Advertisements
Tag Archives: external beam radiation

Eclipse

1 Oct

 

img_6481
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!

Advertisements

Never Forget

28 Apr

cancer poster

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.

radiation

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. ┬áThese lipsticks are great and I have a couple colors. They come in┬áseveral 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!

Thank You, Doctor

26 Nov

sun

This past week I had my last appointment with one of my doctors because he is retiring. Unexpectedly at the end of my normal check up, I burst into tears as he said good bye, hugged me and told me it was his privilege to have taken care of me during my cancer journey. It’s hard to describe how I felt saying good bye to this man because the feelings kind of took me by surprise. Dr. K has seen me from the very beginning of my cancer story 8 years ago and has treated me like I was his only patient. He called me on Christmas to tell me the results of my PET scan because he knew I wouldn’t want to wait, after a medical conference he called me to tell me there was a new test for rare cases like me and although it had not been approved yet by the FDA he was going to arrange I have it done, during a period when I had no insurance and cancer was suspected again he told me he would take care of the additional tests necessary, and every time my cancer came back he would personally call doctors, surgeons, specialists across the country and tell me who he’d spoken to and who he would recommend; he himself a cancer survivor, always offered me the encouragement I needed. I feel so fortunate and grateful to have had him as part of my medical team.

Did Dr. K treat all of his patients like that? Probably, and it probably added more work to his days to make those extra phone calls and do extra paperwork. How easy would it be for us to squeeze in kindness, love, respect, empathy, etc toward other people in our busy days and should it really take that much effort? Dr. K made me feel important, valued, like I mattered, and isn’t that what we want in general? In our homes, friendships, workplace? His extra 10 minutes spent on me created a place in my heart and memory that will last me the rest of my life. ‘Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.’~ Mother Teresa. How do people feel when they leave you? Encouraged? Happy? At Peace? Like they listened? What memory are we leaving? Sometimes we only get one chance, let’s remind people they matter.

This Thanksgiving I have so much to be grateful for; health, family, home, and love. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families! Today I wear Dior Addict Lipstick in Not Shy, a pink-brown, which is my new favorite daytime lipstick. I’ve always loved Dior lipsticks for moisture and shine and this new formulation adds a little more staying power. Cheers from my family to yours!

Moms

2 Oct

kids

I’ve heard that writing is a muscle and if you don’t use it, it gets weak and goes away…well they’re right. My writing has been sporadic because my life has had lots of moving parts over the past few months and now my thoughts are all over the place. September flew by with school starting, sports starting, and what seemed like an early homecoming game/dance, it felt like there was just not enough time in the day and now it’s October already. Many of my thoughts this month have revolved around my kids; who their friends are, what choices are they making, what are their thoughts, struggles, etc. Now that they are all teens it’s just so difficult to know. Fortunately, my kids communicate alot to me, some things I would rather not hear sometimes, but I try to remain open, loving, and understanding. It is not easy.

Motherhood is by far the most difficult job ever, period. It takes a toll physically and emotionally and requires superhuman strength and nerves of steel. I have been a working mom and a stay at home mom and one thing is for sure, we should not criticize or compare. I think as women in general starting from our youth, we’re drawn to the comparison trap and it stinks. Prettier, taller, thinner, more talented, nicer clothes….it’s endless. What makes it more difficult as a mom is now we add our kids into that comparison. My child is smarter, more well behaved, more religious, more caring, more, more, more. STOP. All I know is I’m trying my best based on how I was raised, what I know, and my circumstances and experience, we all are aren’t we? Don’t judge what you don’t know, and even then, still don’t because unless you’re living in someone else’s shoes you have no idea. Kids have enough pressure from their peers, teachers, and themselves that we as moms (and dads) don’t need to add to that by expecting them to be perfect for bragging rights. We live in such a virtually connected world that it’s easy to believe that Facebook posts are real life all the time. Seriously, Facebook, Twitter, snapchat, instagram are all only capturing the good stuff or the stuff we choose to show. What about the struggles and ugly of the rest of the 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day? You for sure won’t see my hot mess on Facebook but hopefully we all know what real life is like. Enough of my soapbox.leaf

As for the kids here’s what I do know, what was portrayed in the movie The Breakfast Club has not changed much…there will always be the geeks, jocks, the princess, the outcasts, and the burnouts. We need to love our kids and support them in whatever ‘group’ they fall in because so quickly they’re grown and ready to fly on their own. How about we support each other too?

Today I wear Lancome Lip Lover lipgloss in Bordeaux Tempo. This is a new lipgloss formula and so far I love it. My lips tend to be drier as it gets cooler out and this promises 8 hours of moisture to your lips. Not really sure it does that but it’s pretty and my lips are not drying out. I chose this color because it’s a deeper berry color on me which is great for fall. Cheers!

Memories

4 May

maskI did something tonight that made me cry. The tears and emotion actually took me by surprise. May 10, 2010 was my last external beam radiation treatment for the cancer that wouldn’t leave me. For those not familiar with head and neck radiation you are fitted for a mask that is placed on you as you are bolted down to a table while getting radiation. I have saved this mask for years (in the basement). It’s creepy but I had several ideas running through my mind as to what to do with it. I originally thought some type of paper mache artwork mounted on my wall, then (since there are holes), possibly an earring/jewelry holder. Strange I know but I didn’t want to let the darn thing go. I felt like it would serve as a reminder of what I went through but today, I let it go. While cleaning my house and trying to simplify my life, I decided it was time to throw it out and when I did I felt a rush of emotion. So much has happened in my life since May 2010. The mask not only reminded me of the recurrent cancer battle, but also how much my kids had gone through and had grown since then, all the awesome people and lifelong friends I met, and really just how much my life has changed. Throwing the mask away made me miss my radiation friend Bob who I wrote about before, made me miss some of the doctors and staff who took great care of me during that strange 3 year period of my life, but it also made me think about the present and the future. How despite the twists and turns since then, I feel blessed, have joy, and mostly have hope for the future. My 17 year old son was watching me as I stared and cried at my mask.

Me, ‘Why am I crying?’ AJ, ‘Because you remember.’ I do remember, I’m sure he does too. I am so grateful. meandaj

I couldn’t be more grateful that the mask no longer has a use. It is just a memory; a painful, sad, but blessed memory that has given me strength and added to who I am today. I didn’t really need the actual mask to remember it all. What are some other things we can’t seem to part with? Most of the time the memories are enough.

Today I wear Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Bansar which is a perfect rose brown color you can use every day. I love these lip pencils becuase the are actually longer lasting and not drying at all! As for the name, who knows what that means but who cares, the color’s great. Cheers!

Teeth

15 Apr

annabeach

A little known fact about me is that I was born with teeth and lots of hair, so much so that my mom thought she had given birth to an animal…well, not really; and I didn’t really have full on teeth, just the whites of a couple teeth already pushing at my gum line. Biologically, if my ‘teeth’ were already through the gums they would be called natal teeth and there are different proposed causes but generally it’s a rare condition. In some cultures there is bad folklore on kids born with teeth while in others, it’s extremely positive. As a side note during my cancer journey anytime my doctor said, ‘That won’t be you or that won’t happen to you because it’s rare,’ well, it happened to me. So I guess I’ve been a rare breed since birth. Anyhow, growing up unique is not always a great thing especially during middle school. If you have kids, especially girls, you know what I’m talking about; the goal of most kids ages 10 to about 15 is to blend, not stand out, belong. So, growing up knowing I was born ‘unique’ looking, maybe subliminally made me want to blend even more.

This past week I spent a week relaxing with my kids on vacation but on the way there a title of a book reviewed in a magazine caught my eye, Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew. In the short article Kate (who to me is most famous for her role in Ryan’s Hope) was interviewed about her book and what she said about being born with teeth made me a little proud. She said she was born with teeth and that ‘it’s Shakespearian…it indicates there will be an unexpected life ahead of an epic nature. Teeth are a harbinger of what’s to come but also the strength to withstand it..’.Wow, for a moment I felt super special.Reading that quote a few times I have to agree. I have had an unexpected life and it has been epic. Beginning with the journey at 2 years old from the Philippines to America, then living happily without much money in Detroit,then the suburbs, television, stage, cancer, divorce, re-marriage, so much life and so much yet to come. How crazy exciting!!

If you look back on your life and I mean REALLY look, you too have led an epic life. Everyone has a story and I choose to never forget the good AND the bad stuff because both make me who I am, and believe me there’s been plenty of bad.Life is not always having lots of exclamation point moments, there’s lots of gray along with the bright and even some highlights in the dark, but epic nonetheless. Never forget each moment and each person becuase they all have a purpose in your life adventure! ‘Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.’~Louise Erdrich

Today I wear Cherry Chapstick…it’s original and it works! Cheers and Happy Spring!

Puzzles

15 Jan

puzzle
When I was a kid there was a time when I loved puzzles. What child doesn’t like puzzles? I think most kids get those basic 5-10 piece puzzles because many parents believe they help with coordination, visualization, and maybe patience. I know when it came to me, and as my kids got a little older those 10 piece puzzles became 500, then 1000, then 5000 piece jigsaw puzzles. It was a challenge to look at a thousand little pieces that were supposed to come together somehow and become a beautiful picture and it was completely up to you (with a little help from parents and siblings). The majority of the time the edges were placed first because they were the easiest to figure out, then, if you had the box and knew exactly how it was supposed to look, slowly but surely and with a lot of patience those puzzles would come together. There were always those pieces that looked like they belonged in a particular spot but actually didn’t and if forced or shoved in, well, the puzzle just couldn’t come together….ah the frustration.

So what’s my point? People’s lives are those puzzles; not just 1000 pieces, thousands and thousands of pieces of history, experiences, decisions, that most of us don’t know about until we have lived in their shoes. The outside world sees this picture, like the ones on the cover of a puzzle box. Maybe the edges are easy to figure out; married, divorced, kids, career, etc but beyond that, no one but that person has all the pieces. No one on the outside can get into someone’s mind or heart or history or in their home 24/7 for that matter. So…sympathy,empathy,love,kindness,compassion for someone is awesome, even maybe suggestions or advice. Judgement and condemnation however, not cool, especially when you don’t know all the pieces of the puzzle. It’s been quite a week…

Today I wear Bite Beauty Luminous Creme Lipstick in Violet which is a bright magenta violet. I got a couple of these lipsticks for Christmas from my daughter (yes, she’s awesome). They are packed with color and not too dry on the lips. They also last throughout the day similar to a lipstain. I chose this particular color because the bright fuchsia color reminds me of summer. Although winter seems to have just kicked in I’m already ready for summer. Oh well, CHEERS!

%d bloggers like this: