My kids are the reason my health is so important

Jun 16, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. ET
Image: Robert Decelis Ltd./Getty Images

Sometimes, the roughest times in our life lead to changes for the better. At least they did in my case. I took some tough experiences and turned them into hard lessons that have helped me make better choices — for myself and my family.

I have four direct blood relatives that had cancer. Three of them died from it, and one beat it so far. This is frightening for me. If I were to get cancer, what would happen to my kids? How would they handle it?

The pain and suffering I witnessed my grandparents endure from the disease bothered me, but I still felt disconnected. When both my parents were diagnosed with cancer, however, that was too close to home. My mom made it through, but my dad didn’t. I was an adult when he passed, and it was still difficult for me. My kids were greatly affected by it as well. I couldn't imagine how something like that would affect them if it happened to me or my husband.

Thinking about this lead me to some major realizations, though.

Both my parents and grandparents didn’t have the healthiest lifestyles. They worked all the time, ate poorly, had little or no exercise and smoked heavily. My mom was the only one who successfully gave up smoking in her mid-30s and started to eat healthy and exercise later in life. I think that definitely helped her beat her cancer.

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Sometimes it does take a tragedy to get you on the right path. My dad’s passing was definitely an eye-opener. I myself was leading an unhealthy lifestyle, and I needed to make some big changes. If I didn't do it for myself, I needed to do it for my kids. I'd do anything to save them from the pain I experienced watching my family be sick, and in saving them, I saved myself, too.

I changed my diet and started exercising daily. After a few months, I stepped it up even more. I decided that life was too short to sit in traffic for two or more hours a day. I wanted to spend more time with my kids. After all, we have them for only a short 18 years. I quit my job and started working from home. Now that I've made those changes, I'm healthier and happier — and we all know a happy mom is an important ingredient to happy kids.

For me, being a part of their daily activities is important. I don't want them to worry whether I will be there to watch their game or help them with a project. I don't want them to worry about who will fix them dinner or if they're wearing clothes that actually match. I'm the one that does those things, and I plan to keep it that way.

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The bottom line is, I stay healthy for my kids. Yes, it makes me feel better and more productive, but my children (and my husband) need me. Nothing can replace a child’s parent. Even though I am an adult, my dad is a missing presence in my life. He is a missing presence in my kids' lives. Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to be a size 2 or look great in a swimsuit. Making smart food choices and being active and mentally happy are all parts of the package.

I want to be around when my kids get married. I want to be a grandmother and spoil my grandkids. I plan to be around for a while. Staying healthy and happy benefits me and my family, and it helps ensure I'll be around for all the stuff I can't bear to miss.

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This post was sponsored by Nicorette® and NicoDerm® CQ®.