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Role Models for Our Children

Like many women, I’ve faced adversities in my life: A womanizing father who was emotionally unavailable and died when I was 12; a mother who is mentally unstable and for whom I became the parent and she became the daughter, and a husband who died when I was 37. For most of us, serious life events empower and make us more resilient. Our survivor instincts kick in, and we find our way through the fog and somehow, move forward with our lives. For me, the alternative to surviving has always been unacceptable, especially when I heard the words, “You have breast cancer.”

The first week after my diagnosis were spent in shock and total terror. I didn’t wonder why this had happened to me, but how this had happened to me.  I was the one did everything right: I exercised six days a week, ate a disgustingly healthy diet, got regular mammograms, watched my weight and drank in moderation. Up until then, everyone I knew with cancer had died, and for a period of time, I was afraid I would die as well. Knowing what I know now, I realize many of the them were not fighters.

During the first days and weeks after a cancer diagnosis, the fighters begin to recover from their shock and fear and move into a questioning, fact-finding mode. What kind of cancer do I have? What does that mean? What are the next steps? How do I increase my chances of survival? The defeated, for lack of a better term, don’t ask questions and, more importantly, don’t want to know the answers. You would be surprised how many cancer patients, who could have beaten their cancer, succumb to preventable problems because they adopt a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” mode.

Perhaps the adversities you encounter will not include cancer, but are you someone who fights back, or do you passively sit on the sidelines? The answer may be an important key to winning or losing your fight, and it will certainly be a role model that will influence your children for the rest of their lives. In my case, my mother rolled up into a ball and still remains a victim, even when she has a clear choice and helping hands. Her sad inability to make good decisions has impacted our relationship in ways you could not imagine. So if you’re faced with that thing you think you cannot do, what role model will your response send to your children? While none of us reacts well to every situation, good parenting can turn even our worst times into positive, teachable moments.

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