Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How to Stay Focused on Being Healthy When Life Gets Tough

[Note: I wrote this post yesterday, exactly four weeks after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. My sister called me yesterday, and we talked about how difficult this has been for all of us, but we also made a conscious decision to live life and focus on the positive. At first I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish this post as I want my blog to be a “happy place,” but this experience is part of my life, and I think focusing on the positive when life gets tough is an important part of life. So I hope you see this post not as depressing but as a reminder to live life at all times.]

The last four weeks since my dad was diagnosed with cancer in his eye have been some of the toughest days of my life. I feel so helpless and completely out of control. Many days I don’t want to get out of bed, but I know I have to. Work has been a welcomed distraction, but once I’m done teaching a class, the distraction is gone, and focusing on anything is difficult. The time change makes calling difficult. I usually get up around 4:00 a.m. and call and then again around noon. The days before surgery (we have had two so far), I stayed up until midnight so I could talk to him before he went into the operating room.

While I can’t do much from here, I do what I can. Besides phone calls, I send letters every few days, and I have also sent numerous books on CDs. I also call my sister and my mom every day. That’s pretty much all I can do from here.

As I said above, it would be really easy to give up on living a healthy life right now. A few years ago, when life threw me a serious curveball that’s what I did. I let go of my healthy habits, and the results weren’t good. This time around, I’m determined to take care of myself and my family. I owe it to my dad - a man who has focused on being healthy and active his entire life. So here is what I’ve been doing:
  • Schedule (and do) a workout every day. I’m very flexible with my definition of “workout” here, and any physical activity that lasts at least 20 minutes counts. I make a plan at the beginning of the week to make sure I lift weights at least twice, do some cardio, and do plenty of stretching and “mind calming” activities.
  • Eat healthy foods every day. Our meals have been simple, and I have thrown in some comfort foods, but overall, we have been eating lots of healthy foods. Making dinner every day is an accomplishment, and it makes me feel better.
  • Reach out to friends. I’ve met with some close friends for breakfast, lunch or tea, and talking to someone who cares has been extremely helpful.
  • Find ways to distract yourself. Blogging and reading blogs has been a great way for me to take my mind off things. I love finding out what you’ve been all up to. By updating my own blog, I focus on some of the positive things in my life. Which brings me to my last point.
  • Be grateful for all the good in your life. In a time like this, it’s easy to only focus on the negative, but there is so much good in my life, and I’m very, very grateful. Giving thanks every evening makes me mindful of all the good in my life.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my support system! What’s something positive in your life today?

Be well,


  1. Thank you for sharing this, Andrea! Your positive outlook even in this difficult time is truly admirable!

  2. I was born when my dad was 44 and my mother was 40. I spent my entire adult life worrying about the day I would lose one of them, especially Dad. I think a lot of girls idolize their fathers and I was (and am) one of them. I didn't know if my heart would stand the grief I was sure to feel. But when the day came, Dad had been through several weeks of being seriously ill, had been through two Code Blues, and was on life support. My head knew it was time to say Good-bye and my heart had been driven deep into the grieving process. There were lots of tears but surprisingly, we were able to laugh as well. We found ourselves reliving the good times and remembering the joy that was my dad. Never be afraid to cry and grieve, but please, never be afraid to laugh either.

  3. Stuff comes our way that's usually mostly out of our control, and then life seems even tougher because of the unfairness of it all. But as you've said, we have a bit of some control in how we react to, and handle, the realities. Absolutely easier said than done . Please always let me know how I can help.

  4. Oh Andrea :( I'm sure it's so difficult to be far away. My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of this month, so I am going through it, too. It's so hard. I haven't seen my dad yet - thankfully will next weekend. I am so thankful for that. I am also so very thankful that he has chosen a treatment (removal) that was my first choice for him, but I wanted and needed to not influence his decision and have him come to terms with his cancer and treatment on his own. My thoughts & prayers are with you and your family.

    I am thankful I am so close to my dad, and it sounds like you are too. That is something in and of itself that so many don't have. We are blessed for that. :)

  5. New to your blog and commend you for sharing this. It's hard enough to put one foot in front of the other let alone write about it. My dad was sick for 4 years. Work was a total refuge. My kids were another. I tried to focus on what I could do and to focus on him and not me (sometimes better than others). It sounds as though you have your priorities in order. One thing though, sounds like you are long distance, yes? Visit as much as you can.

  6. Anonymous3/23/2011

    I'm so sorry about all you're going through. Please know I'm thinking about you!

    But you are so right. When you haven't got your health, everything else is even more of a struggle. It's so tempting to let everything slide when life gets lumpy, but that only makes things worse. Traumatic finals taught me that, which is nothing compared to a family health crisis, but I understand exactly where you are coming from. Take care!

  7. This is such a great post. It is so hard to concentrate on these little things when there is a much BIGGER thing in the way. Hang in there and I am thinking about you, your fam and your father!! <3

  8. Oh Andrea, you are so right. Sorrow and tragedies are part of a human life. I think it's so important to learn to deal with it in healthy ways. I esp loved your last point about finding things to be grateful.


  9. Anonymous3/23/2011

    Aww *hugs* I am sorry you have to go through this difficult time. Sending you lots of good thoughts and prayers. Stay strong.

  10. Hi Andrea, I'm so sorry you and your family are going through a tough time. My thoughts are with all of you (especially your Dad!). For the record, this post wasn't depressing at ALL, it was beautiful and honest!!! Take care of yourself!!!

  11. I'm so sorry about what you and your family is going through. This is a very good and practical list. I think it really shows your strength even if you feel like you don't have any. (((HUGS)))

  12. Lara (Thinspired)3/24/2011

    This post is far from is inspiring. Thank you for sharing something so personal so your readers can benefit.

    Thinking of you.

  13. It must be so diffucult having your family so far away. I must remember to never take for granted that my parents practically live down the street from me. I hope your Dad's prognosis is a good one....

  14. Thanks so much for sharing the great tips!

  15. I am so sorry to hear. I am thinking of you and your family.Thank you for sharing.