My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

Mommy Mondays (On Thursday Because I Can’t Do It All!)



I often feel like I have three full time jobs; teaching artist, mother and cancer patient.  All three take up all of my time.  All three are a priority.  I have been feeling overwhelmed with all of these jobs for quite some time but recently, the stress to do it all has gotten to be too much.  I think many women feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of being both a parent and a professional.  That’s not unique.  But when you add illness into the mix, it can be all consuming.

I have to admit, I have an amazing support system.  My parents have been incredible when it comes to helping to take care of Oliver.  They have taken on the bulk of the childcare, especially during cancer treatments and doctors appointments.  But cancer has not stopped me from wanting to give Oliver all of the opportunities I can afford and all of my love and time.  The same goes for my work.  I work for amazing organizations who have supported me through treatment and been very flexible with my schedule and special needs.  But I have a difficult time saying no to things and often overbook myself.  I love what I do and I never want to say no to an opportunity that can provide professional growth and be a creative outlet.

When I was going through chemotherapy, treatment became a priority and work took a backseat, although I tried to work as much as possible.  Mothering Oliver was still a number one priority for me over everything else.  But since treatment has ended, I have desperately wanted to get my life back.  So although my cancer experience is not over, I have tried to move on.  But the thing about cancer, even when you are technically “cancer free” is that it follows you everywhere.  You can’t run.  You can’t hide.  It’s like a newborn baby.  It needs your constant care and attention.  Maybe you get a break but sooner than you’d like, it’s calling out for you, demanding your attention and time.

I recently had a appointment with my physiatrist for my quarterly visit to check on my lymphedema.  The last time I went to see him, I was struggling with survivorship and life after cancer.  He ended up scheduling me for therapy which I am so grateful for.  But since I’ve seen him, my lymphedema had not resolved.  Actually, it has gotten worse.

“Are you doing your bandaging,” he asked?  I was supposed to be doing it each night.

“I do it a couple of nights a week.  It takes me a long time to do the bandages and sometimes I just fall asleep without doing them.  Also, I can’t sleep with them on.  They’re uncomfortable and trap in heat when I get a hot flash.”

He didn’t seem too sympathetic and insisted that I do it each night.

“Are you doing your lymphatic massage,” he asked?

“I try to do at least something each day,” I said.  “This also takes a really long time.  Sometimes I do it in the morning but my son is usually crawling on top of me (literally) while I’m doing it.  I don’t know how effective I’m doing it.  And I try to do it at night if I don’t have too much work to do.”

“You really need to be doing it each night,” he said.  “How is your exercise?”

“I was doing great this summer but then work started up again, so I can’t go out in the mornings.  My husband has been working late every night, getting home after 11:00, so I can’t go out then.  So, that hasn’t been happening.  It’s just not possible.”

This is where he seemed to draw the line.  He began to tell me all of the things I already know, that recurrence of cancer can be prevented by routine exercise and healthy eating.  I could stand to lose 20-30 pounds and that can help both my lymphedema and help with cancer prevention.  I know this.  But there are only so many hours in a day.  If most of them are taken up by work and being a mom, when am I supposed to have time for the rest?  I explained this all to him.

He then turned away from his computer and looked at me. “You need to gather your community around you.  People want to help.  You just need to ask for it.  Ask people to help you so you can go to the gym or go out for a run.”

So, I’m supposed to gather my community…my friends who have children of their own, to come and watch my son so I can go out for a little jog?  I’m supposed to ask them to support my exercise needs when they are so busy with work and parenting that they don’t have time to do this very thing for themselves?  Is he kidding?

He wasn’t.  And I knew that he didn’t understand.  He didn’t understand what it’s like to be a mother and how it can take up every moment; the cooking healthy meals, art projects, answering questions, changing diapers, potty training (oh, the FUCKING POTTY TRAINING!!!!!), the cuddles, the bedtime stories, the temper tantrums, the cuddles, the trips to the museum, the trips to the doctor, the late night wake-ups, the nap-time delay tactics…it takes up all of my thoughts and all of my time.  I love it.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.  But between all of this and my work, which sometimes I’m doing until midnight, especially if I have a hard time putting Oliver to bed, when am I supposed to exercise, do my lymphatic massage and bandage my arm?  I’d literally be up until 3am every day!!!

I know these sound like a bunch of excuses.  I promise they’re not.  It’s just that I haven’t been able to figure out how to prioritize the three priorities in my life.  Also, please notice, that I didn’t state my marriage or personal time as a priority.  That’s a problem.

I left that appointment crying.  I tried to explain that I was having difficulty managing everything and the doctor basically just wanted me to magically figure it out.  But there is no magic here.  There is no way I can add extra hours to a day or more days in a week.  I can’t choose between my son, my job and my health.  I need all three.  But managing all of them has become too much.  I just don’t know how to do it all.


How do you balance work, parenting and health?

Do you feel like your doctors are understanding of the unique issues of being a young cancer patient? 

9 thoughts on “Mommy Mondays (On Thursday Because I Can’t Do It All!)

  1. Thank God you still have time for this blog!

  2. Loving your post title!

    I don’t have kids, but I always feel like I am running out of time. Funny, I never thought of cancer as being a full time job, but it is! And like you said, it follows us wherever. I struggle with my priorities too. I do feel my doctors have shown compassion about this which is why I am going to start seeing someone next week. They have given me some tips on how to fit exercising into my schedule (skipping train stops for longer walks, taking stairs, etc.).

    One thing I started doing is figuring out what hours a week I can dedicate to blogging, as well as reading other blogs. I try keeping my doctor’s appts. very close to each other (same day if possible) to allow myself some extra time.

    And you also touched on something very sensitive to me, home life. We need help trying to figure out some quality time for ourselves. I agree with you it is very important. We cannot dismiss it.

    I am having a hard time with exercising too but your post just reminded me of how important it is so I am going for a long walk now. I hope things get easier for you and I am glad your family has been supportive.

    • Thanks, Rebecca. I’m not the best at organizing my time and it’s something I need to improve on but, goddamit, I’m tired from this year and just want to spend time with my kid! It’s so hard.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  4. Hi Carrie,
    Wish I had a magic wand. Bet you do too, but… It’s incredibly challenging to manage life in the first place at times, and when you throw cancer into the mix, well, you know what it’s like. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are not super woman. We all struggle to do our best and that has to be enough. I find it really annoying when doctors seem dismissive of our issues. Come to think of it, I even have a post with that tile. Sorry you’ve had to deal with that too. Thank you for this post. It’s an important topic.

    • Thanks, Nancy. I’ll have to go on your blog and look up that post!!!! If you happen to reshare this post, I’d love it hear if anyone has any strategies that have worked for them. Thank you for reading!

  5. Carrie, you sound overwhelmed and for good reason. Reality is what it is. I have a health practitioner who took a more compassionate approach. She said if she tells me 20 things to do and I’m only doing 11 of them, that’s great because I’m doing 11 things I wasn’t doing before. She further said no one can do everything they’re supposed to do, but set your priorities and do what you can and know you’re doing a great job for taking care of those things.

    • I wish that were the case with this doctor. I like him for a lot of other reasons but he just does not seem to have an idea of what it is like to be a mom, have a job and live with illness. I kind of get it. Their job is to make me better (or as best as I can be) and that is their priority. When you have several priorities…well…you just don’t know what to do anymore. It’s so frustrating!

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