Tag Archives: Anna Warner

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

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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!

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!

Like a Child

7 Jun

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It’s been quite a week. You know when you’re so busy that you feel like if you stop moving your head will explode? It’s kinda been a week (or 2) like that. With all the high school senior activities (clap out, picnic, prom, awards night, and graduation) along with my youngest’s Freshman awards and all the other kids’ end of year activities it’s been non-stop. Add to that a small change in my job with additional training necessary and also trying to put feet on a dream I’ve had for years (more to come later on that topic), it’s  been A LOT! I have to say though that ALL these activities have made me exhausted but have also given me life. I LOVE my kids and I wouldn’t miss any of this for the world. Watching and helping my daughter navigate through all of these events has been great and again, bittersweet because I know she’s about to enter into another phase of life. On occasion at her events I would find myself wondering if I’d still be around for my son for his senior year to do all these things with him too (3 years from now). It stinks and it’s heartbreaking to think about but I can’t help it, that’s what cancer does to your thought life.

I listened to a TED talk the other day about wisdom and there was a young girl talking about how she thought that adults should really think a little more like children. Her 12 year old take on things was pretty impressive and it made me think about my teens/young adult kids. One of the most difficult thing about having teens/young adults for me is their attitude (and them driving of course). It’s laughable to me when they speak like they know it all and they’ve been through life’s traumas and they know better then you. I admit it takes a lot for me not to roll my eyes. I try to hold my tongue and not tell them ‘how life really is’ or say, ‘you’ll see’ but those words escape my mouth more times than not and if the words don’t, definitely my attitude does which then is followed by the ‘mom you’re so annoying’ which leaves me hurt and annoyed…it’s a cycle. After listening to this girl I thought about the different bible verses that talk about a childlike faith and it made me think about my kids. I don’t ever want to squelch their dreams and passions. They will experience life and all it’s joys and hardships without me preparing and telling them about it now. I try to keep my mouth shut a little more while simultaneously keeping my eyes in a stationary position and every now and then I let them be annoying and annoyed without letting it hurt my feelings too deeply (that’s the hard part).

So, are young kids wise? Nah. Does wisdom come with age and experience? img_0144-1Sure, but should we as adults sometimes be more like a child when living life? Absolutely.Our next door neighbor has 2 young children and they’re always playing in the yard. Here’s what I know, they play with reckless abandon. When it’s raining and muddy they’re barefoot in the nasty mud, they run down the small hill in the yard with no fear, and on occasion I catch them staring at some of the flowers like they’ve never seen anything so beautiful; they have fun in the simplicity and they notice the beauty. Adults think too much, we lose that sense of wonder somewhere along the line, and I think we lose a little of our authentic selves because we fear judgement and rejection. Kids still believe in the possibilities.  Because of cancer I now straddle between fear and wonder and it’s not so Annababybad. Living with cancer daily has given me fresh eyes and the intention to see the world and people with wonder again. Cancer and a more definitive timeline on life has opened my eyes to the beauty I’m surrounded by, has helped me not to take things so seriously, to play when I want to play, and in an awesome way to dream big and dive fearlessly into those dreams. Cancer has also allowed me to be more honest and real with people and frankly they’re more accepting of the honesty because who’s going to be mean to someone with cancer (hahaha, just kidding)? You know that line, ‘Quit acting so childish.’? Well maybe sometimes acting childish is a good place to be.

Today I wear Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy in Lacquer Lover. I’ve been a little obsessed with metallic lipcolor for whatever reason and this one fits the bill. I can’t describe the color and it looks nothing like the picture. All I can say is that these liquid lipsticks are moisturizing and this color is great for summer and I think it would look good on everyone! Cheers!

Alive

20 May

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One day you and I will die, but before that day comes, let us live’~A. Arthur

Something happened after going through last month’s radiation experiment. When it was all said and done and when I found it didn’t work, I had overwhelming peace about everything. Maybe it’s all the prayers or just having simple faith and trust in God’s plan, but I have felt a complete shift in my mind. Since then, some of the weight of living with cancer has lifted off my shoulders and it’s been great. I think after the radiation I finally felt like I had done all I could in my power and now I could just let it go and truly leave it to the doctors and God. At church today we talked about defining moments and how during difficult times we want God to pull us out but sometimes He just gives us the strength to walk through and we just have to trust. Since the beginning of this crazy beautiful cancer journey in 2008 trust has been the theme; trusting God with HIS plan not MY plan. It has been 10 months since I first found out I had metastatic cancer. For 10 months my cancer tumors have been stable (not growing too quickly) and I am so grateful. Over the past 10 months I have shed tears and spent too much time contemplating the what ifs, but I’m done with that for now.  I’m alive, I feel pretty good, and I have today. I know I will still have ‘scanxiety’ at CT/PET scan time but…today’s good enough, no, today is great.

This past week I got to sing again and it’s been awhile. After losing function in a vocal cord and now having a little difficulty breathing my confidence level has waned but I was grateful for the img_2409opportunity. I picked a song with a lot of meaning to me along with lyrics that expressed exactly how I feel right now, needless to say, I got SUPER emotional. You can watch the performance here…'(https://youtu.be/mj9P47mkQ6wSo many things I thought would bring me happiness. Some dreams that are reality today. Such an irony the things that mean the most to me, are the memories I’ve made along the way. So if there’s anything I’ve learned from this journey I am on, simple truth will keep you going simple love will keep you strong. ‘Cause there are questions without answers, flames that never die, heartaches we go through are often blessings in disguise. Thank you lord, how could I ask for more?

I’m living with cancer but I’m alive. I don’t look sick so most people I run into would never know. I admit however that when I run into the ‘me’ monsters I do use it to shut them down. Are you familiar with the comedian Brian Regan and the skit ‘I walked on the moon’? It’s hilarious, you can watch it here (https://youtu.be/qBJ6yptGqm4). So yes, I’ve said, ‘Yeah? Well I have Stage 4 metastatic cancer.’ That usually stops people in their tracks. Sorry. We all have stuff we are dealing with which makes our lives richer. Now what? I’m alive. Don’t feel sorry for me, don’t look at me like I’m dying, and don’t assume I just want to stay home and rest (although that’s a pretty good assumption most of the time). Do keep praying, do ask questions (I’m ok talking about cancer and how things are going), and do buy me presents…hahaha. I love my life.

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.~Eleanor Roosevelt

Just breathing isn’t living.~Eleanor H. Porter <<<——————-#truth!

Today I wear Fenty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer. I’ve written about this before, I love it. It’s shiny, not sticky, and has a good amount of shimmer to it. It’s a warm gold which looks great on everyone and can be used alone or on top of whatever color. I chose it because everyone could use a little glitter in their day! Cheers!

I am a mom

11 May

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Mother’s day is around the corner and I am a mom. I am a mom with cancer. What does that mean on mother’s day for me? How have I changed?  This is hard to talk about. The first time I got cancer my kids were young and all I could think of was to fight for them. I have to say, what lessened the urgency or ‘scare’ from the word cancer for me was that I had thyroid cancer which I read about and was told even by my doctors that it was the easiest and best cancer to have because of the high cure rate. When things turned out a little more complicated after the first surgery I was scared and yes, I cried…a lot. My img_1886kids were only 5, 7, and 10 at the time and I wasn’t ready to leave them (are we ever ready to leave them?). I fought, I cried, I prayed, I survived and for the next 2 years cancer came back again twice but same thing, I fought, I cried, I prayed, and throughout those years and the surgeries, and the treatments, I tried to make their lives as normal as possible. I continued to work, I volunteered at their school, I brought cupcakes and donuts to their classes for their birthdays. I rarely missed anything.

Today, 10 years later, cancer is back and it decided to spread. My kids are older, facetune_01-04-2018-18-00-11one is in college, one is headed there next fall, and the youngest is in high school. I’m older, teens are more difficult, life is rarely quiet but I fight, I cry, I pray. Life is funny because there are always things you don’t want to miss. When the kids were younger and I got cancer all I wanted was more time to get them through high school. Now that they’re older I want to see them become adults, get married, maybe meet my grandkids, I want to see them fly and flourish and know that they’ll be ok.

I am a mom. Like all moms we have img_1634pieces of our hearts walking and breathing outside our bodies. We feel their hurts, we cry when they cry, we’re happy when they’re happy. We worry, we discipline, we direct, we pray, we love, we do the best we can. There are no perfect people or perfect moms but we can love and we can teach them to love. I am a mom with cancer. I may not meet the grandkids but I am planning to. I want to see them make good decisions but I can’t control them. I want them to know that my home is a safe place and that there is love waiting for them here. My love language is time and unfortunately with cancer time is what is threatened the most so that makes my heart hurt a little. Here’s the twist, they’re all older and preparing and wanting to launch so while I try to grasp tighter and grab more moments, they are at the age of friends and freedom, and adulthood, how’s that for crappy timing…but I guess there isn’t really a good time to get sick. So that’s what’s a little different with cancer. I hug a little longer, and grasp a little tighter even though they’re older and they grasp for freedom. I stare at them more because I want to notice and memorize and soak in every nuance of their faces. When they ask to grab coffee or a movie or dinner, I jump at the chance because it’s more time. I don’t get too wound up over dumb things and I let go of simple annoyances quickly because I mainly see things in ‘big picture’ now. I listen more intently and I constantly tell them how much I love them and I fight harder, I cry harder, and I pray harder. To all the moms, stepmoms, aunts, mother figures, teachers, mentors and the village helping raise our children, Happy Mother’s Day.

Maybe every year needs one day to live wide awake to celebrate that we get to call these people ours, that we get to be the one who gets seconds and minutes and hours and days and maybe even years to witness the wonder of them…We get the gift to love our people-and what if we don’t get the wonder of another? Maybe getting to love is getting the best gift of all.~Ann Voskamp

Today I wear MAC Liptensity Lipstick in Habanero. I was looking for something a little bright after my radiation treatment. I needed a little pick me up and this color did it! I love the texture of this lipstick formula and the color is awesome. Habanero is a bright orange/red and I love it. Like the name, this color is spicy and fun! Cheers!

Superhero

30 Apr

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What a long week. To recap, I was given a tracer dose of radiation to see if any of my metastatic nodules would show uptake because if they did then another dose of RAI May work. Nothing showed up after the tracer dose. At that point my doctor told me that she would like to try a challenge therapeutic dose because the tracer is so small and my nodules were small and since I had distant metastasis, a higher dose may be necessary. After talking about possible downside to more radiation, which she assured me was minimal in my case, she said that there was a 20% chance it could work to get rid of my cancer. I took the 20% then sat in isolation in my room for 5 days.

I was deemed safe to the public by Saturday and of course the first thing my kids wanted to do was see the new Avengers movie (don’t worry, no spoilers and I waited until Sunday to be extra safe). I had shared with a good friend that after drinking the radiation I sort of felt like a superhero. My 4th time battling cancer and here I was, radioactive; sweating radiation, crying radiation, etc…in a strange way I felt (and still feel) invincible like a superhero, so at the very least I wanted to take my kids to watch my partners fight in the Avengers movie.

Well, after a long week/month I’m recovering and like the superheroes at the end of every hero movie, feel a little beat up but fought my hardest. I found out a little earlier that unfortunately I will not be part of the 20% that was cured and after the initial shock of disappointment I’m ok. I am exactly where I was a month ago. Stable. A month ago I didn’t even have the 20% probability option so yes, I’m totally ok. Here’s what else…I love and trust God and His plan even more. At church Sunday our pastor said, ‘In our storms img_2258God provides people.’ I saw, felt, received the love from so many people and truly felt God’s peace through all the prayers. I have a husband who took the week off and never left my side; has been at every appointment and was by my bedroom door all the time while I was in isolation with food, smiles, conversation, or whatever else I needed. I could not be more grateful for the life I have and the people in it and I’M STILL HERE! God is so amazingly good! From Nichole Nordeman’s song Sound of Surviving : This is sound of surviving, this is my farewell to fear. This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here and I’m not not done fighting. This is the sound of surviving.

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My gorgeous Superhero ring along with my Lipstick Strong bracelet my son had made!

Saturday I got to meet a jewelry designer who had a pop up shop at a local boutique. I had purchased a couple pieces from her collection before and LOVE her stuff so I went to meet her. She was fantastic and kind and showed me a ring I had to have. In my superhero mode this ring reminded me of Wonder Woman who she said was the actual inspiration for the design! I bought it and LOVE it and it’s designer as well. Check her and her jewelry out at anujatolia.com.

Thank you for your support and walking with me in my lipstick journey. Today I still wear red lipstick. Today it’s Aveda Nourish-mint smoothing lip color in Cherrybud which just seems appropriate for Michigan spring. Cheers!

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