Tag Archives: thyroid cancer

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

 

Scars

22 Jul

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This week I started physical therapy on my arm. Remember, it was the neuropathy and lack of sensation in my left arm that actually helped discover my Stage 4 diagnosis. Anyhow, over the past couple of years my left arm has gotten weaker and the prickly/burning feeling has been magnified. I did a nerve conduction test and found out that I have nerve damage to the nerves in my brachial plexus from external beam radiation and it could actually get a little worse over the years. Not fun. Physical therapy was prescribed to help rehab the nerves that are left and somehow strengthen the muscles around those nerves. One of the side effects from this nerve damage is called paresthetica, which is basically persistent itching from damaged and irritated nerves. My arm is always itchy, numb, and tingly, and I now have scratched it so much that I have several little scars running up and around my left arm. It ain’t pretty and honestly, going to physical therapy is a little depressing. It reminds me that I’m sick and because of that illness, I’m damaged. The weather lately has been brutal on my breathing too…all those reminders.img_3895

I have a few scars, one on my neck from the three cancer surgeries, one on my shin from banging my leg into a car door years ago, and now, several scars on my arm from my scratching my ‘prickly nerve damaged’ skin.  ‘Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.’~ Cormac McCarthy. Every scar serves to remind us of the stories that put them there but also to remind us of what we’ve overcome. I look at the scar on my neck and remember the three surgeries that put it there and how far I’ve come. The scars on my arm remind me of the 7 weeks of radiation that killed my nerves but also killed the cancer for awhile.

What about the scars you don’t see? The ones left by hurt, words, anger, discouragement, do those heal? I think it takes a really long time. I am fully aware of how damaging words and actions can be. When scars heal they change the texture of your skin, but what about the damage of scars on your heart and soul? Hurt always alters something. ‘It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I don’t fully agree. The wounds remain underneath but the scar toughens the exterior. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.’~Rose Kennedy. We are all damaged and scarred to some degree visible or not, and we should remember that when speaking to each other.

For now, I will keep going to physical therapy without getting mad at my body. I will look at all my scars and remember that I am strong.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Fierce because that’s how I’m feeling 🙂

Two Breaths

5 Jun

img_3582-1It’s been a rough week and it’s only Wednesday. My scan, which was scheduled for Monday had to be canceled because the insurance company wanted to review my case to decide whether I actually needed a scan or not. This was a bit of a jolt to the system because it takes quite a bit of mental preparation to even get to scan day. As a metastatic cancer fighter who has been getting scans every three months to determine if her tumors are growing, I rely on these scans (maybe too much) to determine how I will live the next 3 months until the next scan. ‘Rely’ may be too strong of a word but knowing if your cancer is progressing is a pretty big deal. I was able to reschedule for 2 days later (today) so I quickly got over the hump of anxiety and disappointment.

Yesterday morning I was in a minor, which could have been major, car accident while taking one of the kids to school. While turning into the school a woman ran through the red light and slammed into my car. When I heard the horn and looked, I quickly accelerated so she ended up only hitting my back wheel and all was fine. Then, later in the morning I got a call from the hospital telling me that my insurance denied coverage for my scan because they found it not medically necessary…WHAT???? It took me a minute to get over the first cancellation, this time, I lost it. Angry, frustrated, nervous, I called insurance and made her listen to my WHOLE cancer story and why the scan was necessary for my case. I also called my doctors office and asked that they call, but by then it was the end of the day. After my calls I broke down and cried out of frustration and maybe out of fear. Cancer is just as big a mental game as it is a physical one. Good news is, the doctor’s office did call insurance today and they were told that after further review, they changed their minds and approved my scan…now scheduled for Friday. Lesson: WE ARE OUR OWN ADVOCATES!

It is only Wednesday. Deep breath. Interspersed into these 2 major events we had a child graduate high school, moved another child back to her college town into a house, and had to turn in a leased car while finding another one…all of these things just since Sunday. Oh and of course there is always teen drama and what have you, pushed into the small bits of time that I’m just trying to find a little peace in. It is only Wednesday. How does one find peace and solace when there is barely enough time to breathe? How do I release the stress of having cancer while attempting to still handle real life and all the unexpected daily events from insurance companies, work, teens, ex-husbands, etc? ‘Anything you can’t control is teaching you to let go.’~J.Kiddard  Hmmm. Ann Voskamp recently wrote, ‘Waiting is a letting go to let something grow.’ I can’t control any of those unexpected daily events and I can’t control people, including my kids so I have to let go. I consider Ann Voskamp’s quote and I wonder about the word waiting. Waiting to me means time, cancer takes away time so I view all of that simultaneously; the waiting, the letting go, the living, the growing, it’s all mashed together. Inhale wait, exhale let go. Inhale life, exhale grow. Two breaths. Can it be that simple? I know I have God on my side and that knowledge is everything. In a podcast I listened to, John Green called God the painter while we (humans) were simply the frame. So yes, through adversity and daily challenges, I will remember my two breaths living life and trusting God the painter of masterpieces. Inhale wait, exhale let go. Inhale life, exhale grow.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Serene which is a beautiful brown/coral shade. Sometimes I wear lipstick because it’s how I feel on the inside and other times I wear it because it’s how I want to feel. Serene is perfect for just this moment.

Ever Onward

26 May

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In Kelly Corrigan’s book, Tell Me More, she talks about mottos. Her life motto after she finished college was, ‘Things happen when you leave the house.’ Meaning, any day could be a huge day. You don’t know who you will speak to, bump into, what new opportunity exists outside your door, but you have to leave the house.

The past few weeks have been pretty amazing. I was nominated and chosen as a top female founder/entrepreneur in the Detroit area, have had all the kids under one roof again for a short time, then this past weekend had an amazing photo shoot for my founderlipstick company with beautiful thrivers; ladies thriving through life despite health surprises. Survivors of breast cancer and lymphoma, one still fighting brain cancer, and one living with alopecia. It was a magical morning for me and one that brought me tears. It struck me that each one of us was fighting or had fought something that was trying to take us down. We had that common thread of fear, sadness, insecurity, but here we were, surviving, overcoming, fighting, and smiling. I had each of the ladies write their stories down in my notebook and the last words of one of the women were, ‘Ever Onward.’ Perfect. Every one of us pressing forward on our journeys. This is what my lipstick company is about and it made my heart full. Life IS our canvas and these are the things that can happen when you choose to get out of your comfort zone…when you decide to leave the house.

Life is made up of huge events that mark themselves as memories but it is also made up of millions of tiny moments in between. Is it possible to just be in the minutia as much as in the big? The kids were all here together for the first time in awhile, all 5 in one house. Yes it was chaos at times but with the older 2 in college most of the year I didn’t mind. I don’t miss the chaos but I do miss them. Time is my love language, with that comes the fact that I never want to miss the moments, and with the older two home I wanted as much time as I could squeeze out. That’s the goal, be in the moments, the big, the small, ALL OF THEM. I can’t help thinking about the beautiful photo shoot without thinking about all the moments that got me there; cancer, lipstick, mission, life. Then there’s the top founder nomination; cancer, book, blog, cancer again, vision, mission, starting a company, hustle. Lots and lots of minutia but each moment counting for something.

I have my next CT scan in a week. I can’t believe it’s already been three months since the last one but I’ve been in that weird head space again. I’m sad that I still have cancer and have to do this every three months. I’m nervous about what they may find. Am I still stable? Are the tumors growing? Are there more tumors? Is the cancer spreading? I hate all those feelings and questions, I hate the time bomb strapped to my chest waiting to explode on me, and I hate the fact that these questions steal precious moments. If I am still stable I will be one month shy of having stable Stage 4 metastatic cancer for 2 years which in my mind classifies my cancer as a chronic illness like diabetes or asthma (at least that’s how I’m going to try to think about it). It’s crazy but EVER ONWARD.

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

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in 2 colors, yes you can layer! I put Playful on the bottom and Promise on top which makes a beautiful brighter mauve color on me. It’s actually the perfect combo for how I’m feeling, still playful because of all the amazing moments and hanging on to the promise that God is good and He will continue carrying me through whatever the results of the scan. Cheers!

 

Insecure

13 Apr

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The more she looks back at her life, the more she is slowly beginning to find: not everything went according to plan, but she certainly learned from it all. She grew in ways she never imagined she would grow and no one can take that away from her.’ ~Morgan Harper Nichols

Last night I got to sing at one of my most favorite events of the year. Every year, one of my doctors holds a concert to celebrate World Voice Day; patients, staff, and even my doctor sings during the concert and it’s basically great fun and great music. The patients that sing all have had something affect their voice from polyps to paralysis, so listening to them sing and being part of the event as a singer is inspirational. Last year, I pretty much cried my whole song (first year with metastatic diagnosis), this year I felt stronger, more resilient, and a little less nervous. I almost cried at the end of my song because the lyrics really hit my heart, ‘Sometimes I wonder, where I’ve been…I may not win, but I can’t be thrown out here on my own.’ The lyrics took my breath away for a minute but I didn’t break. Catch the performance here(https://youtu.be/fuv-Z_1WfQ0)

I have to confess something. Ever since my metastatic diagnosis over a year ago I have felt kind of funky. I felt as if I have aged at a rapid pace, I’ve struggled with sadness, maybe depression at times, and lots of insecurity. I can’t exactly pinpoint what the feeling is, all I know is that it infiltrated my space. I went from being a fairly confident person to someone whose body betrayed her once again, but this time in a big way. It was a big enough shock to the system that for the first time I thought the cancer would finally win, and I was losing my voice, not literally, but having no say anymore. Consequently, things that came easier for me took more out of me. I was insecure about how I did my job, I was a wreck speaking in public, and everyday when I looked in the mirror all I could see was a girl who was exhausted from fighting her body. I didn’t even like having my picture taken because again, I saw a girl that was tired. Having cancer and what it does to your psyche really sucks.

About a month or 2 ago I felt something change. I started gaining my confidence, or maybe it’s just peace and joy, but I can feel it. I think it mostly stemmed from the fact that my last scan was still stable making it ‘stable disease’ for almost 2 years. Or maybe I was just tired of being tired. Whatever it was that changed my mojo, I have felt it and last night was an example. Yes I was nervous but deep down I felt confident that I could do it and make it through without crushing nerves and a shaky voice. Then again, even with a shaky voice, I was so ready. I guess I’ve hit the valley after learning about the diagnosis and am swinging back up to fight and live, it took awhile. I trust God, I know He’s got me. I know I will have seasons of doubt and fear again. I mean, my next scan is only about 7 weeks away so there’s that cycle again but I’m good. ‘Faith and Fear make poor bedfellows. Where one is found, the other cannot exist.’~Napoleon Hill  

The opening quote was written specifically for me by the talented poet Morgan Harper Nichols. She has made it her business to write words for people after knowing some of their story. With all the opportunities I’ve had to share my story lately, I have been able to look back at my life and see how much has transpired. It definitely has not gone as planned but I have grown and learned…and I AM STILL HERE. So much strength can be drawn from our stories. Thank you for following along with mine.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Playful. I have been wearing this color a lot lately. It’s a bright plum, probably the brightest color I created. It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately, bright, joyful, and playful! Cheers!

Strength and Story

23 Mar

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Yesterday I had the chance to tell my story for a podcast that will be broadcast in a few weeks. I have to admit I was nervous for a few reasons; I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t receive any questions ahead of time to prepare answers for, and I’m a little insecure about my voice because it is weak and ‘breath-y’ and a podcast is all voice. When Lauryn first called to get ready to record I asked what part of my story she wanted to hear, the cancer part, the lipstick part, how the cancer opened up the lipstick business, etc. She said, ‘Your whole story, beginning to end, everything you want to tell me, just keep talking.’ Woah. That’s a lot. I started with, ‘ I was born…’ I’m sure that freaked her out a little but I quickly jumped to my passions growing up then to the first time I had cancer. I described everything from finding out, to the procedures, work, kids, people, emotions, home life, etc. I described those things for every single time I was diagnosed until now. I spoke about being a mother to young kids the first time I was diagnosed and what that meant, then now being a mom to older teens/young adults and what being diagnosed with Stage 4 means to me and to them. And of course, I spoke about lipstick and the part it has played in my messy journey.

I talked for over an hour without interruption describing every nuance. I realized that this was the first time, if ever, I have shared all of those details out loud. Not just all of the times I was diagnosed, the when, and what happened, but all the emotions and most of my thoughts surrounding those times. Yes my voice shook, yes we both cried at times, but there was also laughter. I was literally exhausted for the rest of the day. The thing is, I let myself be super vulnerable and was able to open up, and after hearing myself speak about all that I had gone through up to this point, I felt strong. I have always thought that throughout my journey I did what I had to do to just keep going for me and my family and that was not strength, it was just will, and just because. After the interview I felt REALLY strong and realized that ‘the story’ was not really the big moments, it was every piece, fragment, emotion, in between. It was the filler in the pages between chapters and that is where the strength was really necessary. ‘You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along.’~Eleanor Roosevelt.

At the end of my hour of babbling on the podcast, Lauryn had one question, ‘After everything, has your belief or faith in God changed?’ Good question. I have to say after the first 3 times with cancer I never asked God why. I just figured God had a plan and was generally at peace with whatever outcome. Total trust. This last diagnosis of metastatic cancer I finally asked God the why question. Not, ‘why me’, but more ‘why can’t my life just be good for awhile. Why can’t I just rest?’ I don’t know the answers but I still have peace with whatever. I absolutely still believe in God and if anything my faith has gotten even stronger. I told her that in the darkest of moments for me and with all the unknown, God was/is my only solid and that’s enough. ‘Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.’ -Corrie ten Boom 

I started my day yesterday seeing this quote on Lauryn’s Instagram and it was perfect,’Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.’~Morgan Harper Nichols. Amen and amen.

Today I’m wearing The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Playful which is a bright plum/berry. It’s the brightest color I created and it’s actually not super bright (meaning still wearable every day, not neon). I chose Playful because it’s spring and I’m feeling funky. Cheers!

 

Stable

13 Mar

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I am stable. I love the word stable. The definition of stable in the dictionary says ‘firmly fixed, not deteriorating, sane, sensible.’ I’ll take it. As a metastatic cancer fighter stable is the best possible word whether you’re on treatment or not, stable is the goal. Stable means I am not deteriorating. So here I am with the best news and not on any type of treatment yet. Awesome. I got the news via text from my doctor. [Note, YOU ARE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. Find a doctor that fights WITH you and cares enough to tell you news you want, no, NEED to hear right away.] Anyhow, I get to soak in more life for awhile and I’m good with that.

Last week was a whirlwind of a week. Had my scan on Monday, got my news on Tuesday, then flew out for work Wednesday. I honestly did not have time to process news I had been waiting for for 6 months. After working Wednesday with my co-worker, I found myself sitting at a bar in a nice restaurant eating by myself. I ordered an appetizer, had a delicious dinner, and ordered the best wine. I pretty much ordered whatever the waitress recommended. At the end of the meal she asked about dessert and I said ‘no way.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Get the dessert, don’t you have anything to celebrate?’ That was it. I burst into tears. I realized that through the busy-ness of life and having to travel for work, I had not processed the news of being stable. IT IS SUCH A BIG DEAL!! She ended up crying with me then not charging me for this extravagant meal (there are fantastic human beings out there), which made me cry even harder. I left the restaurant and drove to my hotel still a blubbering mess.

After my work trip I was asked to share my story at an International Women’s Day celebration back in Detroit(it was a full week). I have to say I was SUPER nervous. I’m not sure what I even said but I do know I was able to touch on the major parts of my story…like my four trips with cancer and starting the lipstick company out of my need to have purpose and meaning from having cancer. What I realized afterward is that the ‘story’ really happens in all of the in-between times; in between those big events of diagnosis, surgery, and treatment. The stories are the waitress and the free meal, the moms on my sons basketball team making a shirt to support my cancer journey and surprising me with it by having all the boys wear it at a game, the tears I cry thinking about the kids and their future that I may not be part of…there are so many moments in a day that make up our stories and 15 minutes couldn’t touch the surface of those. ‘Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.’~Rose Kennedy  Never forget to notice the moments and soak them in.

I saw my doctor on Monday, one week after my scan. It was a generally good visit. He was smiling when he said, ‘All looks good! Still stable, no new tumors. Any questions?’ We chatted for awhile, he looked at my bloodwork, then looked at me and said, ‘I’d like another scan in 3 months instead of 6 this time.’ Hmmmm. There it is. That question in the back of my mind that’s been sitting there since the beginning, ‘When’s the scan, what will they find?’ I’m back in my scan cycle of life but instead of every 6 months, I’m back at 3 months. I read a blog written by another cancer warrior and it perfectly describes how I feel. The writer described her cancer as a bomb strapped to her chest not knowing when it was actually going to blow and that is pretty much how I feel. Categorized as stable is exactly that, still with cancer, but with stable and slow growth. Going back to the bomb analogy and combining it with statistics for my particular ‘brand’ of cancer it goes something like this…in 5 years, 50% of the bombs will have exploded and in 10 years, 9 of 10 bombs will have exploded. Barring all scientific advances, that’s a little rough to think about and that is what keeps my heart heavy and my mind focused on time. The other side of the coin is this, science is advancing faster than the doctors can keep up with so it seems statistics change on a daily basis, hallelujah! More time.

Today I wear a combo of two Lipstick Journey lipsticks, Stormy on the bottom and Fierce on top. It is my favorite combination, it deepens the red and ‘lightens’ the storm. Perfect. Cheers to a new day!

 

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