So much of the last 8 1/2 years of our family’s life has been about fighting for Lolo to live. As a family, we all have our roles and our ways of being trying to maintain “homeostasis.’ Homeostasis is one of those words that means to maintain balance. I first learned about homeostasis when I was studying Hematology in my Clinical Science program as a description of our body’s ability to counteract change. At the core of our family is a need and a desire that everyone is ok. It is like we are all on a large orb wobbling in space as one of us steps close to the edge, the other compensates by doing the same on a different edge, so that we all don’t topple over. Each one of us through Lolo’s journey has stood on the edge, so to speak, just to keep the whole family from toppling over. My role has often been the stabilizer, the one that doesn’t move so much just to keep things all in balance. But, when the stabilizer gets exhausted, the balance shifts and things start to wobble.
Out of the four of us, Phil stayed in his life pattern the earliest and the longest. He needed to because without him we would not have a home today. He paid the bills and went to work. The focus that it took to do that took its toll. He and I are both tired. He kept us with a roof over our heads and he stayed steady. Lolo and Jonathan have both gone back to their path. They are both pursuing their education, careers, building a social circle, taking care of themselves, and having some fun. I am stuck on the balance ball not knowing how to shift.
All of these years, my job was to take care of things at home, be Lolo’s mom, medical advocate, and personal coach, and Jonathan’s mom. Lolo medical appointments were a part-time job. Plus, I have worked tirelessly trying to build Lolo’s Angels to be a successful non-profit, which I love. I have struggled more to take care of my physical health and that seems to be the part that has been put on the back burner. In fact, my health is kind of in the toilet. It is time to shift. It was easier for me to fight cancer and help save other kids than it was to fight my own health issues. I do love running our non-profit, but I tend to get over busy and have a hard time making time for myself to get to the gym and cut up my veggies for dinner. I need BALANCE!!
Over the years I have gained quite a bit of weight. I have become less active and more sedentary. Those that know me well know that isn’t my nature. I am a kinetic person and love movement. I adore swimming, biking, hiking, etc. As I watch my kids move on with their lives and grab hold of some fun adventures, I have felt inspired to get off my butt and follow suit. I also miss those days of being active with them.
I have been perplexed by my weight gain over the years. It doesn’t make sense to me and it frustrates me that I was once an active and healthy person. It hasn’t made my self-esteem suffer, just my knees, back, and clothing size. I am frustrated that I can accomplish big goals, yet still face this issue. This year watching Lolo face some additional health issues and her determination to be fit and eat well, I decided enough is enough. I watched Jonathan make a decision to focus on his fitness. He looked so strong and was very motivated by it and it made me realize that all of us need to pursue our health and make it a priority. We fought too hard to help Lauren to survive to have to deal with me having health issues, plus I have a few things I want to do in life too. First, I need to be able to do that damn shuffle dance on TikTok. I can’t believe I can’t get that down yet….it is time to shuffle!
Before COVID I was making some amazing progress and lost about 12 pounds only to gain them back during COVID. Jonathan, on the other hand, was working out all the time. Lolo added spin classes to her routine. Phil and I were inspired. It was a slow process. The slow realization that it is beyond a few pounds to lose added a heavy burden.
The next part of our family’s journey is to ALL be healthy and well and balanced. It is my turn to be the priority. I have some set some lofty goals and decided I am going to start writing about the process because it makes me accountable. I also think you don’t gain 100 pounds over many years unless there are some ingrained patterns of behavior that need to be unlearned, unfolded, and disposed of. I realize it is more than just dieting.
At the core of my weight gain is grief, heavy, painful grief. As I look back at the beginnings of my weight gain it began with having multiple miscarriages. I lost 5 pregnancies over the course of 10 years. This resulted in my first forty pounds of weight gain. When I got married, I may have been 10-15 pounds over “ideal” standards, but I have always been curvy, also athletic. I used to have a positive body image and took pride working out and staying fit.
I was able to have Lolo and Jonathan, but when Lolo was 7 weeks old my step-father, my hero, took his own life because of debilitating pain from a MRSA infection of his spine. This was in the midst of Phil being away at war and working as an Air Force One agent. I didn’t have time to grieve the loss between caring for a newborn, my grieving mother, and my rambunctious 3 year old. We moved right after that to Omaha and I thought we needed to just move on. During this time, I gained another 20 pounds, but remained fairly active at 60 pounds overweight, believe it or not. I played tennis with my very athletic and fun tennis friends…and held my own, btw. I swam laps often, I did yoga, etc. However, I also kept having injuries and just didn’t feel good. During these years I had a knee surgery, Achilles tendon surgery, and surgery on the labrum of my hip. The weight and the burden of grief that hadn’t been dealt with was always present.
At this stage, life was going forward and despite the weight I was a confident and determined person. I was relatively happy with my family, my work life, and my friends. At the core of all of this, though, were some patterns that kept me functional, but also anxious, insecure, and exhausted. I had not ever learned to have balance in life. I was a work horse. I was the first to volunteer for things even though I was one of the very few working moms in my social circle. I also didn’t want to share my real burdens in life. The pain of a difficult and painful childhood, being isolated from family support, and the toll of feeling very lonely being a military wife having to recreate a new life too often. I despised weakness in myself and felt if I kept a positive attitude and kept my nose to the grindstone all would work out.
All of this caught up to me when I faced the most terrifying and helpless experience of my life….Lolo’s cancer. I faced this the way I faced every other hard issue in my life. I worked hard and tried to stay positive. Like all moms, I love my kids more than life itself. Getting Lolo and Jonathan through the last 8 1/2 years, for me, has been more than I had to give. On top of the already 60 pounds I was carrying, I gained another 40 after Lolo got out of the hospital the second time. Most of it piled on right a
fter she got out. I gained about 25 pounds the year she started high school. During this time the stress was immeasurable. She was hanging by a thread that year and was so weak. She wasn’t well and it was excruciating watching her try so hard each day just to survive. She could hardly walk after being in a hospital bed for over 4 months. She was pale and emaciated and bald. All she wanted was to make friends and be a normal high school student. Jonathan was a senior and the demands of just keeping him on track was overwhelming. For him, it was time to make up for lost time. The toll on a sibling is immense. He did his best and I am so proud of him. On top of that I was in a very stressful work environment, that to be frank, was toxic. The job was easy and rewarding, but the culture was toxic for various reasons. I think most of that has worked out, but regardless, it was like the camel that broke the straw’s back for me. That year was the absolute worst and on top of it the political situation created a boiling stew of pestilence. I broke ties with some family members that I could no longer be involved with because of years of abusive behavior. Of all things after your child fights two battles with a life threatening illness, it could no longer be my role in my extended family to play the role as the stabilizer, the buffer. It was time to take care of my own family and of myself. I wish I knew what I do now. This should have happened years ago, but I had never learned about boundaries and how to care for myself in a healthy way.
The last five years of Lolo’s recovery has also prompted me to do everything I can to be mentally, physically, and spiritually well. At the base of my desires was always to be the best mom to Jonathan and Lauren. Then, I decided it might be a good idea to try to have a strong marriage, then I finally decided that none of those things were going to happen if I didn’t get my own poop in a scoop. I have been in therapy for the past five years and I am grateful that I have found a really good therapist. At first it was to help with our entire family’s PTSD. Watching someone you love suffer so intensely on a daily basis and constantly having threats on their life is a traumatic experience. Every family of a child with cancer….every person in that family….comes out of it with some anxiety and depression. If healthy structures aren’t already in place, the family crumbles. If healthy structures are in place, the family still crumbles and has to rebuild. We spent years rebuilding.
For me the last rebuilding that has to occur is my own physical body. I am going to try to write about this rebuilding on a weekly basis. It may be interesting, motivating, or helpful for people to read my process, it might not. My intention in writing is to make myself accountable to something I consider imperative. My intention is to lose weight, get strong, and embrace my life. My hope is that by writing about it I learn along the way some better ways to do it. I hope it motivates me to persevere. It would be great if I found a community of support for this process, even it is one friend or a few other people that have a similar goal or struggle. All I know is I feel like I have a happy life and all I have ever really wanted, but for some reason I just can’t get this part of things in balance.
When Lolo was diagnosed with cancer I felt strongly about prayers and putting intentions out into the universe. I also felt a connection to those that prayed for her and Jonathan and kept positive thoughts about them. My prayers and intentions were always about visualizing her well, happy, and surrounded by people that loved her. I also tried the reverse to put those prayers and intentions out there for those I was connected to and for those praying for us. Then, I used everything that I had to control the controllables to make that happen. Now, I am asking for that for me.
My hope is to be fit and healthy. Please help me to imagine this. If this is your intention, I hope you share it with me so that I can do the same for you. The reason I want to be fit and healthy is to model this for my kids, live a more active life, and get out there and have some amazing adventures. It is a vulnerable thing to do to ask for help. 100 pounds is a lot to lose and in some ways being 100 pounds overweight was a protective space for me, for some reason. I was big and powerful…I still feel powerful, but would like to be fit, healthy, and strong instead.
Currently, I am doing Weight Watchers online and having some success. I have lost 16 pounds, but I am kind of stuck, but determined right now. I am working out a lot and trying some things for fitness. I am swimming laps, doing Pilates, weight training, walking, and yoga.
I meet with my friend, Sara, once a month to have breakfast and talk about my goals. I worked with my dear friend, Bobbi, a life balance coach, to find my focus and learn some skills. I am going to weekly therapy to unearth some of the grief I feel and establish a better relationship with anxiety, food, and energy. I am meeting in a circle of women weekly that gives me the support of other women that I need. I hope all of these things add up to success towards health. We shall see!
My long term goal is: Lose 100 pounds (16 down so far), establish a workout routine that is sustainable, and climb to the top of Machu PIchu with Phil. I think this may take about two years. I can’t wait to share pictures of this!
My immediate goal is to lose 30 pounds by December. Lolo is going to be a Debutante for the Omaha Symphony Debutante Ball. I would love to have a family picture of us done and feel really good in my dress during this event. I have yet to pick out a dress. I am excited to go to this and I am so proud that our family was asked to participate because it is a fundraiser for the symphony and Lolo gets to wear a ball gown…win, win. By December, I also hope that I am a lot stronger from my workouts and have not had any injury.
My biggest success so far in losing the first ten pounds was buying 3 pairs of shorts. They are not for public use! But, I wear them in my yard and it is so liberating! I haven’t worn shorts for years and decided gardening in yoga pants was hot and uncomfortable. I love gardening and being more fit will help me be able to do the labor I need to grow better veggies and beautiful flowers.
My “Call to Water” for this next step of our journey is this……I can’t very well hope for health and fitness for my children if I can’t realize it myself in some way. I realized that the reason I hoped for these things because it is hard to be happy when you are struggling with your own health. Then I realized that Lolo kicked cancer’s aSS, so I want to be around see Jonathan and Lolo have some adorable babies!?! I am writing to figure this out, hold myself accountable, heal, grieve, and find support and strength. One note about this post: If you are a voyeur, ok, fine, you do you. If you are having a similar struggle, let’s help each other! If you are just nosey and want to be witness to someone else’s struggles, well, move on weirdo! If you just like to cheer on a sister-friend, then you are my people! Sixteen pounds down…..84 to go! I’ve got this!
Time to get on it!
Way to be accountable, LesLee! I see it and know you will get there. It can’t be easy. But you got this, as they say. Keep us posted and you may find it helps you on your journey.
My mom swears by WW, btw. Makes more sense than most programs out there.
You’re amazing, inside and out. You can do it!! God will carry you through this just like everything else. Praying for YOU! ❤️
I’m behind you and beside you. WW 2017 was very good to me. Covid 2020 wasn’t KIND to me and backslid a bit. I still am doing WW on line as well. Your post has given me new strength and determination to stay the course. Sending prayers and positive vibes your way. Will be anxious to follow your posts.
You’ve got this! As you know, you inspire me so much. I’ll be here for you, and will also be on my own well-being journey with hopes of getting a little more comfortable in my skin (and clothes). The first step I am taking is to get off social media! I’ve determined I need to stop scrolling and start strolling 🚶🏽♀️and rolling 🚴🏼♀️. Stay strong & carry on!💞
PS what is up with these weird cartoon characters that get attached to each comment?!
You are one tough gal, I have no doubt that you will accomplish exactly what you are hoping for. You’re determination that you have will get you there. You will be in my prayers!
You are amazing and can accomplish whatever you set your mind to! I will definitely be cheering you on!
Absolutely love this. I understand and relate all too well. Have you considered making different goals
that are not weight related? Like lose so many inches or fit a certain size?
Beautiful in every way. I am cheering you on. I am so impressed, proud, inspired, amazed at how you have handled this whole journey. Your family is so blessed to have you. Now it’s mama’s turn!! Go LesLee Go!! You will win this battle, too! ❤️❤️
Beautiful words from a beautiful soul! You speak from your heart and is relatable not only to myself, but I’m sure many others. Thank you for being brave and vulnerable. I’ll be following and supporting your journey while continuing my own! ❤️
I have tears filling down my face! Leslie… I lost my motivation to work out a long time ago. I am also over weight and unmotivated to get up and move but have so many things I want to do. I am surprised since I love to dance. You mentioned many reasons and life experiences similar to my life. Ok suffer from anxiety and self destruction. I have no friend support group, just Paul. I am strong and determined to make sure everyone thinks I am happy through and through but sadly I really am not. Anyways keep me in your thoughts! I would love to lose 40-60 lbs. l have lost 22 only to gain it back. Stopped trying after that. The struggle real. Thank you for posting this!
I love the honesty in your post and will be a cheerleader for you! We are moving to more of a plant based diet so I’m happy to share recipes with you if that is helpful. Also Steve and I recently picked up playing pickleball together. So fun and great exercise!
Like an appetizer, your insight gives the reader the desire to to continue and see how the wisdom can be applied to her own life.
The entrée of your writing is hearty and satisfying because it is always flavored with honesty, compassion, and love.
The sweetness of how you express your thoughts is the dessert that finishes this meal.
Please continue to write..it keeps our minds, hearts, and bodies full and wanting more.
I’m here for you, girl!! I need to lose weight, too. Im right smack in the middle of menopause and it’s not pretty. I need to get motivated and at least start walking. Let’s do this!!!
Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader!! I’m here to support. Super proud of you and know you’ll take each step to become stronger, fitter, healthier and to free yourself from the sadness and pain if all things that burden you. Go you!! Big live. 💕💪🏼🥰🙏🏼
I believe in you! Set small goals and be sure to reward yourself when you meet them. It is a journey that will lead you forward and, sometimes, backwards a couple steps but keep your eye on the prize-healthier and stronger you! I lost 40 pounds a couple years ago and it was hard. but anything is doable. Be strong, take time for yourself-you are worth it- and drink lots of water.
Sending positive vibes for mental and physical health. I always enjoy randomly seeing you out in the community. I look forward to seeing a fit and happy LesLee the next time our paths cross.
I love you Leslee, you are my role model for so many things in life: what it is to be a good mother and a strong woman are the top two on the list. I’m here to cheer you on but also ask for your love sent this way!! I have similar struggles of putting aside my health to take care of everyone and everything else, and I’m worried that at some point, I won’t be able to take of those people and those things if I’m not well. I’m here with you on this journey!! I am nowhere near as eloquent as you, so your beautiful words are already helping me through the start of my journey too!
You inspire me!! I too, need to lose weight, so I’m here to cheer you on!!!
Oh wow, did this ever strike a chord with me. My struggle is with booze. During my sons cancer journey, although i felt completely out of control, i had an army of friends in and out of the hospital. Now, all of my local friends have all but disappeared. I am incredibly lonely and alone. I hate it. So much of what you wrote rings true I’m sure got alot of cancer moms. It’s sucks being so storing. I can’t even cry these days. Anyway, i look forward to sharing your journey and cheering you on. Hoping for inspiration. Thank you
Go LesLee Go!!
You have always amazed me with your ability to accomplish things while Lauren was ill. Literally, how did you do it girl?!?
After the past 10 years, I need to lose a hundred pounds as well. Grief, anxiety and depression are taking their toll.
There needs to be a support group for Moms surviving trauma and needing to lose 100 pounds!
Hugs to you. Keep the balance!
Love that you are focusing on your health, LesLee! I’ll be praying for you. Love you sweet lady!! XXOO
Your support means so much to me. I appreciate it very much. Love you back, friend!