GRAVES: Even Wonder Woman needs an oxygen mask

Published 8:04 am Thursday, May 3, 2018

Moms with special needs children tend to downplay or out right ignore their health. The needs of the child are so great we master the art of caring for them even when our needs are greater.

We become so adept at neglecting ourselves for our child we do it without thought. It’s not an attention-seeking action, it is our way of life.

Several months ago, I had the unsettling notion something was not right with my health.

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At first, I had no symptoms. By the time the symptoms arrived, I was in the middle of writing, directing and choreographing our church Easter play. I love working with the kids and doing dramas. This one was extra special because it was the first one in which DJ participated.

In God’s providence, scheduling conflicts led to the play being done a week before Easter.

Had it been scheduled for even a day later, it would not have taken place.   

By performance night, my body was screaming for attention. My health would be ignored no longer.

In a span of about 36 hours I went from feeling like I might be coming down with the flu to being unable to get out of bed.

What began as me ignoring a typical kidney infection morphed into a full-blown medical crisis. Words like platelets, blood cancer, leukemia, heart attack and stroke now litter my everyday conversations.

Restricted from activity, I had ample time to contemplate how I landed on this broken road. How did I become so violently ill? The answer was clear.

I sacrificed my health in the name of being a strong, nurturing mother giving all and taking nothing for myself.

Then came the day when the tatters of my Wonder Woman mentality were strewn about my sick bed and everything changed.

There is a reason airline stewardess instruct us that in the event of an emergency we put our oxygen mask on before putting one on our child.

On the surface, the command contradicts the mommy code of putting the child first. However, the point on the plane should be the same in our everyday lives.

If we do not take care of ourselves, we will be unable to care for our child.

Neglecting ourselves is a self-destructive behavior disguised as nobility. Ignoring our health increases the risk of prolonging or intensifying our illness.

By seeking medical care at the first sign of illness, we significantly increase our chances of surviving the cancer monster.

Still in the throes of my health crisis, I do not yet know my end result. What I do know is that for ever how many days God gives me upon this Earth, I want to encourage others through my mistakes and accomplishments.

So, get that mole checked, stop making excuses for the lump in your breast, don’t assume it is a cold that won’t go away and get a physical every year.

We take the best care of our kids when we take care of us.

Joan Graves is a mother to five boys and an advocate and activist for children with special needs and their families. For more, go to