Tag Archives: health

Hugs not Drugs vs Better Living Through Chemistry


I have not added an original blog post for quite some time.  This blog usually serves as my stream of consciousness about my life, make-up, TV, working out, etc.  But this year has been an emotional roller coaster.  Every aspect of my life brought me stress or pain and that was too hard and too personal to blog about for me.  Ironic, right?  Blogs are supposed to be a way to share one’s personal experience and emotions.

Today, I’ve decided to reveal one thing that happened this year because I think it is important to share.  Perhaps a reader will find some solace in reading about my experience.  I know there is a risk that someone may relish in my pain and suffering but if they do, Fuck Them.  My life is full and rich and not always perfect.  But I live it on my terms.

2017 started out with quite a few challenges.  At work, team members had begun to move away in droves.  The Torrance office held “going away Happy Hours” and we  raised the revenue of most local bakeries with our numerous “Best Wishes” cake purchases.  A lot of change swirled around at work.  And seeing friends leave the area felt heavy.  Some would be commuting back to California their families for a year or more because their children were seniors in high school or their spouse or partner wasn’t ready to move.  Others just sold everything and left California in their dust, happily trading expensive mortgages on smaller houses for their new Texas properties.  And others made the move with trepidation and dread of the unknown.  The majority of my friends loved their new living situation and enjoyed the change of pace.  Hearing how excited some of them were to have swimming pools and media rooms made me happy for them.

Because of my role, a lot of team members would come to me for advice regarding their decision to move or leave the company.  Although I had made up my mind to about 90% certainty, I did not want to influence anyone’s personal decision.  I wanted to listen and allow them space to wrestle with their own pros and cons.  Most people elected to move to Texas, more than I had expected and more than the company expected, too.  But when I finally announced to my boss and the company that I did not intend to relocate, many people said they were shocked.  Some said they were sad.  Most said that it would be a huge loss to the company.  That felt strange.  It still feels strange.  To hear so many remarks about how my leaving Toyota would leave a hole or have an impact on the diversity work at the company, that made me even more emotional.  My emotions twisted up like a pretzel – some days I felt sad, some days I felt resentful, some days I felt happy, but every day I became more acutely aware that my tenure with the company had begun countdown.  Each business trip felt a bit more precious.  Each conference left me with a yearning to connect with people who have influenced my career and development.  And each of these various emotions weighed on my head and my heart.  Couple these emotions with the prospect of losing my regular salary and health insurance, boom anxiety and depression.  Although I will receive a generous separation package for my nineteen years of service with the company, I will lose my car allowance and health insurance benefits.  That will be a huge change for me.

At the same time, the dojo was hit our six month anniversary.  We were slowly increasing enrollment and hitting our stride with a teaching routine.  Even without a huge enrollment campaign, we found ourselves enrolling new students, one at a time.  Personal referrals always work best.  And, a strong Yelp! presence doesn’t hurt.  Personally, I passed my test in March and that marked my start as Shodan.  I know I have so much to learn as a black belt that I feel pressure to continue my growth and development.  It isn’t second nature to me, like it is for Sensei Butch, so I put lots of additional stress on myself to work hard at being a good teacher.  Then when I take a step back and think about what I do at work and who I am because of that, I try to be easier on myself.  My gift is finding people’s strengths and leveraging those strengths for their growth and development.  Applying that to the dojo seems like a perfect fit.  And putting too much pressure on myself remains a personality flaw that I need to address.

And then, there was home.  My daughter prepared for prom and high school graduation. *GULP* When did she grow up?  I began to question whether or not I raised her to be prepared to leave the house for college.  Would she be able to live on her own?  Manage a bank account?  Pay her bills on time?  Keep her apartment clean?  Trust new roommates?  As a single mom, I know I doted on her a bit too much.  And with her multiple allergies and learning disabilities, I had to insert myself into her growth and development more so than with other children her age.  In some cases, it became a matter of life and death.  But with all that, I did my  best to give her tools to be an adult who contributes in positive ways to our society and the world.  She has shown her compassion and emotional intelligence in remarkable ways.  But I will always worry about her.  Other things happening at home will remain confidential.

All of these emotions and pressures and changes hit me at the beginning of 2017 and I found myself spiraling down into a pit of depression.  Usually my stress manifests as anxiety and it passes fairly quickly.  But this time, there was too much change in my life at one time and my world started becoming dark and lonely.  As an Introvert, I already prefer to rejuvenate myself in solitude.  However, this year didn’t allow me any time alone.  For multiple reasons, I rarely had a moment to myself.  All of the pressure led me to lose sleep, eat poorly and at late hours, stop exercising, and drink too much wine late at night.  I started online shopping for things that I didn’t really need.  Not a good move when I am about to lose my job.  My healthy lifestyle was obliterated by 2017.  It knocked me on my big okole and manifested itself into depression.

After several weeks, I decided to visit a therapist and my doctor.  The therapist allowed me to vocalize so many emotions that I was suppressing.  I realized that I needed some help to get my head and heart back on track.  It felt like I had cloud following me around every day.  I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I didn’t want to engage at work.  I was on edge and sad and angry all at the same time.  The one bright spot in my life was teaching the Togisala Tiger Cubs.  Children have a way of reminding us adults how to live in the moment.  And when we were on the dojo floor, all that mattered was keeping them engaged, teaching them basics, and reminding them of our core values of respect and discipline.  That became a welcome distraction.  But it was not enough to quell the depression.

I asked my doctor for Ativan to help me deal with anxiety and something to get me over the depression.  Actually, the Ativan was just a precaution if I felt like I was going to lose my shit.  I had a prescription for it some years ago, during my divorce.  The smallest dose helped me calm down back then and I felt like I needed it again.  For my depression, the doctor suggested a low dose of Lexapro.  It felt scary to take an anti-depressant but I reminded myself that there are times when our brain chemistry gets thrown off.  If we can’t manage through it naturally, there is no shame in relying on modern medicine.  So off I went to start taking an antidepressant.

When I started taking the new medication, it was suggested that I start with a half dose for two weeks to allow my body to get used to it.  Lexapro is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder.  Since I was feeling both anxious and depressed, this medication seemed to be a good fit to help get my brain chemistry back to normal.

Some side effects I had to look out and experienced right off the bat were headaches, increased thirst (I am always thirsty and get dehydrated very easily), and a little bit of fatigue at first.  But who can tell whether the fatigue is coming from the medication or the depression?  A few other side effects that hit me, just for fun, were dry mouth, loss of sex drive (sorry Babe), and insomnia.  A week later I was hit with bloating and a nagging cough.  Once I was on the full dose, I would see mini hallucinations out of the corner of my eye.  For example, I would see a zombie walking across the room or a creature that looked like the Night King on “Game of Thrones” would be staring at me.  I never let these strange visions get to me to badly, I would talk myself out of buying into them as reality.  But they were persistent and irritating while I was dealing with real life stressors every day.

After about four or five months, I had been feeling much more “normal” despite having gained a bit of weight and lost a bunch of sleep.  I only went to one other therapy session but it was helpful and gave me clarity on how to proceed with my life.  The plan was to begin a clean eating campaign, go back to exercising, and get off of the Lexapro.  I recall that the doctor had told me not to just stop taking it, that could be very dangerous.  So I went to the Internet to read about the risks of tapering off of an anti-depressant.  There were risks of extreme panic attacks and tons of stories of people suffering horrific side effects like brain zaps, tremors, convulsions, all scary stuff.  But these patients had been on the medication for years and/or were taking other pills for other ailments.  I decided to go ahead and taper off the Lexapro, without seeing my doctor.  My life was just too busy to go back to the doctor. Many articles mentioned that taking fish oil, calcium, a multivitamin, and B12 would help immensely with the transition. Easy enough for me.  I went for two weeks on my regular dose then cut it to 3/4 the dose for the next two weeks, down to 1/2 for two weeks and finally 1/4 until I was done.  It took a month to taper off but I did not experience the brain zaps or tremors.  Thank goodness.


Now I am working on getting back into shape, eating properly, sleeping more, and allowing myself to be happy.  No more antidepressants, just a lot more time with friends and loved ones.  And having a puppy has really helped with the depresssion.  She doesn’t care if I have a job or if I won an award, she just wants hugs and snuggles.  So let me go on with my non taking antidepressant self for now.  I will fill my days with hugs, not drugs.


Do what I love and love what I do, unapologetically.

When Hormones are Not Your Friend. Too much business travel and not enough sleep makes Pi’i UnhapPi’i. 


Six Weeks of Travel = An Increase in Cortisol, a hormone that is not your friend when eating clean and living healthy is a goal. 

Business travel is a privilege, not a burden. At least, that’s what I recite to myself when I my alarm goes off at 4:00am prompting me to stagger out the door, tumble into a cab (“no money, no honey”) and ride to LAX. I wrote those words to close out one of my last blog postings, 98 days ago. About a month ago, I wrote about receiving a box of costumes and a gi from Sensei Richard Rabago. The four year anniversary of his passing away is next week Tuesday. My body has crossed so many time zones and my heart has felt so many different emotions over these last several weeks that I can’t even think straight or process what I am feeling today.

At the beginning of 2016, I felt very healthy and stopped taking the blood pressure meds that my doctor has prescribed because of all the stress I took on with my job in 2015. My mindset had shifted to helping the company become positioned for a successful move instead of worrying about my personal career choice regarding Texas.  

I had completed a personal fitness challenge to do a 10K and half marathon back to back in one weekend, which resulted in a personal best time for a half marathon. 


One month after that, I passed my 2nd Kyu belt test in the dojo and began taking a more active role in teaching. All of that felt good and felt right. 


 And even though Uncle Randy’s health was up and down at the time, we were attending halau on a regular basis and that is also pono.

Today, in May, I feel unhealthy and off balance. Side effects that I am experiencing, lack of sleep and lack of exercise and a poor diet equal a few extra pounds have snuck onto my frame. All of my training for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge resulted in a lean, fit physique and now, I’ve got a bit of fluff to shake off again. When I am diligent about eating clean, I have a much easier time sleeping. If one is not sleeping well, it creates a viscous cycle as the stress hormone cortisol builds up. Cortisol creates a “fight or flight” state within the body and increases one’s appetite. And, exhaustion means less motivation to exercise and less will power to eat clean. It also adds and more of a propensity to use sleeping pills or red wine to help with winding down before bedtime. Couple that with working in different time zones and not having easy access to clean, fresh snacks and BOOM! My okole grows once again. 

This cortisol rush all started when my Uncle/Godfather passed away unexpectedly. He went into the hospital experiencing pain, was prepped for emergency surgery and didn’t survive. My own heart broke and when I thought about what my cousins must have been feeling, it shattered into even smaller pieces. Talking to my mom was hard because I didn’t want her to worry about my tears, as she felt truly devastated. Uncle Ray was her little brother, the jokester who always filled the room with laughter. And he was my Godfather, which added to our relationship. I love his children like my own siblings, growing up with them shaped my entire childhood. After the funeral, my life would move in and out of suitcase for a month and half.
Sandwiched in between mundane and necessary trips to meetings in our office in Plano, I’ve ventured out to Oklahoma to play pai gow. And my Ninja Bear ran his first 5K as a birthday present to me in San Diego where we squeezed in a trip to the local casino before rushing off to a tiny karate tournament. 

The big highlight for this trip was seeing President Barack Obama as the keynote speaker at the APAICS Awards Gala dinner in Washington, D.C. Never mind that my company received a corporate award that evening, seeing POTUS speak live and in person, only 25 yards in front of me, that was a truly a once in a lifetime experience. He has been the President for my people. He built a diverse cabinet and pushed forward programs to help underserved communities. Now, he fights for immigration reform and true inclusion of the LGBT community.

Here is how he greeted the black tie crowd:

President Barack Obama is my president. He and his wife keep it real by singing and dancing (he cannot dance in his mom jeans) and living life as a happily married couple who love their children. 

POTUS was funny, direct and personable in a Presidential but I can still kick with you kind of way. 

I am in Week five of six straight weeks of business travel. My enthusiasm for work is waning. The announcement about my company moving to Texas happened two years ago. They made the announcement to all employees on April 28, 2014. Not the best way to celebrate a Birthday Eve. Anyway, a few of my work friends have retired, more of them have left the company and a couple of handfuls have already packed up their lives and moved to the Lone Star State. The office environment feels simultaneously tense and empty. Some of my colleagues are still agonizing over whether or not to move. I’m hearing that many people are asking my teammates if I am moving. I assume that people are asking behind my back they want my job, not because they care about me. And why wouldn’t they? I work in a fantastic position – direct communication to the senior most level of the company, decision making power on which non-profit organizations to sponsor, and I have responsibility to create an environment where all people have a voice and can thrive at work. 

After next week, we need to make some decisions about the dojo. Shortly after that, my Ninja Bear goes to court to move closer to finalizing his divorce. And I hope to sleep for more than 8 hours at a stretch. Clean eating and moving more will commence shortly thereafter. 

 

Thoughts on Running from the DiversityNerd: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Part One

Let me open this blog posting with a simple statement: I HATE RUNNING. And follow it up with, I AM NOT A RUNNER. Back in elementary school, we had to do the annual Presidential Physical Fitness Award test.  The test consisted of a softball throw, the long jump, sit-ups, pull-ups for boys or a flexed armed hang for girls (this tomboy elected to knock out the pull-ups because I believed boys and girls should be equal and I was a much better athlete than most of the boys in my school), a timed shuttle run that tested speed and agility and the dreaded longer run.  I remember that as a timed run/walk where progress was measured based on how many orange cones we ran by over a set time period but how long was it?  Was it twelve minutes long?  Was it six minutes long?  My friends responded to my Facebook post and confirmed that they remember the run as only six minutes long. The same amount of time that a love song is remixed to become a dance hit, six minutes, that is all it was? The six-minute run was the bane of my 8 year old existence. Just the thought of having to run around in a circle made me anxious.

For all the other challenges, in the test, I had no problems. I killed the agility test, softball throw and long jump because of all the tennis, basketball and baseball I played. Sit-ups and pull-ups were a breeze because of gymnastics. But that damn run! I used my asthma as an excuse to try to get out of doing it. And my teachers calmly replied that if I didn’t complete it, I would no earn the coveted Presidential patch. Ugh. I did. I knew exactly how many cones I needed to pass and pass them I did. But I hate running.

 These less than fond memories came to mind as I realized how long it has been since I posted anything on this blog. My last post was on August 30, 2015, about nine weeks ago, what a shame. When I started blogging, I wanted to post something on a regular basis to write down whatever my nerdy brain was processing. It would be good for me to try to write again since currently, all I spend my time writing are communications on diversity and inclusion. Not the sexiest subject to tackle.

In addition, I’ve been following a training regimen for the last sixteen weeks called the “Infinity Gauntlet Challenge Training Program: with the goal being to finish a 10K on November 14 and a half marathon on November 15. That is 19.3 miles in one weekend. This program comes from the official runDisney training consultant,. Jeff Galloway. I’ve forgotten that my Saturday walks are supposed to be slow paced walks to leave energy to complete a long Sunday run. And, he recommends keeping our pace at least two minutes slower than our race pace. I can’t even follow a runDisney training program properly! No way am I a runner.

The training overview outlines a very straight forward program. Three weekly runs for the first seven weeks, then every even week afterward you add Saturday long walk (which I have been jogging/running) and a Sunday long run at a slow pace. Of course, I go to both karate and hula on Friday nights and karate on Sundays so free time is not a luxury I have anymore. My running ability is improving but I am still not a runner.


So these upcoming blog postings will be my thoughts on running from a person who hates running.  (I have completed two 5Ks, two 10Ks, and seven or eight half marathons and I am not a runner.)  My thoughts will outline the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of training for a runDisney challenge.  The discipline of staying committed to the program is teaching me a lot, so why not write it down?  More to come…

The War Rages On… My Face

Today is Day Four after my IPL Photofacial. My face still has Oreo cookie patches all over my cheeks but it is starting to clear up. I also went back to work after being off for a week to spend Spring Break with my teen-aged daughter. Here is what my skin looked like this morning, I don’t think I look as scary as I did on Saturday.

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Because I was going back to work today, I took extra time to blow dry and style my hair. One thing I will admit is that I have pretty hair. It’s jet black and very naturally shiny. People ask me what kind of products I use in my hair so I have to tell them that I just wash it with normal shampoo and let it air dry. I don’t usually take much time styling it because I’m a very low maintenance kind of woman in the morning. I’d rather spend an extra 15 minutes cooking a hot breakfast for my daughter, sleeping, or checking my Facebook page in bed than styling my hair. Of course, I was going to be in the office with patchy skin today so I blew my hair out and put on red lipstick. That’s usually a dead give away that I’m tired or feeling a little down, red lipstick is like camouflage to hide behind. Here is a selfie from my car this morning:

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Today, my calendar was filled with conference calls and meetings. The sides of my cheeks are marked with Oreo cookie splotches. That made me very self-conscious as I walked around campus.

When I’m paddling, the areas that absorb the most sun exposure are the sides of my cheeks. Despite wearing a hat and heavy duty sunscreen, my cheeks have suffered the most exposure over the years. What makes it worse, when I’m at outrigger canoe practice, quite often my face is splashed with salt water from the ocean. No doubt my sunscreen is washed away, leaving my skin vulnerable to the sun’s damaging rays. This exposure is exponentially multiplied by the sun reflecting off the ocean.

I realized this fact when we were paddling out towards the eight minute pole at practice tonight. As per usual for a Spring evening, the ocean was choppy and temperamental. It felt as if our canoe was paddling through a washing machine. It was definitely not gentle cycle. Our ama popped up from time to time, threatening to throw us out and make the canoe huli (flip over). Between the rookie in front of me splashing water on me and the rough ocean conditions, I found my face doused with salt water for almost 90 minutes straight. My cheeks stung from the salt water, extra sensitive skin was just another side effect of the IPL Photofacial.

I do NOT recommend going out on the open ocean immediately after having an IPL Photofacial treatment.

This morning is Day Five and the Oreo cookie patches or coffee grounds are starting to flake off.

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I felt like I looked horrible when I woke up. Thankfully, after I washed my face, my skin looked much better. What I noticed was that the skin beneath the Oreo cookie patches looks pink and new. But that also means I have small pink splotches on my cheeks. Hopefully those will blend back in to match the rest of my skin. What I am seeing in my forehead and the un-Oreo cookie patched part of my face is really glowing and healthy looking skin, thank goodness. It looks as bright as it does after I have had a spa facial plus a good night’s sleep.

Once I was out of the shower, I applied my make-up for work. The Oreo cookie patches were harder to cover today. The dead skin wanted to flake off of my face but I didn’t want to go to work without trying to cover it up. This is what I looked like before I left the house:

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Wednesday morning aka Day Six.
The Oreo cookie patches are almost gone and I didn’t have to wear foundation or red lip camouflage today. Instead, I used a tinted moisturizer and one of my favorite NARS lip colors called, “Club Mix”. I discovered it when I was out to lunch with a colleague one day. Her lip color was a shimmery plum and it was just gorgeous to me. The color is from the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil so it is a chubby glossy pencil and all kinds I gorgeous. Here are my before and after from rolling out of bed to walking into the office:

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No vanity here, can you tell?

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Now, I’m curious to see how my skin is going to look on Saturday, which will be one full week after my IPL Photofacial treatment. My thoughts regarding doing it again are doubtful. The money I spent could have gone into my Gino Vacation Fund for our Italy trip.  Also, the recovery time is longer than I had expected. However, the experience was not as traumatic to my face compared to when I did a Vi Peel. That is a very intense chemical peel that essentially made my entire face fall off in sheets.  I looked like a Walker who had been cooking inside of an abandoned vehicle in the hot Georgia sun.

Anyway, at the end of my workday, I noticed that my skin was peeling and very dry.  Ugh.  This is frustrating.  I lost the Oreo cookie splotches but gained pink patches and flaky skin.  This IPL Photofacial recovery time is no joke.

These last six days have given me an opportunity to figure out why I’m spending so much time and money to fight this war against aging.   A realization came to me that it may be about control.  Or trying to hang on to my looks as a way of controlling the aging process.  It isn’t logical.  I know can’t stop time but our society is geared towards valuing youth.

Pick up or download women’s magazines on health or beauty and there will be articles helping you to “Look Younger Longer” or to advising you to eat “Foods That Fight Aging”.  The message isn’t subtle, it says that looking young kicks ass on aging. I recently saw a quiz that helped the reader answer, “How Old Do You Look?” with younger scores being more highly valued.  These articles and quizzes were located just below a headline that read, “Beat The Clock.” Time keeps slipping through the hour glass of aging for us as we scramble to keep the sand from filling up.

I stated in part one of this blog that I feel 28.  That’s not entirely true. My body feels strong and healthy.  And luckily, my hobbies include dancing hula, paddling outrigger canoes, half marathons and Okinawan Shorin Ryu so I stay active.  I will admit that I love my red wine and wine tasting is also an interest of mine but I’ve been limiting my alcoholic intake lately.  If I open a bottle of wine at home, I always have two glasses when I drink, I tend to want to nosh on something yummy.  Red wine and Trader Joe’s Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds are a killer combination. You get chocolate with a sprinkle of salt and a kiss of sugar. Mmm, it can bring out the best notes from some of my favorite wines. Other times I enjoy red wine with a spicy Gouda from Whole Foods Market. The cheese needs a cracker or other carb to sit on before I devour it. I think I am as addicted to the crunching sound as I am to the yummy snacks. My point is, if I drink wine, I tend to snack and if I snack while I drink, I may over snack. That is not good for my waistline or my skin. But I digress.

I had stated that I feel 28 years old, which is true as far as my body goes.  But my heart and my brain are a wise 43 almost 44 years old.  I finally understand what it means to feel romantic love.  Let me correct that, I finally understand what it means to feel mad, passionate, sappy, romantic love with a man who values my nerdiness as much as my intelligence and my 28 year old feeling body.  It took me a while to find him but he is definitely worth the wait.  And my 40-something year old brain realizes how short life really is.  I don’t worry about having stuff to keep up with the Joneses.  I’m not sure who the Joneses even are but I know that reference is appropriate.  And I stopped sweating the small stuff.  Financially, I am doing ok.  My mortgage and bills are paid on time and I know I can’t spend like a maniac.  But I also don’t feel like I need to shop for things to fill a void in my life.  The things that are most important to me aren’t things.  They don’t cost anything other than my time and attention.  My daughter makes me see the world with fresh eyes and she rescued me from being dragged down into a dungeon of despair and distrust.  I experienced more pain before I turned 25 than most people can imagine. Becoming a mother showed me how love heals everything.  And I already had incredible parents and siblings and family that I like to hang out with as much as I love them.  Some people don’t like their family members but I adore mine.  My house isn’t impeccably decorated nor do I have the latest flat screen TV and appliances but it is warm and welcoming.  Just ask my amazing friends.  Some of them are my age and older, some of them are in their 20s and 30s.  I bet some of them have tried Botox and photofacials, not that it matters to me.  Sometimes I am afraid of looking older and that fear drove me to try an IPL Photofacial.  I thought I was fighting a war against aging but I realized I was trying to defy the laws of nature and control it.  Instead of desperately holding on to my youth and spending hundreds of dollars to control the aging process, I think I am going to let go and live life all in.  I may have another treatment to hide the 11s between my eyebrows, if I start looking upset again.  But I haven’t enjoyed feeling like I need to hide my Oreo cookie patches on my face.  Living life all in, laughing loudly every day, and loving the people who mean the most to me is how I will win this war against aging, all while wearing 30+SPF sunscreen.

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Fight Like a Girl

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Fight Like a Girl

My guess is that every person who reads this has lost at least one loved one to cancer.  And there are so many types out there:  breast, colon, skin, bone, cervical, brain… name an organ or a body part and someone you know has probably died from that type of cancer.  This disease doesn’t discriminate based on socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, military status, or even age.  People with money die from cancer.  People without money die from cancer.  But it seems like the people with the brightest spirits and most positive attitudes find themselves fighting cancer.  And to that I say, “Fuck Cancer”.

My dear friend, Tina, had leukemia when we were in elementary school.  She was the youngest child of Chinese immigrants, I don’t even remember if her parents spoke English, and she was nothing but a tiny bundle of sweetness and smarts.  Tina wore a colorful hat in kindergarten and first grade.  She would run around on the playground with us, playing foursquare and tether ball, always a step or two behind because she was weak from her disease.  I never had to check to see if she was following our group because I could hear her giggle catch up to us about 10 seconds before she did.  Tina had a quiet spirit, a loud laugh, and her smile was so authentic and honest.  Despite her illness, she was just another kid at school.  I remember there was a very windy day on the blacktop, my hair was whipping around in my face and my favorite navy skirt was flapping in the wind.  I silently thanked my mom for making me wear shorts underneath it.  Unfortunately, Tina’s hat flew off on the playground that afternoon.  She grabbed her head with her hands, hung her head in shame, and stopped.  It was as if her feet froze in place and she was torn between running after her hat or hiding her bald head from all of us.  I don’t remember which little boy brought her the hat, I just remember Tina sobbing as the teacher on recess duty wrapped her up in a big embrace and helped her place her hat back on her head.  She wasn’t completely bald, it was as if she had long strands and random patches of hair.  Some of the crueler kids laughed and pointed.  I wanted to go kick all of their asses.  I was a total tomboy back then and felt a responsibility to protect all the other Asian immigrant kids.  I don’t know why but I definitely kicked a few boys in the nuts for making fun of my friends who didn’t speak English or had cancer.

A few years later, my mom sat me down in the family room to “talk” to me.  It felt scary, like a big cloud hung over our plush brown couch.  My family never held family meetings or sat in the family room other than to watch TV together.  I looked up at my mom and her eyes were puffy and she looked miserable.  She looked at her slippers, and the coffee table and finally she looked into my eyes and said, “Your Grandma Connie has cancer.  It is terminal.”  I didn’t know what that word meant, “terminal,” so I asked her and my mom snapped, “It means she is going to die!” and she stormed toward her bedroom.  As the eldest girl, my mom was very close to Grandma.  And one of the rules in our household was always, “family comes first.”  Whatever behaviors you exhibit reflect on your family, not just you as an individual.   So to say we were close as a family unit is an understatement.  My mom was truly devastated by the news that my Grandma was dying from cancer.  We all were.

During one of our hospital visits, Grandma said to me, “Hoy, Jen-nee-pear, (she had an adorable Filipina accent) I have black blood.”  That simple statement FREAKED ME OUT.  How was her blood black?  Why was it black?  Could they fix it?  Could I catch it?  Why wasn’t anyone doing anything about it?  My head was spinning and I felt scared and sick but Grandma sat there, smiling in her tissue-thin hospital gown, her eyes as bright as always.  She didn’t mean that her blood had become black in color, Grandma asked who had donated her most recent blood transfusion.  The nurse replied that the donation came from a nice African American woman.  See, my Grandma had black blood now.  That experience always sticks with me and I am sure that it why I try to donate blood to the Red Cross at least twice a year.  I am a universal donor, O Positive, and with all the recent disasters and emergencies happening around the world, the Red Cross is in desperate need of O Positive blood.  Trust me, they call me incessantly every eight weeks to get me down to the office.

My Grandma passed away peacefully at home.  She was sitting in her own bed, surrounded by relatives and friends.  A nurse was with us in the room, cooing soothing words that Connie was getting ready to pass on and that we should all prepare ourselves.  I remember staring wide-eyed at my aunties and cousins, trying to figure out what to do.  We were just waiting for Grandma to die and I felt tear welling in my eyes and my throat.  The nurse finally said that she was gone and when I looked at Grandma, her jaw was opening and closing so she couldn’t be dead.  Unfortunately, the nurse said that was an automatic muscular reaction and that Connie was indeed gone.

I’ve lost grandparents, uncles, friends, acquaintences and co-workers to cancer.  There is no clear cause as to why some people get cancer.  The American Cancer Website has very clear and easy to understand informaiton to learn more about this group of diseases lumped under the term, cancer.  They write the following:

“Cancer is such a common disease that it is no surprise that many families have at least a few members who have had cancer. Sometimes, certain types of cancer seem to run in some families. This can be caused by a number of factors. It can be because family members have certain risk factors in common, such as smoking, which can cause many types of cancer. It can also be due in part to some other factors, like obesity, that tend to run in families and influence cancer risk.

But in some cases the cancer is caused by an abnormal gene that is being passed along from generation to generation. Although this is often referred to as inherited cancer, what is inherited is the abnormal gene that can lead to cancer, not the cancer itself. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are inherited – resulting directly from gene defects (called mutations) inherited from a parent. “

And then there is that very specific, breast cancer, which has prompted me to write this week.  Two very strong women, who are both rays of sunshine to everyone they touch, are in various stages of chemotherapy in their fight against breast cancer.  They are both very open with their experience on Facebook so that friends and family can understand and support.  One woman, I will call her Smiley, hosted head-shaving party before she started chemo and her daughter joined her in shaving her own hair off.  The party became a celebration of life and way to show solidarity with Smiley.  She is documenting chemotherapy treatments in photos and I marvel at her brave attitude.  But Smiley is a service woman in the US military.  She is no stranger to hard work, discipline and fighting.

My other friend, Sunshine, has been a survivor for the last several years.  She was quite young when her diagnosis was discovered, in her 30s, and endured treatments like a champion.  Sunshine also knows how to fight, as a Muay Thai kickboxer.  Her fighting spirit has served her well as she battles this disease.  And recently, the doctors discovered a mass that needs to be treated with chemotherapy.  Before the treatment started, Sunshine cut off her long tresses and raised money to harvest eggs for her future baby.  Preserving a future for fertility and procreation is not something I had ever heard about before Sunshine.  Of course I donated money and tried to spread the word about her cause.  I know my sister also made a donation, for which I am grateful.  The harvest was successful, Sunshine has a half dozen eggs.

And then I received one more piece of shitty breast cancer news about yet another dear friend.  This time she is my hula sister.  Hula sisters have a unique bond.  To be a cohesive group, ready to perform or compete, hula sisters have to sweat, work, sing, laugh, cry and sweat some more together, following the kauna of a hula mele and choreography of a kumu hula.  If you’re lucky, you also get to drink and disco disco and enjoy the world together.   But hula sisters feel me on this one.  It isn’t enough to take a class together, there is a special connection that forms with hula sisters.  That connection is for life.

I say all that because one of my hula sisters, who is a cervical cancer survivor, was diagnosed with a breast cancer tumor this week.  She will need surgery and all the treatment that surrounds surgery.  It felt like a punch to the gut to hear the news and I wanted to burst into tears as I read the email on my iPhone last night.  We are all praying for everyone fighting the fight.  And I’ve discovered there is this Breast Cancer Culture.  More than raising awareness of the disease or funds for research, Breast Cancer Culture is about women being strong and feminine and brave.  The color pink is associated with breast cancer to ensure that women continue to feel like women through their treatment and therapy.  Treatment may mean a mastectomy and losing one’s hair.  Therapy may mean dropping weight but not being able to exercise.  There is a spirit and a flair to “fight like a girl” against this terrible disease, breast cancer.  I know my friends are fighting like the mother who is also a soldier, a Muay Thai martial artist and hula dancer that they are.  All of those identities are a part of being a woman.

 

Every morning at 9am PST, we are sending a prayer mob/ho’oponopono out to my hula sister!

Juice Cleanses Aren’t For Everyone

Many of my friends were trying juice cleanses for a variety of reasons:  some were feeling sluggish, others experienced bloating, many were dependent on caffeine and addicted to junk food or they found their skin breaking out as adults.  Article after article reported that juice cleanses would eliminate toxins from your system and your entire body would feel better.  I wasn’t trying to lose weight or shake caffeine.  My thought process was, I don’t eat enough green veggies on a regular basis, maybe I can drink them instead.

There were multiple brands and options of fresh juice cleanses:  Blueprint Cleanse, Pressed Juicery and Suja.  And of course, there was the infamous Master Cleanse (Lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper in pure water) which was actually a juice fast.  I elected to try the Suja brand 3-day juice cleanse, partially because they had the most coverage in personal blogs and also because I could purchase them very easily at Whole Foods. 

A juice cleanse system that comes pre-bottled was very convenient for me.  I didn’t own a juicer, I didn’t frequent my local Farmer’s Market regularly and I wasn’t ready to commit that much time and energy to making my own juice at home.  I’ve heard horror stories about how messy in-home juice appliances are and how much space they take up on a kitchen counter.  Suja sounded like a great option, despite the hefty price tag per bottle.  I took baby steps and tried a one-day cleanse at the end of May 2013 and then jumped into a three-day cleanse two weeks later.  Here are the notes I took on my iPhone:

Suja Cleanse. One Day May 30, 2013 & Three Day June 12 -14, 2013.

May 30, 2013
Up at 5:50 am, excited to start my cleanse.

My body is a bit sore from a good outrigger workout last night. I got to stroke the  unlimited canoe with a slightly mixed crew. I have to remember my form and not use my arms so much. That boat is so much lighter than the others!  And it doesn’t turn very easily.  Anyhow, I’m  going to be drinking a lot today so I’m thinking I will be hydrated.

8:06am. Dropped off Kanoe. My first thought was “man, I can’t wait to go eat something!”  Then I laughed and said, “oh no, I have to drink that ugly green cleanse drink”. I will start with “Glow” as soon as I get to work. This ought to be an interesting day and I hope that my pee doesn’t start to glow. Head is definitely hurting a bit.

8:19. Stomach growling.  Almost to my office.

8:38. Here goes my breakfast “Glow”.  It is very green. Taste isn’t bad. It tastes like green veggies. I don’t like celery, which is in this, but it tastes more like kale and spinach and collards and cucumber. A tiny but of apple but not much. And an after taste of mint and celery. Not awful. This is a good start!  Stomach still growling. Pau at 9:35

10:03 I’m not feeling hungry but I found myself wanting to snack out of habit. Hmmm

10:47. Time for a snack. “Fuel”  This is very orange in color.  Very, very orange.  Annoying orange.  Carrot Orange Apple Pineapple Lemon Tumeric.  The Tumeric worried me, it isn’t my favorite spice, but I liked the taste just fine.

11:00 Headed downstairs to see the Asian Pacific American heritage month celebration. They have food booths from Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and Korea.  It all smells delicious but I don’t feel hungry at the moment.  Thank goodness.  It would have been hard to eat clean during lunch today.

11:53 Running an errand now. Not hungry.  Keeping busy is a good distraction from hunger.

12:30. Lunchtime already??? “Purify”.  Carrot Apple Celery Cucumber Beet Lemon.  Blech!  Not celery again!!!  Guess I am going to open it in a few.  My stomach just growled.

It took me an hour to finish “Purify”.  My headache was gone and now it is sort of back.  But I’m not dying of hunger at all.

3:35  This damn headache is getting worse

4:25 starting “Fiji”. Another green one. Not crazy about the celery aftertaste but it isn’t as bad as “Purify”.  I’m feeling good and not starving.

7:28  I had a massage at 6:00.   Now I’m starving with a slight headache.  I need a lot of water and my dinner juice, “Green Supreme”.

Didn’t get to drink it until after 8:30 because I had to cook dinner for Kanoe.  They had yummy ground turkey spaghetti sauce with pasta and soft garlic bread  It smelled great but I really wasn’t hungry, once I started sipping on my “Green Supreme”.  When I was almost done with the juice I made some hot decaf tea.

Unfortunately, it is already 9:19 and I still need to have my “dessert”.  Everyone says this one is delicious.  Hopefully, they are right.  Vanilla Cloud was rich and comforting.  It tasted and felt like a reward after a day of cleansing.  Today was a success.  I never wanted to eat my arm.  I didn’t cave into eating the yummy food of my people at lunch.  Nor did I succumb to the desserts or fruit at the training.  Three days will be possible for me, when the time is right.

June 13, 2013
Been stressed over my Miami trip and Kanoe’s graduation from 8th grade next week.  But I haven’t been eating too much CRAP, (carbs, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners/colors and processed foods) thankfully.

7:30am. Starting my cleanse with Glow.  I like this one a lot.  It is sweet and the celery isn’t that strong of a taste.  I hope I’m not running to the restroom all day today!   9:23 so busy with phone calls I haven’t had a chance to pee yet or finish my Glow bottle.

10:00am. Fuel.  This is super tasty.  It is fresh and a tiny bit citrus.  This time around, I feel like my taste buds are really embracing the juices.  They are much more flavorful than last time.   Had two meetings so it took me longer to finish the Fuel.

12:00. Just noticed that I don’t have a headache.  This Purify doesn’t taste awful but it is my least favorite one so far.  It tastes salty to me. Salty fruit.  Weird.

2:37 Time to drink my Fiji juice.  Thank goodness it had Fuji apple in it.  So much better than Purify!

5:50. I’ve noticed that eating clean the day before really alleviated any bad side effects so far.   No headaches but my body is so cold.  Not only because it is chilly outside, I feel cold from the inside out, like my bones are icy.

I was freezing so I had a blanket put on for my massage.  Afterward, I decided to eat 1/2 an avocado and the stir fried mushrooms and zucchini and a cup of tea.   That is helping my Fiji juice go down.

June 14, 2013

I woke up this morning with lots of energy.  I felt like I slept really, really well for the first time in a long time.  And I didn’t have to take any melatonin

It’s 8:00 AM and I have a little bit of a headache and I’m definitely hungry.  I’m going to open up my first use of the day which is Glow.  Today will be very busy because I have to work, go to the eye doctor, take Kanoe to get her nails done and then help chaperone her eighth-grade graduation dance.  Juice on the go, juice on the go!   8:45 finished Glow and I have a cup of decaf green tea on the side 😉

9:30 I started my Fuel.  I haven’t pooped yet today, which is weird.  Fuel still tastes really yummers to me.  The Tumeric isn’t bugging me as much as last time. Yay.

Had my Purify for lunch again.  It really is my least favorite.

1:00pm now.

1:50pm. Starting my Fiji and finishing my Fuji apple with it.  My stomach feels hunger and the chewing of a few pieces of an actual apple is really helping.

5:30 I warmed up veggies and had the other half of my avocado from last night.

7:15 I started drinking my Green Supreme while checking in kids for the dance.  It was delicious when I was distracted while drinking it.

9:10 I started my dessert.  Yum.  Dance is over in 43 minutes

Day 3
6:14am. Woke up naturally, I feel more rested than usual but I had a cramp in my calf muscle (right side).  So I will eat a banana this morning before paddling.   The strangest thing is I woke up completely parched.  My tongue feels dry and my head feels like I’m dehydrated.   I need to rest up this weekend.

7:07 after my lemon water, I powered down my Glow.  It tastes really fresh and a little sweet.  I could see having one of these more often, just for the green stuff and nutrients.  I’m going to eat my banana on the way to paddling and drink more water.  During practice I plan to drink my Fuel and I have another bottle of water for the boat.

One side effect I did not anticipate with the Suja juice cleanse is sleeping really really well.  I feel like I wake up more refreshed.  I definitely don’t feel like I need my melatonin or Lunesta.

Had a nice hard outrigger practice.  I ate one piece of bread and 1 tablespoon of coconut peanut butter.  And that was all while drinking my Fuel and another bottle of water

I tried to nap but didn’t really sleep much.  We went to church and decided to go out for dinner afterward.  I had ahi tuna and avocado as an appetizer with sea bass and steamed spinach.   It was delicious but I could taste all the salt in the shoyu.  It was still good but my taste buds are extra sensitive right now.

At the end of three days, I didn’t lose any weight.  My digestive system did receive a rest, for sure.  My skin was fine, thank goodness.   Sometimes people experience breakouts from a cleanse.  The toxins can cause acne.  I definitely slept well for three nights.

Keep in mind:  Juicing isn’t for everyone.  It is probably obvious that pregnant women should not deprive their bodies of solid food.  Also, individuals who have diabetes, heart disease or low blood pressure, should stay away from strict juice cleanses.  For those of us without existing health issues can decide for ourselves whether a 3-day, 5-day or 30-day juice cleanse is a good option. 

For me, living healthy is a deliberate choice one has to make.  It doesn’t happen three days at a time.  The Suja juice cleanse was a great jump start for me, especially because I consumed more green leafies and now, I own a juicer so I can make fresh juice at home any time I want to do so.  Honestly, I enjoy vegetables a lot more than I did pre-cleanse.  However, I am not giving up my wine and whiskey.  I will eat less processed foods and refined sugars.  My body will stay in motion and my heart will stay open to endless possibilities.