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Be F.A.T. every day

The day that launched a lifestyle

It was nearly eighteen years ago when the idea of #BeFAT would change my life. Only I didn’t know it then.

Although the term hadn’t been coined yet, and hashtags wouldn’t be introduced to the masses for another 10 years, the seed planting occurred in a moment I’ll never forget.

In was November, 1998. My husband and I sat on a hospital bed holding hands, staring at a blank wall. A doctor we’d never met walked in, crossed his arms and gave us the grim diagnosis.

The Double Handshake

His chat was not unlike an auto mechanic telling us the engine was shot — a casual, matter-of-fact list of everything that was wrong.

Reading from a chart, he delivered his prognosis without an ounce of empathy. Basically, he said, you’re broken and we can’t fix it. He rambled off a few supporting blows — large tumor, cancer, late-stage, terminal — then suggested it would be prudent for us to get our “affairs in order.”  A one-two punch to the gut. He didn’t even have the decency to look us in the eye.

“Good luck,” he said, while shaking my husband’s hand, and then cupping it, he added, “God bless.” We would come to call this the “double handshake.”

After he turned his back on us and walked out the door my mind reeled in a thousand directions. At home there were three young children 100% dependent on two parents. And a mortgage I could never afford to pay on my own.

At that moment the thoughts of losing the man I had adored since we were twelve years old, and facing life without him, crushed me in ways I could not begin to verbalize.

A few weeks before I was just another four-star working mom. Doing my best to run the household ship while weaving everyone’s schedule into a tightly knitted normal family lifestyle. But on that day my role became the unwilling captain of a sinking ship, responsible for a precious crew, with no dry land in sight.

Not the awesome mom and wife who juggled it all, and according to my husband, “makes it look easy”. On that day I felt out of my element. Alone. Scared shit.

The decision to fight the storm

I swear the grass grew five inches while my husband and I continued our numb stare of the wall.

Then he broke the silence in his normal, level-headed tone: “Well, that doesn’t sound very good.”

Parenting 101 teaches us not over-react or project our fears in front of children. It only causes them to mimic your reaction, and this creates a merry-go-round of screams, tears, and bribes to stop the cycle. Husbands, I found out, were worse at this game, especially if it involves you making a dent in his new car.

Feeding off his even demeanor, just as calmly I replied: “I don’t think it is.”

In an instant, we allowed a total stranger to walk in and change our lives forever.  With that one blow, every hope and dream and goal and desire we had for our family amounted to jack squat. 

Until five minutes later…

When my husband squeezed my hand and took the wheel of our ship. He said three things to me that ultimately planted the seed for us to adopt a #BeFAT attitude:

  1. This (illness) was given to us for a purpose today.
  2. There are four people in this world who matter to me the most, and they all live under my roof.
  3. These people have no idea who they’re fucking with.

From that day we made a pact: We have TODAY. That’s it.

A chance to make this day extra awesome.

To BE awesome.

Power over circumstances

We couldn’t change the facts, but we had the ability to choose how we handled the mess. Through all the chemo rounds and a bone marrow transplant, over all those months, we made each day matter. On purpose.

And on the suckiest days we promised each other to find the awesome in it. Many days it proved a challenge to find the elusive butterflies and rainbows, but we searched until we found something awesome to celebrate.

Silver linings and stupid little funny things that mattered only to us, and gave us  power over our circumstances. Forcing each other to seek and find is what got us through day after day.

Steve Steph in Italy

The coffee toast goes to Italy.

Like the tradition of clinking our coffee cups every morning. At first we toasted to each other. And on Tuesdays, chemo day, we toasted to us and no more tumors. In short time, grateful for another day, we began to offer up a blessing to somebody we felt needed it more than us.

Even in the darkest of days, and there were many for sure, we found the humor and passion and love to make the day matter. No one was more thrilled (or surprised) when we woke up, again, in bed the next morning — together, followed by three happy hungry kids.


The Seed is Planted

I hadn’t formulated the acronym #BeFAT yet, but it was sown out of necessity. A survival tool. With an eye on the prize, if you will. And it would grow into a mantra for living a positive, upbeat, seize the day lifestyle.

On that awful day, after five minutes of silent staring, we took back our lives and firmly resolved to fight the good fight one day at a time. We’d go at it together and go at it with all the energy we could muster.

Hands holding sapling in soil

This Blog

The idea for this blog came from a personal challenge.

Who knew the vivid details of the day that haunted my dreams and fed my fears would bear us such great fruit? A diseased body, given the “double hand shake” more than once, healed and went on to live well. To see children grow up and grandchildren be born. And play golf with old friends every Friday afternoon.

Whether they ever realize it or not, this blog is a message to my children and their children, on living well, on purpose.

Bottom line is that life goes up and down. It takes twists and turns you can never predict or prepare for. You can run but you cannot hide from life’s disappointments and challenges. They WILL find you. How you choose to handle your circumstances is the only action in your control.

For your part, always look for the small shining moments in EVERY DAY. They may be hidden, but trust me, the butterflies and rainbows are waiting for you to find them. As a sign to help you know that you can and will recover from whatever crap you find yourself in today.

Remember to be grateful for today.

Be thankful.

Be humble.

Be helpful.

Be kind.

Be generous.

Be smart.

Be safe.

Keep your head on.

Be f-ing awesome today.

And every day.

Takeaways to share:

  • It’s not over today until you say it’s over today. Some days you just need to fight your way through it.
  • There is a reason your life has been spared today. Go into the world and find out why. Then do something good with it.
  • Every day you get to wake up is your chance to be awesome. Don’t screw with it.