Tag Archives: women

Unlucky

27 Apr

mountain

Unlucky. I recently had a medical issue pop up (unrelated to cancer) which led to a surprise surgery. Not to worry, it was an outpatient procedure, and after resting a few days I was feeling better. I was in my (now former) doctors office that morning when she said, ‘I scheduled you for surgery later today. This can happen, you’re just unlucky.’ Excuse me? My response, ‘You know I have cancer right? A surprise surgery is not great news.’ Doctor, ‘I know and that’s right, metastatic thyroid is rare too…seriously unlucky.’ Yes, I called the office after I left begging for a different doctor, anyone else in the multi-physician practice but yes, this is the woman, the only one available, who was to perform the surgery later that day.

In elementary school during gym class and sometimes at recess, there were those times when the teacher would pick a ‘captain’ to a team and those kids were tasked to pick people to be on their teams one by one. Considering I was a girl, shy, and one of the only minorities in a predominantly Caucasian school (after we moved to the suburbs from Detroit), I was generally picked last. I was actually a pretty good athlete unbeknownst to them. I don’t even know why I remember this but whatever team I was on would always lose. Even when whole classrooms would compete with each other on ‘Field Days’, my class would lose. Of course moving on to Jr High and Sr High running track, playing tennis, etc, this was not the case anymore, but in those formative years of my very young youth, I felt like I was the ‘omen’ to any team I was on. I honestly do not know why I felt like that but maybe it was because I was the outlier, the minority, the shy girl who barely talked, but every time whatever team I was on lost, it was no surprise to me.

Fast forward to the doctor calling me unlucky for this medical mishap and also my ‘rare’ cancer. It brought back memories and maybe the underlying shame that I’ve always carried of being the girl who brought bad luck to a team. None of it was fun and bad memories/feelings tend to stick. I have not always been on a losing team. In fact, I’ve been on winning teams most of my life whether it be in high school sports, competitions, pageants, or even my work teams. Looking at my life now, I found an amazing husband who loves and supports me in everything I do and everything I think about doing and who holds my hand at every scan and appt. I have amazing kids and great friends, a great career and now a lipstick company that helps people and has brought me new life despite having cancer. Strangely though, the ugly feelings of not being on a winning team still bubbled up at that doctors office, caught me by surprise and gave me that insecure feeling again. For a brief moment I questioned my ‘unlucky-ness’.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for God is worked into something good.’~Romans 8:26-28 The Message.

You can’t believe in luck if you have faith and if you truly trust God and His plan. I am a Christian and that’s how I believe but I’m also human so it’s ok to experience fear and doubt too. What’s not ok? Shame. Words from your past that have imprinted onto your heart and brain…blog for another day. Life is a series of alternating bad or uncomfortable things that teach us lessons in love, patience, overcoming fear, resilience, etc,; and good things that bring us love, peace, joy, and calm. Both lessons to either rely more on God and less on self, or to be grateful to God for our blessings. It’s called being alive. Our histories and past make us who we are today but don’t dictate our future or who we are ‘supposed’ to be. Lucky or unlucky? No such thing. Things happen, we move forward, staying grateful, and trusting God.

Today I wear The Lipstick Journey lipstick in Fierce. I’m feelin’ it. Cheers!

 

 

Winter

23 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living in the Loop

15 Jan

 

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Photo cred: Leanna Vite Photography

Last Tuesday when I was driving home from work I felt something in my eye, like an eyelash fell into it or something. Annoying, but since I was driving I obviously couldn’t do anything about it. When I got home I forgot about my eye but as the night wore on, my left eye started to feel more and more irritated. Before going to bed I looked in the mirror and my eye was pure red from my pupil down. One thing I hate about having metastatic cancer is that you are hyper aware of any changes in your body so yes, the first thought that came to my mind was that cancer had spread to my eye. When I first got my metastatic diagnosis I spoke with a couple oncologists. They both told me that it’s a guessing game as to when the tumors start to really advance; could be a month, could be years. One story that came to the forefront of my mind last Tuesday was a patient of one of the doctors had stable mets in her lungs (like me) for a few years but had to start treatment when a cancerous nodule showed up on her eye. With my eye situation that’s all I could think about so the next morning I called an ophthalmologist. Turns out I had a couple broken blood vessels from who knows what but my eye is better. Cancer stinks.

In a New York Times article last December, Kate Bowler describes her journey with stable Stage IV metastatic cancer. I resonated with most of the article (which I’ve read more than a few times) but one thing really jumped out at me and it was the way she described time. She called time ‘looped’. Time did not point to the future anymore but looped around every 3-6 months between scans or treatments. She says that hope (for the future) sometimes poisoned the work of living in the present. I get it. I find myself living in this loop. My next scan is in about 6 weeks and what has been in the back of my mind is slowly creeping back into the forefront. Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent talk, ‘There is no such thing as a dying person. There are living people and there are dead people.’ So true. How do you live in the present without falling backward into the wasted time of the past while simultaneously grieving a possible non-future? Well, you just live. You soak in the beauty of love and family and friendships. You squint at the sun when it decides to show itself in Michigan winter. You keep dreaming, writing goals and going for them. In my case, you start a lipstick company 🙂 You just. keep. living. Every moment is a blessing and maybe hope is a moment thing and not a monumental thing. Maybe hope looks like the kindness of strangers, the new people I’m meeting, the people still praying for me after all these years with cancer off and on, time with my friends and family, and of course, knowing God truly loves me. So, I live in a 3-6 month loop of anger/hope, fear/hope, joy/hope and remind myself that it’s ok. I’m alive today and thank you God for the air that I breathe.

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have…’~Seneca

Today I wear a combination of The Lipstick Journey colors because yes, you can layer them! I chose the deep plum shade of Stormy as the base because life is dark sometimes but we need the dark to see the moon and stars. I layered Fierce on top because despite the darkness we can press on fearlessly and fierce! To layer my lipstick swipe a thin layer of the first color and pat it in with your finger. Wait a few seconds and swipe the next color on top. I LOVE these two together! Cheers!

Keep Going

9 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possibility

27 Nov

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There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying’.~Lauren Roberts

When I read that quote it really spoke to me and helped explain a little of what has happened to me since getting diagnosed with metastatic cancer in July of 2017. The world got quiet and I heard (and continue hearing) my heart. It’s really been an incredible year feeling every emotion from the depths of sorrow from the diagnosis, to having moments of pure joy just from being alive. In the quiet is where I’ve prayed and poured my heart out to God. In the quiet is where I’ve wept and in the quiet is where I’ve learned more of who I am and what my dreams and goals are.

This past Thanksgiving was one of those times of pure joy. My two older kids were home from college and all I felt was joy having everyone around. Even though I did most of the cooking and there were only a few moments of silence the whole weekend, I pretty much had a smile on my face the entire time. It was awesome having a crazy, active, and alive house for awhile. I do have to say, there are still 3 teens at home so our house can still get crazy and loud but school, sports, and work break that up a bit.

After my diagnosis the world seemed to go in slow motion, and did get quiet around me. I have spent a lot of time thinking, praying and being intentional. When you’re faced with your own mortality you start to really analyze how you use your time and truly, how you want to use it. This is what I believe the quote meant…the only thing left to listen to was my heart and God, because He owns my heart. Something I knew I wanted to do was help other patients fighting cancer.

The last 3 times I had cancer, surgery was involved and therefore, hospital stays. The hardest times for me was when I was alone in that hospital room and I was alone A LOT. Yes I had visitors and lots of support from family and friends but when you are just laying there 24/7, there’s lots of alone time. When I was going through radiation for 7 weeks I was alone most of the time then too. As I walked past some of the rooms when leaving the hospital I saw many people alone and couldn’t imagine not having support of friends and family. After all of that, the one thing I knew was that I didn’t want other people to have to fight alone or to feel alone.

Over the past year or so I’ve been working on bringing two of my passions/dreams together, lipstick and helping other cancer fighters. Last Saturday I launched my very own lipstick company, The Lipstick Journey, combining story with color. It is a dream come true. I decided what ingredients I wanted and those I didn’t. I decided the formula and how I wanted it to feel. I named the colors and wrote the descriptions. What a fun journey it has been. During my times with cancer (and now) I would use lipstick and the power of color to express how I felt and now, through my company, I want to help others do the same. I plan on giving partial proceeds, as well as time in volunteer efforts once a month to two organizations I have relationships with, with hopes of adding more organizations in the future. This past year I was sent a Fighting Pretty box and loved it, and since cancer #2 in 2009, I have been an angel mentor with Imerman Angels. Both amazing organizations that uplift and help cancer fighters not feel so alone.

TLJIs it ever too late to dream? Never. Stage 4, metastatic cancer? It’s now or never. Keep dreaming. God puts dreams into your soul and sometimes it’s adversity that reveals them. It has been a beautiful and fun journey and has been one thing giving me life. What is it that brings you life and joy? Maybe you should be walking in that direction, just take that first step.

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do’.~Pope John XXIII

Today I wear Fierce from The Lipstick Journey…self explanatory! Cheers!

Pity Party

3 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you pink

19 Oct

facetune_22-04-2018-17-18-39October is breast cancer awareness month and I have a confession to make…ever since getting cancer 10 years ago I’ve been a little jealous of the pink. Everyone knows and  prepares for October; pink is everywhere from the local drugstore to the NFL to national news networks and rightly so, one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. It seems that every type of cancer has a month and a ribbon color but I would venture to say that the general public couldn’t name any other month/color except for breast cancer and the pink. So when I first got cancer, not only did I hear ‘oh,  you have the easy cancer (thyroid)’ but I learned that our month was shared with Childhood cancer, Leukemia Lymphoma Cancer, Ovarian and Prostate Cancer, and our ribbon had multiple colors; purple, teal, and pink. In fact, on my first walk with Relay for Life I could not find anything thyroid cancer (t-shirts, ribbon pins, bracelets) from any vendors. Sigh.

Well here I am 10 years later, it’s October and pink is everywhere. I have cancer again for the fourth time, still thyroid but now metastatic. When I tell people I have cancer they assume it’s breast cancer because I’m a woman, it’s fine. This year, instead of the tinge of jealousy for the pink, I’m thankful. From my perspective the pink campaign has really helped increase awareness of all cancers. Ten years ago I could only find bracelets relayand pins with pink ribbons, today I’ve seen blue, purple, yellow, burgundy, and an occasional purple/teal/pink thyroid cancer ribbon. The pink has empowered women, has increased awareness and early detection, and has ultimately increased survival rates. Let’s face it, whatever color or month is associated with whatever cancer there is, cancer just sucks.

To all my breast cancer sisters, cheers to you, fight on! To all the other cancer warriors out there who aren’t represented by pink, I feel you, we got this. Here’s to another day!

Today I wear Nars Audacious Lipstick in Anna which is a smokey rose. These lipsticks have lots of color and are long lasting.  I chose this color because the name, obviously, but it’s a decent shade of pink for my skin tone. Cheers!

 

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