Yesterday I ran in a 5K race (3.1miles). This might seem insignificant to some, but for me it was a milestone, a miracle. My cancer surgeries and treatments have made it very difficult to participate in any type of cardiovascular activity because of my difficulty breathing. For those who don’t know, one of my vocal cords is paralyzed and because of scar tissue from three surgeries and external beam radiation along with swallowing I-131 radiation, my other vocal cord sits close to the other and moves a little slower. Picture drinking through a straw…lots of liquid. Now squeeze the straw so that it’s only open less than half the width, not much liquid can pass through and it’s that much more difficult to suck liquid in. That is how I breathe because my opening is less than half of a normal person’s. Without activity, I breathe just fine; but when I’m doing something active like running, I have to take at least twice as many breaths just to get air into my lungs. It’s a whole process of taking shorter faster breaths to keep going. Six months ago I could barely walk a mile on a treadmill without having to slow down and try to catch my breath, yesterday, I ran 3.1 miles. Now, I do have to say there were periods of walking, but a lot less than I thought. In fact, I finished 80th out of 134 in my age group (I pictured being last but finishing nonetheless). As I crossed the finish line, I could not help but break down and cry. It was a run for health, and faith, and for me, after four long years of fighting, it felt like a first step of trusting my body again, or as a quote I read on another cancer blog, ‘honoring a goal after a sea of disappointment’. I felt and still feel great! Of course I couldn’t do it alone. My friend Frances was there to encourage me and coach me through all the way. I knew this was something I wanted to do eventually and she helped lead me and keep me committed to this race (of course, there were times I wanted to back out).
After all the struggles with cancer and consequently my voice and my breathing, I can say that I can talk, sing, and run. Not without some struggles, but I feel blessed. Thank you to Frances and to all my friends and family that have helped and encouraged me. Thanks also to all of you who follow my lipstick journey!
Today I wear Make Up Forever Rouge Artist Natural in N47. It’s red and moisturizing….it is the red lipstick I was wearing when I crossed the finish line!
Last week I had a routine exam with my radiation oncologist. Unlike my other doctor appointments I see him at the hospital instead of an office or clinic. These appointments are especially emotional because I am back in the hospital in the same area/waiting room where I waited every day for seven weeks to get zapped with radiation for a half an hour. Looking around the lobby you see the same thing. All kinds of people, different colors and ages, with different types of cancer waiting their turn. Usually they are there with a caregiver, some are there alone. I couldn’t help but feel for them, especially the really young and the really old. Radiation is no walk in the park. It’s difficult and painful and near the end, it takes all your strength away. I tried to make eye contact and smile at everyone, but there was so much sadness and fear. I sat there very thankful that I was there for a routine check up and nothing else, but the crowded room always takes my breath away.
I also got the chance to meet with a couple girlfriends of mine over lunch (two different friends, two different meetings). They are very similar in current ‘life’ situations. Both excelling in their careers, both young(ish), and both single moms. If you saw either one of them they would be the ones that look put together, always social, always smiling and accomodating. What makes them miles different is their stories up to this point and what’s behind the smile. One has had outstanding family support and love throughout and one has not. One is confident in who she is and believes she can move forward confidently and one questions if her decisions have been right, she even has difficulty forgiving herself despite the support of her friends. We are so molded by our histories, they affect how we look at life and ourselves. When you talk to people and question how they are why they are, first ask them where they came from.
What’s behind a smile? In the waiting room, I was smiling, but inside I was sad for those around me and overcome with emotion at how far I’d come. Behind one friend’s smile was hope and excitement for the future, my other friend had uncertainty and sadness behind her smile. Yesterday we got the news that a 14 year old relative passed away. He had many friends and did well in school but no one knew what was behind that smile. Love people, listen to their stories, love your kids and tell them often. We all need validation and care.
Today I wear Kat Von D Painted Love Lipstick on Prayer. This lipstick is a mauvey-brown color which pretty much any skintone can wear…very neutral. This particular formula from Kat Von D is rich in color and fairly moisturizing; it also lasts a very long time! I chose this color today mainly because if the name (although I do have this one in my bag for everyday). I lift up in prayer all those who are hurting behind their smiles.
This week’s word for my blogging group GBE2 is ‘now’. So I am going to write everything that happens to be going through my mind right now. I have a really good friend going through a divorce and I’m so sad for them and their family. It happens to be a family we’re close to and have even vacationed with and we are stunned to say the least. I’m sad because another good friend found out last week that her husband has cancer. Like us, they have three kids and I know first hand how hearing the word cancer affects not only you, but the whole family. I’m sitting here wondering why the world seems like it’s upside down and crazy. I’m wondering if I am in the job that I’m going to be in for the rest of my life. It’s not horrible, but is that it? After 21 years, I guess it is, but it makes me a little sad because after cancer I feel there is so much more. I’m wondering what activities the kids have this week, what time, and who’s driving. I’m wondering if I have to cook dinner again tomorrow or if we have enough leftovers from tonight. I’m wondering if I really want to exercise tonight even though I know that if I don’t do it, I’ll lose my stride and it will be an uphill battle to start up again. I’m wondering when the wind will die down. I’m wondering if my difficulty breathing is due to the extreme changes in weather and my allergies or if it’s something else. I’m wondering what my day with my boss is going to be like tomorrow. I’m wondering how many inches I should cut off my hair on Thursday.
Ok, that’s all. my mind is obviously wound up and filled with emotion, sorry for the rambling. I guess I should go to the gym. Right now I am wearing Dior Addict Lip Glow (yes, another Dior). It is by far one of my most favorite lip products. It feels like a balm and brings out the natural pink color of your lips and yes, it actually adds color to your lips based on your chemistry, temperature…who knows, who cares, it’s awesome!
This summer I will be celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary. I actually got married young by today’s standards, one year after graduating college (he graduated ahead of me). For the first few years of marriage, we were commuters. I had an apartment in Indiana where I was placed for my first job, and he was in Chicago for medical school. People have asked why we didn’t just wait until he was done instead of only seeing each other on weekends for the first few years. Well, we were young and in love and that’s well, what else is there to say? Anyhow, it was a honeymoon every weekend and we did wait 6 years to have our first child. Since the beginning of our marriage we have had 10 different addresses in three states (I am also counting the two addresses he had while in school since I would visit and it would be our home for the weekend). 3 of the homes we had built from the bottom up, 1 of the homes was a ‘spec’ home which means it was half done, we chose the rest, 1 was a builders model home, and today’s house was an older home that we have put blood, sweat, and tears into in re-doing each room, one by one. Our first child had gone to three different schools by the time he was in second grade and my other two experienced the stress of remodeling our current house while also dealing with my cancer. It has been quite the ride and today, we have had the same address for 7 years, the longest we have stayed anywhere. Sometimes I am jealous of some of my friends who got married and put roots down somewhere and never moved but I don’t think I would change things, it’s what I know.
This week my cousins and aunt are visiting from California and the Philippines. I haven’t seen my cousin from the Philippines in almost 30 years (I think we look the same, like no time has passed). It reminded me of the journey my parents took 40 years ago leaving friends and family with a 3 year old (me) to start a better life for the generations to come. It was a huge move away from all they knew, from their home. What is a home? You’ve heard the cliche’ “Home is where the heart is”. For me that’s true. If I were Dorothy in Oz and clicked those red shoes three times, they would bring me to my home; not defined by a city, state, or address, but solely defined by where my family happens to be. The upside from all the moves is that I don’t get attached to things (even though I don’t think I really ever have). I don’t get attached to homes, or stuff for that matter. The slight downside is that it has become harder for me to get attached to people because in the back of my mind I’m thinking about our next move. The invention of Facebook of course has changed that dramatically because I can now reconnect and stay in touch with all the people in my life past and present and I’m thankful. Through the moves I have met some incredible people and lifelong friends. When cancer came I cannot think of one person past or present that did not reach out to me. I reiterate this, sometimes we just have a moment to impact someone in either a positive or negative way…make it count.
Today I wear Dior Addict lipstick In New York. I love Dior lipsticks and this is a pinky brown which is quite easy to wear with anything. New York is the place I thought I would be living (because of my Broadway dreams) but have only gone to visit. Life takes us along many different paths and I never look back. Home IS where the heart is.
Do you ever get that feeling that time is just slipping away and you haven’t done anything significant? For the past few weeks this has been me. Working, eating, sleeping, just normal day to day stuff. Last week I had to go back to my corporate office for some advanced training. Although some of the material was good and seeing old friends was awesome, my kids were on Spring Break and I hated being away. One major thing the past few years with cancer has taught me is that time is so precious. It’s hard to wrap my head around this new normal for me and it’s hard expressing it into words. All I know is that I cry more easily and that I feel more deeply. I also value each moment and have a burning in my chest to do something significant. Not really for me, but for others. I want people to see life as beautiful and to live passionately because my heart is bursting. I’m sick of all the facades and the unspoken words…tick tock tick tock…time is just flying by and we can’t go back. I really am having difficulty expressing myself aren’t I?
Let’s put it this way, our life is like a book, each day, each season, is a new chapter…would you keep reading it? If you were a sitcom or a movie, would you keep watching? No, its not always an adventure, we do have the day to day mundane, but there are people we run into in our day and investing in their story can be a small adventure. Oh well, I’m rambling now. Do you think all survivors feel like this? I guess because I’ve been through a lot and know for certain there will be an end to this life (maybe sooner than later), I want to make mine count. Last week at our training we were given personality evaluations based on a questionnaire we had to fill out. One of the concluding statements given to me was, ‘she lives in the present, she tries to live each moment as a satisfying personal experience’. Yup….
Today I wear Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl which is a siren red. I have to say, like any matte lipstick, it’s a little dry but if you pat it into your lips with your finger and apply lip balm or a gloss on top, it’s fine. Obviously this color is bright red….HOT. I chose it because I have a burning passion to live life.