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A bit of a morbid title, eh? But it's true, my mom was a martyr in a way that she probably never expected to be, but in a way that hopefully will not only make a huge positive difference in my family's life but also in all of you who read my blog's lives as well.
I still remember the day when I found out my beautiful, nurturing, kind mom had melanoma skin cancer. It was one of the most devastating days of my life and one I know I'll remember forever. Really didn't know one could cry as hard and as long as I did, but it broke my heart in a way that will never fully be repaired.
Let me back up slightly though before then. I had gone home from Colorado to NJ for my wedding shower in 2006. My mom was wearing a short sleeve shirt and I saw this weird, but pretty big growth on her arm. It was maybe a bit darker than skin colored, came out like 3/4 of an inch off of her arm, and looked like a giant zit. I asked her “what the heck is that mom?” and she just said “oh, it's nothing” as she self-consciously tried to cover it up with her sleeve. I asked her if she had gotten it checked out and she said she had not, and then when I bugged my dad about it he said he had tried to get her to go to the doctor but my mom was stubborn and said it's just one of those things old ladies (she actually used the term “like old witches on brooms”) get. It took several more phone calls after I went back to Colorado to finally convince her to go get it checked out.
Unfortunately though, it was too late. It was indeed melanoma skin cancer and by that time it had metastasized into pretty much every other organ in her body and the doctors deemed it Stage IV. They gave her up to a year to live. She called me to tell me the news and sobs racked my body for hours, no, really days, after that. She honestly was my best friend, the one who I called first to tell her news of anything, or for advice, etc and I wasn't sure how I was going to live without her.
She at least was able to attend my wedding, and she actually wound up living for almost 2 more years, but unsuccessful chemo and the cancer finally took its toll, and on June 17, 2008 she passed away peacefully at home.
Every year though on the anniversary of her death I celebrate her and her life, and think about how things have changed for me since then. Cancer is no joke, and after my mom died I kind of freaked out and really started looking at everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I put on and in my body. I did a huge 180 from using all of the toxic but trendy beauty products I had been using to using ones that are super clean and rate very well on EWG.org's rating system. I started eating organic food and buying non-toxic household cleaning stuff and learning to make my own things. I started a vegetable garden and canning the harvest, and I got to know my farmers. Was this also kind of the trend at the time in general? Yes, but I don't think I would have fallen into it had I had not had something to scare me into it. I was perfectly naive and ignorant before my mom died, happily eating my artificially colored cereals, non-organic milk, using chemical bleach cleaners and and all sorts of anti-aging beauty creams. I mean, everyone else does it, right?
But see, here's the thing. Because my mom's death scared me into researching all this and putting me in this natural, healthy headspace, when I eventually got sick from my Hashimoto's/Celiac/Adrenal Fatigue issues and when my son came down with the random allergies/sensitivities to cinnamon and walnuts, I was already in a place to look at natural ways of healing. I know so many people that whine and complain of ailments who wouldn't even think food, lifestyle, or any natural methods of healing would help them in the least, and they continue to suffer and take pharmaceuticals that just give them side effects that rival what they are already suffering from. These people also continue to get worse, getting more and more symptoms all the time, and eventually their bodies will just become so toxic and inflamed that cancer or some other chronic illness will probably be a given. I know many others who spent YEARS going from doctor to doctor, wondering what was wrong with them, being told it was “in their heads”, or being given drug after drug in hopes that one would work, only to finally fall into the natural healing realm and actually find relief and answers. I, on the other hand, just needed to spend about a year of coming to terms that bread and pasta as I knew it might not ever cross my lips, and took the plunge. I consider myself to be one of the fortunate ones to have this knowledge and insight so I could help myself and my son. I put my autoimmune diseases into remission and feel better now than I have for 15 years, and my son's allergies/food sensitivities disappeared as well as his aggressiveness and attention-span issues. As a result of our amazing transformations, I write this blog to share this information with you so that you can benefit from it as well.
So while my mom's passing was devastating, something I wish could have at least happened AFTER my kids were born, and I miss her each and every day, I understand that it changed the course of my life in such an incredible way that I can't say it was the worst thing to ever happen to me. In fact, in a weird, sick, and twisted sort of way, it was one of the best things. I truly believe I'd be really sick right now had she not left me, and my children probably wouldn't be (and stay) as healthy as they are. So when I write this blog, it's not out of a place of trying to preach to you all about the dangers of toxins and bad food, it's from a place of truly wanting to help you all be healthy and to escape the fate that my mom had. She didn't die in vain, she died so that we all could truly live.
Some of the things I have changed since she passed were:
- DIY household cleaners using essential oils instead of toxic chemical cleaners
- Paleo, nutrient-dense real food diet instead of the Standard American Diet
- moderate exercise instead of extreme endurance events like Ironman Triathlons
- DIY beauty products or things low on EWG.org's toxin-filled product list
- organic food over pesticide laden, GMO-ridden food
- Essential oils as my first line of defense when we get illnesses and for immune support rather than pharmaceuticals
- Grow some of our own food in our backyard garden and get food from local farmers
- Preserve my own vegetables and fruits to avoid BPA-lined cans and excess sugar
- Work with a functional medicine practitioner, Western family practitioner, Endocrinologist, Acupuncturist, and Massage Therapist to fully balance my well being
- Read and research as much as I possibly can about health and wellness topics
- Listen to my body when I get stressed and just let things go/do some form of stress relief
- Most importantly: ENJOY EACH AND EVERY MOMENT THAT I CAN IN LIFE
Oh thank you!! I feel the same way! Both my parents passed almost 10 years old (only 2.5 months a part). My mom woke up and had a massive heart attack then a month after she passed my dad got really sick and we found out he had Small Cell Lung Cancer and only had 2 months to live! He passed a month after that right before Thanksgiving. Both of their deaths have changed the way I live as I am learning more and more every day how to live healthier not only to not get cancer but to also not die from heart disease. Still have a ways to go with getting the toxin out of my environment but the past three years I have improved soooo much. My doctor told me at my check up a months ago how proud she is of how far I have come these past 3 years.
Wow Jolene, you have quite a story! I’m so glad to hear that you are making a positive change with your health because of it – every little bit helps. Keep up the great work!
This was a blog post that gave me goose bumps. As I get older, (Ill be 40 in August) I am thinking so much more about things of this nature. Cancer is such a scary, horrifying disease and makes me anxious just sitting here typing this. I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother, My husband recently went to the dermatologist to have a general skin check, and my daughter and I have appointments to do the same. Although I have tried to “take care of myself” for a good while now, I know now I had been in the past for all the wrong reasons (to look good on the outside) . I realize that the HEALTH of my body, inside and out, is what’s important. Thank you for this eye opening post. I just came across your blog today. I will be a regular reader from now on, for sure.
Thanks so much for your kind words Amy! Consider yourself amongst the lucky ones now to have the knowledge that you do (and let’s enjoy being 39 together for a few more months! – I turn 40 in Jan)
Thank you for sharing your raw story <3