Stable

13 Mar

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I am stable. I love the word stable. The definition of stable in the dictionary says ‘firmly fixed, not deteriorating, sane, sensible.’ I’ll take it. As a metastatic cancer fighter stable is the best possible word whether you’re on treatment or not, stable is the goal. Stable means I am not deteriorating. So here I am with the best news and not on any type of treatment yet. Awesome. I got the news via text from my doctor. [Note, YOU ARE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. Find a doctor that fights WITH you and cares enough to tell you news you want, no, NEED to hear right away.] Anyhow, I get to soak in more life for awhile and I’m good with that.

Last week was a whirlwind of a week. Had my scan on Monday, got my news on Tuesday, then flew out for work Wednesday. I honestly did not have time to process news I had been waiting for for 6 months. After working Wednesday with my co-worker, I found myself sitting at a bar in a nice restaurant eating by myself. I ordered an appetizer, had a delicious dinner, and ordered the best wine. I pretty much ordered whatever the waitress recommended. At the end of the meal she asked about dessert and I said ‘no way.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Get the dessert, don’t you have anything to celebrate?’ That was it. I burst into tears. I realized that through the busy-ness of life and having to travel for work, I had not processed the news of being stable. IT IS SUCH A BIG DEAL!! She ended up crying with me then not charging me for this extravagant meal (there are fantastic human beings out there), which made me cry even harder. I left the restaurant and drove to my hotel still a blubbering mess.

After my work trip I was asked to share my story at an International Women’s Day celebration back in Detroit(it was a full week). I have to say I was SUPER nervous. I’m not sure what I even said but I do know I was able to touch on the major parts of my story…like my four trips with cancer and starting the lipstick company out of my need to have purpose and meaning from having cancer. What I realized afterward is that the ‘story’ really happens in all of the in-between times; in between those big events of diagnosis, surgery, and treatment. The stories are the waitress and the free meal, the moms on my sons basketball team making a shirt to support my cancer journey and surprising me with it by having all the boys wear it at a game, the tears I cry thinking about the kids and their future that I may not be part of…there are so many moments in a day that make up our stories and 15 minutes couldn’t touch the surface of those. ‘Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.’~Rose Kennedy  Never forget to notice the moments and soak them in.

I saw my doctor on Monday, one week after my scan. It was a generally good visit. He was smiling when he said, ‘All looks good! Still stable, no new tumors. Any questions?’ We chatted for awhile, he looked at my bloodwork, then looked at me and said, ‘I’d like another scan in 3 months instead of 6 this time.’ Hmmmm. There it is. That question in the back of my mind that’s been sitting there since the beginning, ‘When’s the scan, what will they find?’ I’m back in my scan cycle of life but instead of every 6 months, I’m back at 3 months. I read a blog written by another cancer warrior and it perfectly describes how I feel. The writer described her cancer as a bomb strapped to her chest not knowing when it was actually going to blow and that is pretty much how I feel. Categorized as stable is exactly that, still with cancer, but with stable and slow growth. Going back to the bomb analogy and combining it with statistics for my particular ‘brand’ of cancer it goes something like this…in 5 years, 50% of the bombs will have exploded and in 10 years, 9 of 10 bombs will have exploded. Barring all scientific advances, that’s a little rough to think about and that is what keeps my heart heavy and my mind focused on time. The other side of the coin is this, science is advancing faster than the doctors can keep up with so it seems statistics change on a daily basis, hallelujah! More time.

Today I wear a combo of two Lipstick Journey lipsticks, Stormy on the bottom and Fierce on top. It is my favorite combination, it deepens the red and ‘lightens’ the storm. Perfect. Cheers to a new day!

 

Scan Day

3 Mar

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Here it is again. Tomorrow is scan day for me. Living with ‘stable’ metastatic cancer is so weird. First let me explain stable; stable disease means that although my cancer has spread to other parts of my body (namely my lungs), the tumors are either not growing or not shrinking, there are no new tumors, and the cancer has not spread to any new regions of the body. Bottom line, with a diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic cancer with tumors in my lungs? Stable is an awesome thing. I have been stable for over a year so at the one year mark my doctor decided to stretch my scans from every 3 months to every 6 months. Well, it’s been 6 months. In a blog I wrote over a year ago I quoted author Bruce Feiler who referred to his scans as his ‘regular date with digital destiny’ to show whether his lung nodules had grown. He goes on to say, ‘Scans are like revolving doors, emotional roulette wheels that spin us around a few days and spit us out the other side.’ Yes, yes, and all yes, I’m going on a date tomorrow with my digital destiny.

I have to say I think the spread to every 6 months has been beneficial to my well-being. It has given me enough time to recover from the scan, infuse a little hope, resume normal life, and on occasion, forget the cancer exists. The problem is, internally this weekend or even this whole past week leading up to the scan I’ve been a wreck. Of course nothing visible to the public but anxiety I can feel in my stomach, heart, and mind. This past week I haven’t slept that well and have had a harder time breathing. This weekend I’ve been pretty emotional. Giving my son a morning hug and a nice note from one of the sponsors of my launch party this morning has brought tears to my eyes. I want to both crawl into bed and not get up but also jump out of my skin and run like the wind (even though I can’t really run anymore because of my breathing).

I will make it through. Just another day and another step in this crazy beautiful life. Ultimately, having scans on a consistent basis has also served as a reminder that life is short and that it’s precious. It’s a reminder to stop and be truly grateful for everything and everyone you’ve been blessed with. I think that’s why I get so emotional, not because of fear, but because my date with the scan forces me to stop and really think about my life and all the people. Dang, I love living so much surrounded by people I love. Monday is just another day and by Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever I get the results and whatever  they may be, I will be a little stronger than today.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.’~ Leonardo da Vinci

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Promise which is beautiful, soft, shimmery pink. On the website I described wearing this color to remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, a color full of hope and promise and a ‘pinky promise’ to yourself to be gentle to you. For today (and tomorrow) I pray for peace. Cheers!

 

Winter

23 Feb

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In the winter I am writing about, there was much darkness. Darkness of nature, darkness of event, darkness of spirit. The sprawling darkness of not knowing. We speak of the light of reason. I would speak here of the darkness of the world, and the light of ______. But I don’t know what to call it. Maybe hope. Maybe faith, but not a shaped faith-only, say, a gesture, or a continuum of gestures. But probably it is closer to hope, that is more active, and far messier than faith must be. Faith, as I imagine it, is tensile, and cool, and has no need of words. Hope, I know, is a fighter and a screamer.’ ~Mary Oliver

It’s pretty much the middle of winter in Michigan so yes, it’s pretty much dark and gray most of the time. I never thought I was the one affected by continual gray days but I find when the sun decides to show up my mood is incredibly lighter. That last line of the poem really spoke to me, hope is a fighter and a screamer.

This week I had an official launch party for my lipstick company. As I was preparing for the party, nerves and stress were getting the best of me. I had lots of help and direction so the stress mainly came from me having to speak, and also having people there I did not know very well specifically coming to see me and meet my new baby, the lipstick…tough being an introvert. The party went unbelievably well and I now find myself being that fighting and screaming hope-filled person. It’s a really crazy place to be mentally because on the one hand, I’m filled with gratitude, excitement and ‘future’ while on the other, I’m still filled with gratitude but have questions about ‘future’. One day celebrating the birth of a dream while a little over a week from now, a scan to see if those dumb tumors are growing… fighting and screaming hope.

I am also a woman of great faith and I get what Mary Oliver was saying, ‘faith is tensile and cool.’ Faith stretches when I’m feeling at my bottom and it is the undergirding of my being. Without my faith in God and a bigger master plan, my hope would be dwindling in my circumstances. Winter in Michigan is long and gray and dark but we need the dark as much as we need the light. In the dark we rest and renew our bodies for the next day. In the dark we get to see the infinite possibilities of the stars in the sky. It has been in my darkest moments that my trust in God and faith have grown. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, ‘new life starts in the dark.

Today I’m fighting and screaming hope because I know there are still adventures to be had and maybe more dreams opening up. Spring still comes after winter. ‘For awhile you have a lifetime. Fiercely wanting what we all do, JUST A LITTLE MORE OF LIFE.’~ Mary Oliver

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Fierce (which is on sale this month to celebrate Galentines). A beautiful red that looks great on everyone. Don’t be afraid to wear red! Cheers!

Living in the Loop

15 Jan

 

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Photo cred: Leanna Vite Photography

Last Tuesday when I was driving home from work I felt something in my eye, like an eyelash fell into it or something. Annoying, but since I was driving I obviously couldn’t do anything about it. When I got home I forgot about my eye but as the night wore on, my left eye started to feel more and more irritated. Before going to bed I looked in the mirror and my eye was pure red from my pupil down. One thing I hate about having metastatic cancer is that you are hyper aware of any changes in your body so yes, the first thought that came to my mind was that cancer had spread to my eye. When I first got my metastatic diagnosis I spoke with a couple oncologists. They both told me that it’s a guessing game as to when the tumors start to really advance; could be a month, could be years. One story that came to the forefront of my mind last Tuesday was a patient of one of the doctors had stable mets in her lungs (like me) for a few years but had to start treatment when a cancerous nodule showed up on her eye. With my eye situation that’s all I could think about so the next morning I called an ophthalmologist. Turns out I had a couple broken blood vessels from who knows what but my eye is better. Cancer stinks.

In a New York Times article last December, Kate Bowler describes her journey with stable Stage IV metastatic cancer. I resonated with most of the article (which I’ve read more than a few times) but one thing really jumped out at me and it was the way she described time. She called time ‘looped’. Time did not point to the future anymore but looped around every 3-6 months between scans or treatments. She says that hope (for the future) sometimes poisoned the work of living in the present. I get it. I find myself living in this loop. My next scan is in about 6 weeks and what has been in the back of my mind is slowly creeping back into the forefront. Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent talk, ‘There is no such thing as a dying person. There are living people and there are dead people.’ So true. How do you live in the present without falling backward into the wasted time of the past while simultaneously grieving a possible non-future? Well, you just live. You soak in the beauty of love and family and friendships. You squint at the sun when it decides to show itself in Michigan winter. You keep dreaming, writing goals and going for them. In my case, you start a lipstick company 🙂 You just. keep. living. Every moment is a blessing and maybe hope is a moment thing and not a monumental thing. Maybe hope looks like the kindness of strangers, the new people I’m meeting, the people still praying for me after all these years with cancer off and on, time with my friends and family, and of course, knowing God truly loves me. So, I live in a 3-6 month loop of anger/hope, fear/hope, joy/hope and remind myself that it’s ok. I’m alive today and thank you God for the air that I breathe.

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have…’~Seneca

Today I wear a combination of The Lipstick Journey colors because yes, you can layer them! I chose the deep plum shade of Stormy as the base because life is dark sometimes but we need the dark to see the moon and stars. I layered Fierce on top because despite the darkness we can press on fearlessly and fierce! To layer my lipstick swipe a thin layer of the first color and pat it in with your finger. Wait a few seconds and swipe the next color on top. I LOVE these two together! Cheers!

A New Year

4 Jan

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Every moment is a new beginning
Every handshake a promise
Every quest implicates the other just as every word can become prayer
If life is not a celebration why remember it
If life, mine or that of my fellow man is not an offering to the other, what are we doing on this earth~Elie Wiesel

The first week of 2019 is basically over. I had so many plans to continue some disciplines and add new ones beginning January 1; eating more vegetables, juicing for breakfast, doing at least 20 minutes of some type of exercise daily, meditating/praying first thing in the morning, setting a mantra for the day to set the tone, writing weekly/monthly goals, then ending the day writing in my gratitude journal. Well, four days into the new year and I have only done one, maybe two things off that list daily so far. Ugh but oh well. All good stuff and all in my subconscious so I will try every single day 🙂

The holidays were a whirlwind for me. All the kids were home, it was noisy, chaotic, messy, and we kept running out of food but it was great. There’s something as a mom about having everyone under one roof. I think despite the chaos, I slept better. There are moments I feel so strong and can compartmentalize my diagnosis. Since I’ve been stable over a year now, I’m mostly hopeful that I’ll be stable for a long time. On occasion however, thoughts of having cancer pulls me down. Thankfully, those occasions are moving farther and farther apart. Typically I’m reminded of my cancer from difficulty breathing or my left arm going numb but this time it was different. I was reminded of my cancer out of gratefulness. After being surrounded by family and friends over the holidays, I realized the very things I was so grateful for were the exact things I will miss, my family and friends. It’s crazy but the more thankful I felt for everyone being around, the more sad (and angry) I felt for having cancer. Ugh again. It comes back to the importance of relationships, it’s what we’re made for.

Well, it’s a new year and I have a new word for the year. Renewal. I was reading a prayer devotional a few weeks back and that word popped out and I felt a stirring in my heart. The best definition I found (applicable to me) was ‘the repair of something worn out, run down, or broken’. It’s a rebuilding. I’m not sure why God has put this word in my heart but every time I hear it (which has been fairly constant since then) I feel something. Faith, hope, my body, my soul…renewal. What’s your word?

The quote at the top speaks to both my word from last year (joy), and transitions to my word this year. If life is not a celebration why remember it? JOY. Every moment is a new beginning. RENEWAL. Happy New Year everyone!

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Serene because that color means Peace to me. It’s a brown/peach that can be worn every day. Cheers to 2019!

 

Keep Going

9 Dec

img_0448Last weekend I got to spend some time in Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is probably my favorite place in the whole world because of its beauty and the peace I have felt every time I’ve gone there. Typically I’ve gone with girlfriends and we’ve enjoyed walks, food, and spas but this time I went with my husband. A die hard water person, he was hesitant to visit the desert but on the road into Sedona after seeing the first giant red rock, I believe he was hooked into the magic. On the second day (we were only there for 2 days), we decided to pick a trail and hike. I asked the front desk person at our motel for a map of the trailheads and for a short description of the trails. We decided to hit a trail late in the afternoon, picking the ‘light to medium difficulty’ 3 mile trail with ‘the best views’ (according to the lady). Long story short it was a beautiful trail near the top of a mountain with spectacular views but instead of the 3 miles, we ended up on different trails along the way and about 5 miles and 2 hours in, we started wondering if the trail was ending soon and if was going to be anywhere near where we parked. We kept a comfortable pace until the sun started going down and we started img_0466seeing animal (mountain lion) tracks along the way (the trail was a little muddy in some parts from rain earlier). Over 6 plus miles later, with the last mile or so uphill, we were exhausted, hungry, cold, but finally back in our car. Whew! It was exhilarating! 5000 foot elevation, 6+ miles, metastatic cancer with multiple lung nodules, the hike was a little challenging going uphill at various times but dang, when you think you can’t do something but do it anyway…it takes your breath away (literally for me).

‘If you can’t fly then run, If you can’t run then walk, If you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.’~Martin Luther King

This morning I went to the gym. I go to Orange Theory Fitness because I need to have someone tell me what I need to do and for how long when it comes to working out. OTF is like having a personal trainer (but in a group setting) for an hour and I love it. Today was what they call ‘power day’ which is basically working your tail off non stop for an hour. About half way through the class I could feel myself losing steam but then a new song came on and I was back in the game; Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll. There was something about that song that brought back memories of my youth, and the sheer strength and grit of her female rockers voice pushed me to keep going.

What is it that pushes you to take that one extra step? On the mountain, fear and cold was a pretty good motivator. At the gym, it was a song translating into grit, determination and stamina. There are so many things in life that are like the mountain. You move ahead without img_0500really knowing if you’re going the right way or if there may be a little danger ahead. You take one step at time with a little fear and trepidation but you know that stopping is not the solution. Keep moving. Then there are times like the gym when you know you’re on the right path but you’re simply losing steam. Dig deep. Surround yourself with people that can motivate you and those that believe in you. Keep going.

It’s the holiday season and I admit, it’s always been a melancholy time for me. Partly because when I was young I remember my parents being a little sad missing their extended family they left behind in the Philippines. The other part comes from first finding a lump in my neck around Christmas in 2007, recovering from my 2nd surgery/cancer around the holidays in 2008, then getting a call on Christmas Eve 2009 that my cancer had returned for the third time. This Christmas I’m feeling that extra push to seize every moment. I’m so grateful for my life and for every person in it. My cancer has been stable now for a year and a half so I can feel myself getting excited about living and possibly a longer future ahead. Hope is a beautiful thing. I will keep moving forward.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.~Deuteronomy 31:6

God’s got us. Christmas is a miracle. Unto us a child is born. What a beautiful time of year to sit back, reflect on our blessings and keep. pushing. forward.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Promise because there’s so much hope and promise in every day. Cheers!

Possibility

27 Nov

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There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying’.~Lauren Roberts

When I read that quote it really spoke to me and helped explain a little of what has happened to me since getting diagnosed with metastatic cancer in July of 2017. The world got quiet and I heard (and continue hearing) my heart. It’s really been an incredible year feeling every emotion from the depths of sorrow from the diagnosis, to having moments of pure joy just from being alive. In the quiet is where I’ve prayed and poured my heart out to God. In the quiet is where I’ve wept and in the quiet is where I’ve learned more of who I am and what my dreams and goals are.

This past Thanksgiving was one of those times of pure joy. My two older kids were home from college and all I felt was joy having everyone around. Even though I did most of the cooking and there were only a few moments of silence the whole weekend, I pretty much had a smile on my face the entire time. It was awesome having a crazy, active, and alive house for awhile. I do have to say, there are still 3 teens at home so our house can still get crazy and loud but school, sports, and work break that up a bit.

After my diagnosis the world seemed to go in slow motion, and did get quiet around me. I have spent a lot of time thinking, praying and being intentional. When you’re faced with your own mortality you start to really analyze how you use your time and truly, how you want to use it. This is what I believe the quote meant…the only thing left to listen to was my heart and God, because He owns my heart. Something I knew I wanted to do was help other patients fighting cancer.

The last 3 times I had cancer, surgery was involved and therefore, hospital stays. The hardest times for me was when I was alone in that hospital room and I was alone A LOT. Yes I had visitors and lots of support from family and friends but when you are just laying there 24/7, there’s lots of alone time. When I was going through radiation for 7 weeks I was alone most of the time then too. As I walked past some of the rooms when leaving the hospital I saw many people alone and couldn’t imagine not having support of friends and family. After all of that, the one thing I knew was that I didn’t want other people to have to fight alone or to feel alone.

Over the past year or so I’ve been working on bringing two of my passions/dreams together, lipstick and helping other cancer fighters. Last Saturday I launched my very own lipstick company, The Lipstick Journey, combining story with color. It is a dream come true. I decided what ingredients I wanted and those I didn’t. I decided the formula and how I wanted it to feel. I named the colors and wrote the descriptions. What a fun journey it has been. During my times with cancer (and now) I would use lipstick and the power of color to express how I felt and now, through my company, I want to help others do the same. I plan on giving partial proceeds, as well as time in volunteer efforts once a month to two organizations I have relationships with, with hopes of adding more organizations in the future. This past year I was sent a Fighting Pretty box and loved it, and since cancer #2 in 2009, I have been an angel mentor with Imerman Angels. Both amazing organizations that uplift and help cancer fighters not feel so alone.

TLJIs it ever too late to dream? Never. Stage 4, metastatic cancer? It’s now or never. Keep dreaming. God puts dreams into your soul and sometimes it’s adversity that reveals them. It has been a beautiful and fun journey and has been one thing giving me life. What is it that brings you life and joy? Maybe you should be walking in that direction, just take that first step.

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do’.~Pope John XXIII

Today I wear Fierce from The Lipstick Journey…self explanatory! Cheers!

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