Tag Archives: courage

Courage

28 Aug

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This has been one of the toughest weeks in the hospital with my son. As you know from my last blog, my 16 year old suffered a stroke on August 2nd. Since then he went from the ICU to a step down unit, to in patient rehab. He has made TONS of progress in terms of speech and his right side gaining movement, but all of this progress was leading up to 2 procedures to ‘fix’ the AVM in his brain; one to stop the blood flow in that area, followed by brain surgery to fix the actual malformation. What went from deepest sorrow, to joy from getting better, returned to grief and fear this past week for these next two steps. Everyday since last Friday, grief, fear, and joy lived simultaneously in his hospital room. During the day we would experience the joy of something gaining motion but at night, the fear of the upcoming procedures and what changes may happen would steal the joy. Then there were the questions amidst tears in the quiet before bed each night; Why did this happen to me? Why can’t I just be a normal teen? Why me? I didn’t know this momma’s heart could break even more, but watching your child in pain and struggling with these unanswerable questions broke the remainder of what I had left.

How do you answer these questions when you don’t have the answers? How do you remain courageous when you yourself have fear? All I could do was hug him, cry with him and tell him that it was ok to cry, be afraid, and ask questions but in the morning he needed to fight back and to push forward. I told him to ask God to strengthen and sustain him and to give him peace. For a kid (and even for an adult), that sounds so generic and blasé’, but it’s what I have to hang on to so I’m going to hang on to it. I also told him when he’s older, he can tell his kids and grandkids about the scar on his head and how he overcame the biggest challenge of his life when he was just a kid. Ann Voskamp speaks of grief and loss as a type of empty or negative space in our hearts which gives our lives definition; its constant presence in our thoughts and actions. She then says that God uses this space to give us permission to pause, help us reevaluate and draw our attention to what is positive-God Himself and the hope we have.

I am exhausted, mentally and physically. On top of this, we had 3 kids recently go off to college and another is starting her senior year of high school. Life moves forward. I thought that a Stage 4 diagnosis would do me in, but watching and caring for your child through such a major health crisis goes beyond human capability. I understand the being strong and fighting part when it comes to me and my fight, but for my child? It’s the next level. Children believe you when they see in your eyes that you believe, and it has taken every inch of my being, with HEAVY reliance on my faith to be strong and courageous for both of us. Love gives courage. We talk about life in seasons, ‘this is just a good or bad season,’ etc, but I heard Shauna Niequist on a podcast and she referred to life as more of a railroad track, the good and bad happen simultaneously side by side. I agree because I’ve seen it every day we’ve been here and even through my own cancer journey. In this hell, there has been light. On the worst of days, there have been glimmers of hope. There may have been tears but there has been laughter as well; always good and bad side by side.

The love we have experienced from friends, family, nurses, even strangers have meant so much and has lifted us up. I cannot thank you all enough for all the cards, texts, gifts, and prayers. As a Christian, I have always known the story of God and Jesus but now I understand even more the incredible sacrifice; a Father watching his son suffer real human suffering to give us all hope. That is love. Love gives courage.

Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you…I will uphold you.’~Isaiah 41:10

 

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!

 

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!

Power of Story

16 Mar

I heard a cancer survivor speak recently and I have to admit I was a little annoyed. I am incredibly happy that this person was completely cancer free and that her treatment worked for her, it’s a place all cancer fighters hope for. I think it was her story and her ‘after’ story that irritated me. The presentation was to a large group so I can imagine it may have been stressful but what I missed was a little authenticity, the guts of her journey. Maybe the story was too simple; got cancer, got treated, got cured, stayed positive, doesn’t remember having any ups and downs emotionally. Maybe I’m being too cynical, that’s probably it. All I know is for me to share in her joy and excitement I needed to be able to connect to her story and being a Stage 4 cancer fighter currently, the expectations and probability to connect was high but it didn’t happen. I wasn’t inspired, and all I could do was sigh, ‘that’s nice, good for her,’ a sharp contrast to someone I heard speak last year. Listening to last year’s survivor story left me on the edge of my seat, I was in tears as I was brought into her journey with her words and I wanted to seek her out afterward and know more. I didn’t even have cancer then.

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.’~Erin Morgenstern

Have you ever thought about that? The possibility that your story could actually take residence in someone’s soul and become part of their blood and self and purpose. Whoa. If that’s the case, would you be more truthful about who you are, your feelings, your purpose, your words? What I wanted from the speaker was authenticity, truth, and maybe her truth was just that simple. Maybe she didn’t have low points in her journey or maybe she just didn’t let herself get there. My truth on my current cancer path is different and that’s ok because we are all created differently. The authentic self is soul made visible. – Sarah Ban Breathnach  Be authentic.

Today’s page in my story is a jumble of words and emotions. My mind is all over the place. I have the consistency of work and kid rhythms but my mind and heart are still longing to save the world, to check things off on my ever growing bucket list, to see dreams become reality. I heard a fellow cancer fighter say that she tries to create such a big and busy life in order to shove down the ugly cancer stuff; in essence to make cancer just a small part in her mind. I feel the same, planning big, checking things off my bucket list and keeping busy helps me forget on occasion that I have cancer and it also helps me in a small way not to live from scan to scan. Faith. I recently read from an Oswald Chambers devotional that at the beginning of the Christian walk we are so marked by feelings, more by sight than by faith, but there comes a time when that joy is not what it used to be and that sometimes the soul gets dark but that is when God is taking the soul out of the realm of religious feeling and emotion into the realm of faith (all paraphrased). Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien. Deep faith. I’m right there now too. I have a sweet relationship with God that has deepened over the years through life, cancer, and other obstacles, and it’s what’s giving me hope. On Jen Hatmaker’s podcast she ends each episode with the question, ‘What is saving your life right now?’ I have to say for me, it’s my quiet time with God each day and the people I have chosen to surround myself with, my family and my friends; both give me hope, peace, and joy. My mind may be in overdrive but today I get to add another page to my story, I’m alive.

Today I wear Flower Petal Pout Lip Color in Chestnut Kiss. I was pleasantly surprised by these lipsticks from Drew Barrymore’s line. They are inexpensive, have great color, are pretty long lasting, and are fairly moisturizing as well. I chose this color because I was looking for an everyday brown that I could wear without looking ‘dirty’ on my brown skin and this was actually perfect! Cheers!

Chasing Joy

30 Dec

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What a week. For Christmas we hosted almost 30 people, had 2 dogs (plus my own), a puppy, and a cat. Not super unusual for a large family gathering but most of those people and all of the animals also stayed at my house for 3 or 4 days. As annoying and chaotic as that sounds, it was a blast…and this is coming from an introvert! There was so much joy and laughter in my house that for the first time since my cancer’s return I forgot about it. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard I cried and this was a regular occurrence over the long Christmas weekend. Did you catch what I said? The overabundance of joy and laughter made me actually forget I had cancer.

This is the last week of 2017 and boy has it been one freaking great year. Looking back I see mostly happy times surrounded by people I love and have tried to focus (as much as possible) on doing things I enjoy and spending time with people I care about. My focus of course dramatically heightened this past July when I found out I had cancer again. I saw a post on instagram that asked the question, ‘How have you changed or grown in 2017?’ It’s a great question and one I think we should all reflect on as we look forward to a new year. For me, the biggest area of growth was my voice which I had lost some time ago (figuratively of course and for reasons I’ve never written about). I am an introvert, people-pleaser which makes it tough to say ‘no’ and also tough to express your needs (easy target for people to take advantage of). 2017 gave me my voice and my power back…well, I’m still working on it but it’s been transformational. Also, I have become more laser focused on certain goals thanks to age and probably cancer. At the beginning of 2017 I chose the word ‘joy’ as my word for the year, recurrence of cancer has challenged that a bit for me but after this past weekend I know it’s still bubbling inside of me so for 2018 ‘joy’ is my word again.

‘When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?’~Ann Voskamp

This year, I will be chasing it. The moments I forgot about the cancer were monumental for me and I know there are so many possibilities out there for those crazy joy moments. Life is hard, teens are hard, work is hard, but what was it about those moments that made me forget? Telling stories, laughing, being myself and at ease with people I love, that’s one. What else? That’s my pursuit for 2018.

And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.’~J.R.R. Tolkien

Joy like swords. Today there’s no lipstick. I img_1055bought a mascara from a great cosmetic company called Thrive, visit their website and read what they’re about. Anyhow, with my recent purchase which I just received yesterday, they sent a makeup bag (gift with purchase for holidays) which was perfect. Joy is the best make up! Happy New Year, cheers!

Beauty and Terror

16 Nov

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I had to do something last night that I truly dislike. If you are a parent that has a child involved in Jr or Sr high sports or even musicals or whatever kids try out for you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s the time when you as a parent are sitting in your car on the last day of try-outs waiting for your child to come out and tell you whether or not they made the team, got the part, etc. All of my kids play sports so sitting and waiting in the parking lot behind the gym is a pretty regular experience. I hate it because not every child makes the team and as they come out one by one you can see joy or disappointment on their faces and lots of times tears; heartbreaking even if it’s not your child. I personally have experienced both joy and tears and as a mom you feel double–double the joy and double the heartache.

Last night I had a different experience and I hate to even mention it but it’s real. Last night as I was waiting for my son to come out of basketball tryouts I was completely overcome with emotion. The one thought that shook me waiting in silent darkness was that I didn’t want to die. Even though I was not liking the experience of waiting to hear about Alex and the team, I wanted to be there; not just for that day, but for all days, for all life lessons that continue on into adulthood, for all the joys and disappointments, for the tears that we would share, for all of the hugs, for proms, graduations, and for birthdays. I want to be mom and I want to be there for all of it. ‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.’~R. Munsch. Last night in my car I got incredibly sad and angry at the same time knowing that cancer was trying to purposely shorten my days and there I was crying in the dark in the back of the parking lot. I don’t want to die but I guess none of us are guaranteed our days.

It’s been just a couple of weeks since finding out my cancer was stable and my mind has wonderfully helped me deny I have cancer at all. From finding out in July until my last CT scan in October I struggled with the sadness that comes with finding out my cancer is back and has spread, but then literally after finding out it was stable my mind did a complete turnaround and everything for me was back to normal, no problems at all. Last night I was reminded that life is fleeting and I still have awful cells trying to take me down. Grrrrrrr, it stinks and I’m ticked off and sad at the same time so I’m back to my ‘oh yeah, I still have cancer’ normal…sigh. ‘Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror.
Just keep going.’~R. Rilke Sometimes that sums up exactly how I feel right now, loving the beauty of life and the people I’m surrounded by while also feeling terror and heartache of what’s next and who I may leave behind. ‘What day is it?’ ‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet. ‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh~A.A. Milne  Today is my favorite day because I’m still here. Oh, and he made the team!img_5339

Today I wear Lorac Alter Ego lipstick in Daydream which is a plum/fuschia color which is a little brighter for me but who cares! The formula is between a matte and satin finish so it’s a little drying but goes on smooth. Overall a great one to try! Cheers!

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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