Tag Archives: thyroid cancer survivor

Dad

19 Jun

dadbaby

When I was 2 my dad came by himself to the United States leaving my mom and me in the Philippines. My parents decided to immigrate to the US in hopes of a better life and more opportunities for their children, and to achieve that American dream. My dad came first to look for a job, save up some money, find a place to live, and essentially ‘set up shop’ for my mom and I so we could be comfortable and set when we arrived. I was told by my mom that I stopped talking the day my dad left because I was heartbroken he was gone. I’m not sure how long I decided not to speak but I know it was quite awhile.

My dad is an introvert like myself. He is a man of few words but he is also a man you can count on to be there for you when you need him, no questions asked. Throughout my youth there were times my dad had two jobs to help support us but he never missed a dance recital, piano recital, parent/teacher conference, athletic event, school play, etc. I grew up confident that he and my mom (who was also a working mom) loved me and supported my every endeavor. I don’t remember a time when I wondered if one or the other or both would be there, it was never even a question. In college, my dad would come visit once a month or once every other month for an afternoon to eat and shop with me, just to hang out. When I got cancer, all three times my dad was the one driving the car to take me to the hospital for my surgery with my mom in the passenger seat. Now my dad dadalexdoes the same for my kids. He tries to be at most of the games and he drives them around too. Yes, a man of few words, but his actions speak volumes of his love and support.

What makes a great dad? Someone who loves not just through words, but through actions. He lifts his kids up with support along with sacrifice. He makes sure his kids know they can lean on him and not question whether he will show up or not. He disciplines when necessary but also makes his child feel protected and safe. He does not compete with his kids for attention or accolades, no, he mostly takes the back seat. A dad is someone who is supposed to give us a glimpse of what our Father in Heaven is like. I know there are many situations out there out of our control. There are moms having to be both mom and dad, step dads, grand dads, uncles, and even friends  who have stepped up to be that ‘fatherly’ role necessary for some. God bless you and thank you, we all need you. Anyone can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad (quote from somewhere I heard). Thanks dad for being an example of love, commitment, and sacrifice. dadkoy

No lipstick today, just Chapstick because my dad usually has one close by. Cheers and Happy Father’s Day!

Church

18 May

church

I have been going to church my entire life. My parents did not exactly make church optional. This was not a bad thing really, I didn’t know any different and my parents didn’t make church look like a chore, it was a place they enjoyed going to. I grew up taking Sunday school classes, singing in the choir, working in the nursery, and really having community while learning about God. Although as a teen it wasn’t great fun and maybe I rolled my eyes those early Sunday mornings but we never missed. I have to say when I went away to college church was not on my mind but eventually I was drawn back. I missed the stability and the community and honestly the peace I felt listening to God’s Word so again in my 20’s I became a regular attender and volunteer.

I recently read another blog which said ‘the church is a beautiful and broken place..it can heal and restore and it can hurt and turn away.’ The author also says regarding current hot button issues, ‘…it’s a lot harder to just swallow what scripture says when there’s a face on the other side.’ Good stuff. So, last weekend I had a bit of an epiphany while sitting in church. The topic was ‘Where’s God when bad things happen?’ a loaded question which they unpacked beautifully. I have to say I have had a few not so fun things happen in my life in recent years and I did turn to my church and the people there for love, support, advice, etc. and have felt both loved and restored but also hurt. Awhile back I felt completely supported after months of asking questions and seeking prayer during an extremely tough time but after a single conversation about me with someone else who could speak more ‘bible-language’ the tune changed from supported to maybe more questioned and judged. It was hurt compounding hurt and I felt myself become guarded, distrustful, and distant. It became increasingly difficult to go to services and engage and to even look some people in the eye. The institution I had relied on my entire life, poured into, and loved did not feel like home anymore and I could feel my heart harden a little. Was the church really a SAFE place for ALL the broken; broken hearted, broken families, troubled kids, abused, blended families, those with more complicated life stories? Are those just empty words and invitations that can turn on a dime when a truly difficult situation happens? Is a person more religious and believable if they have more bible verses memorized? All questions running through my mind.2012-07-08 16.33.59

So what happened last Sunday? I let it all go. Forgiveness. I looked at everyone around me and even the pastor speaking at the pulpit and realized the church is just a bunch of broken people gathered in a building doing the best they can while seeking God. We’re all human, we all make judgement calls and sometimes they’re not always right (and that includes pastors because they’re human too).One thing I know for sure, that question, ‘Where’s God when bad things happen?’ He is right there with you. Whatever I felt toward ‘the church’ through the difficult times with cancer or family issues I never doubted that God was right there holding my hand and that He had a plan. Last Sunday despite the questions in my mind and heart, I realized the church and its imperfections were just part of my journey to continue drawing closer to God. People always say they feel judged or not accepted or maybe that they don’t have a place or feel welcomed but should that be the burden of the church or the person or maybe both? The true burden lies with us, the people professing to be Christians. We are the church. Why does someone feel judged, because we judge. Why does someone feel left out, because we place ourselves in our cliques or comfort zones and stay there. Last Sunday I felt my shoulders relax a little and as they closed out with a song near and dear to me, the song I heard in my head before fully waking up after my first cancer surgery, the words rang true for me, ‘It is well with my soul.’

‘The kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God~D. Campbell’

Today I wear my old standby Dior Addict Lip Glow. I ALWAYS have this in my purse. It is like a lipbalm but it brings out the natural berry of your lips. It is the only lip thing I buy consistently. I chose it today because of the topic and what this product does. Glow brings out the natural color of your lips and adds a hint of berry, being a Christian we glow from the Holy Spirit inside us. Let’s work harder to be a little nicer to each other showing less judgement and more mercy and grace. Cheers!

 

The Perfect Mom

8 May

 

babies

There’s this woman I see on Facebook, always perfectly coiffed. She’s always smiling, she’s at all her kids’ events, and when she’s not in her work out clothes (because she still has time to work out despite also having a successful career), she’s hosting a party or looking great out with her friends. Sometimes she’s at the school helping in a classroom or out volunteering for some charitable organization. Her kids love her and are all accomplished. She looks like the perfect mom, the woman who can do it all with grace and charm. Don’t you wish sometimes you could be like her? Of course you do because you are a woman and we do a good job of comparing ourselves to each other. So who is she? It’s you, it’s me, it’s all of us who post those perfect pictures and status updates on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Here’s the truth, life is hard and it’s messy and no one is put together and perfect, thank goodness. It’s ok to post the awesome things in our lives and the kids’ activities we can actually get to. We should all celebrate with each other and for each other but let’s stop believing that all the social media posts are accurate of a daily 24/7 life. Behind the smileskids15 are the struggles with our kids, the days when no amount of hair products or make up can camouflage a bad night’s sleep, the arguments with a boss or spouse, you know, real life. So on this Mother’s Day, I choose to let go of the constant struggle to keep up with the perfection I see on social media because the daily struggles of life, a job, and keeping up with teens is hard enough. The flowers, the candy, breakfast…all beautiful but for me the kids are a special gift from God and what I want most of all this mother’s day and really every day is for them to know without a doubt that they are loved from the depths of my heart and that I will always love them through~through pain, through struggles, through the good stuff and the bad. How can we expect to have perfect kids when we ourselves are imperfect?

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.~Washington Irving 

‘Still will she cling to us..’, what a beautiful line! Today I wear Lancome Juicy Shaker lipgloss in Piece of Cake. I just got this and I have to say it’s pretty awesome. They call it a lip oil so it’s not exactly a gloss. It feels super silky and actually nourishing with a hint of color. LOVE IT! Cheers!!

Free

30 Mar

annabeach

I can’t remember the time I started loving large birds; mainly hawks and eagles. It hasn’t always been the case but it became noticeable to me some years back. What I loved the most about watching them was how free they were. They could fly without too much bother from other birds, they ruled the sky, they floated, but mostly, they were free. Seeing a hawk or an eagle would stop me in my tracks and give me a longing in my heart and tears in my eyes. A few years ago during a difficult time I wrote a poem that a friend of mine recently turned into a song:

Little bird landed on a branch this morning

singing the songs of yesterday

The night has passed a new day begins

but freedom still seems so far away

 

How do you fly again she really doesn’t know

How do you fly again, staring out the window

She’s seen love, she’s seen pain but will she fly again

 

She’s not anything she used to be

She wants that fire back in her eyes

Scared to open up those scars might bleed

For so long she felt paralyzed.

 

How do you fly again she really doesn’t know

How do you fly again, staring out the window

She’s seen love she’s seen pain but will she fly again

 

Bring her back, why not now. Fly so free, little bird show her how

To sing that song she used to sing, to breathe the air above all the pain. 

 

How do you fly again I think I know

Fly again, open up the window

I’ve seen love, I’ve seen pain but I will fly again

Yes I will fly again cuz now I know

Fly again, open up that window

I see love above the pain

I will fly again.

It’s been a wild ride these past few years in more ways than one but looking up at those birds and their freedom in the sky no longer brings a tear to my eye. My life has changed dramatically and it’s filled with peace and love. Now when I look up and see a beautiful hawk floating above my house I smile with joyful anticipation for what comes next.

“…for to have faith is to have wings.”~ JM Barriebird

 

Today I wear Buxom Lip Polish in Brianna which is a gorgeous orchid color great for spring. I have always loved these glosses. They have color but not too much, they’re not too sticky, and they make your lips tingle. Cheers!

Undone

27 Feb

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I am participating in an on-line woman’s group study based off a book called Undone by Michele Cushatt. Like myself she had cancer a few times, kids, and divorce and the book talks about her life becoming ‘undone’ and turning around, but not the way you would expect. I love it and resonate with her journey so much. Since all the participants communicate online I think it’s easier for us to immediately be vulnerable. What is striking to me is all the pain and sadness from unexpected life twists, lives that were ‘undone’ because of illness or failed relationships, or whatever it is that each person has not healed from. Everyone’s story is so different but what seems to have caused the greatest pain to these ladies stem from people and relationships; from parents to siblings to spouses to mentors, many of these people’s lives were affected greatly by another life.

I read this quote, ‘To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us’~Timothy Keller

Life is funny. Experiences and people mold and change you. A single person can make you question yourself and your self worth, lead you to a life of fear, make you think you’re not good enough or that your needs don’t matter. Then there’s unforgiveness, usually toward some of those same people. About forgiveness Tim Keller says it’s ‘absorbing the debt…taking the cost of it completely on  yourself instead of taking it out on the other person.’ How hard is that? Your life, your mind, your heart has changed and to forgive we absorb it, find our strength in God, and move on. He compares it to a kind of death. Fully known and truly loved, that’s what we crave but that kind of love only comes from God. While some of us have people in our lives that come close (spouse, parents, kids), we still are influenced/disappointed by many. Our stories lie behind our smiling faces and perfect Facebook updates. There’s a lot of hurt, pain, fear, etc , out there; how can we expect perfection from imperfect people? We do the best we can and hopefully we learn from our own ‘undone’ life stories and move forward with great lessons and more love knowing the Son is always there fully knowing you and fully loving you, behind the clouds, right in front of you, or in the ‘rearview mirror’ behind you lighting your path.

Today I wear Butter London Plush Rush lipgloss in Flirt. I think this company was first known for their nail polish but then created lipgloss to match some of their nail colors. This lipgloss is a little sticky but has great color and stays put for a long time. Flirt is a great berry color for spring as the crazy weather has spring temps flirting and teasing us in this tail end of winter. Cheers!

 

10,000

17 Feb

 

tapestry

‘Life is a tapestry of relationships, every thread is crucial’ 

Yesterday was a strange day. It started off not so pleasant with anger arising (from me) because of a certain situation which then turned to sadness because of the realization that some things and people will never change. Then at work someone passed out and stopped breathing, ‘code blue’. I was at a hospital so you think it would be a ‘normal’ occurrence but generally it’s not in a waiting room. About an hour later it happened again, then about an hour after that an older woman standing in the tall lobby area (with great acoustics by the way) started singing at the top of her lungs which stopped people in their tracks and maybe even scared some. Really. She stopped walking, started singing, then after her song was done she kept walking, all this before noon.I hadn’t slept that well the night before so I felt like I was in partial dream state. Despite the crazy events of the morning the one thing that I couldn’t shake for most of the day was the anger/sadness I felt right at the beginning which stemmed from a long history of control and manipulation; I couldn’t shake the anger and maybe the frustration.

I read the other day that according to sociologists even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime. Think about that, that’s about the population of Traverse City, MI (~15,000) or Sedona, AZ (~10,000). A single person, even an introvert, will influence a small town in their lifetime. How does that happen? Words and actions; not just one or the other, both together. The start of my morning yesterday? Almost a lifetime of actions contradicting words with me cleaning up the shrapnel from actions that are far reaching. The actions of those surrounding the two ‘code blue’s’? Medically quick of course, but loved ones surrounding them, using words and prayers to comfort each other. The woman singing? ‘Jesus is a friend of mine’~”He taught me to live, my life as it should be. He taught me how to turn my cheek when people laugh at me. I’ve had friends before, and I can tell you that, He’s one who will never leave you flat.” I needed that, so maybe that was just for me.

There’s nothing more frustrating than someone whose words don’t match their actions. Don’t spew out bible verses if they are twisted in a way to fit your needs and judge others. Don’t talk about loving others then throw out hate language for certain groups of people or nationalities. Don’t talk about peace, patience, kindness, when what comes out of your mouth (which really stems from what’s in your heart), is hateful or hurtful because the consequences of that can leave long lasting scars.My day ended well.Grateful for the love I have found and the life I have now, and grateful for the constant reminder that we impact other people every single day. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to perfect something. Hopefully it doesn’t take that 10,000th person in our lifetime to recieve our best. 10,000 people. What legacy will you leave behind?

Today no lipstick, it’s all about a lip balm. Last month I bought an all natural lip balm made mostly of emu oil, yes from an emu. Now, I don’t want to even think of how they get oil out of an emu, all I know is it’s the best lip balm I’ve used for my extremely dry winter emu1lips. I’m hoping I can find it locally since I bought it from a store about 4 hours away. It’s great, and lipstick never looks good on dry lips! Cheers!

Alone

29 Jan

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My cousin passed away a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know him very well because he was a little bit older and always lived far from our family; either in the Philippines or California. From what I’ve seen in pictures and have heard over the years he was extremely smart, had a great career, and loved to paint and write. He was a son, father, brother and friend. My mom was able to go to his funeral in California last week and said not only was his immediate family there (his sisters, brother, and mom) and some extended family, but she said the room was filled with many grieving friends. He was loved by many. A few days after the funeral, family started the daunting task of cleaning out his apartment. Being a single dad with a grown son, he lived alone. The apartment was filled with books, paintings, and numerous journals. My mom said what was extremely sad was that his last journal was filled with loneliness. He wrote about feeling alone, wrote about feeling sad and about his debilitating illnesses. On the outside was a man with a giant smile, a great career and numerous close friends and family, but within his walls lived a man that felt alone and who passed away alone in his home. Why? No one will ever know his exact thought process but all pray he is finally at peace.

When I had cancer the first time I was in the hospital for awhile and there were many long periods of alone. At the time, the prognosis wasn’t great so my mind was all over the place. One thing that was extremely difficult for me was all the time I spent in my room alone while trying to process the fact my cancer was ‘worse than they expected’. It was a sad and scary time and I shed many tears alone in the dark. After leaving I had a tug on my heart to make sure no one would feel or be alone. I told myself I would figure something out, volunteer to visit those who had no visitors just to say hello and let them know that they mattered. Today, it’s been almost 8 years since that first bout with cancer and I confess I haven’t done a thing. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled with loneliness, what’s out part? I guess it’s to make sure people know they matter.’Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.’~Mother Teresa  We are slowly losing the art of eye contact, smiling, talking (instead of texting). So no, I haven’t done what my heart was pulled to do 8 years ago, but I do try to make eye contact, smile at strangers, and listen intently. One of my work mentors flew in from Dallas to work with me and I watched him ask for people’s names,say thank you, asked how their day was or paid them a compliment; every single person from the valet, to reception, to people on the elevator. I can’t tell you how many times people’s face lit up with a big grin, why? Because someone noticed them…they mattered to someone even if for just that blip in time. Let’s try a little harder.

Today I wear Stila Color Balm Lipstick in Ali which is a berry/raisin color. This is my current fave because they’re creamy with lots of color. This color in particular looks like a pop of deep berry on my lips which adds a little pick me up to the day. Also, they actually feel like a lip balm on my lips which is critical during dry winters. Cheers!

 

Alternate Ending

31 Dec

 

new year.png

Another year has passed and one of the best lessons (or reminders) I learned from 2015 is that there is usually an alternate ending to your story. As humans we all have a certain set of expectations on how our life is supposed to be, how it’s all supposed to turn out, what we deserve out of life, etc.. but most of the time it’s not what you expect and some of the time it’s beyond what you yourself could have imagined. It starts at a young age and is influenced by our personal experiences. I see it and hear it from my kids, what they want for their future, what they expect to happen; like my daughter saying she wants to have only sons because daughters are too hard, and my son saying what age he’ll marry…it’s fun to hear because as a parent I just nod my head and pray for the best knowing that life has lots of twists and turns. We all do it. We create a story, a scene in our head of how our life is supposed to be and many times we are disappointed because life just doesn’t meet our expectations; it could be a job, a marriage, our kids, even friendships. At one point after years of disappointment in one area of my life, I decided to either have very low expectations or to have no expectations of anything or anyone because then I would never be disappointed and anything above zero would be a bonus. I’m not sure that’s the best way to think.

There are two words that are closely tied together, expectation (a strong belief that something will happen), and hope (a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen). They almost sound the same don’t you think? Joyce Meyer says, ‘Hope is favorable and confident expectation; it’s an expectant attitude that something good is going to happen and things will work out, no matter what situation we’re facing.’ The difference between the two words seems minuscule and huge at the same time; what sounds better, ‘I’m expecting a better story,’ or ‘I’m hoping for a better story’? I think I can live without having expectations but there is no way I can live without having hope.me1.5.15

My story isn’t at all what I was expecting but without hope (and the love of family and friends) I don’t think I could stay sane. I didn’t expect cancer or divorce, but I also didn’t expect the awesome twists and turns, the people, the joy, the love, and even the heartache that has met me along the way but alas, always an alternate hope-filled ending. Yes, our stories are rarely what we expect but if we always have hope then we can be confident that God works all things together for good and in His time.‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’~Romans 12:12 

Today I wear YSL Rouge Pur Couture Satin Radiance lipstick in Le Rouge which is a blood red. These lipsticks are pure class, they are moisturizing and go on silky smooth. A little bit of a splurge but hey, every once in a while….I chose this color because it’s red and we’re ringing in a new year. HAPPY NEW YEAR, Cheers!

 

 

See ya! Wait, don’t leave!

12 Dec

meandaj

I think the most difficult time in raising children is the teen years.When they’re young they need you. They eat what you prepare, they do what you tell them (for the most part), they are like sponges constantly learning and they have that childhood joy. Slowly (or rather quickly), they get AJbabesolder, start to get more self-sufficient, start to become more influenced by friends and media, then of course, start to talk back. Why is it that the most difficult time for raising a child happens at the exact time they are about to leave home?

I have an 18 year old senior boy. I specify boy because I think there is a huge difference between raising boys and girls. Anyhow, I am trying to navigate through a multitude of feelings and every day brings something different. There are times I count the days until he leaves for college and AJgoofthere are others when I want to never let him go. He pretends to be fiercely independent but then will ask for something simple or say something which points to the fact that he is still young, a child. I think it’s more difficult with boys because somewhere around the age of 12/13 they start talking with one word answers while girls get more emotional but don’t really stop talking/yelling/whining and still communicating with you. I was told a long time ago that when boys leave home conversations become scarce until they find a wife or serious girlfriend who then becomes the central communicator between mom and son again.

AJ 3.5My son’s been receiving college acceptance letters. When he got his first acceptance letter I was so happy for him but my heart dropped because reality showed itself. He is a young adult. He can vote, check into a hotel, maybe rent a car, he’s had a job for a couple years now, etc. yet in this last year he is home I want to hug him more, have him around me more, and kind of spoil him because it has gone way too fast. My first baby who was born 5 weeks early with giant eyes and the longest eyelashes is going to be my first to go. How can I be joyful and heartbroken at the same time?

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.~K.Gibran

I know my children are a gift from God and they belong to Him who created them. I am grateful.

Today I wear Bite Beauty Mix and Mingle lipstick in Holly/Tannin. I got one of these for Christmas last year as a gift and they are great. LOTS of color! I chose this because it’s double ended, two different colors for my two different moods; Holly, bright red for joy and Tannin, a deeper red for sadness. I know, I know, millions of parents have been through this, it’ll all be fine. Give your kids extra hugs and make good memories! 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!

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