I had no way of knowing three years ago exactly where I would be today and what I would be doing. This past year has been one of growth and change, a move towards a better me – both mentally and physically.
On the physical end, I spent a great deal of time in the early part of the year working on not just losing weight but also becoming physically stronger. I continued to participate weekly in a research study for breast cancer survivors which allowed me regular contact with a nutritionist and a physical trainer. I spent many Friday mornings with a great guy named Kevin, a former high school athlete who suffered a concussion that derailed his dream of becoming a professional football player. Kevin pushed me to try new things and showed me just how strong I truly was. I never imagined I could do it but there I was pushing prowlers with heavy weights, doing ladder drills and planks, and drawing strength from fellow survivors. It was a sad day for me when that part of the study ended. But I left armed with a strength and fortitude I didn’t think I had before.
At home, I made use of the elliptical and was proud of myself for being able to use the arm part which, after four chest surgeries, was no easy feat. I spent time reading up on healthy eating and noticed a big difference in how I looked and felt. The picture below shows the difference three years has made in how I look.
I continued to challenge myself mentally as well and looked for ways to push myself in areas that were outside my comfort zone. On one Shabbos afternoon in particular in April, I had a conversation with a friend that would change the course of my summer plans and that of my three kids. Up until that point, Molly was scheduled to go to various programs such as pottery and dance throughout the summer while Abe and Jack were registered for day camp. But, that all changed when I had that conversation with Rachel about her experience at Camp Monroe and the possibility of me applying for a job there. I thought to myself, “Sleepaway camp? Why not? What do I have to lose? What a great experience for the kids!”
So, I threw caution to the wind and drove up to Camp Monroe, met the wonderful director, toured the grounds, and within days accepted a position as a Camp Mom. There I was, at the beginning of June, running around town – to Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and the army surplus store – to buy everything we would need for camp. My living room floor was covered with duffel bags, towels, bathing suits, Crocs, lamps, bedding, you name it. Somehow it all got packed and I headed up to camp a couple of days before the kids to catch the end of orientation week and to set up the Ranch House where I would be living and working.
It is difficult to put into words just how special Camp Monroe is. It was a new experience for me and I worried about doing a good job. But the differences between working at sleepaway camp when you are 21 versus when you are 41 are many. For one thing, you care a whole let less whether people like you on a personal level. Of course I wanted to do a good job but it made little difference to me if some 16 year old counselor liked me as a person. And I didn’t even flinch when some 20 year old would try to yell at me or complain too much.
Did I make mistakes? Did I have rough days or stress filled days? Of course I did. I am, after all, only human. Did I always handle situations in the best way and not lose my cool? Of course not. Like I said, I am only human. But, unlike my 21 year old self, my 41 (now 42) year old self can look back and learn from my mistakes and not beat myself up about it. And my 41 year old self was so incredibly happy to see what Camp Monroe did for my kids. They gained a level of confidence they didn’t have before – a sense of self-worth and pride enveloped them. My boys were too young to really be there but for Molly, the camp did wonders. She blossomed. She tried new things. She smiled more. She made friendships that have remained months later.
And you know what? So did I! The adult staff there was made up of some truly wonderful people who I was lucky to become friends with. I had an awesome co-Camp Mom who I was very lucky to work with. She kept me sane and level headed and managed to keep her cool when I couldn’t. These were people who I could go out and have a drink with or go shopping with. I was really lucky – and happy – they were all there.
I’m proud of myself for having stepped out of my comfort zone this past summer. I am a better person for having gone to Camp Monroe. It truly is a special place. Happy Land. I hope they know just how much it meant for me to have been there this past summer. I am incredibly proud of myself for doing something I would not have done three years ago.
When I came back from camp, I was offered a full time position at work and I accepted it knowing it would be a new experience for me – another challenge of learning new skills. But I had faith that I could do it and so far I have proven myself right. I’m very lucky to have wonderful co-workers.
I can only hope that I will continue to challenge myself both physically and mentally in the coming year. I have come so far since January 5, 2012. There have been some bumps in the road but I am still here plugging along – cancer free and loving life!! There is so much joy ahead this year – celebrations and milestones – and I am looking forward to each and every one of them.
TODAY I AM THREE YEARS CANCER FREE!!!!
As always, I leave you with a great song….Afterlife by Ingrid Michaelson