Tag Archives: cancer

Scan Day

3 Mar

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Here it is again. Tomorrow is scan day for me. Living with ‘stable’ metastatic cancer is so weird. First let me explain stable; stable disease means that although my cancer has spread to other parts of my body (namely my lungs), the tumors are either not growing or not shrinking, there are no new tumors, and the cancer has not spread to any new regions of the body. Bottom line, with a diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic cancer with tumors in my lungs? Stable is an awesome thing. I have been stable for over a year so at the one year mark my doctor decided to stretch my scans from every 3 months to every 6 months. Well, it’s been 6 months. In a blog I wrote over a year ago I quoted author Bruce Feiler who referred to his scans as his ‘regular date with digital destiny’ to show whether his lung nodules had grown. He goes on to say, ‘Scans are like revolving doors, emotional roulette wheels that spin us around a few days and spit us out the other side.’ Yes, yes, and all yes, I’m going on a date tomorrow with my digital destiny.

I have to say I think the spread to every 6 months has been beneficial to my well-being. It has given me enough time to recover from the scan, infuse a little hope, resume normal life, and on occasion, forget the cancer exists. The problem is, internally this weekend or even this whole past week leading up to the scan I’ve been a wreck. Of course nothing visible to the public but anxiety I can feel in my stomach, heart, and mind. This past week I haven’t slept that well and have had a harder time breathing. This weekend I’ve been pretty emotional. Giving my son a morning hug and a nice note from one of the sponsors of my launch party this morning has brought tears to my eyes. I want to both crawl into bed and not get up but also jump out of my skin and run like the wind (even though I can’t really run anymore because of my breathing).

I will make it through. Just another day and another step in this crazy beautiful life. Ultimately, having scans on a consistent basis has also served as a reminder that life is short and that it’s precious. It’s a reminder to stop and be truly grateful for everything and everyone you’ve been blessed with. I think that’s why I get so emotional, not because of fear, but because my date with the scan forces me to stop and really think about my life and all the people. Dang, I love living so much surrounded by people I love. Monday is just another day and by Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever I get the results and whatever  they may be, I will be a little stronger than today.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.’~ Leonardo da Vinci

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Promise which is beautiful, soft, shimmery pink. On the website I described wearing this color to remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, a color full of hope and promise and a ‘pinky promise’ to yourself to be gentle to you. For today (and tomorrow) I pray for peace. Cheers!

 

Winter

23 Feb

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In the winter I am writing about, there was much darkness. Darkness of nature, darkness of event, darkness of spirit. The sprawling darkness of not knowing. We speak of the light of reason. I would speak here of the darkness of the world, and the light of ______. But I don’t know what to call it. Maybe hope. Maybe faith, but not a shaped faith-only, say, a gesture, or a continuum of gestures. But probably it is closer to hope, that is more active, and far messier than faith must be. Faith, as I imagine it, is tensile, and cool, and has no need of words. Hope, I know, is a fighter and a screamer.’ ~Mary Oliver

It’s pretty much the middle of winter in Michigan so yes, it’s pretty much dark and gray most of the time. I never thought I was the one affected by continual gray days but I find when the sun decides to show up my mood is incredibly lighter. That last line of the poem really spoke to me, hope is a fighter and a screamer.

This week I had an official launch party for my lipstick company. As I was preparing for the party, nerves and stress were getting the best of me. I had lots of help and direction so the stress mainly came from me having to speak, and also having people there I did not know very well specifically coming to see me and meet my new baby, the lipstick…tough being an introvert. The party went unbelievably well and I now find myself being that fighting and screaming hope-filled person. It’s a really crazy place to be mentally because on the one hand, I’m filled with gratitude, excitement and ‘future’ while on the other, I’m still filled with gratitude but have questions about ‘future’. One day celebrating the birth of a dream while a little over a week from now, a scan to see if those dumb tumors are growing… fighting and screaming hope.

I am also a woman of great faith and I get what Mary Oliver was saying, ‘faith is tensile and cool.’ Faith stretches when I’m feeling at my bottom and it is the undergirding of my being. Without my faith in God and a bigger master plan, my hope would be dwindling in my circumstances. Winter in Michigan is long and gray and dark but we need the dark as much as we need the light. In the dark we rest and renew our bodies for the next day. In the dark we get to see the infinite possibilities of the stars in the sky. It has been in my darkest moments that my trust in God and faith have grown. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, ‘new life starts in the dark.

Today I’m fighting and screaming hope because I know there are still adventures to be had and maybe more dreams opening up. Spring still comes after winter. ‘For awhile you have a lifetime. Fiercely wanting what we all do, JUST A LITTLE MORE OF LIFE.’~ Mary Oliver

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Fierce (which is on sale this month to celebrate Galentines). A beautiful red that looks great on everyone. Don’t be afraid to wear red! 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!

A New Year

4 Jan

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Every moment is a new beginning
Every handshake a promise
Every quest implicates the other just as every word can become prayer
If life is not a celebration why remember it
If life, mine or that of my fellow man is not an offering to the other, what are we doing on this earth~Elie Wiesel

The first week of 2019 is basically over. I had so many plans to continue some disciplines and add new ones beginning January 1; eating more vegetables, juicing for breakfast, doing at least 20 minutes of some type of exercise daily, meditating/praying first thing in the morning, setting a mantra for the day to set the tone, writing weekly/monthly goals, then ending the day writing in my gratitude journal. Well, four days into the new year and I have only done one, maybe two things off that list daily so far. Ugh but oh well. All good stuff and all in my subconscious so I will try every single day 🙂

The holidays were a whirlwind for me. All the kids were home, it was noisy, chaotic, messy, and we kept running out of food but it was great. There’s something as a mom about having everyone under one roof. I think despite the chaos, I slept better. There are moments I feel so strong and can compartmentalize my diagnosis. Since I’ve been stable over a year now, I’m mostly hopeful that I’ll be stable for a long time. On occasion however, thoughts of having cancer pulls me down. Thankfully, those occasions are moving farther and farther apart. Typically I’m reminded of my cancer from difficulty breathing or my left arm going numb but this time it was different. I was reminded of my cancer out of gratefulness. After being surrounded by family and friends over the holidays, I realized the very things I was so grateful for were the exact things I will miss, my family and friends. It’s crazy but the more thankful I felt for everyone being around, the more sad (and angry) I felt for having cancer. Ugh again. It comes back to the importance of relationships, it’s what we’re made for.

Well, it’s a new year and I have a new word for the year. Renewal. I was reading a prayer devotional a few weeks back and that word popped out and I felt a stirring in my heart. The best definition I found (applicable to me) was ‘the repair of something worn out, run down, or broken’. It’s a rebuilding. I’m not sure why God has put this word in my heart but every time I hear it (which has been fairly constant since then) I feel something. Faith, hope, my body, my soul…renewal. What’s your word?

The quote at the top speaks to both my word from last year (joy), and transitions to my word this year. If life is not a celebration why remember it? JOY. Every moment is a new beginning. RENEWAL. Happy New Year everyone!

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Serene because that color means Peace to me. It’s a brown/peach that can be worn every day. Cheers to 2019!

 

Keep Going

9 Dec

img_0448Last weekend I got to spend some time in Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is probably my favorite place in the whole world because of its beauty and the peace I have felt every time I’ve gone there. Typically I’ve gone with girlfriends and we’ve enjoyed walks, food, and spas but this time I went with my husband. A die hard water person, he was hesitant to visit the desert but on the road into Sedona after seeing the first giant red rock, I believe he was hooked into the magic. On the second day (we were only there for 2 days), we decided to pick a trail and hike. I asked the front desk person at our motel for a map of the trailheads and for a short description of the trails. We decided to hit a trail late in the afternoon, picking the ‘light to medium difficulty’ 3 mile trail with ‘the best views’ (according to the lady). Long story short it was a beautiful trail near the top of a mountain with spectacular views but instead of the 3 miles, we ended up on different trails along the way and about 5 miles and 2 hours in, we started wondering if the trail was ending soon and if was going to be anywhere near where we parked. We kept a comfortable pace until the sun started going down and we started img_0466seeing animal (mountain lion) tracks along the way (the trail was a little muddy in some parts from rain earlier). Over 6 plus miles later, with the last mile or so uphill, we were exhausted, hungry, cold, but finally back in our car. Whew! It was exhilarating! 5000 foot elevation, 6+ miles, metastatic cancer with multiple lung nodules, the hike was a little challenging going uphill at various times but dang, when you think you can’t do something but do it anyway…it takes your breath away (literally for me).

‘If you can’t fly then run, If you can’t run then walk, If you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.’~Martin Luther King

This morning I went to the gym. I go to Orange Theory Fitness because I need to have someone tell me what I need to do and for how long when it comes to working out. OTF is like having a personal trainer (but in a group setting) for an hour and I love it. Today was what they call ‘power day’ which is basically working your tail off non stop for an hour. About half way through the class I could feel myself losing steam but then a new song came on and I was back in the game; Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll. There was something about that song that brought back memories of my youth, and the sheer strength and grit of her female rockers voice pushed me to keep going.

What is it that pushes you to take that one extra step? On the mountain, fear and cold was a pretty good motivator. At the gym, it was a song translating into grit, determination and stamina. There are so many things in life that are like the mountain. You move ahead without img_0500really knowing if you’re going the right way or if there may be a little danger ahead. You take one step at time with a little fear and trepidation but you know that stopping is not the solution. Keep moving. Then there are times like the gym when you know you’re on the right path but you’re simply losing steam. Dig deep. Surround yourself with people that can motivate you and those that believe in you. Keep going.

It’s the holiday season and I admit, it’s always been a melancholy time for me. Partly because when I was young I remember my parents being a little sad missing their extended family they left behind in the Philippines. The other part comes from first finding a lump in my neck around Christmas in 2007, recovering from my 2nd surgery/cancer around the holidays in 2008, then getting a call on Christmas Eve 2009 that my cancer had returned for the third time. This Christmas I’m feeling that extra push to seize every moment. I’m so grateful for my life and for every person in it. My cancer has been stable now for a year and a half so I can feel myself getting excited about living and possibly a longer future ahead. Hope is a beautiful thing. I will keep moving forward.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.~Deuteronomy 31:6

God’s got us. Christmas is a miracle. Unto us a child is born. What a beautiful time of year to sit back, reflect on our blessings and keep. pushing. forward.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Promise because there’s so much hope and promise in every day. Cheers!

Why Be Kind?

13 Nov
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Photo courtesy of Nicole Daniela Photography

Today is National Kindness Day…because we need a designated day to be reminded to be kind. I guess it’s fine since there seems to be a day for everything now. Last week I had a short meeting in Chicago. One of the best places to see human nature at its finest is at the airport during the boarding process and also trying to get off the plane after landing. We all know we all have to get on the plane and buckle up and we all know we have to get off so why the insanity? From my previous posts you know that my left arm is significantly weaker than my right and is also losing feeling. What that means for me and travel, is that I panic at the thought of having to lift a bag over my head to place into the overhead bin. On the short flight to Chicago, I struggled getting my stupid carry on bag up into the bin. I didn’t ask for help but as I struggled, broke a sweat, and bumped my head trying to lift my bag up, the man sitting underneath the ‘said bin’ sat and stared up at me with a face that said, ‘Are you serious, that bag is so small and you can’t lift it?’; I’m sure the people behind me wanting to get through were thinking the same thing. Coming back home I had to put my bag in the bin one row behind me. I’m sure you can guess, but trying to walk back even one row to get your bag once you land is not a party. Where does kindness go when you’re rushed, impatient, or inconvenienced?

My church spent a month highlighting random acts of kindness. They created a beautiful board for people to write what they’ve done to help and be kind to others. The acts of kindness ranged from the extravagant gestures to the simple ‘holding the door open for people’ ones. It makes me a tiny bit sad that we have to dedicate a month or even a day like today to be more intentional about being kind to others. Times are so weird right now; not only do we need reminders to be intentionally kind, sometimes it feels like when we are, we need to be recognized for it. We live in a very volatile world right now with hate, mass shootings, and racial tension but maybe, just maybe, it’s because we forgot the basic precepts of kindness, love, and respect for each other to the point of which we need a day to remember to be intentional about being kind. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into this but I do know being pushed out of the way even after waiting until the row behind me got out to get my bag was not pleasant. Had the woman known I had cancer and it would take me a little extra effort to grab my bag because of radiation damage from cancer, would she have pushed her way through me to get out of the plane? Do we need a reason for basic kindness and respect? Even the smallest acts of kindness matter, but if we’re too self absorbed to be self aware then we’ll miss those moments. Be nice, even if no one knows, they’ll remember.

Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own.~Lindsay Gordon

The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, They’re made out of memories people have of you.~from the book Wonder, RJ Palacio

Today I wear Laniege Kiss and Make Up Set. This is a full set of different flavored lip balms that they call ‘masks’ that you wear at night and wash off in the morning. Right now you can buy this set at Sephora for about the same price of a full size container (and you get a full size included in the set). I love it and had to try because it’s a top seller but I’m not attached because I do still love my Aquaphor at night. I chose it because it’s luxurious and necessary right now because of the colder weather and dryer lips. I also chose it because of the name of the set. Cheers!

Pity Party

3 Nov

img_3275I’ve done a pretty good job throwing myself a pity party this last month. That’s right, I’ve been angry, depressed, resilient yet sad, you name it and it was hard getting over the hump. I let cancer get to me and was even mad about that for awhile. Nobody could tell because I’m a fairly high functioning depressed person but it was always there in the shadows; that stupid sadness that just wouldn’t go away. Every day I’d get up, get ready and go to work…why? I’d try to work out…why? I’d try to eat healthier…why? I was plagued by the ‘I have cancer so why and what for..?’ and then I told someone. Not anyone I’m particularly close to but caught at the right place, right time. I said it out loud. I’m mad and sad I have cancer and I feel like I’m forced to compartmentalize all aspects of my life; the part of me that knows I have cancer vs. the wife, the mom, the employee, the entrepreneur, all of it. Yet, because it’s impossible to keep cancer in its own separate category since it actually infiltrates every part of your life and influences your daily decisions, well that was just making me sad. This person looked at me and said, ‘It’s ok.’ That’s it? Yes. I am all those things and I do have cancer. I function as ‘Anna vs. cancer’ with me forging ahead most of the time but sometimes cancer gets the upper hand and it’s ok. I found that it’s good to surrender to those feelings sometimes and to rest knowing that tomorrow is another day and that God is the one in control. I also found that it’s GREAT to tell someone.

I read this amazing blog by Michele Cushatt that really resonated with me. I mean, she expressed the EXACT feelings I’ve had all along but could not verbalize regarding the pain of what she had lost because of her cancer journey, in particular, singing. Like her I was a pianist, vocalist, worship leader, soloist. I grew up in musicals, sang around town, sang on a tv show, did a radio jingle but the first thing I lost to cancer was my voice. Like Michele, my brain tells me I can sing, I hear the notes in my head, but what comes out is not the same. A few weeks ago I finally did tests on my left arm which has been losing strength and feeling since external beam radiation 8 years ago. The doctor basically said my right arm is ‘bionic’ compared to the left and that my left arm could get even worse over the next few years. Depressing. I cannot feel my fingertips as it is, I can’t comfortably lift things over my head with my left arm and it feels like it’s asleep most of the time. It can get worse?? So now even piano is out. Like she said in her blog, it hurts to remember and it hurts to try and forget. Music is a part of me, I literally grew up singing, dancing and playing piano and now my abilities are mostly gone and not by choice. In her words, ‘Perhaps the most beautiful worship is the kind that springs from loss.’ Such truth there because now my heart really knows what worshipping Christ means when you feel like He’s all you have. Read her full blog called ‘A Worship That Costs Everythinghere.

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Here’s the deal, I’m done with my pity party. I celebrated my birthday a little over a week ago and it was great. One of the positives of having cancer is that it forces you to really see the minutia of every moment, good and bad. I let myself take the focus off the good for a bit but realized there is so much good. Gratefulness pulls out joy regardless of circumstance. If you can’t dig out of your sadness PLEASE tell someone, anyone. Surround yourself with good people who give you peace, and absolutely seek solitude and rest when you need to. Focus on things that give you life and tolerate the things you have to do that don’t. Notice the minutia and be grateful. Some of my old passions and dreams have had a forced death but they gave way to the birth of new dreams, and my voice? It’s still here in the words I write. Thanks for listening.

img_0017I do my best to find some kind of glow. I’m givin it some heart and soul now from the darkest grays the sun bursts, clouds break…This is life in color…this is life in motion. And just when I could run this race no more the sun bursts, clouds break. This is life in color.’~Life in Color, One Republic.

Today I wear Kat Von D Studded Kiss Crème Lipstick in Mercy which is a sparkly deep red. These lipsticks pack a punch in terms of color. They’re long lasting, creamy, and not overly drying. I chose this color because hello, sparkly red, but also because of the name. Cheers!

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