By Annie Weyhrauch, Get Your Rear in Gear Participant, Caregiver & Registered Dietitian
It’s those simple moments that sneak up and get you.
I was 13 when my mother died. She was only 46. The memories of that year are photographic images still ever present.
The week before she died, she sat down with me. She told me she was not going to live, that there was only a short time left before her cancer would take her away. She sat me in her lap and I remember thinking that I shouldn’t sit too hard-she was so frail. I lay in bed that night thinking, she’ll never see me graduate college, and she’ll never see me get married. She wouldn’t even be here in six months for my next birthday.
A few months following her death, I was setting the table for dinner. I set out the placemats, silverware and plates when the doorbell rang. It was the UPS man delivering some nutritional supplements; no one had bothered to cancel the order. I accepted the package and went back to the table to finish adding the glasses. I then stopped short. I had set five places at the table, one for each of us three kids, one for Dad, and one for Mom. It took the interruption for me to realize that I had absentmindedly set her a place at the table.
Small moments have a way of sneaking up on you.
I still have a bottle of her favorite perfume. When I first found the bottle while cleaning out the bathroom I didn’t recognize it at first. I took off the lid and took a small whiff. It hit me hard. It’s was the scent of her, encapsulated in a bottle, the familiar scent from hugging her close and leaning into her chest. I’m more cautious now, to only smell it when I need a good clearing of my sinuses. One whiff and the tears will immediately surface. But I can’t get rid of it. I can’t let it go.
She read stories to us every night before bed. We read all the Ramona books, Little House on the Prairie and every Berenstain bear book we could get our hands on. She would tuck us in bed and say, “I love you.” And we would say it back and forth until she had gotten all the way downstairs. It was a simple daily ritual, small but meaningful.
My mother taught me how to cook. One of my favorite things to do growing up was to help her fix dinner. I spent hours in the kitchen learning to make pizza and runzas and mashed potatoes. She made the best mashed potatoes. That’s probably why they are still one of my favorite comfort foods.
It’s impossible to quantify all of the impact of simple moments like this that she had on the lives of my brother, sister and I.
I am 27 years old now. I am a Registered Dietitian and I currently work at a children’s hospital. I felt drawn to this profession following my mother’s death. Working at a children’s hospital can be very difficult, but I feel I have an empathetic relationship with many of my patient’s families. It’s not natural to have your child be sick, it’s not fair. The same is true for losing your parent when you are just a child.
I have always loved food, beginning from learning to cook with mom to my education and understanding how nutrition relates to disease. My training and experience has taught me that so many factors must come together to create the recipe for cancer. Many of which are yet understood. Our genes unfortunately are unforgiving; we don’t have much control over our DNA. So, when it comes to reducing your risk, your diet may be one of your greatest allies. It’s at least one aspect in preventing cancer where you have complete control. My role as a dietitian is to help translate that aspect of prevention. It is one small part. But it’s the small things that make an impact over time.
Changing your diet doesn’t have to be drastic either. Again, it’s the small things you do each day that can make a difference. Start with one aspect of your diet that would benefit from a change. Maybe right now you drink six sodas a week. Begin by switching to diet soda or substitute one soda a week with flavored water. Soon enough you’ll be substituting all your sodas for water and can move on to something else that you want to improve.
Meaningful results can come from small change.
I teach others about nutrition to honor her life and to remember the small things she did for me.
I get my rear in gear to make my mother proud.
Annie Wayhrauch, a registered dietitian, will be contributing several recipes to Get Your Rear in Gear this year. Her recipes will contain a few simple changes that put a healthy spin on a classic regional favorite.
In honor of the upcoming race in Baton Rouge on Saturday, April 16, Annie has given a classic Jambalaya recipe a makeover. Then watch for other recipes from some other race regions with Annie’s “Makeover” flair.