Friday, April 3, 2015

What Does Good Friday Mean To You?

Life and faith has taken a new meaning since I learned that my mother had cancer.  All my life I've heard the same sermon being told by priests.  "Jesus died for your sins."  That is the number #1 thing I dislike about the Catholic church.  There is so much guilt. Always.  It is all about how much you've sinned and how bad you should feel and how much you should repent.  But I digress...

For the first time, I feel like I understand the meaning of Good Friday.  On a day like today, Jesus died.  He was crucified on the cross that he himself carried.  He sacrificed his life for love.  That is what I think the meaning of Good Friday is: Everyone carries a cross sooner or later in life in the name of love.  The question is: What will your cross be?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The C Word

I'm scared, petrified to hear the least desirable words in the English language. I don't want to say it especially since it carries my mom with it. How can I keep calm or be positive when a doctor just blurted out the diagnosis before even performing the biopsy? How can I think it is recent when she felt it 4 yrs ago?  How can I keep calm when my mother is a nervous wreck?  How can I live without my mother? I have no strength. I want to scream. I want to turn back time. I want to disappear.

And so my life has taken a very abrupt and scary turn.  Since writing the above on February 12th (while crying on the subway) my mother, the person that has taught me what is to love and be loved, has been diagnosed with head and neck cancer. It has advanced and spread to her lymph nodes.  I have cried more than I've ever cried.  I've felt scared for the first time in my life.  REALLY scared.  I've found myself wanting to curl up in a ball and not move.  

January was an exciting month for me until after my jewelry showcase, when my mom told me that she had a necrotic nodule in her neck. It was the size of a golfball but that the doctors had told her everything was fine.  After months of doctors and appointments, one doctor referred her to an oncologist "just to get his opinion".  The lack of urgency from the doctors in Puerto Rico is a whole other story that makes my blood boil.  It was pretty obvious that it wasn't anything "fine".  She had a legit biopsy on February and I flew to be with her.  After reading her MRI and CT Scan from NOVEMBER (this is how poor the medical system is in Puerto Rico), it was clear in black font that she had a tumor and that, based on the findings, it had metastasized.  Looking at my mom's face after the biopsy has been one of the most painful moments of my life.  I've never seen her so scared. "My children. The agony." That's all she said.  And I understood her pain. Because, yes.  The pain was agonizing.  But I held it in and we went home.

Fast forward a month later and we are Houston, seeking treatment.  She will be undergoing chemo and radiation. The treatment is very aggressive and definitely not for the faint of heart.  She is scared, my dad is scared, my brothers are scared and I am scared, but we are determined.  

If there is one thing that I have learned about cancer is that it is a man made disease.  That doesn't mean that it was created in a lab by greedy pharmaceutical companies (although I wouldn't be surprised).  It means that it has been caused by man-made inventions.  Cigarettes, alcohol, GMO, pesticides, high fructose corn sugar, HGH, rbGH, antibotics.  All of these things that we consume are killing us.  

NOW, I will be completely frank.  My mother is one of the healthiest women I know.  She was eating whole wheat before it was popular and she can't go two days without working out.  I even knew how to say monosodium glutamate when I was 8!  She hardly ever eats red meat either.  So when we heard the diagnosis, my jaw dropped.  But how? How can this be?  She is the one supposed to live to 100!!! But some things just happen.  So many people are affected by cancer.  I've seen young, fit-looking people my age here being treated.  Why she has it, we won't really know.  Because she is so healthy, they think it was the HPV virus.  But why wasn't her body able to get rid of it like many others can?  Maybe it was the overuse of antibiotics.  Maybe she had inhaled paint fumes when she worked at a school in the 70's.  Maybe it was rBGH.  Cue the over-thinking...

A lot has happened in the last few weeks and, like I said, my life has been put on hold.  No more New York, no more Sunday brunch, no more snuggling with my boyfriend every night, no more career.  It has been tough, but is it strange to tell you that there is no were else I'd rather be?  Why? Because I am my mother's daughter, and she needs me now more than ever.  I am meant to help my mother. To SAVE my mother. To battle cancer alongside her. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smart is The New Skinny: The Art of Doing Everything

The other day I saw this old issue of Fast Company lying around the office and took it home to indulge in a little bed side reading.  I have to admit, I am not the most productive person outside of my 9-5p (or 9-9p if you work in advertising), mainly because I love to do many things at once, hence makes it hard to concentrate in the 2-3 really important tasks.

So stumbling upon this article was great timing, considering I have some pretty hefty goals coming up.

The article featured Pharell and a slew of highly successful people, all providing insight on what they do to stay productive.  Some surprised me (lack of sleep) and others were pretty obvious.  Regardless, it was a great read to stay motivated and FOCUSED.

Here are the main takeaways from the article, which you can also read here.

1.  You can sleep when you are dead.

Other than two outliers that were night owls, most woke up between 5-6:30am and went to bed after midnight.  Yikes.

2. Routine is key.

Alexa Von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest, has the same routine where she works out in the morning and eats the same thing for lunch every day.  That way she is not bogged down on making decisions that are not important and an energy suck.  Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, wears the same thing every day.

3.  Long meetings are a waste of time.

How many times have you been in a meeting that either people are chatting for at least 10 mintes and/or the reason of the meeting isn't really clear?  I lost count.  Focused meeting spanning 15 minute intervals are smarter.  Always strive to cut down the meeting, even if you've scheduled a whole hour.

4.  Work is the main goal, but working out keeps you sane.

Wendy Clark, SVP of global marketing for none other than Cocal Cola works out at 11pm, after spending time with her children. She calls it her "mental stability".

5. Maximize your mornings as much as possible.

Work the hardest in the morning so that you can get as much done and not fall behind.  It also makes your entire day less stressful.  Anthony Bourdain is a huge proponent of this as he "only gets slower and stupider as the day progresses."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Tale of Two Grandmothers

My two grandmothers are like oil and water. They are in the extreme opposite sides of the spectrum and, because of that, they've taught me a lot about how my life can play out.

Abuela Tati, my mother's mother, grew up in a small rural town in Puerto Rico, where she led a very secluded life.  Her mother died at the age of two and my great grandfather was a strict man.  She married at 15 and never studied again.  My grandfather had a bad temper and became someone else when he drank.  She was submissive, as most women would be in that situation, and dedicated her life to being the best mother she could be.  I always saw her as someone fairly sad, quiet and always feeling sorry for other people.

On the other hand, you have Rosa, or how I call her: Abuela Tata.  My father's mother.  She also grew up in a small rural town, not too far from where Tati lived.  She grew up with a strict mother but a lenient father.  A father that showed her immense love.  She was a good kid but never followed instructions.  "From as long as I can remember, I've done whatever I've wanted," she told me once.  She finished school early at 16 and worked at a naval base close to her house.  From a young age, she made her own money and claimed her independence.  She married young and had my father and my uncle, who passed away when I was one month old.  She remembers her married life as a great one, road tripping to other towns, going out to dinner and spending days at the beach.  She "separated" from her husband and from money that was her own, she decided to travel the world.  As a child, every few months, I used to get cheesy t-shirts and plastic figurines with locations I still dream of visiting.  Hong Kong, New Zealand, Chile and Norway to name a few. 

Both endured pain, as age grants us all, but Rosa had a fighting spirit since birth with self-confidence to boot.  Tati didn't.  

Both are still alive.  Rosa is in her 90's and recently told me how she had saved all of there vinyl records to listen to them when "she was old" but it still hadn't happened.  She laughs every time I see her, to jokes that sometimes only she hears.  She remembers her life from A to Z, still telling stories like when she got chased by a bull and had to climb a tree to save herself.  She recently overcame a one month stint in the hospital and is eagerly looking forward to celebrating another birthday on a cruise, a tradition she instilled on herself more than a decade ago.  She knows death is near and wish she can live more, but she is patient about everything. I'm not saying she has been submissive in any way.  She has been a tough cookie to swallow and is quite opinionated.

My dear abuela Tati is also alive. About six years younger than Rosa, she is physically healthy but her mind is slipping away.  Last time I saw her, she asked me the same question about ten times.  I patiently answered each time, but felt bad for her.  Everything she says is in a tone of pity and nostalgia.

The lessons they've taught me are simple, but for many, including myself, hard to follow.  Have a strong sense of self, appreciate the now and do what makes you happy (among many, many others).  Most of all, they have taught me that I can either live the life chosen or the life assigned.  I want to live the life chosen.