Tag Archives: Anna Warner

Weary

16 Sep

alexandme

Alex (and I) left the hospital a little over a week ago and it’s been so good to be home. He’s been getting better at hyper speed and it’s been amazing to watch and honestly, pretty miraculous. He still has some work to do but his recovery has been phenomenal and I am beyond grateful. The Monday after we came home I had my appointment with my oncologist and just like that, I was back into my ongoing cancer journey.hospital

This past weekend Alex spent some time at his dads and it was the first time since the stroke that I wasn’t around him. It made me a little anxious to be away from him but gave me time to sit and digest everything that had happened over the past month and a half. I’m tired, but more than that, I’m exhausted and soul-weary; physically, mentally, and spiritually. Over the past 10 years I have fought and beat cancer 3 times and am now fighting for the 4th time, Stage 4 metastatic…then Alex has a stroke. That doesn’t even include divorce from a (still) difficult ex, remarriage, step-kids, new jobs, moving, sending kids off to college and all the daily obstacles ‘normal’ life brings. I. Am. Tired. I picked up a couple of my old journals, one from almost 20 years ago and one just 5 years ago and both were filled with so many struggles but all my entries ended with ‘thank you for…’ I have never asked God why I got/have cancer, I did ask why Alex had a stroke, and I have asked why life just can’t be easy for awhile because there always seems to be something, and that something has felt enormous (cancer, stroke). God didn’t promise easy. If you’re familiar with the Bible at all, NONE of those stories point to easy. But still…

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.’~
– Ernest Hemingway

When I was first diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, there was a time when my prognosis was not great, and while I was praying one night I audibly heard God say ‘trust.’ Maybe it was in my head, but it was an interrupted thought and just the word ‘trust.’ Since then, that has been my mantra, trust Him. I am not questioning my faith because man, without faith in these trials I would be flailing. In fact, I believe I can still stand strong because I am trusting God to hold me up. I am not alone in this crazy thing called life. I do feel at this moment like my soul needs refreshment. It feels heavy, sometimes sad, and honestly it feels harder right now to find a thank you because I’m just tired; tired for my child, tired of fighting cancer. Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ I am craving that rest, not just sleep, soul rest and refreshment. Psalm 71:14 ‘But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.’ Small steps, Big God.

alex homeIt was a tough 6 weeks. What sustained me and gave me energy? Love. Love is a superpower; love beyond any words, love that took action. My fierce momma bear love gave me the energy I needed to take care of Alex and to be there fully for him. The crazy love I received from my home team: my husband, kids, parents, friends, Alex’s friends and teachers, the parents of Alex’s friends, etc, helped sustained my spirit and kept me secure that yes, the world at home and around me were also taken cared of. The love Alex and I felt from the nurses, staff, work friends, acquaintances, and even wishes from social media strangers was incredible. Love does make the world go round and life always moves forward. ‘It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.’~Vincent Van Gogh

 

Scars

22 Jul

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This week I started physical therapy on my arm. Remember, it was the neuropathy and lack of sensation in my left arm that actually helped discover my Stage 4 diagnosis. Anyhow, over the past couple of years my left arm has gotten weaker and the prickly/burning feeling has been magnified. I did a nerve conduction test and found out that I have nerve damage to the nerves in my brachial plexus from external beam radiation and it could actually get a little worse over the years. Not fun. Physical therapy was prescribed to help rehab the nerves that are left and somehow strengthen the muscles around those nerves. One of the side effects from this nerve damage is called paresthetica, which is basically persistent itching from damaged and irritated nerves. My arm is always itchy, numb, and tingly, and I now have scratched it so much that I have several little scars running up and around my left arm. It ain’t pretty and honestly, going to physical therapy is a little depressing. It reminds me that I’m sick and because of that illness, I’m damaged. The weather lately has been brutal on my breathing too…all those reminders.img_3895

I have a few scars, one on my neck from the three cancer surgeries, one on my shin from banging my leg into a car door years ago, and now, several scars on my arm from my scratching my ‘prickly nerve damaged’ skin.  ‘Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.’~ Cormac McCarthy. Every scar serves to remind us of the stories that put them there but also to remind us of what we’ve overcome. I look at the scar on my neck and remember the three surgeries that put it there and how far I’ve come. The scars on my arm remind me of the 7 weeks of radiation that killed my nerves but also killed the cancer for awhile.

What about the scars you don’t see? The ones left by hurt, words, anger, discouragement, do those heal? I think it takes a really long time. I am fully aware of how damaging words and actions can be. When scars heal they change the texture of your skin, but what about the damage of scars on your heart and soul? Hurt always alters something. ‘It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I don’t fully agree. The wounds remain underneath but the scar toughens the exterior. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.’~Rose Kennedy. We are all damaged and scarred to some degree visible or not, and we should remember that when speaking to each other.

For now, I will keep going to physical therapy without getting mad at my body. I will look at all my scars and remember that I am strong.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Fierce because that’s how I’m feeling 🙂

New Normal

23 Jun

scan day

My three month scan came and went and my lung nodules are still stable! Because of all the insurance craziness leading up to the scan, I wasn’t in a rush to get the results. My cancer has officially been stable for 2 years (next month) so now my scans move to every 6 months. It’s good and it’s bad. Every 3 months was hard but it felt comforting to keep tabs on those tumors, moving to every 6 months? Eh, I’ll try not to panic in between wondering if they’re growing.

I visit cancer centers for my job on a daily basis, ironic huh? Most of the people I speak to don’t even know I have cancer but I’m good with that. This past week I was speaking to a social worker about her role in a patient’s cancer journey and I ended up sharing with her that I myself have Stage 4 cancer. I could see her eyes and demeanor change as she shifted into ‘social worker’ gear. I told her that after this last scan I have felt more at ease knowing that my tumors have had little to no growth over the last two years; ‘still stable’ gave me a boost of hope. I told her that I was now trying to view my cancer as more of a chronic disease. This is my new normal, navigating a ‘normal-ish’ life knowing I have cancer. Yes, it’s weird.

On a podcast this week a cancer survivor said that while going through treatment, people would call her ‘warrior’ and ‘strong’ but she was just doing what she needed to do to survive. She said that integrating back into real life AFTER the tests and treatments was actually more difficult because there was no handbook, no one scheduling a test or bloodwork; she faced mortality and life became more ‘simple’. Simple meaning being grateful, loving others, being kind, appreciating time minus all the b.s. and drama and complaining and stressors that don’t really matter in the end. This is my mind daily, integrating into everyone’s normal daily life but having a more simple mindset because with metastatic cancer nothing is ‘normal’ living anymore. I can’t forget I have several cancerous nodules in my lungs and I can’t pretend that I don’t think they’re ever going to grow. How do I navigate normal and not really normal on a daily? Advice appreciated but I’ll start with grateful. Most of the time I view life as simple like the podcast chick, on occasion I get swept up in the drama but then I remember that life is fleeting.

How long is a long life? In a few months I’ll be turning 50, FIFTY!! I’ve technically lived a long life already. How do I want to live the rest? Warrior strong and not tinged with sadness and cynicism that having cancer can sometimes bring. Simple. Intentional. Grateful.

Today I wear Bare Minerals Gen Nude lipstick in XOX (which is a dusty rose) with The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Promise on top. The lipstick I created has enough pigment to wear alone but the texture is also perfect to layer on top of something you may already have to ‘adjust’ the tones. Putting Promise on top of this lipstick just lifts it up a notch and adds a tiny but of shimmer. Cheers!

 

Insecure

13 Apr

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The more she looks back at her life, the more she is slowly beginning to find: not everything went according to plan, but she certainly learned from it all. She grew in ways she never imagined she would grow and no one can take that away from her.’ ~Morgan Harper Nichols

Last night I got to sing at one of my most favorite events of the year. Every year, one of my doctors holds a concert to celebrate World Voice Day; patients, staff, and even my doctor sings during the concert and it’s basically great fun and great music. The patients that sing all have had something affect their voice from polyps to paralysis, so listening to them sing and being part of the event as a singer is inspirational. Last year, I pretty much cried my whole song (first year with metastatic diagnosis), this year I felt stronger, more resilient, and a little less nervous. I almost cried at the end of my song because the lyrics really hit my heart, ‘Sometimes I wonder, where I’ve been…I may not win, but I can’t be thrown out here on my own.’ The lyrics took my breath away for a minute but I didn’t break. Catch the performance here(https://youtu.be/fuv-Z_1WfQ0)

I have to confess something. Ever since my metastatic diagnosis over a year ago I have felt kind of funky. I felt as if I have aged at a rapid pace, I’ve struggled with sadness, maybe depression at times, and lots of insecurity. I can’t exactly pinpoint what the feeling is, all I know is that it infiltrated my space. I went from being a fairly confident person to someone whose body betrayed her once again, but this time in a big way. It was a big enough shock to the system that for the first time I thought the cancer would finally win, and I was losing my voice, not literally, but having no say anymore. Consequently, things that came easier for me took more out of me. I was insecure about how I did my job, I was a wreck speaking in public, and everyday when I looked in the mirror all I could see was a girl who was exhausted from fighting her body. I didn’t even like having my picture taken because again, I saw a girl that was tired. Having cancer and what it does to your psyche really sucks.

About a month or 2 ago I felt something change. I started gaining my confidence, or maybe it’s just peace and joy, but I can feel it. I think it mostly stemmed from the fact that my last scan was still stable making it ‘stable disease’ for almost 2 years. Or maybe I was just tired of being tired. Whatever it was that changed my mojo, I have felt it and last night was an example. Yes I was nervous but deep down I felt confident that I could do it and make it through without crushing nerves and a shaky voice. Then again, even with a shaky voice, I was so ready. I guess I’ve hit the valley after learning about the diagnosis and am swinging back up to fight and live, it took awhile. I trust God, I know He’s got me. I know I will have seasons of doubt and fear again. I mean, my next scan is only about 7 weeks away so there’s that cycle again but I’m good. ‘Faith and Fear make poor bedfellows. Where one is found, the other cannot exist.’~Napoleon Hill  

The opening quote was written specifically for me by the talented poet Morgan Harper Nichols. She has made it her business to write words for people after knowing some of their story. With all the opportunities I’ve had to share my story lately, I have been able to look back at my life and see how much has transpired. It definitely has not gone as planned but I have grown and learned…and I AM STILL HERE. So much strength can be drawn from our stories. Thank you for following along with mine.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Playful. I have been wearing this color a lot lately. It’s a bright plum, probably the brightest color I created. It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately, bright, joyful, and playful! 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!

Possibility

27 Nov

restaurant

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!

Sick

13 Jun
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Me and my baby brother recently 

I have heard more times than not that I don’t look sick. Believe me, it’s a great compliment. Over the past week or two there have been some significant events happen with people who don’t look sick. The shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, and the sudden unexpected passing of my dental hygienist who was a young, 39 year old mom of 2. My kids and I had known and been going to ‘S’ as our hygienist for probably 10 years so the news came as quite a shock for all of us. She and I went to the same gym so I saw her every so often and what looked like a healthy young woman was suddenly gone. She didn’t look sick.

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2010, week 6 of radiation. Minus 30 pounds, burnt inside. Do I look sick?

I would venture to say that 99.99% of everyone has some type of ‘ailment’ they struggle with on the inside whether it’s anxiety, insecurities, mental health, or actual physical health that the world doesn’t see from the outside (or social media) appearance. I spoke to a coworker whose husband has suffered from cancer awhile and doesn’t always ‘look’ ill and told her the biggest thing to remember in terms of being a caregiver for someone with a chronic illness is that we generally function under 100% all the time. Meaning, our 100% is your 85% so I told her if he’s complaining that he’s not feeling well to have compassion because he’s really not feeling well and has actually fallen below that 85% which is his norm.  For me, I have compromised breathing…all.the.time., I can never run a marathon let alone run 5 minutes straight on a treadmill because I simply can’t breathe and it takes a while to catch my breath, my left arm and hand have been numb (and getting worse) for the past few years which means I can’t play the piano anymore or confidently hold a cup of coffee with my left hand, or go through a drive thru without reaching over with my right hand because I’m not confident with my left, and when I say I’m tired, I’m exhausted and of course there are other things I struggle with regularly. Oh and I have massive amounts of hair falling out from my radiation experiment from last April. So my feeling 100% good is really about equivalent to everyone else’s 85%. I keep a full time job, try to be at all my kids’ activities, and try to keep a smile on my face. It’s how I live and you can’t see that I’m at 85%.

What does that mean for all of us? We need to be more gentle with each other. We need to see each other with compassionate eyes and know that beyond the exterior smiles, Facebook posts, beautiful instagram pics, etc there are stories of pain, illness, suffering, insecurities, and internal struggles that plague all of us. ‘The more beauty we find in someone else’s journey, the less we’ll want to compare it then to our own.’~Bob Goff. We need to love more and frankly as a Christian I am sick of the Christians acting like judge and jury (that’s a whole other blog). Jesus came to show us how to love and show grace and mercy and the world needs plenty more of that. Love God, love others no matter what.

I have another scan coming up in a week and I’m a little scared. I read this quote today, ‘Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow.’~Mary Anne Radmacher. Despite my apprehension I have trust in the One who carries my burdens on His shoulders so in my quiet voice I say thank you for another day. I’ll be ok. I hope I never really look sick but let’s all be aware that every single person is dealing with something we don’t see. Be kind. Be aware. Be loving.

She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.’~Ariana Dancu

Today I wear Tom Ford lipstick in Violet Fatale. This may be the most expensive lipstick I own. These lipsticks are pretty amazing. I didn’t like them at first becuause I thought they were a little dry but recently I’ve come to appreciate the semi-moisturizing but long wearing power of these lipsticks. I chose this color because it’s  bright but not too crazy and fun for summer! Cheers!

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