Adding a cancer journey to the story of one’s life is probably one of the experiences nobody looks forward to. But it happened to me and I’ll never get a chance to forget it. If I remember the chicken pox at 6 like if it was yesterday: You fucking bet I’ll remember cancer. Slowly slowly the fear will wear off and I will move on: life promised me. But life also promised me that I will never forget completely.
I will never say anymore that a person who died from cancer lost of a battle. How could I? Cancer isn’t really a fight. We don’t want to be fighters or champions or whatever. We’re all stuck with shitty treatment that we all seem too comfortable with as the most reliable option. But then it happens to you and you’ll realize, quietly, that chemo, treatment and surgeries cannot bring you the peace you want: that peace is called ‘a cure’. A cure brings granted chances of survival and the word ‘prevention’ doesn’t exist within it. It’s also sold at the pharmacy and oh! so affordable because we all deserve to fucking have it. I dream of seeing the day when there will be a cure.
I’m still extremely lucky to be alive and healthy. But what about the others? It is HER birthday today and I’m mourning her hard.
I couldn’t use my experience of this year to help my mother in law 99% more. She was taken from us for lack of a damn cure. Like the many people who have died of cancer, she deserved way too much to live. She was young and full of energy. She could have been calling me a week ago about plans for her birthday celebration, or asking me if I wanted her *most badass* lettuce salad. I miss her badly at family dinners and I know damn well how much she deserves to be here.
Damn it! I could have helped her 99% more. If only I could have known better earlier on, but I guess 35 years old is early enough to get cancer.
We didn’t even get a chance to compare cancer notes, mine were so small back in April and probably still are, compared to the hell she went through. She gave me what was my favorite summer head cover: We love/d leopard prints. I wore it to her funeral when most of people still didn’t know that I had cancer. I wore it for swimming and I wore it during many walks. The many walks that have inspired these posts. And she gave me her rings, the ones I wear with bittersweet pride.
Today I’ll bring her flowers and sing to her Seasons In The Sun. Only she could have chosen such a beautiful song to say goodbye. Sigh… I wish flowers could help me accept that she is gone.
Missing you everyday. Mazal Tov, lovely lady.
Many months ago while I was in treatment I had a very *uncomfortable* business/life idea. It was uncomfortable because I had kept my news/ disease from a lot of people (not only in FB but in real life). I wore a wig 12 hours a day and I could barely look at my naked head in the mirror.
Apart from my non-hair issue, I was doing extremely well; getting to know a new strength inside of me that I never knew of before. I laugh (ed) *often* at cancer and I told my body that we would be alright and that we were lucky of having found that lump on time and even luckier to be able to be treated. So I said: screw the what ifs! Go for it. And so I did.
It took me a month before I could gather the guts to call my great friend Oriane who worked in Public Relations in the US. She helped me arrange the messy puzzle of ideas and answer my many questions about how to go about it. Thanks to her I focused on one design: I designed it, made the patterns, then made the purse.
When I got two of the purses in different colors I gave myself the mission of finding a fashion photographer. I found him and I got a total crush on his work. Nir had the exact taste that I was looking for and to be truthful I was afraid he was going to be a douche and not care about my project just because his work was too good. BUT I contacted him and explained my project and not only was he a humble sweetheart, he was thrilled and touched by my cause.
Later on I thought I needed make up (LOTS OF IT!) Even my freaking eyebrows were gone by then! If I was going to pose with my head bald I had to get someone who understood what I wanted to accomplish. I got a lot of recommendations for an amazing make-up artist called Daniella and oh! They were so right! She was so awesome that she came to Tel Aviv all the way from Jerusalem and she gave me my awesome make up: one dramatic look and a more serious look.
The day of the photo shoot I was overwhelmed with excitement and nerves! Some of my hair had grown but it was so ugly and weak that I preferred to shave it again so I asked my husband to do it. He did and then he asked me to shave the lower part of his head and I was so out of it that I actually shaved part of his hair. It took me a second to realize what I was doing but the damage was done. He had to shave his whole head and just like that we became a bald couple.
I was excited and confident through the whole process until I got in front of the camera… Oh boy! I was scared shit-less! I was afraid I was going to have one of my chemo related hot flashes and then ruin my make up! But my team was one of a kind and we managed to test, laugh and enjoy the whole process. Along with these two lovely, friendly and super pro team of collaborators we created more than just another ordinary fashion statement; we managed to capture a beautiful journey of uncertainty that speaks the reality that affects many women today: Breast cancer. We created other gorgeous photos that I can’t share yet.
That is the story of Hope; the most meaningful purse I have ever designed and made. Because of this gorgeous purse (and the help of my friends/team) I have finally signed a contract to partner up with the National Breast Cancer Foundation in the US.
5% of each Hope purse sold goes to this wonderful foundation. I know that I’d like to live to hear the news of a cure (a real cure) and I’m thrilled to be an active fighter in the search of it through my passion.
Power walking is extremely addictive. It’s therapy, a time to disconnect and the space where I’ve planned so many blog posts. Some of these stories are too dark, some are inspiring, some are about what I do and my purpose in this world. Some are about plain motherhood. Others are too personal to ever publish.
I used to always wear a thin head cover during my walks but later on,*to my horror*, much less. One day I found my old Ipod. It had tracks I liked back in 2007. I couldn’t, for the life of me, waste my time looking into downloading Itunes to collect new track. Is Itunes even still around? ‘Crap- I thought to myself – I’m old!’ But then I got into listening to those tracks while I walked and it was a great combo of hilariousness and nostalgia. I remembered why I liked them then, I remembered where and when I danced them. I knew what they meant to me:
My first exercise routine was Zumba and I attended quite a few times wearing a wig. My husband told me that I was crazy but gave me space to go feeling as ‘comfortable’ as I could. Until one day, two days before my last chemo, I showed up bald to Zumba. It felt liberating and I felt bad-ass. But that night I got pneumonia. #FuckYouChemo #NoMoreZumbaForTwoMonths #IDidn’tFinishChemo
I rocked at chemo (whatever that means) but not being able to complete it left me feeling like I had no ‘chemo closure’… as ironic as that sounds. I was pissed, sick as a dog and weak. And bald. And I missed working out. I was depressed: So I started yoga when I finished the antibiotics. And power walking two weeks after. Then I pulled a muscle doing yoga: I shit you NOT!. It all healed eventually but it reminded so much of cancer: when things are starting to get better you get another shitty surprise you were not prepared for!
I walked to the tunes of 50 cent, laughed at My Humps while embracing the new me and telling her that everything would be alright. Until it sank in.
Disclosure: Forget about power walking selfies in my hood!
This has been me for a while. It’s been an interesting journey to remove the wig and allow the world to see me like this. I had much less hair before this photo and I barely dared to look at myself in the mirror but then it got fucking hot, and hotter and hotter and I told myself: ‘dude! What’s wrong with you? This isn’t your fault, just allow yourself some damn air!’
The first time I went bald was to Zumba -yeah, I did go to Zumba with a wig for two months (twice a week). It was awesome but it took a long time until I dared to go bald outside again. I got pneumonia that same night and I kind of laughed about it as I thought of what my mom would say about this: ves! Se te metio un chiflón!! (I don’t even know how to translate that, help!)
I did well during chemo (whatever that means!) then surgery came and here I am: with more hair than before, sort of stiff from half a mastectomy and reconstruction: the bad pain is gone, the creepy disgusting drains are gone and I can finally sleep on my side with the help of huge breastfeeding pillows that leave my husband with a quarter of the bed to sleep on. I’m finally losing the fear of what my body went through, recovering at a slow pace; a bit better everyday.
I wish I could say I did so well alone but I was scared shit-less and good thing that I caught it on time, almost a minute late. My MIL, my right hand, my friend and my mama in Israel, was gone -Argh, that is still such a tough one on my plate-. My neighbors were my complete support during chemo and they all offered to help because that is how awesome they are but they all have young children, jobs, appointments, you name it. I needed help and I made the call to my sister.
I’m sure she felt the same butterflies that I felt. She had never been out of the country, she doesn’t speak English, she didn’t have a passport to travel within a week and a half and so, we started to run. We got her a date, a ticket and an emergency passport thanks to a real angel and friend that I had met many years ago and then she came to Israel.
Airport security blog post is in the works… So many things to say about that…
She got here a day before my surgery, I picked her up at 5am at the airport and we left to Tel Aviv in the evening to walk the ‘Tayelet’ and see the ‘Namal’. She was in shock that we could walk alone at night by the beach without any weirdos giving us creepy looks, we wouldn’t dare to do that back home. I, proudly, explained that this is one of the many reasons I love this country so much, because I feel safe and free to be a woman. I’m street smart here obviously, I know where to go and I know where I shouldn’t go, that’s thanks to growing up in a gorgeous third world country where the streets are getting tougher and tougher everyday.
The next day at 5pm I went into the surgery room, with the peace of mind that – while my wonderful husband was outside trying to control his nerves- my sister and my father in law were in charge of the kids back home. We had reliable help and I wanted to get this shit done and run back home to talk endless hours with my sister. I had never been under anesthesia before in my life and I was sure *I* was going to wake up and remember when I fell asleep and understand what’s going on and where I am. Ha! Silly me! I got asked to rate the pain from 1 to 10 and I rated it a 9, boom! I got Morphine. I do remember waking up at 3.30am and telling my husband: ‘Papi! I got new boobs!’ And then I laughed and my husband mumbled: ‘Chica, go to sleep.’ It took a few minutes for me to go back to sleep because I was kind of laughing at the incident and wondering why I was in this sort of high. No, I didn’t remember getting morphine, I only found out the next day when my husband told me the whole story. Then I saw the many audios from friends in whatsapp and I thought ‘wow, I didn’t tell so many people that I was going into surgery.’ Then I listened to the ones from family, they were all cracking up because I left them funny audios bragging about having new boobs. Talk about drinking and texting! Well… lol.
Two nights later I went home and loved every minute spent at home with my sister. I never saw her do much, we were always talking but somehow the house got organized everywhere she passed by. Do you know how chaotic mornings are in my house? That is with me not having to get ready to leave for work outside the house; we run, yell, stop fights and get out the house fast walking (because we’re always fucking late!) and glad because there are witnesses outside: we are all a bit better and nicer outdoors. But with my sister at home everything ran so smooth that we felt like we had landed Mary Poppins to come and move in with us.
The kids were ready at 7am when I got up. And by ready I mean a thousand times better than my own version of ‘ready’. My girl was sporting an awesome chinese braid, she had shoes on, teeth brushed, bag with lunch and fresh water by the door with the art folder right next to it (yeah that huge fucking folder that I forget every Tuesday!). My boy had his clean glasses on, sports shoes on, he had finished eating (he really doesn’t know how to do that yet!) and he was sitting quietly ready to be taken to his gan: such a weird sight of my 3 year old. Bag ready by the door obviously. I thought: wtf? This isn’t humanly possible, mostly when my kids understand Spanish but don’t really speak it – correction: my 6 year old was suddenly speaking Spanish (to her only, not me), my 3 y.o insisted that if he continued to speak Hebrew she would get it at some point in life. So, yeah, they were very ready.
I thought for a second that maybe she’s trying to impress me but then I laughed at the thought. She’s always been like this. Organized, patient, wise, hilarious, bad mouthed and bad-ass, the one who has nursed so many women back to life, a nurse with no degree, a woman who has her shit together. She got them READY every morning, she helped me carry bags, assisted me in the shower to clean the hole of my drain on the side of my chest (I still want to faint at the thought of it). My fridge is currently cleaner than when I got it out of the box!
When the first drain came off I gave it a day and then we started driving and doing more. It felt good to do more rather than lay down in bed when I knew I couldn’t rest comfortably anyways. She pushed me to do the post mastectomy-reconstruction exercises that made me feel like an 80 year old. And I cooked, like crazy, because I really wanted to. I made two big family dinners within a week because my sister in law had arrived here too and the whole small family felt in very good spirits, the best since Passover.
We went to the tayelet in Natania with the help of one of my best friends when I wanted to inquire about a business move. The damn drain came with us. Other days we drove to Sarona, we ate venezuelan arepas at the shuk, we drove to HaHatzer in Kfar Saba, Yaffo with my family, she went to see Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Masada. And we went to party the night before her last day here. I drove her and my friend at 4am back home. We had a blast and nothing hurt at the club. My only concern was that I can’t yet manage to wear high heels or use deodorant. Thank God there was AC.
Next night I took her to the airport, got into the long line for check in and we continued to catch up until we were able to and then we had to say goodbye when she was going to enter security.
I cried her a river but I was also so happy and grateful for having had the opportunity of having her at my house, so far from what we both have in common.
This blog is my ‘OM’. I started writing it and collecting photos during treatment as a way of putting my thoughts into written words, as a way of telling a story of a blessed and cursed battle, as a way of explaining the evolution of the opinion I have of myself.
Putting the bullshit aside: I have breast cancer. Sometimes I feel badass. Some days I feel grown up (the grown up I dreamed of as a child). Cancer has been for me, the weirdest combination of the worst and the best that has ever happened to me. I’ve been bald for six months and even though I miss my long hair nothing can beat a 5 minute shower.
I curse here but I assure you that I curse more IRL. I curse in English and in Spanish because neither one of those is my children’s native language.
I carelessly drop my thoughts and perspective here and I do it in English. I’m aware that I have tons of grammatical mistakes. I’ve have had to communicate mostly in English since I was about 20 when I got out of my safe countryside home in Costa Rica in the desperate search for the american dream. I didn’t find it but I stroke gold instead and found my husband (we actually met twice). English is what we speak together and eleven years of marriage after we still crack up when I say words that ‘don’t mean what I think they mean’.
I make fun of cancer as often as possible because it’s good for my soul. Every laugh is directed at my own (personal) journey. We all deal with the news and the struggles in different ways; making a joke of it or being totally devastated doesn’t makes us more or less of a (choice-less) fighter. We, the annoyingly positive ones, deal with our tons of shit too. Not all posts are full of smart-ass-ness, positivity and ‘OM’. Keep in mind that I do listen to Eminem quite often.
I am a woman, a wife, a mom, a girl, a sister, a friend, a handbag designer, a handbag maker, a costarrican, an israeli, an american and a cancer survivor. I live in the holy land, the jewish state or the America-Wanna-Be and I fucking love it, most of the time. I dislike politics. I’ve done a lot or I’ve done too little: depends who you ask.
Oh! I’m also a singer (totally kidding, I sing horribly but still sing all day!). Enjoy yourselves and stay healthy!