The concept of Mindful Mackenzie (formerly Kenzie Clean) began in 2014 when my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. Up until the moment those words left my mom’s mouth this had been one of the most exciting times in my life so far. I had just finished my study abroad in Italy & Spain, was starting student teaching in my dream school and classroom, and I had just started dating this guy I had a goood feeling about. Spoiler alert, we’re still together and I still teach at the same school.
At the age of 23, hearing that your dad has stage 4 cancer is nearly unfathomable. Your parents aren’t supposed to die while you’re still young. 2+ years later, he died. I was the one there that day. I had begged my brother to come over and help me with dad while our mom was at a conference, thankfully he did. My last 24 hours with my dad are ten times harder to look back on than they were to live. I’m getting off track here, but later on when I looked through my texts with my dad I noticed our last exchange: The last text to my dad before he died is 👋🏻💙 – How crazy is that…
Those few years were filled with contrasting life events. My dad had a stroke while we were in our favorite place as a family: on the boat getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July. The fire department came to help when my dad fell in the house several times. Within two weeks of each other I finished my undergrad + got my teaching license and broke my ankle, needed surgery and had to cancel a trip to the east coast with my best friend at the time.
I got hired at my dad’s and my elementary school, started teaching at StarCycle, my dad died, then our dog unexpectedly died, we sold my childhood home (also my dad’s childhood home), I started and completed my master’s program, I bought a condo (go me!!!), lost a best friend, became so iron deficient I needed infusions. All before I turned 26.
I felt pretty numb for the year following my dad’s death. I was so exhausted from the buildup to that moment — I had been helping to take care of him while working, masters, spin classes — and drained from surviving it. Death is such a tricky and weird experience to navigate.
But I survived it all. I somehow accomplished big things while going through the most challenging “season” of my life to date. I learned a lot. My three biggest lessons I learned from my dad(s death):
1. Be unapologetically yourself.
2. Love your loved ones hard.
3. Take care of the body you’re given.
My dad was one of those people who you either knew or you didn’t. Not “Ooh yeah I’ve heard the name” – no. People who knew my dad knew exactly who he was and had a funny story about a time with him. “Michael Magaurn, Yes I know him! One time we rode motorcycles in Tryon Creek park & got lost in the middle of the night” He walked into a room and it was instantly filled with more life. He was so confident in who he was, he was unapologetic, and he was the most loving father.
It was very clear he talked a lot about my brother & me to his friends and clients. At one time when I got a new phone, I inherited his previous phone number. I’d receive his calls by accident and everyone talked to me like they knew me – even if we’d never met! “Mackenzie — how is Ballet going, I heard you’re in Advanced 1 now” — very personal. Ha!
If I’m being honest, my dad ate like shi*t. My mom made sure we had a decent balance of the various food groups on our plates every meal and my dad still found a way to eat whatever he wanted. He knew what he liked *shrug*.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I got really upset. Obviously at the cancer, but also with him. I wanted him to care about what he ate so he could see his grandkids (that were & are still years away). This was really hard for me. To know that he likely wouldn’t be around long enough to walk me down the aisle and hold my babies… He tried, he really did, but it just wasn’t in who he was to change into a “healthy” guy. I’ve since learned that’s one of the reasons I love and admire him.
I decided then & there that I was committed to making those “healthy” choices now, so that they become habits and routines. So that when I do have kids, I’ve already done the work personally and my body is as ready as I am able to make it. I started reading articles about harmful ingredients that are super common in our foods & skincare. I started reading every label and adding superfoods.
Soon I noticed how much better I felt. I had been numb & struggling to get through the days (understandably) and shifting to foods that only had ingredients that helped my body in some way made a difference. It became easy to say no to anything “harmful.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my mom laid a solid foundation of how to eat well. Fast-food wasn’t part of our norm, nor was it something I felt deprived of. We’d have Apple Jacks and Pringles on vacations, along with all the fruits, veggies, proteins & healthy carbs that we’d normally eat.
So go hug your loved ones, commit to being yourself, and commit to updating your food and skincare ingredients. Want help with any of these things? I’m here!!