The written word is precious to me, and I suppose it’s in my genes; my mom was an English teacher, after all. I chose my college major (journalism) based on the right ratio of the least amount of math & science and the maximum amount of literature. My career in publishing and editing surprised no one, and I continued to read copiously after leaving the industries for motherhood. True, most of what I read was written for the preschool crowd with a heavy emphasis on pictures, but I started building my kids’ libraries long before they could read. I suppose it was perfectly natural for me to start a book club.
Just in case you’re wondering if I sit around and read all day when I’m not fighting cancer, the answer is no. I spend as much time as humanly possible playing tennis, then I sit around and read for what’s left of the day.
Oh I am so glad I started this challenge 🙂 It has been so great to get to know my fellow blogesses and their other lives. I feel I really got to know your warmth and friendliness a little more reading this. I too am an avid book reader – always have several books on the go and am part of an online book club which gives me great pleasure! I am resisting all the advice of friends with Kindles who tell me I should get one too – for me there is nothing like the smell and feel of a new book and don’t get me started on libaries..especially the old ones..I go weak at the knees when I enter them. So thanks Nancy for letting us visit a while with you in your other life..I really enjoyed it 🙂
I loved being such a big part in your B.C. life! You summed it up very well. I am also so thankful to you for getting me involved in reading. Who knew you would turn me into such an avid reader. I have become addicted to loading up all of my bookshelves and love the fact that we share all our books. I am still waiting for us to be able to share our Kindle books. Cheers to my reading mentor!
What a wonderful post, Nancy! I too am an avid reader, but in my attorney days I never had time for a book club, unfortunately. I can live vicariously through your experiences. Brava to you for still playing tennis and for staying home to be with your children during their growing years. There’s nothing more rewarding than that.
As a mother, you have the most important job in the world, shaping lives, turning young, impressionable minds into independent, contributing people of the world. That’s love, my dear!
I’m glad you’d already met Jenny when you were diagnosed. So many of us don’t have a mentor or someone who can identify with what we’re going through. I didn’t have that, and that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to start my blog.
This is a great group of women brought together in pain and crisis, forming friendships and becoming shoulders to lean on and fellow travelers. I look forward to learning more about all of you.
Thank you for sharing your story. All of you women are inspirational & mentors. It is lovely to have people to relate with on this journey, however different we walk it, the emotions are similiar. Cheers to a healthy & free summer!