My (lack of) hair, again . . .

I’ve been thinking that I had not shared with you how I felt the day I shaved my head. That was a very important day in my life with cancer. And because I can’t remember exactly what I felt, I’m going to share with you that very special part of my journal.

I shaved my head.

Of course I cried. I had to. I think it was like the ultimate sign of my having cancer. This whole cancer thing still feels strange. Foreign, even. Like it’s still not something I’m going through. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. As in: Really? It’s me who has cancer? Or maybe it’s not so much a question as it is a shock. I don’t know. All I know is I have a lot to be thankful for. My husband who, not only shaved my head and shaved his own, but also cried with me when I faced him with my bald head. Maybe it was the waiting for the baldness to arrive that had me in a rut. I don’t know but whatever it was I guess I simply accepted that I had to do this, like the quick pull of a bandage. It’s faster and less painful but painful nonetheless. And I’m still a woman. A stronger woman? I hope so. I strive to be so. There’s still a picture I need to take. I know that one day I will want to look back just to see how far I’ve come (or will have come). There’s still a lot of work to do. Still a lot of fears to overcome. It’s okay. All will be – is – as it is supposed to be and You (God) are with me. Thank you!

I hadn’t read this util now and I’m glad I felt this way because as you know I don’t always feel like this. But when it’s necessary, I do. I have to. I have to because if I don’t then I will fall deep. Becoming bald was not easy but actually being bald has not been all that hard. It’s easy to cover up, it’s forced me to get creative and see myself in a new way. It’s one thing less to worry about in the mornings. It’s forced me to see a part of me I had not seen before and today, physically at least,  I know myself just a little bit better than I did before. All this is not so say that I want to remain bald because I don’t. I already have a stylist lined up and  am more than excited imaging how I’m going to style my hair when it grows back. What if it grows back curly? or brown? or thicker? or white?! I try not to scare myself with that but I do think about it and if it does grow back white I gonna try my hardest to just own it and be happy to have hair. We’ll see how that works out for me.

I leave you with a picture I took today on my morning walk . . .

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P.S. I love you very mucho!

Love,

Mom

 

 

What I Believe

This is what I believe about you:

I believe that you are a woman whose dreams are worth fighting for, whose dreams are valid, and whose dreams will come true. Why I believe this to be true is because I understand two things. My first understanding is that God has sent each and everyone of us with a job, a mission, to fulfill in this world. My second understanding is that if we don’t believe this about God, ourselves, and humanity, then what else is there to move us forward?

I believe that you are a strong and beautiful woman. Why? For the simple fact that God created you. And created you in that amazing and unique way that is you. I know this to be true because through every tough moment in your life you have and will continue to make it through exactly because of that beauty and strength that God gave you.

One last thing that I believe is that God=Love. You, all of this and everything in this world is fueled by love simply because that is what God is. I know that this might sound cheesy or fufi or whatever but I really believe this. I believe this even though we are constantly tripping, stumbling and picking ourselves up on our way through life. I guess any other way would not be as interesting right?

Oh yes, and don’t forget that you are Loved. Period. Not because, not when, not by, not at. Just Loved.

Sincerely,

Tu mamà

 

This Year . . .

I’ve decided to start writing about this cancer thing I’m going through. I’m at Barnes and Noble right now, I’ve picked up a few interesting books I think will help me understand what it is my body’s going through. How my brain (mind) can help me heal my body. I also want to explore how art and creativity will play a role in this. Actually there’s a few parts to this (in no specific order):

• The Brain
• Nutrition
• Creativity
• Spirituality
• Friends and Family
• Biology

This is a draft version of how I’m dividing my understanding of everything I’m going through. My head seems to be going in circles right now cause I’m so excited. I’m also worried a little about my grandmother’s story but something tells me that this has to come first. I have to understand myself first before I can continue trying to understand someone else. I feel like I’m my own little experiment. Anyway, the last thing I want to do is stress myself out worrying about a story that I know I can’t continue right now. Okay, so the books I’ve decided to begin my research with is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Who is Henrietta Lacks? She is a woman whose cells were cut from her cervix some months before her death and now those cells are the first immortal human cells. This is a small excerpt from the book:

“…what she’d think about cells from her cervix living on forever – bought, sold, packaged and shipped by the trillions to laboratories around the world. I’ve tried to imagine how she’d feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space mission to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity, or that they helped with some of the most important advances medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization.”

Very interesting right? This is a woman whose cells helped in creating what is now helping heal the cells in my own body. I think that is so amazing, my own little connection to this black woman who lived in the early 20th century.

This is where I’m so happy I love to read!

Everything will be okay, I hope you know that 🙂

Love,

Mom

My Hair is Falling!

My hair is falling and I’m scared, worried, freaking out. Yes, “freaking out” better describes what I’m feeling.

I stand in the shower and softly lather shampoo into my hair because it hurts and because I don’t want to rub too much hair out of my head. But no matter how much I try, when I finally get the nerves to open my eyes, the tub floor is always full of hair. It reminds me of a hair salon but there’s no one behind me with scissors in her hands, I’m not sitting on a chair and there’s no black cape wrapped around me.

What there is, is a mirror and when I look into it sometimes I don’t like what I see. Sometimes I want to cry because I want to see my hair the way I used to see it, I want to rub shampoo into my hair without being scared, without feeling pain. In the mirror I look strange, my eyes seem to be out of place. I know it doesn’t make sense but there seems to be some kind of connection between my hair and my eyes. Or maybe it’s that in my eyes is the sadness of seeing my head with less hair. You know? I didn’t think this was going to matter so much to me, after all it’s just hair right? Is it too frivolous to worry about my hair when there’s other things to think about, other more important things to consider right now? Maybe it is but I think about it and I think I’m in all my right to feel freaked out about this. How can I not freak out? I’ve had hair all my life. Actually I’ve had a lot of hair, you know that. Every time I’ve gone to get my hair cut, I’ve always received comments about how much hair I have (or had), about how black it was. Now I see black and white speckled with bald spots and it’s painful to see.

I haven’t cried over my hair though. Not because of lack of desire but because I’ve talked to God. I told Him it was okay if He decided that I had to lose all my hair. It was okay if it was meant to be that the bones in my feet hurt every once in a while. It was okay if I couldn’t walk fast the way I like to walk, it was okay if I felt constipated every once in a while, it’s all okay. The only thing I asked him was to please not allow my mouth to hurt so much that I could not eat, that my mouth burn as if everything was spicy. Out of all the side effect I’ve felt I have to say that the hardest was the pain in my mouth that did not allow me to eat peacefully. If He’ll grant me that wish I don’t know, all I know is that when I spoke to Him about this I spoke to Him with all of the faith I carry with me today. So, my falling hair even though it’s painful to watch, I’m willing to accept it.

You, your dad, my oncologist, other cancer patients have mentioned shaving my head. I won’t do that. I won’t do it because I feel like it would be like losing hope, like giving in to chemotherapy. What if not all my hair falls? What if I’m able to keep some of my hair through healthy foods. What if God decides that I only am supposed to lose some of my hair. I’ve promised Him that once I get my hair back, I will not longer complain about it. I will love and take care of it the way He would like me to. That is my promise to Him and to myself. I think back and remember how much I’ve complained about my hair, how many times I wished my hair to be curly or to be thin and straight or to be a lighter color or to not have that cow lick. I was never able to appreciate the blackness of my hair, the ability it had to hold curls if I took the time to put curlers on them, the capacity it had to hold volume all day. I had beautiful hair and I could’t see that but like I said, my promise to God and to myself is to love my hair in whatever form it decides to come back to me.

I know the it’s hard to learn to live one’s own life through other people’s experiences but I hope that with what I’m going through right now you will learn to love and care for the beautiful hair that was granted to you. Appreciate it for what it does for you and give back to it the way it gives to you everyday. Think about how every day it frames your pretty face, it protects your scalp from the heat, it warms your head in the winter, and it gives you something to get creative with. Just like everyone else you have your own kind of beautiful hair, love it the way it loves you. I would love for you to do this.

Have a peaceful and beautiful night!

Love,

Mom

Mercy and When the Forgiveness Lightbulb Flashed

I had already been diagnosed when one day you came home excited because you had talked about cancer in one of your classes. You said, “Basically, it’s like your body is mad at you.” That thought, in a slightly different form, had already begun to slowly try to sneak up on me. It was gonna be one more thing to add to my list of things I had done wrong. But that little line was like a big neon sign shining in my face. Not because I didn’t like what you said but because it was true. You know what neon signs do, don’t you? They make you act. Like a picture of a pink neon girl shining – never mind…

Anyway, I had to act upon that sign instead of taking it as a straightforward accusation of some sort.

I thought about that line over and over, wondering what the answer was. Even though it wasn’t a question. I was making myself mad at those who had hurt me but really, if I boiled it down, I was mad at myself.  So I came to the conclusion that– as duh as it may seem – I needed to not be mad at myself and in order to do that I needed to forgive myself for everything: the times I had hurt myself, the times I had allowed others to hurt me and the times I had hurt others (especially my children).

So yeah, your line is kind of what turned on that self-forgiveness lightbulb for me.

I haven’t for a minute thought that God is punishing me with this disease. So when your uncle’s wife (or girlfriend) has told me more than once that I should ask God for misericordia. I don’t say anything to her because that is what she believes and for me to try to explain my beliefs to a Mexican sixty-year old woman would be like trying to shake a tree from where it has spread its roots with my bare hands, it’s not happening. I think of a way I might be able to explain this to her, it might go something like this

Okay, listen lady!

Just kidding :l

Seriously . . .

Ummm . . . . . . . . . I don’t really believe that I need to ask God for mercy because I don’t believe He is punishing me. One asks for mercy from someone who is punishing or hurting one in some way and I don’t believe God punishes.

Do you think that would work? Or do you think there would be a Pero…

Anyway, so yes that is why I do not ask for mercy.

I asked for mercy enough times in elementary school. My friends and I used to play a game called “mercy.” The way it worked was we interlaced our fingers and one of us would put the pressure – as hard as possible – and other one had to yell Mercy! when she couldn’t take it anymore. The point of the game, of course, was to see who could take the most pain. I remember crushing a few fingers 😉

That game was fun!

So Goodnight from this comfy hospital bed that bends in all the right places. May your dreams be beautiful dreams filled with unicorns and mermaids and gnomes.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

HONESTLY . . .

Honestly, I was feeling like a superwoman the first few days.

You’ll feel nauseous, you’ll be in bed, throwing up, you might cry of pain, every worst possible scenario was spoken to me. But when I got up from that comfy chemo chair and walked out of the City of Hope without a single pain and one, two, three days went by without too many reactions, I wondered what the heck all those doctors, nurses and ex-cancer patients had been talking about.

I had been getting up before 6 to shower and get your brothers ready for school. Up early and doing the things I usually do. Friday I drove 100 miles to see my therapist because I really felt like it and because I was feeling up to the drive. Yeah there were some stomach cramps and towards the end of the drive the bones in my feet were beginning to hurt. Still, I tried to keep my spirits up with my Spotify lists of fun music. Like 2Pac and Eminem. I know you’re thinking I should be listening to Celine Dion and Ana Gabriel. I agree, just not always.

When I got home yesterday and saw the delicious chicken legs in the skillet and the colorful vegetables in the steamer that your grandma had prepared, my stomach got excited. I sat down at the table with her and took a really nice bite to the meaty part of the leg. Tasteless. Just like the lunch I had taken with me for the drive. No flavor. My tongue feels raspy, as if it just had a handful of salt poured over it. Even water has no taste. Can you imagine? I can’t even taste the absence of taste? Anyway, I still ate because I was hungry and because I have to. But by the end of my dinner I’m wondering if I will have to live without taste for the next couple of months. I’m worried, I’m already not a big eater.

I woke up today, Saturday, with pain in my feet and my stomach cramping. I didn’t get up to shower, instead I got up to spend 20 minutes on the toilet because chemo has made me very constipated. After those very long minutes without my book, because I had forgotten to take it with me, I walked out to the kitchen and had breakfast. As tasteless as the chicken leg. The rest you know, I laid in your bed trying to stay put. While you showered I started thinking and told myself that I am not exempt from any of the discomforts (I know that’s putting it lightly) that other cancer patients have had. I’m not Superwoman, I am not superhuman and I do not have a free pass. What I do have is this. Where I can let you know what it’s like for me and where I let you into my mind if just for a little sneak peek. I hope it’s not too scary. Lol

I leave you with this, a text my writer friend sent me:

Everyday [in treatment] is a day closer to full good health.

This just summed up everything for me and I hope it does the same for you as you go through this with me.

I love you with all my heart,

Mom

It’s A Long One

Okay so, I’ve been gone. I had promised not long ago that I would start the blog again. Surprisingly, I’m feeling pretty good today, considering I just went through my first round of chemotherapy. Honestly I wasn’t feeling afraid, I was actually just ready to start after going through so many tests and phone calls with the insurance. I just wanted to get the whole thing started. As I was sitting there in that very comfortable recliner with a pillow and a warmed hospital blanket, I noticed almost everyone had a family member sitting by their side. A mother, a daughter, son, husband, wife, friend. It was beautiful  and I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I was one of those lucky ones with my husband by my side. All the nurses were nice, I was being taken care of, I was in the right place and with a name like City of Hope, what else could I expect?

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It’s been a few hours now since I came home and all I’ve felt is a stomach ache that comes and goes as it pleases. I think the positive reaction my body is having to chemotherapy might have to do with three things: my change in foods, Nina (my therapist), and the decision to open up mind a little in regards to religion. Let me explain.

The first – food – it’s been hard not being able to eat chocolate or ice cream or potato chips or any red meat. Hamburgers look appetizing sometimes. A glass of the orange juice we keep in the refrigerator for you guys seems like an easy choice at times, but I hold back and the reason I do that is because I want to be around for you guys. I want to be around for a long time because I don’t think I’m done here. I think there’s still so much for me to do and so much to see you guys do because I know you guys are gonna do some awesome things. I believe that with all my heart. Just like I believe in what it is I’m here to do, even if sometimes I’m completely confused and don’t know what direction to take. I also do it because I want to set a good example for you guys and I know I fail sometimes but at least in this I want to feel like I’m doing, if not everything right, at least my best. And believe me, I am really doing the best that I can in removing these foods from my diet.

The second – Nina and therapy – has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself and for my family, that is a fact. It’s a slow process, you might see me swing back and forth at times but I’m learning how to pick myself up faster, better, stronger. I’m learning how to let go of the pains of my childhood. It’s not easy, just like the food. I’m learning that the things we really want in life are hardly ever easy. Actually, maybe even never but that is what makes them worthwhile. And when we get there and find out that in that “there” there’s more. I’m learning that that famous search for happiness has no exact answer, no place or time or thing. All it is is a choice. That’s it. We can either choose to be happy or we can choose not to. That’s it. We wake up everyday with the opportunity to make that choice. Happy or not happy? I’m learning that life is not without problems – ever. We all have problem because honestly life would probably be boring without them. The thing is how we deal with them. What we tell ourselves about those problems. Do we blame ourselves? Others? Do we dwell on them day in and day out. What do we tell ourselves about our lives about ourselves? We can either say and think positive things about ourselves and others or we can say and think negative things about ourselves and others. Again, it’s simply a choice we have to make everyday. And it’s hard, yes, but we can keep using “it’s hard” as an excuse for not doing what is best for us and in turn for the world or we can just keep trying. No, we can not do everything perfectly every time, all we can do is try, fail and try again. I think the hardest thing of all, for me at least, has been forgiveness. I think it might be one of the hardest things for many of us. Forgiving, in an unforgiving mind, means letting that person go without the proper punishment. What does that person who hurt you get? How can they just go around life as if they never did anything? What about all the pain they caused you? And then because we can’t forgive those who hurt you, you can’t forgive yourself for the stupid things you did, for the pain you caused to somebody. And you realize that just the way you’re carrying that sense of fault with you, they person you blame might also be carrying that same bag. Unfortunately, sometimes it requires some screaming, some actual speaking up and saying, “You hurt me and I’m mad!” Sometimes it’s the only way to let it go. And sometimes that takes courage or at least the desire to finally not feel the tiredness that anger and resentment cause. That’s it. Or you don’t wait until that moment, you do it simply because you want to be happy and because you simply realize that the person who hurt you was probably also in pain and didn’t know how to deal with it. In the end what has really begun to free me is forgiveness, believe it or not. It’s such a huge weight that has been lifted from me and it feels good. I know that there’s still more work to do but I also know that if I was able to do what seemed impossible, then I am able to do all the other stuff.

And finally – religion. I know that this is a hard subject because of all the things that I’ve believed and maybe still believe because I have a very objective point of view and because I prefer not to follow blindly. I have questions that I might never find an answer to and I finally realized that that will be in any religion if I were to choose to change. Questions will always be there inside of me because I’m just a curious person by nature. But for now, I’ve come to the conclusion that Catholicism is the religion I was born into and that I am a bit lazy and a bit not interested in moving to another religion in which I might end up feeling the same way. I’ll stick with Catholicism because that is where my roots are and because that is where my traditions are. I love altars, I enjoyed doing the forty day chocolate fast this year for Easter, I love the celebrations of the saints of each village. I love nativity sets in Christmas, I love Quinceañeras and the blessings of babies (even if I don’t agree with the Catholic reasons for baptisms). I love all of that. I think I realized that giving that up would be a little like giving up a little of who I am. I might not agree with everything they say or do but I know that every time I walk into that chapel behind the church, I feel safe, I feel like I can think and talk to God in any way I please and He won’t mind. When there is mass I hear singing in the background and my heart sings with them. When I walk out an old lady is kneeling on the center isle, praying, chanting and for some reason I feel connected to her because that is how feel when I’m pleading with God trying to get Him to tell me what it is I’m supposed to do. Although I feel more like spiritual person than a religious one, I do feel like a Catholic church is that physical place, besides my home, where I can practice my spirituality. It feels good to have this place where part of my childhood lies.

So there you go, that is what’s on my mind now. They’re things that are sometimes easier to say in writing than out loud (for me at least) but whatever the case, it is important to say.

Please remember always that I love you and that everything I do – the good, the right, and sometimes the bad and the wrong – I do for you three and of course for me too.

Love,

Mom

 

Sooo . . .

Let’s pretend I’ve been here all this time, that I didn’t stop writing in this blog for you and let’s start all over again.

Did you notice I changed the picture? I’m sure you did. I was going to use the one you took (which I like better) but that picture is yours and I don’t want to take it from you : ). I love this picture too though. I love the colors and the rusticity of it and I realized that this is the kind of art that I love, the kind of pictures I love to paint (a cream rustic background contrasted with strong punches of color). Have you noticed that? In my writing too is the same (a backdrop that recedes with characters that make everything come alive).

But you know what I love most about this picture? It’s that it reminds me of our mini mother-daughter trip. I had a lot of fun and I hope you did too. I don’t know but I have a feeling it changed a lot of things for you and what you thought you knew about yourself. Like where you come from (meeting new family) and where you want to go (your choice of career). I’m sure, as exciting as it is, it’s also very confusing. And that’s okay, I guess it’s kind of supposed to be that way, otherwise it wouldn’t be fun right?  You might make the right choice or you might not. But really, I don’t think choices are supposed to be right or wrong, what they do is they take you to places that are either good for you or they’re not. Drugs and alcohol -> addiction, unemployment, homelessness.  Education and hard work -> passion, a job, a home. When you decide on your career (because that’s probably one of your main concerns right now) make that decision based on what makes you feel alive and excited, angry even, not on what you think will bring you a higher social status or a nicer house. Those things will come to you all by themselves if you work hard and with passion. Don’t follow the rules, there is no order of how things are supposed to be. There is no first things first. First is what’s inside you. What’s calling you? You’re in a good time right now, you have no responsibilities other than yourself. You can choose to take whichever path you feel is right for you right now. Will that guarantee that everything will be perfect? That your future will be forever bright? No, not really. But at least you won’t be left in the “what if I had . . .” zone. In the “hubiera” place that is so horrible to live in.

Do. Act. Move forward. Have you made mistakes? Yes. Are you making mistakes? Yes. Will you keep on making mistakes? Yes. There’s no way around that but forward. It’s okay to be afraid and angry. Go ahead and be afraid, be angry (anger can be a propeller, but only if you act). So, make choices and act.

I love this quote by Sandra Cisneros:

“. . . anger when it’s used to act, when used nonviolently, has power.”

 

Love,

Mom

Proud (and worried) Mamá

My daughter will be leaving to college very soon, in a few months. Am I excited? Definitely. Am I a proud mom telling everybody about my daughter’s college search? Of course. And am I scared? Absolutely.

I am most definitely scared, nervous, anxious, for so many reasons. There are so many dangers out there, she’s never been on her own and I have no idea how she’ll survive without me! Who am I kidding? I wish she felt that way, but she doesn’t. She feels  like she could do it all on her own – no problem.

But me, I keep thinking about all the horrible things that could happen. They’re so horrible I don’t even want to write them. Maybe I watch too much news, and I don’t even have TV service. It’s just all the stuff that we hear, on the radio, on the internet, and from everybody else who does have TV service. When those thoughts come to my mind I try to shoo them away, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes they just won’t go away and I end up in a bad mood. Either way, I have to let her go and trust that she’ll be just fine.

She’s a very smart girl (of course, every mom says that but she really is) and she has a lot of great plans for herself and I have no doubt that she’ll work very hard to accomplish them but still there’s the world out there and not everything is always pink and rosy. Still, I try to trust and have faith.

She’s doing something I never did, instead I graduated from high school with a 8-month pregnant belly. That was her in there and I can’t even remember what I felt that day of graduation. It was somewhere between pride (for not having dropped out like most pregnant girls did) and shame (for not going off to college like most normal girls did).

When she was born I cried, I don’t remember exactly why but I think it was just a mixture of all my emotions. Giving birth was this strange and beautiful miracle and I couldn’t believe little old insignificant me had brought this little amazing miracle into the world. I didn’t even know what that meant exactly. What it was I was going to have to go through. I really really had no idea. I was still a girl myself and I wasn’t even thinking about all the responsibilities and hard moments this little girl would bring into my life.

I did the best I could, I did all the things I promised myself I would do when I was a mom. Most of all, I promised myself, I would not be like my mom. And I failed, a lot. Many times I was exactly like my mom and many times I wasn’t but still I was wrong so many times. But I loved my little girl with all my heart and all I wanted was for her to have a beautiful and happy life. I wanted her to be strong and confident, not like me, I would tell myself.

Funny thing is, now that I like myself and wouldn’t mind my daughter being a little like me, she wants to be the complete opposite. But that’s what teenagers do isn’t it?

So now, fast forward seventeen years and I have a little girl who is about to leave to college and I couldn’t be prouder.

Maybe I (and my husband) did do something right. Maybe it wasn’t even our doing, maybe that’s just the way she was born, I was just the lucky one to give birth to her. Whatever the case, I am so very proud of her.

I already know I’m going to cry the day she graduates and then the day she leaves to college just the way I cried the day she was born.