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No Excuses

22 Jun

The other day I was in line at DSW (for those not familiar, it is a huge designer shoe warehouse).  I was the only one in line standing behind the big sign that said ‘Form Line Here’.  The sign stood about 5 feet away from the line of registers.  As the customer in front of me was finishing up and I was getting ready to step forward, a man literally ran up from I don’t know where buying three pairs of shoes and stepped up to the cash register.  The cashier started ringing him up thinking he was next in line.  Hello?  Did I look like a mannequin holding up the sign?  The store wasn’t even that busy at the time and I was literally the ONLY ONE STANDING THERE with one pair of shoes!  First, I wanted to yell at him and to physically push him out of the way.  Second, I wanted to explain to him the rules of the game, how inconsiderate he was, and then tell him my story and everything I’ve been through to still be around to buy one pair of shoes.  But no, I stood there and smiled awaiting my lost turn in line.

This got me thinking, I was using my cancer as an excuse for better treatment, a disability so to speak.  I wanted him to know that sure, maybe he was in a hurry, but excuse me, I’ve had cancer.  Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing?  I don’t want cancer to define me; it is simply a part of my story.  When most people look at me they don’t even know.  I want to be the person that I am today because of what the cancer has taught me; stronger, bolder, more understanding of people because of their story.  Maybe he didn’t see the sign, maybe he’s from out of town, maybe it was his first trip to DSW and didn’t know the ‘line rules’.  Whatever it was, I was not in a hurry so waiting 5 extra minutes didn’t really matter to me.  Despite being discouraged, I was able to take a step back and wonder about him and wow, the story I made up in my mind about him made me laugh out loud.

Anyway, we all have insecurities, ‘disabilities’, things which happened in our past or words that were spoken to us that have made us who we are.  Sometimes we like to use them as excuses, the ‘if you only knew what I’ve been through…’Well, it’s time to get your MOJO back. Don’t allow those things to define you.  Every day is a new day and a new chance to be the difference.

Today I wear I wear Revlon Coffee Bean lipstick which is a beautiful medium brown with a tiny bit of pink undertone.  It also has a little bit of shimmer.  I chose this color because of the name.  Coffee to give yourself a jolt of life, no excuses!


Lost and Found

12 Jun

There are certain things I have lost and that I miss because of my cancer and all the complications associated with it.  I miss running, dancing, swimming, and even riding a bike with my kids without having any breathing difficulty.  I miss some of my taste buds, so now, something has to be very sweet, very spicy, or very sour for me to taste.  I miss being warm on a warm day because my thyroid is no longer there to help control my internal temperature.  I miss having a sore throat and not having to wonder if the cancer is back once again.  I miss coughing without having people try to stay away from me because it’s so loud and uncontrolled or having my kids worry about me from the sound of the cough.  I miss being able to talk all day and sing whatever I want with ease all night and still have a voice with no sore throat.  I miss sleeping on my left side because I am a side sleeper, but now when I sleep on my left I choke and cough because of all the scar tissue on that side.  I miss my right vocal chord which if it were still functioning, I could talk better, sing better, and breathe better.

On the other hand, I have found many beautiful things.  I have found a deeper understanding of me and the world around me.  I have found a new love for people, their histories, and their stories.  I have found people that truly care and deeper friendships.  I have found a greater appreciation of time and a greater passion for life and every moment.  I have found a deeper faith in God and inner strength I never even knew I had.  I have found a new and strong voice in my writing.  In the end, I have found courage.

So no, cancer did not take away from me, it gave my heart more life.  For this I wear Christian Dior #773, Rouge Podium.  It’s a color that’s hard to describe…pink/orange/red?  It’s not as bright as it sounds.  It’s the first lipstick my husband has ever complimented me on (and he hates bright lipstick).  He says it brightens up my face and reminds him of a summer day.  That’s why I wear it, for sunnier days ahead!

Just Breathe

10 May

It’s springtime in Michigan (finally).  Grass is starting to look green again, trees, flowers, and bushes are blooming, and for me, spring allergies are starting up.  What that means in my world is that since having cancer, surgeries in my neck, radiation, and vocal chord paralysis, it has become increasingly more difficult to breathe.  I already have a dry throat from the RAI and external beam radiation but since I take allergy meds, it gets even drier.  Sometimes the dryness makes me cough uncontrollably for long periods of time.  Because of my paralysis, my cough sounds more like a bark or a sneeze.  People either say “bless you” or they slowly move as far away from me as possible.  The coughing and drainage make my vocal chords swell which in turn make it more difficult for me to breathe.

  All this to say that breathing is a miracle.  We have five senses; see, hear, taste, touch, smell.  They say that when people are missing even one of these, that their other senses    become heightened.  But breathing on the other hand is life;  without breath, there’s no life and when breathing is difficult, there’s fear.  Last week I visited with part of my voice team (from the book, Dr. Rubin and Dr. Menaldi).  It’s amazing to me how observant they are. They can hear and detect different nuances to my voice and my breathing just when they hear me speak or even while I’m just sitting there.  I have less fear knowing that they’re prepared to aid in my breathing and speaking as necessary and are always there checking on me.

I know for me that my difficulties will happen every spring and fall, or even at random times, but that’s ok.  It’s now a part of me, a reminder of the amazing journey I’ve been through, and a reminder to slow down and listen to my body and to simply breathe in life.  Take a deep breath, smell the new flowers, the freshly mowed lawn, the springtime air, and remember to thank God for life and the miracle of new beginnings. 

This week I am wearing Bare Escentuals Buxom Lips lip gloss in Kanani.  It is a beautiful, sheer peachy pink color.  What’s great about the Buxom glosses is that they make your lips tingle when you put them on.  Since we’re talking spring and new life, I thought this tingle would wake your lips up!  I’ve also been asked about other cosmetics I use.  First off, I buy lipstick all the time, the rest of the stuff, maybe once a year. I’ll start with foundation for today.  For everyday, I use Bare Escentuals Mineral Powder-matte.  It’s just a light powder that melts into your skin.  For the days I feel like I may need more coverage (when I’m tired or for a special event), I’ll wear Armani Luminous Silk foundation.  This is a miracle product because it’s light as air yet covers every flaw, it’s also got buildable coverage.  So that’s it…Happy Spring (and always wear SPF)!

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!

Learning to Love My Lips

4 Apr

Photo Courtesy of PR Watch

When I was young, I was teased about my big lips (among other things). The last thing I ever wanted to do was to focus on them. I NEVER wore lipstick. In fact, I always had a funny smirk on my face thinking that ‘look’ made my lips thinner. So why did I write a book about lipstick and cancer only to draw more attention to my lips? As I grew older, a couple beautiful things happened.  First, my face finally grew into my lips (my lips are the same size now as they were when I was four), and second, Angelina Jolie became a megastar with her huge lips. All of a sudden, everyone wanted big lips and I finally wanted to show them off.

I have been searching for the perfect shade since college. I think I found mine, but I keep departing from it thinking there must be one better. When I was diagnosed with cancer, my purchases increased and my color choices went wild. I buy lipstick with every change of emotion or weather and with cancer I was an emotional hotbed!  Another hobby of mine is journaling. I have kept a journal since I was eight years old. Writing a book combining my two emotional outlets (lipstick and journaling) along with my faith was an incredible channel for me and I am hoping that it is encouragement for others.

I had a couple more job interviews this week which is, of course, an emotional rollercoaster (CoverGirl Natureluxe lipsticks in Hibiscus and Cabernet)—drugstore, since I’m jobless.  But the best news came with my recent ultrasound…I am CLEAN!  I have been officially cancer free for one year!  I splurged, the new spring colors are out so I purchased Chanel Rose Dentelle along with a gorgeous Chanel gloss called Insolence (a sheer hot pink). Those that have read the book now ask what color they should be wearing, I say whatever makes you feel good. Now, people are constantly looking at my lips to see what color I’m wearing. Believe it or not, I still get freaked out because I still think my lips enter a room before I do, but I know they’re beautiful, just like life is beautiful!

My Lipstick Journey Through Cancer

25 Mar


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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