A few weeks ago, I turned 38. This should not be a significant birthday, but it is for me. I was running on the treadmill when it hit me – my mother was 38 when she was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal ovarian cancer. Holy shit. I feel so young and so healthy. How did my mom feel? I can only guess since she died just before my 18th birthday and I was pretty selfish and wrapped up in all the things 17 year-olds are wrapped up in – boys, parties, shopping and big hair. In my high-school mind, my mom was old. Now I know better.

My mother struggled with her weight her entire life. She was a self-described “fat girl” growing up and then she married my dad and had two babies in three years and gained a lot of weight. Throughout my childhood I remember her religiously doing VCR taped workouts with Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda and constantly struggling with dieting. She was the classic “yo-yo” dieter and moved between really thin and back to heavy throughout most of her 43 years. The thing is, when she worked out, she went HARD! She attacked those moves in our living room and absolutely “sweated to the oldies” with the best of them. I can definitely say that I get my intensity from my mom…and perhaps I get my dedication to health from her too. It’s because she got sick and died at such a young age (43) that, although subconsciously at first, I turned into the healthiest person I could possibly be. I’m fiercely determined to live well beyond my boys 17th birthday and I think about it every single day. What drives me to run and bike and swim and eat well goes way beyond me trying to fight my childhood demons but having your mother taken from you by disease at 17 will definitely steer you in a healthier direction. Or at least it should.

So there I was on the treadmill, completely freaking out. What would I do if I had only five more years to live? I thought about having some sort of dedication or fun run or another public testament to my 38th year, perhaps the last good year of my mom’s life, and then something occurred to me and I felt instantly better. I’m already doing it. What better way to honor my mom then to be living my life to the fullest? I love my boys more then anything I’ve ever loved and I really (really!) try to be a great mom even when I scream or cry alone in the bathroom because I just can’t take it anymore! My mother’s goal in life was to be a stay-at-home mom and she was the best. I’m a fitness instructor and personal trainer and have made so many incredible relationships with men and women just like my mom who were struggling with their weight and I know she would be really proud of that. Most of all, I take chances, I spend money and I’m with my family (aunts, brother, nieces, nephews and most of all my DAD and step-mom!) as much as I possibly can be. In fact, I think it’s exactly how my mom lived, if only for a short time.

Ok, so what’s my point? I don’t want to sound cliche and tell you to “seize the day” but I would do anything to have one more conversation with my mom. Mostly because I have so many questions about how to keep my sanity while raising these kids! But, if I knew then what I know now I would have demanded that she eat better and exercise more. What I wouldn’t give to go for a run with my mom! Would that have saved her? I don’t know but I do know that being healthy never hurts. So I guess my take-away message is this – be healthy. Live your life without fear. Love your mom. You never know what 38 may bring to you…