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Tag Archives: cancer survivor

Can We Change?

14 Nov

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Recently I had a conversation with one of my coworkers about personality types and whether people could change or if we just are who we are; a deep topic but spurred on by another conversation I had with my boss. We are in sales so we talked about our specific personality types (defined by Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, etc) and how they relate to selling style and if one may be better than the other. In the end my coworker and I decided that we were created a certain way at our core and there are enhancements we can make to our specific types like being a little more aggressive or being a little more extroverted, but at our specific personality type stays the same. There’s a saying ‘fake it til you make it,’ can you fake kindness? Then there’s ‘this is how God made me.’ Is it? Is there a ‘bad’ personality type? I don’t believe there’s a bad type but maybe life experiences, disappointments, and our own insecurities make us ‘hard’?  Can we soften? Can people change? All tough questions.

I read this today and it really resonated with me: You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.Why did you spill the coffee? ‘Well because someone bumped into me, of course!’Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.*Whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out.*Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled.*So we have to ask ourselves… “what’s in my cup?” When life or business gets tough, what spills over? Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility? Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and impulsive reactions? Whoa. When faced with adversity who are you because that is when your true thoughts and heart show. I have been around people who have raged and placed blame outside of themselves in troubling times but who does that hurt? It shows a core of anger and insecurity and the ‘ugly’ that rolls off their tongues is truly the ‘ugly’ that’s in their hearts. Matt 15:18 ‘But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart..’ Can they change? Nothing is impossible with God but first they must look in the mirror. I am no saint but with all the challenges life has thrown over the years all I can do is fall to my knees, cry out for peace, and be grateful for another day. Maybe that’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t depend on personality type because at all of our cores is love and the need to feel loved. Maybe it’s all about control. We go through so much in life; illness, hurt, broken relationships, etc and maybe we become hardened because those are the things we cannot control. So here’s what must change…not our personality type, but our need to control every circumstance or person, or in other words, our need to be God. Just my theory. ‘All is not what it is-it is always more. What seems like your story is but a line in the whole story’~Ann Voskamp.

This weekend I was blessed by an img_7380-1unbelievable surprise. My son’s recreational basketball team comprised of most of his closest friends surprised me by wearing t-shirts especially made (by the moms) in support of  my cancer journey. I cry thinking about and looking at the pictures. The beautiful thing about releasing control over whatever situation you may be in is that it frees your heart to love more, to be more authentic and to be kind. You get to be more of your authentic self because you also release the need to control people and reactions and crap in general and you get to live the golden rule ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’~Matt 7:12. What you put out into the world comes back 10-fold and those shirts on those boys created by the moms was a HUGE 10-fold bounce back. My grateful heart is once again mush.

img_5039-1Today’s lipstick is YSL Rouge Pur Couture Dazzling Lights Edition Lipstick in Le Rouge which is blood red. These lipsticks are a little pricey but super moisturizing. For whatever reason the lipstick just feels luxurious on your lips but I’m not gonna lie, the color slips off my lips pretty quickly. Never the less, if you want to splurge, YSL and Tom Ford are the two brands that are splurge-worthy. I chose this color because it’s red and a great color for the holidays! Cheers!

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Getting Older

22 Oct

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I read in a magazine last week that the United States is now the number one country for cosmetic procedures surpassing Brazil. We have become a country obsessed with bettering ourselves from the outside in instead of the inside out. What happened? At a time when we get fired up about politics, race, gender identification, and identity, we have also become #1 in cosmetic procedures…just sounds funny to me. Don’t get me wrong, I just sat in a chair getting my hair colored to cover my grays and I’ve invested a good bit of money in anti-aging creams and serums just to slow it all down. We have so much pressure these days to preserve our youth and appearance it’s crazy. I have a daughter who is a senior in high school and I know that no miracle cream or procedure will help me look even close to her age. I find that as much as we feel young on the inside you don’t really realize your true age until you’re surrounded by young people; teens, 20 somethings,etc…they just speak their own language.

This week I celebrate my birthday and of course this is the week I go back for another scan to see if and how much my tumors have grown. What a strange time it is as I play mental gymnastics with my head and heart. From all my walks with Relay for Life the posters that affected me the most were the ones that said ‘Happy Birthday’ because they reminded me to be grateful for another year of life. Well here I am, getting older and trying to stay grateful despite the current circumstances. It’s not that easy. I’m grateful, I’m sad, I’m anxious, you name it, a plethora of emotions as I anticipate the scan and what the future holds. How quickly with cancer my focus has gone from the desire to hang on to my youth to now longing to be able to grow old. I want to see my youngest graduate high school, I want to be at their weddings, I want to meet my grandkids, I want to be old and gray and retired with my husband by my side; none of us actually has this guarantee do we? Sigh. For now I will gaze at the stars, breathe fresh air, look into the eyes of my loved ones and hug them tight as often as they’ll let me. I will pray for peace in my soul and I will try to focus on being more grateful instead of fearful. I get to celebrate another birthday, what a privilege it is to be alive!img_6922

I want to feel all there is to feel, he thought. Let me feel tired, now, let me feel tired. I mustn’t forget, I’m alive, I know I’m alive, I mustn’t forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that.’~R. Bradbury

She worked her toes into the sand, feeling the tiny delicious pain of the friction of tiny chips of silicon against the tender flesh between her toes. That’s life. It hurts, it’s dirty, and it feels very, very good.’~O. Card

In all things give thanks’~ 1Thess 5:18

Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’~ James 1:2-3

Today I wear the one lip product in my purse at all times…Dior Addict Lip Glow in pink (which is the original and only color available until recently). It’s a lip balm that’s moisturizing but also brings out the natural pink in your lips. I love it! I chose it because of the name and because it just highlights what you’re already made of. Cheers and glow on!

Still Here

9 Oct

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It’s amazing what music and the right song at at the right time can do. Many of you may not know that I started college as a music major, I was mainly focused on performance and music theater but finished with a science degree. I used to sing, dance, play the piano…all fun stuff for me (here’s me and one of my doctors after my 3rd cancer a few years back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deEFC2IQLWM&feature=share) . Music has always played a HUGE part of my life. Last week I heard a song during one of my meetings that not only made me tear up but also gave me the shove I needed to turn the corner on my sadness (plus I got a ton of funny stuff and jokes from last week’s blog so thank you!) if only just a little bit. The song is called Sound of Surviving by Nichole Nordeman.

This is the sound of surviving. This is my farewell to fear. This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here and I’m not done fighting.’ 

‘I’m still here. Say it to the ache, lying there awake. Say it to your tears I’m still here. Say it to the pain, say it to the rain, say it to your fear…I’m still here.’

Hearing this song and soaking in the words shifted my heart and mind because yes, I’M STILL HERE. The simple words and verses helped change my sadness turning into cynicism just enough to restore the hope and strength I needed to fight a little harder and focus on being grateful a little more. Despite the cancer, despite the broken world, despite the sadness, we are all STILL HERE! What does that mean? While we are living we can still change the world. The Las Vegas shootings happened this past week and it was awful. We can be sad, we can be angry, but we are still here. What can we do differently? We can love more, do more, be grateful more because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. No one knows how many days we have on this earth, cancer just gives you a clock, but still, who really knows? Love, give, be intentional, be someone’s magic because you can be. We are still here.

I spent most of last week in San Diego for a meeting…don’t be jealous, we didn’t  have very much free time. I arrived a little early so I could spend some time exploring. I ended up eating dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant and since I have cancer and I’m all about YOLO, I ordered everything I wanted from guacamole to Tres Leches cake. The bill was not small!  When the waitress came back with the bill I asked if she would take a picture of me with the beautiful painted mural wall as my background for my blog. When she asked what type of blog I wrote I said ‘lipstick and cancer’. She snapped the pic above. A few minutes later she came back to the table and said ‘I’m taking care of your bill. My mom just beat breast cancer and you remind me of her; you have the same fire and spirit in your eyes.’ She walked away and I broke down in tears. I ordered $65 worth of food and beverage for just me and I was blessed by this young and beautiful waitress. I’m still here and there are still awesome people in this world.

I am so grateful. ‘Always pray to have eyes to see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.’~ Curiano 

Today I wear Stila Color Balm lipstick in Elyssa. These are a newer formulation and are super moisturizing which I love. I chose this color because its a deep brown berry which is great for fall. Cheers!

Eclipse

1 Oct

 

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Every week since my diagnosis I have at least a few people ask me how I’m doing or how I’m feeling. My answer to them is generally ok, but I really don’t know how to feel. For the last couple of months now while I’ve been on this ‘watch and wait’ mode it has been a real rollercoaster of emotions literally minute to minute. Physically I feel fine but emotionally I could be fine one minute, devastated the next. My mind rolls through thoughts like crazy, some good some bad; Audrey’s a senior, will I be here for Alex’s senior year/ senior pictures, if I start some type of therapy will I have energy, am I eating the right things, will I still have energy to travel, what exactly is on my bucket list, etc…so much randomness in my thoughts. Without knowing when or if these tumors start to grow is a tough place to be but I know answers are coming soon.

So how do I feel? Right now, mostly sad and sometimes angry. I can’t say I’m really afraid of anything except maybe that I burst out crying at an inappropriate time. Something you may not know about me is that for my job I work in cancer centers and oncology offices all day long so I am literally surrounded by patients, doctors, cancer language, etc. I am not a doctor but I know just enough of the language and statistics to be educated about my own case which again is good and bad. So while I watch and wait I live in the twilight zone  because I can’t get away from the cancer conversation. It’s like that point of a solar eclipse when the sun is partially covered; you know the sun will shine brightly again but not until the moon passes over. For a short bit of time we have to live in the shadows of life’s eclipse until the sun can shine fully again. Some of the things I’m missing right now is laughter, joy, and maybe a little bit of hope. I know it’s a season and I know I’ll fight this bitch (excuse the profanity), but until then I think I may struggle here and there. Jeremiah 29:13 says, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ I read in another blog that God even wants you to seek Him with the parts of your heart that are broken. My heart is broken but I have enough life and scars on it that I know it’s strong. For now, I’m a little sad.eastervid

Courageous. Brave. Strong. All words people have used to describe me but what do those all mean? I guess that means that I get up every day, pull up my big girl pants, and step one foot in front of the other. The hardest parts of my days are in the quiet but I know that it’s actually in the quiet where I find my strength. I just read Matthew 11:28 in The Message version of the Bible and I really loved it, ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me -watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and light.’ I’m praying for the free and light. I’m praying for joy and laughter and hope and I really want to have a dance party. You read that right, I want to have a party and I want to dance. Text me some jokes or respond to this blog with jokes or funny pictures. Thank you so much for all your prayers and words of encouragement but this week, I want to laugh (but still keep praying). This crazy world needs more laughter anyway!

Today I wear NYX Butter Gloss in Red Wine Truffle. This gloss is seriously the best stuff and under $5 which makes it even better! I have it in several colors and you really can’t go wrong. I chose this particular color today because it feels like fall outside and the color is deeper, but because I also love red wine…cheers!

In Between

20 Aug

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I have been doing something subconsciously for awhile now and just realized it. I’m pretty sure most of us do this with our lives. I realized that my life timeline over the past 9 years was self-defined by the times I had cancer. I would speak in terms of cancer 1, 2, or 3…’when I had cancer the first time…’ or ‘ that happened when I had cancer 3..’. I believe everyone does this. We look back at our lives and pinpoint specific times or events and build around that; when ‘Child A’ graduated high school, when ‘Child B’ started kindergarten, when I started the new job, etc. It’s ok but I think for me, if I let my subconscious live from event to event I’m afraid I may miss living the time in between those points. I don’t want definitions for time because I just want to live every day to the fullest. I think of my daughter graduating high school this upcoming school year and I can’t help but feel sad. Here’s the deal…I can think of all the ‘lasts’ and be sad until the day comes when she leaves and starts her journey away from home OR I can cherish every single moment I get to spend with her until then. I get to feel and be present for every smile, tear, disappointment, and joy ALL ALONG THE WAY letting go of any sadness or thoughts of ‘but she’s leaving for college soon’, that’s what I want and I believe honestly how we all should be living.

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(photo courtesy of Kensington Church)

This was truly my intention after being faced with cancer initially almost 10 years ago but as time passed, old habits along with the stresses of life plowed through and I forgot (note the word intention in my statement). No one is promised another day, EVER.  The difference between cancer or any illness vs a sudden car crash, heart attack, etc is that death and the lingering prospect of death sits on your shoulder every day. So what? No one can escape death but it’s such a weird topic to talk about. I want to talk life, life in the in-between. I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by great people and a man that loves me and brings me so much joy. I cannot think of a day that goes by without laughter in my home and it’s such a blessing. So here it is, Cancer 4. I will cry, kick, scream, and fight, but most of all I will live in the in-between with intention. I don’t want to miss a moment to feel and see and smell and touch; whatever the emotion I will be in it and accepting of it for the time whether it’s grief or joy. I don’t want to waste my time projecting into the future and let a second pass not fully engaged in the present. I will do my part and trust God’s plan, whatever His plan may be. Life is such a beautiful thing.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.’― Henry David Thoreau

This is still my lipstick journey but over the years I started slacking on wearing lipstick…I KNOW, RIGHT?? I have been wearing tinted lip balms, glosses on occasion, but more often than not I’ve been neglecting my beloved lipstick!! Well, NO MORE. This lipstick lovin girl is back. For the past few days I’ve put on lipstick in some brighter colors and I have forgotten how it can not only change your look but also change your mood.  So today I wear Aveda Nourish-mint Smoothing Lip Color in Cherrybud which is a brick red. This is the first Aveda lipstick I’ve tried and I really like it. It’s moisturizing, lasts a while, and is a little minty. I LOVE this color, it’s a warmer red so you can use it daily. Cheers!

 

From my teen son on Mother’s Day…

14 May
2014
Al
I got this letter/story today written by my youngest son who is 14. Parenting teens is such a challenge and sometimes we have to hang on to just the occasional bits of love and affirmation we get to feel like we’re doing something right. Sometimes we don’t even know what affects our kids or what they hang on to. This made my heart melt and made me ‘love cry.’ (I asked his permission to publish):
Ahhhhhhh! I let out a yawn as I wake up to the soft sound of a piano. Momma! I rush downstairs to the living space where medium-sized black piano was placed with my mom sitting there playing. I sit in a chair next to her along with my dog Roxy. We both enjoyed whenever momma would play and sing beautiful melodies. I always pressed pause on my life to listen to her beautiful music. “On my own….” she begins to sing one of her favorite songs from one of her favorite musicals “Les Miserables.” This was one of my favorites too.  She sang it so many times that she perfected it by now. The way her fingers moved on the keys made it seem like my mother was a wizard of some sort. I closed my eyes and imagined floating up and relaxing. Pure relaxation. That’s what it was. As the song went on it brought tears to my eyes just knowing how much my mom really loved to sing and how beautiful she was. I told myself that one day I’d do something that I love and show my kids what happiness is.
     
Afterwards I made one egg over-medium along with a piece of toast and made one for my mom too. She walked me to my bus stop and I waited to embark into another day in 2nd grade. Every day was an adventure for me at that age; I was a pirate or ninja or something of that nature during recess. The bus arrived and as I was sitting there next to my fellow pirate, I realized how much singing meant to my mom. She sang all her life and I wondered if she would travel to the places I did while she was singing. Places high in the sky or beautiful meadows or… I went on in my head thinking of the beautiful places on Earth which matched my moms music. I eagerly awaited going back home to another concert.
The next day was mothers day and I woke up bright and early with my siblings to fix up some breakfast with love to serve to my mom in bed. As we served her breakfast along with many hugs and kisses she began to cry. I never understood why she would cry at moments like these. Were the eggs not cooked right? She claims it’s because she loves us so much. I never cried for loving someone but I just went along with it. Today was her day. I remembered always begging God for a “Children’s Day,” like mothers day and fathers day, but when I told my mom she said “Children’s day is everyday.” That always made me mad.
 
It wasn’t until 5th grade I learned to appreciate my mom more and more. Divorce. That was the word brought up in conversation for the next 2 years. I could see that mom was more stressed than she had ever been. I had a hard time as well but had to fight through it to help my mom fight through it. She was stronger than I was, so we just helped each other along the way. She didn’t sing or play piano as frequently anymore, but when she did I would still sit and listen. She put ten times more effort and emotion into playing this time. I guess this was when her true colors came out. It was gorgeous to hear and I finally understood why you cry when you loved something. Sometimes I would hide in other rooms and listen because I was having a hard time and would often cry too. I routinely closed my eyes, forgot everything, and travel to another world with nothing but the sound of the piano playing in the background.
As I grow older it seems sometimes like I am growing apart from my mom, apart from myself and who I really am. Teenage years are a struggle for both of us and it must get worse before it gets better. I’m thinking back to my 2nd grade years trying to remember the relationship I had with my mom, then versus now. Trying to give her the tears of love again. She rarely plays anything anymore. I wish she did but I don’t wanna tell her. Just listening makes me set aside all my troubles for a brief moment. I will love my mom and her music forever. I’m always a momma’s boy at heart and I know I’ll never forget the music she played. It forever plays in my heart.
Happy mother’s day, love you❤

Never Forget

28 Apr

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I had a mini breakdown this morning. I couldn’t get the clasp together while putting on my necklace for at least 10 minutes and out of anger and frustration I broke down and cried. After a few surgeries on my neck and external beam radiation to my neck and shoulder area because of cancer, I had some damage to my brachial plexus which, since most of my cancer tumors were on the left side of my neck, means I have lost some feeling to my left arm and hand. My doctor said that the effects of my radiation treatment could last up to 10 years with scar tissue continuing to build. Well, it’s been almost 7 years since my last treatment and over the past couple of years my left arm and hand have gotten progressively worse. Additionally I carry stress in my neck and shoulders so if I’m under any kind of stress I lose even more feeling in my hand so besides the breathing issues that bother me on occasion, my arm and hand are a constant reminder that I had cancer and it changed me. I don’t feel confident holding a cup of coffee, or a paperclip for that matter, and my left arm is significantly weaker than my right. Besides the loss of feeling in some of my fingertips and thumb, there is a constant tingling all through my arm. You know when you sit cross legged on the floor too long and your legs fall asleep? That is my arm 24/7. I’ve tried physical therapy and I work out fairly regularly but the damage has been done and it cannot be reversed. Playing piano is just about out for me, typing is more difficult, but putting that dang clasp together…almost impossible when you can’t feel your thumb or your fingertips. Of course I’m grateful I’m alive and if this is all I have to deal with the rest of my life then so be it. It just gets frustrating sometimes.

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Me and my radiation mask

A couple days ago I was invited to join in an online discussion about cancer and stress through an organization I have been a part of since 2009 called I Had Cancer. One of the questions they asked was ‘After diagnosis did all your pre-cancer stresses seem trivial?’ (paraphrased). My answer was absolutely yes, but since it’s been 7 years since the last cancer diagnosis for me, I have started to forget what I went through and am back dwelling on some of those pre-cancer ‘trivial’ stresses. I never want to forget. I don’t want to forget that after battling cancer 3 times in 3 years I was more fearless, more grateful, and less stressed about inconsequential things. I remember being more observant; the colors of the sky and of flowers and trees were more vivid, and the air itself filling my lungs was delicious. I craved life and living and never wanted to waste a single moment. What happened? Life, kids, work, time. My clasp and the ‘stress’ discussion reminded me once again of how far I’ve come and all the blessings and moments in between since then. I’m thankful for the reminder and now I know I have to be more intentional about living and truly stopping to breathe life in and smell the roses. ‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’ ~ Oscar Wilde

Today I wear Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Wonderland.  These lipsticks are great and I have a couple colors. They come in several colors and formulations but I tend to stick to the satin formula since it’s the most moisturizing. This color is a deep pink-red which is a serious pop of color pretty great for spring and I love the name. Life is a wonderland, cheers!

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