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Safe Haven

19 Oct

Today I had an appointment with my brilliant speech pathologist.  She has a PhD in speech pathology and also a love for music.  She has worked with opera singers and world renown choirs  so I trust her immensely with my fragile vocal cords.  If you’ve been following my story, you know that I am a singer and it is a deep passion for me.  You also know that the first surgery for my cancer permanently paralyzed my right vocal cord.  Eventually, cancer continued to spread handicapping my left vocal cord.  I have worked with Dr. Menaldi (and voice specialist Dr Rubin, MD) each and every time to restore my voice constantly giving me hope that I will speak well and I will sing again.  Through hard work and their constant encouragement I have been able to sing again (miraculously). Last June when the doctors saw cancer cells once again on PET scan, I gave up trying to rehab because I didn’t see the point.  Of course,  in September when ultrasound showed no tumors, I decided to resume and now I am back to ground zero.  Back in June I gave up on the singing, I grieved and I finally let it go. Today Dr. Menaldi said ‘no’.  My neck has taken a beating, but she will work with me until I am singing fully once again.  I never thought a doctor’s office would be a safe haven for me.  Since I have been diligently coming to this office for almost four years now, I have become friends with not just the doctors, but the staff.  They know my story, they have cried with me and encouraged me.  They have seen me at my worst and have followed my cancer journey every step of the way (not by choice of course).

It hasn’t always been easy for me to open up and be vulnerable, but illness left me with no choice.  I feel very fortunate to have quite a few ‘safe havens’; places where I can be myself, free from the worry of what others may think.  I count my friends and family, my home, and now my doctor’s office as safe havens for me (in my case, I also have to include the lipstick counters).  We all need at least one place because if you’re anything like me, it would be so easy to withdraw and have the only safe haven in the confines of your own brain…totally not safe!  So wherever it may be, a doctor’s office, a lipstick counter, or the comfort of your own room, find a place where you can be you to take the pressure off having to answer “everything’s fine”  all the time!

Today I wear Tarte Lipsurgence Liptint in Moody.  It is sheer deep berry colored stain which I love. I also love the name because sometimes I am moody (especially if my thyroid meds are off), and the people associated with my safe havens let me be that way!

Memories

4 Oct

This past week I went to dinner with a group of girls, well women, that I was in a sorority with in college.  It was a mini-reunion of sorts.  Most of them I hadn’t seen in twenty years.  Prior to attending I debated going of course.  I wondered what we would still have in common after all these years.  I wondered if we would be able to keep a conversation (of course we would, we’re women after all).   I even wondered if I  still looked good, young, etc to go (dumb, I know), I mean we’re ALL twenty years older.  Anyhow, I stopped wondering and stopped looking for excuses and went.  It was great, it actually felt the same as it did 20 years ago.  I wasn’t close to all of these women back in college (some were younger, some older), but we had things in common.  We all went to the same college, lived in the same house, knew the same stories, and had memories from that time we could all laugh about.  I was also able to see one of my roommates and closest friends, Anne.  I believe the last time I physically saw her was as a bridesmaid at my wedding almost 20 years ago.  She still lives far away, but the timing was right and she happened to be in town.  Most of us are married, most of us are moms, and more than likely, most of us struggle with similar things on a daily basis.  We shared lots of laughs and memories of old boyfriends and different events (some of which I don’t think I wanted to remember).  It was not time wasted.

Me and Anne

I read a quote which said, ‘ Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.’ The Wonder Years  The simple line that struck me was, ‘the things you are.’  Our memories, our past make us who we are today; we can’t erase or forget them.  Having cancer and going on that roller-coaster ride of emotions and memories I would rather forget has made me the person I am right this minute.  I am more self-aware and more selfish with my time, but I am also, stronger and braver.  As much as I want to move forward and forget the past few years, I realize that it’s the past that has given me this current strength.  We cannot live in the past and we also cannot base our lives on the memory of how we used to be.  We grow and mold ourselves daily based on our experiences and new memories.  Use your memories, both good and bad, to help you become wiser and stronger.

Today I wear Mally High Shine Liquid Lipstick in Blossom-a beautiful mauvey/plum because everyday, we blossom into someone new.

Next…

21 Sep

OK, I admit it, I’ve been neglecting the rest of my body (from the neck down, that is).  For the past four years I have been back and forth to the hospital because of the cancer that keeps coming back to my neck, add in all the mood swings and craziness, well, my neck has been my sole focus for a long time.  What’s worse is that when cancer cells were found again last June, I got mad at the rest of my body.  I stopped exercising, I ate more junk food and candy, I drank a little more, etc…I thought to myself that if my body wasn’t going to cooperate, well, I’ll do what I want.

Since my recent ultrasound showed no tumors and now that my body is totally out of shape and feels like jello, I’m done.  I will be nicer to my body while I reacquaint myself with everything outside of my neck.  I am starting with a mammogram.  I am officially two years late on getting my baseline reading so today, my ‘girls’ will get special treatment and recognition.  I pray that they have no special ‘friends’ that have been hanging around with them.  I am also going to start exercising again, not just my body, but also my vocal cords.  I have allowed my cords to get tight and now, I definitely cannot sing and after a full day of talking, I end my days with a sore throat.

As fall in Michigan starts and the leaves begin changing colors, I will make peace with the rest of me.  We are given one life and one body and there are very few things we can control.  Despite the invasion of my neck, I can and should continue giving the rest of me my best (and you should too).  Treat your body well and once again, since it is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month and thyroid cancer is one of the top cancer’s on the rise, check your neck!

Today I wear Nars-Fire Down Below (a matte blood red), because my body below my neck is screaming for attention!

Tic Toc

30 Jul

“Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear. Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, How do you measure, measure a year. In daylight, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, In inches, in miles, in laughter in strife, In Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, How do you measure a year in the life”…Seasons of Love, from Rent.

Tic toc, all we have is time, how do we spend it?  I learned the news that I had cancer one week before leaving for training.  The last thing I wanted to do was leave my family and friends for three weeks and use those minutes with people I didn’t know.  I listened to this song on my way there and then again on my way back and I discovered that my attitude had changed.  On my way, I thought about the brevity of life and truly the limited time we have and wondered why I was leaving my family during such a critical time in my health.  On my way back, I thought about the new friends I had made and how those moments I spent on the new relationships impacted my life.  At the end of training we were given evaluations individually.  What my trainer told me was that in the beginning he couldn’t figure me out because I was so quiet, but in the end he said it turns out I was a quiet storm affecting one person at a time.  This made me cry.  Since cancer, my life mission has been to make a positive impact one person at a time and his statement was validation that I was doing something right.

You’ve heard me say this before but I will say it again and again.  We impact each person that we meet whether positive or negative, people walk away from each encounter feeling something about you.  Sometimes, it’s just a few minutes and in this case for me, it was three weeks.  What type of impact do you want people to feel after you walk away?  I choose to make it a positive one.  Yes, three weeks was a long time, but the moments I spent with certain people were not a waste of those precious 525,600 minutes.  People are not a waste of time.  So thank you to Michelle, Jennifer, Ashley(TX), Ashely(FL), Lauren, and of course, Fernando.  You have all impacted my life.

For my new friends I wear  2 colors, Chantecaille- Angel Skin ,  a soft pinkish nude, because you were all my angels during training; and Bobbi Brown -Burnt Red because it’s my reminder to live boldly (and because Fernando said he loves red lipstick).  Thank you for the shared tears and all the laughter.

Thank You Mom

6 May

My mom is an amazing woman.  When I was 2 she traveled 23 hours by herself to the United States from the Philippines (apparently she was wheel chaired out of the airplane). My dad had immigrated 6 months beforehand to find a job and a place to live so we could start ‘The American Dream’. They left everything and everyone they knew to provide a better life for their children.

My mom was a working mom, we did not have much money since we were starting fresh so she took the first job she could get as a social worker for Detroit and stayed there 30+ years, never utilizing her degree in nutrition.  Although she worked 8 hours a day, she never missed a school function or recital and was always there when I was sick, sacrificing vacation time and sometimes even pay, I had no doubt that my mom would always be there when I needed her.  Recognizing my love for music, my parents sacrificed a couple paychecks to buy me a piano and also enrolled me in jazz, ballet, and tap at a very young age. We originally lived in a diverse Detroit community, but when we moved to a predominantly Caucasian suburb when I was 9, life got a little difficult for me.  I was incredibly shy and was teased because I was ‘different’.  By the time I was in Junior High, I wanted to move back to the Philippines.  My mom said, ‘For one year, get involved in everything possible at school and if after one year you still hate it, you can go.”  She was teaching me to persevere and overcome and I didn’t even know it!  Obviously, I stayed.  I was Student Body President, in choir, track, tennis, on yearbook committee, Honor Society, Math Olympics…just everything!  I made many friends and found a sense of belonging.

Her support continued through high school, college, and beyond.  She was there for the birth of my two children (I was in Indiana for the third) and is still there for almost all of their events. When I was diagnosed with cancer the first time, she literally fell to the floor, but rose to the occasion (of course) by being there every single step of the way.  My mom is known to her friends as a kind and generous woman, a giver of her time and resources. Our house was always open to those in need; I can’t even remember how many people lived with us as I grew up.  She taught me many things about being a woman and being a mom.  She taught me to persevere, to be independent, to treat others even better than you treat yourself, and to always be thankful for our blessings.  I always felt loved and important. Thank you mom, I love you.

Yes, mom’s have a big job and incredible influence on their children.  This week my lip color is Le Metier De Beaute’ Lip Crème in Chocolate Cream.  It is a beautiful medium brown with golden undertones (the texture is awesome!).  I chose this color because mothers are as precious as gold (and chocolate)! Happy Mother’s Day!

Keeping the Faith

30 Apr

Me and Grandma Lucille

This week I’m writing about my faith.  Faith is one of those controversial topics but I make no apologies for my beliefs.  Everyone is entitled to believe what they want.  I am a Christian.  To me, it is not about being ‘religious’ (whatever that means) or being part of a certain denomination, it is simply that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I will follow Him.  Going through the last few years of constantly being told bad news, I would not have been able to get through without having the belief that somehow, this was God’s plan and purpose for my life and that in the end no matter the outcome,  it was all for His glory and that my family would be taken care of.  I also believe in the power of prayer.  So many people were praying and I know that their prayers truly gave me a sense of peace.  With people constantly serving my family with meals and encouragement, I felt not just the presence of God at all times but also his heart through all of them.

Many have asked how I was able to stay so positive throughout my journey.  It’s very simple.  I trusted God and I still do and that gives me hope.  Of course I was sad about different aspects of my struggle but again, I trusted He had a plan.  I also was so uplifted by the people in my life.  The command to love others was cemented into my brain.  If you can get beyond the surface and look at people with compassion knowing they are a unique creation, you can love them.  When you pour your love out, it comes back ten fold, and that is what I felt…love overflowing.

My husband’s 94 year old grandmother died Easter Sunday.  She was resurrected on the day of resurrection!  What a testimony of a beautiful Christian woman.  I have known Lucille for the past 20 years.  She loved everyone, she NEVER complained, and she always encouraged and had a smile on her face.  Every birthday we got a card with a personalized letter, she never missed one.  This was a woman who knew that everyone wanted to be loved and remembered and I know that it’s because she believed in a God who made each person unique and special.  Because of my faith, and the hope it gives me, I know I will see her again!

Today I’m wearing Benefit Ultra Shine lip gloss  in Kiss Me (a beautiful mauve) in honor of Lucille because she loved to kiss people, again, making them feel loved and special. God is good, all the time!

My Lipstick Journey Through Cancer

25 Mar

Hello!

I am a cancer survivor who loves lipstick.  I am 41 years old and New Year’s 2011 marks my first year (in the past three years), cancer free.  Lipstick for me has been an obsession since high school.  I was never allowed to wear make up, but I always had my Cherry Chapstick which added a hint of red.  In college, my best friend Jennifer ALWAYS wore bright pink lipstick no matter what.  I never knew how she could pull that off confidently.  After college, I got my first job.  Lipstick cost less than shoes…thus begins my lipstick journey.

I buy lipstick with any mood shift I have.  Obviously with my cancer diagnosis, three surgeries, radiation, etc…my mood shifts were extreme and changed daily.  I think over the three year period I have collected at least 30-50 tubes of lipstick and gloss.  I was laid off from my job last June (right after radiation), YSL Golden gloss #14.  I got another job right after, Laura Mercier Brown Plum.  I quit that job in December, not because I had so many great options, but because I was tired (I never let myself fully recover), and it was a job I could not see myself doing long term.  One thing with cancer is, you don’t want to waste time.  I bought Bobbi Brown Raisin (my favorite color and brand, by the way).

I’ve been interviewing sometimes two to three times a week for the past couple weeks for a new job and have been very self controlled in terms of my lipstick purchases. Today, I splurged. I got stressed about the job hunt because I carry the insurance for the family and my ultrasound/PET scan is coming up and it ain’t cheap.  Today I bought Dior 774.  What’s bad is that when I came home, I saw the same tube in my ever-growing lipstick collection.  Hate when that happens.  Anyway, tomorrow’s a new day!

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