Calabasas 7-31-16

At the request of my mother I had to go to Walmart this afternoon. I have to admit, Walmart isn’t my favorite place but when my mother speaks…..we listen. My dad used to refer to my mother as “Mother Superior”. For those of you who have watched the movie “The Blues Brothers” you will recall the scene when the Blues Brothers go to visit the sister at their childhood school and she slams the door with just one look from her eyes . My dad used to say “your mother can move furniture with her eyeballs!” Just like in the movie. 

When I got to Walmart, I walked past a young man who was standing in front of the seasonings aisle. He was clearly confused so I stopped and asked if I could help. He said he was looking for a seasoning that began with the letter “B”. He was going to prepare a meal for his wife but couldn’t remember the name of the seasoning. I asked “is it basil?”  “Yes!!! That’s it!”  I found the basil for him. He thanked me and began describing the lovely dinner he was going to prepare for his wife. He was preparing three different kinds of fish and a spinach dish that sounded absolutely divine! I jokingly said “yum!! Can I come over?”  He answered “But of course you can. That is, only if you don’t tell me you can’t have sugar!!! I can’t have sugar so my wife is always watching me. I have to sneak sugar before I get home and I love potatoe chips!”  He held up a bag of potatoe chips and told me how he sneaks eating potatoe chips before he gets home. He said he always carries mouthwash in the car so his wife doesn’t find out. No matter how hard he tries to conceal the smell of chocolate or chips, his wife always knows. I thought this was funny. 

To describe this young man, he was a tall, good looking, African American from  Jamaica. He was wearing a hat with his dreads tucked under a hat. He was dressed very nice and exhibited such a happy and respectful spirit. He shared his mother was a white, Jewish woman and his father was Jamaican. I’ll refer to him as “T”. 

“T” and I had a lovely conversation. During our conversation he mentioned he had moved here from California. I asked him where in California. “T” said he didn’t want to tell me because he knew I wouldn’t believe him. I pressed any way. He finally told me he had moved here from Calabasas.  I exclaimed “Calabasas?!!!”  He replied “I knew you wouldn’t believe me. Would you have believed me if I said from the ghetto?”  I said “I don’t know but…..Calabasas?!!! Isn’t that where those goofy Kardashians  are from?!”  “T” started laughing. He said he thought I wouldn’t believe him based on the color of his skin but the Kardashians?!! That was a first. He explained how people stereotype him and often don’t believe him when he says he’s from Calabasas. 

“T” told the story of coming to America when he was young. He had always had a desire to study science after watching his aunt die from cancer. He studied science and now helps cancer patients. It sounded like his family came from wealth and importance in Jamaica. He had seen much violence in Jamaica  growing up. Friends being killed among other things. Coming to America hasn’t always been easy. He explained how people had judged him based on the color of his skin, yet they knew nothing about him. He shared some of those experiences with me. I’ll just say, his experiences weren’t stellar.  “T” explained that it never bothers him when he finds himself in a situation where he’s being judged based on the color of his skin. He said “they haven’t walked in my shoes, they haven’t lived my life or experienced my challenges”. Instead he responds by saying just that. He told me that he was a survivor and even if he was dropped in the middle of a desert, he knew he’d find a way to survive so regardless what others thought of him it didn’t bother him. He told me to never let what others think of me to bring me down and to always remember that those who judge me have never walked in my shoes. “T” had so many positive things to say that he was such an inspiration to me. When our conversation ended, I gave him a hug and thanked him for bringing value in to my life today. As I walked away he said “drive safe and take it easy sis!”  I walked away with a smile on my face and a heart filled with gratitude. 

“T” taught me a lesson today. He told me that no matter the challenges God would see me through and he reminded me that I am who I am and what others think of me is none of my business. I am me regardless of what others think or the color of my skin. What a blessing this young man was in my life today. Who would’ve thought a trip to Walmart would bring a chance meeting with an awesome Jamaican young man from of all places…..Calabasas, California…. Home  of those goofy, caddy Kardashians, would make such a difference in my life?!!

In It To Win It 7-30/16

I posted this on Facebook two years ago while I was fighting breast cancer. I’m blogging this post for those of you who are fighting breast cancer today. It has been a long two years for me. The side effects from chemo are still lingering. The fight has taken so much out of me and changed my life in so many ways. I’m tired and overcoming not only the side effects but the depression that came along with the challenge of chemo therapy, radiation, infusions, hormone blockers and a genetic mutation that causes many types of cancer. I was in it to win it two years ago.  This past two years I’ve overcome breast cancer, pre-colon cancer, skin cancer, neuropathy, the loss of my toe nails and fingernails, the loss of my hair, a breakup, my dignity and self respect. I’ve been verbally attacked and received not the most positive support.  I still have lymphodema, osteoporosis, my muscles and joints still hurt, I battle an auto-immune disease every day but I’m still in it and I’m winning it every day. 

Cancer has a way with treating everyone different. For some, their experience is easy, for others not so much. Be mindful of anyone fighting cancer. If you’ve never walked in their shoes please treat them with respect. Be empathetic and show your support. I haven’t received the best support. In fact I’ve been vilified by certain family members and others I held in high regard. I’ve even been compared to others whose experience with cancer was not the same as mine. Theirs was easy therefore my fight has been labeled “fake” I can only wish it was. I’ve met women who beat cancer one year and were fighting lung cancer, ovarian cancer or cervical cancer the next. Then there are the ones who fight hard and don’t make it. Do not judge anyone’s fight based on the fight of others. Everyone’s battle is different but what is the same is this nasty disease called cancer. In my opinion, cancer sucks. It’s changed my life in so many ways, both in a positive and negative way. My experience is my own. Everyone’s experience is there own too. So today, for those who have judged me or others, treated me or others poorly and hurt us in so many ways, here’s what I have to say. Be careful how you treat those fighting cancer. You never know when it may be you walking in their shoes. Cancer doesn’t care who you are, where you live or how much money you have. When you’re tagged…you’re it. Cancer is real and comes knocking when you least expect it and when it does you better be “in it to win it”

My post two years ago:

I made it back to San Francisco yesterday. I made it home to the familiar sounds of the crowds cheering for the SF Giants at the ball park across the street, cars honking, the hustle and bustle of the crowds downstairs and I thought how nice it was to be at home w my mom. The peace, quiet and serenity of just being home. The trip really wiped me out. I had a doctors appointment today. I had to have my blood drawn, my vitals checked and meet with my oncologist. While I was waiting I met a gal named Amanda. She was battling breast cancer. She is a Stage 1 and I’m a stage 1A. We are both going through the same treatment however our side effects differed. For one, she didn’t lose her hair until the second  or third treatment,  however she lost the feeling to her toes and fingers and has experienced leg swelling. Side effects I haven’t experienced yet, thank goodness. I met with my oncologist. She told me that she had chosen a very aggressive treatment for me because she wants to make sure she kills the cancer so I don’t have to go through this again. She also shared that while chemo is chemo, everyone’s experience is different. I thought this was interesting because I’ve met so many women and have had the opportunity to hear their story. A lot of women who are in their 20’s, 30’s & 40’s. We all have breast cancer. We are all fighting the disease but while our treatment is the same, our side effects are different. The experience is different. Before I began treatment I read several books that in truth scared me to death. I finally stopped reading them. I thought my oncologists interpretation today was spot on. I don’t mind sharing my journey in the hopes that it will be a wealth of encouragement if god forbid anyone finds themselves facing the same challenge. My advice is keep your mind open and remember that while others may experience one thing your experience will be different. What is the same is the disease. Keep fighting and never give up. The road may be hard but the end result is it’s beatable so be in it to win it. I’m taking a break from chemo for a couple of weeks to get my strength back. I’m going to use the time to eat healthy, rest and get my strength back so I can get through the next four treatments as a fighter. I’m in it to win it!! Going home was a good thing for me. Not everything went as planned but what it did give me is the motivation and determination to fight again.

Love Your Kids Unconditionally 7-22-16

I posted this on my Facebook two years ago. I thought it was worth blogging about. These girls were so wonderful and so full of happiness and gratitude. Their circumstances were bleak. They were shunned by their own families yet they exuded such a positive spirit. My heart went out to them. All they had was each other. I should mention they were only teenagers.  I couldn’t imagine turning my back on my children. They touched my life in so many ways that day. 

I’m really weak today so I ran downstairs to Safeway to buy some drinks and  food to build up my immune system. While standing in line two young girls came up and stood in line behind me. They had a huge bag of bagels and donuts. They were clearly gay. I tried to make room on the counter for them to put their bag down. For some reason, I don’t remember why but I apologized saying. “I’m sorry. I’m just really weak today”. What happened next cracked me up and certainly gave me a new perspective. One of the girls replied. “Omg tell me about it! We are homeless living in a shelter and all we’ve had to eat is a bowl of cereal! But they gave us some money at the shelter so we are loading up on bread!” These girls were young. I looked at them and asked “why are you homeless?” One of the girls, Alice, an African American girl,  shared she was from Sacramento and her parents kicked her out when they found out she was “queer”. Her words not mine. My heart went out to her. Kimberly, a stunning Mexican boy turned girl, shared she became homeless when her parents found out she was a transgender. The thing about these two girls was they were so positive and so happy. And despite their circumstances they were more worried about me begging to share their bag of goodies with me to get my energy back. They were funny, happy and even more so filled w so much gratitude for all the blessings they do have. I had five dollars in my wallet and I handed it to these girls. They were so over joyed and grateful. Kimberly, the transgender said “omg we are so blessed!!!!! Yesterday we found a bag someone accidentally left on a cart and it was filled w cookies. Today we got some money to buy bagels and donuts and now you hand us five dollars!” We had a nice visit. I don’t always understand why people are gay, transgender, etc but what I do know is it’s not for me to judge. We are all the same. I also know that these two girls were a blessing today. Despite all their adversities and challenges. They were happy, grateful and willing to help others. Now in my book that says a lot. I may be facing my own challenge but there is always something to be grateful for! Today I’m grateful for meeting Kimberly and Alice!

One of the things that has stood out in my mind about these two girls was they shared how hard they had fought not to be this way. That’s so sad. Unfortunately they come from a culture that doesn’t accept them. What has bothered me the most and has forced me to pray for them is their positive outlook on life. Their gratefulness, their kindness and their sense of humor. Something they obviously learned from their parents. As parents I believe we should love our children unconditionally. Right or indifferent they are a blessing from god. Kelly and Alice are no different. It really is sad that their parents can’t bring themselves to accept them for who they are. I love my children. I will love them always and forever. Unconditionally no matter what. Carole, a dear friend,  posted this quote. I thought I’d share as a reminder to all parents, especially those w children who are “different” should regard their children as a blessing and love them unconditionally no matter what!

Monroe Jackson 7-22-16

I posted this on Facebook two years ago while fighting cancer. I thought I’d blog this story. I still think about Monroe. I wonder how he’s doing. I wonder if he’s on the beaches of Brazil. If you live in San Francisco and happen to be on 2nd and Townsend and run in to a shoe shine guy….take some time to let him shine your shoes. His stories will captivate you and his presence is sure to bless you. 

Monroe Jackson!!! My new friend. He’s an African American older gentlemen who’s been a street shoe shiner for over 30 years. I met Monroe a few weeks ago after my first chemo treatment. I had seen him on the corner of 2nd & Townsend as I walked to my accupuncture appt. Accupuncture a must when you’re going through chemo. It really helps. Any way on the walk back home after my appt Monroe was away from his shoe shine post standing across the street at the corner of 2nd shooting the breeze w other people. We passed each other as I we crossed the street. I was walking slow that day. Very sick but by the time I got to Third street  I looked across the street and was surprised to see Monroe crossing the street heading towards me. I thought ” that’s weird. Am I seeing things?” As I crossed the street I took the time and asked. “Do you have a twin? I just saw you on Second street.” He laughed and said “no I just got off the bus”. Hmm weird. Chemo was Friday so Saturday I walked to accupuncture again. Monroe was at his post. We chit chatted and on the way home I decided to take time out to just talk to him. We briefly talked about many things. I shared I had cancer. Monroe said. “Girl….go shave that head!!! Bite the bullet and do it. Heck Sinead O’Connor did it. Grace Slick did it! Who cares!” I laughed but I did end up shaving my head. Yesterday on my way to my appt again I said hi to Monroe. He asked “so did you shave it?” I said ” yes”. He said. “Show me!” So I took off my hat. Monroe said “there you go. You’re perfect!” I laughed and for some reason Monroe decided to share his story. As it turns out, Monroe is a professional shoe shine guy. He’s not homeless. As a matter of fact, he has a home. He lives in the five bedroom home he grew up in with his five sisters. He’s 74 years old. He moved out at the age of 16. Unlike his sisters he never amounted to much more than being a shoe shine guy in the street. As he shared his story I realized he was dressed nice, very clean and I had the wrong impression. Monroe moved back home at the age of 50 when his mom got sick. She battled cancer. He took care of her until the day she died. Monroe said his mom was a “pain in the ass” always bitching about his girlfriends but he didn’t mind. He drove her around, fed her did everything a son should do. Monroe told me if there was one thing he’s learned in his 74 years of living is you can’t choose your parents or your family, they’re who you are and no matter what life throws at you fight hard, never give up and live life to the fullest. Monroe is hoping this will be his last year of shining shoes. He’s feeling a little old and he’s ready to pack it up and spend his last days on the beaches of Brazil. I hope he’s able to. Monroe is my blessing today. I’m always so grateful for the people I’m lucky enough to meet!

Love Is The Answer 7-8-16

I haven’t wanted to say much the past month or so or even share my opinions.  After the incident in Dallas I feel the need to share.  I am very saddened by the recent events involving the death of an innocent man because of the color of his skin.  I am also saddened by the events that happened in Dallas.  This past month or so has certainly been filled with so much sadness.  As I reflect on the latest events, I can’t help but be reminded of the innocent lives lost in Orlando only a few weeks ago. These are reminders of how much hate still lives in America.

I watched the video on Facebook of that young man shot by a police officer.  His girlfriend was praying saying “God…Please don’t let my boyfriend die” over and over again.  It broke my heart to hear her.  I couldn’t help but cry.  I can’t even imagine the fear she was experiencing. I believe she was praying to the same God I pray to…..And I’m Catholic by the way.  My God isn’t black and he isn’t white.  My God shines so bright I can’t see the color of his skin.  All I see is a beautiful light that radiates peace and love.  It’s amazing to me how we Americans still judge others based on the color of their skin or their choice in partners.  We are all guilty of doing this.  Who in the heck are we to judge.  If you ask me, I have so many problems in my life that judging others isn’t an additional  task I’d like to take on.  I’ll leave the “judging” part to the “Big Guy” in heaven.

People from all over the world come to America.  They come here to escape communism, brutality, poverty.  They see America as the American Dream.  I wonder what they think when they get here and they have to hide out in their room because they don’t fit the American mold. They have to worry about going out in public and be fearful they may get shot or shunned by those who think their shit doesn’t stink.   I wonder if they feel like the “American Dream” is actually a nightmare.  We have all these politicians professing their promises to change america.  Donald Trump, our newest candidate,  is going to make America great.  Really Donald?  Building a wall dividing the United States and Mexico is not the answer.  In my opinion, it only opens the door to more bigotry.

I have friends who are black.  I have friends who are Latino’s, Asians, Brazilians,  Italians, Irish and I even have friends who are gay.  When I look at them I don’t see the color of their skin or their choice in partners.  What I see are beautiful people who are beautiful inside and out and make me proud to call them my friends!!  They are my BFF’s.  Best Friends Forever.  I’m a Latin Catholic woman.  I’m also a recovered alcoholic, a recovered Anorexic/Bulemic, I’ve survived cancer, abusive relationships, I’m a little rough around the edges, some might call me ghetto but I like who I am.  I am unique.  When God created me he threw away the mold.  We are all unique.  That’s what makes us all special.  Robert Palmer used to sing a song called “Every Kind of People”.  It’s an awesome song.  The lyrics are “It takes every kind of people to make the world go round”.  I think those lyrics are spot on.

When I was growing up there used to be a famous woman named Dinah Shore.  She was a very popular singer and TV host.  I will never forget Dinah and her husband had a baby.  The baby was born black.  The ironic part is neither Dinah nor her husband were black.  They were white.  Dinah’s husband accused her of cheating.  An accusation she vehemently denied.  What a fiasco that was.  It was later discovered through genetic testing that Dinah had  “black” blood lines running through her veins.  I have always loved this story and this is why.  Be careful who you judge….You never know where you came from.  If you don’t believe me, feel free to google it.  Now I’d like to clarify, referring to African Americans as black is not politically correct.  I know that.  But based on the recent events, let’s cut to the chase.  We still judge African Americans because we still view them as “black”.  Just like we judge mexicans, gay people, asians, whites……the list goes on.  It’s just wrong.  Black or white, these are people just like you and me.

I heard a song this morning.  It’s an old song by the group called England Dan and John Ford Coley.  For those of you who are my age (25 x 2) you may recall the song.  It’s called “Love is the Answer”.  We are looking for a way to end all of this violence.  At the end of the day the answer lies within ourselves to have the ability to love one another.  Regardless of race, color etc.  Love is the answer my friends.  Love is what will set us all free.  Someday we all must die.  That’s when we will face the true judge for our behavior while living.  I don’t know about you but I have many things I will have to answer to but I can tell you it won’t be because I spent my life judging others based on the color of their skin.  You see, God loves us all.  He may not agree with the way we choose to live our life but I can tell you he doesn’t love us based on the color of our skin.  He loves us unconditionally.  Why wouldn’t he?  He created us all.  That means he created the color of our skin too.  Of course, this is my opinion.  I live in America!  I am free to have my own opinion just like you’re free to have your own. I will leave you with this to reflect upon. Jesus was born in Nazareth.  It’s my guess he didn’t have fair skin, blonde hair or blue eyes. As a Christian, would  you judge Jesus by the color of his skin?  Ponder that.

Beauty Is On The Inside 6-28-16

Once upon a time in a far away land. A land… named after an Indian chief…..Chief Moses Lake. There lived  a girl who was very pretty. This girl was attractive, successful and surrounded by love. She had an infectious sense of humor that was a pleasure for all those who met her. She was amazing. 

 One day she was approached by a man who wore a gold chain. He wore khaki pants, chambray button shirts and tiny,  Eenie, weeny Hush Puppy shoes and had little, tiny hands. He pampered her and spoiled her with flowers, trips and lots of love.  Finally, he swept her off her feet and took her away to a strange land surrounded by beautiful lights, tall buildings, a beautiful bay and millions of people. At last, this girl had met her Prince Charming. 

Life was good until one day,  Prince Charming turned in to a big, bad wolf. He huffed and he puffed, he was mean and constantly on the prowl. Rejection happened. Cancer happened. Failure happened. She was no longer the pretty girl she once was.  She lost her self-confidence, strength, dignity and lost her beauty too.  One day, this girl had enough. Surrounded by angels she walked away from her fairy tale that wasn’t a fairy tale at all. Life was hard. Life was devastating.  But something inside her happened. While she was no longer the pretty girl she once was on the outside, she became beautiful on the inside. While others failed to recognize the beauty she now had on the inside, she recognized the pretty girl she had become on the inside. She no longer worried about what others thought, she became focused on helping others.  Life for her was no longer the same.  It was better. 

Once upon a time, I used to think I had to be pretty. I don’t anymore. Today I have a small piece of my skin missing. The possibility of skin cancer doesn’t scare me nor does the possibility of being rejected because I’m no longer the “hot chick” with a “hot” body anymore. My long hair is gone. I have scars on my body and most of all scars on my heart but it doesn’t bother me. I follow many other blogs. Some talk about their insecurities regarding their weight, their lack of beauty. What I have to say to them is this. It’s not what’s on the outside that makes you pretty. It’s what’s on the inside.  You can be the most beautiful person in the world yet have a horrible heart. No matter how pretty you are on the outside, that ugliness that lives inside of you makes you just as ugly. 

Be kind. Accept yourself for who you are. Treat others with respect and kindness. You will become a beautiful person for it. Inside and out. And If you ask me….I’m pretty darn beautiful on the inside and so are you if you want to be. Who cares about the scars. True beauty comes from who you are on the inside. I miss the girl I once was. I miss my life, the love of my children and I miss having money. I miss being the “hot chick”. I even miss having a partner. Despite not having those things I can honestly say I’m still the Velma I once was but I’m happy to say…much better. Scars and all. Like Bruno Mars would say….I’m Amazing. 

Relay for Life 6-19-16

Friday night I attended the Relay for Life event in Moses Lake. It was a wonderful event that I am very passionate about. I was handed a purple shirt to wear along with a purple lei, a survivor pin and a survivor medal. I’ve attended several events but never in a million years did I ever think I’d be attending a Relay for Life event as a survivor. They began the event by lining up all the survivors to take the first lap. I took the survivor walk. As I walked, there was a cheering from the crowd for those of us who made it. It was a very emotional experience for me as I walked around the track. There were people cheering us on and exuded so much support it was overwhelming. 

As I walked around the track the reality of cancer really hit me. None of my family was there to cheer me on, yet all these strangers were all to willing to recognize not only my journey but the journey of all the survivor’s I was blessed to be in the company with. I’m a grateful survivor but Friday night as I walked around that track, I couldn’t help but think of all those who weren’t as lucky. I found myself walking not as a survivor, rather in honor of the strong men and women who fought the fight but didn’t make it. 

As I fought cancer, I met so many wonderful people. In my experience, those fighting cancer are the strongest people I’ve ever met in my life. People always say, “God never gives us more than we can handle”. If that’s true, then anyone who battles cancer is one strong person in God’s eyes because I’m here to tell you, it’s tough business. I’m a strong woman but cancer brought me to my knees!  

There are so many people who have touched my life that have lost their battle to cancer. Recently, a dear friend succumbed to her own battle. This woman was a fighter. Last year she was diagnosed with a rare cancer that affected her entire body. She was given three months to live. She chose not to pursue treatment. She also chose to live life with a positive attitude and a strong faith in God. “Jean” defied the odds and not only exeded three months, she lived more than a year. She was so full of life. She will forever be an inspiration to me and to the many others whose lives she touched. 

As I thought of “Jean” I decided to donate $100 in honor of the strongest and most inspirational woman I’ve ever known. I have many friends who are battling cancer. My hope is my donation will go a long way in finding a cure for this horrible disease. 

I left that night and as I drove home I began to cry uncontrollably. I cried all the way home. Cancer sucks!!! It’s hard for those who haven’t been affected by the disease to understand the emotions unless you’ve been through it. Tonight, as I write this I’d like to encourage those of you reading to click on the Relay for Life website in your area and make a small donation. If money is an issue then sign up to volunteer in some capacity, whether it’s sending a card to someone you know fighting cancer just to let them know you care or even knitting hats.  Together we can make a difference!!!! 

For those of you who find yourself facing your own battle tonight, I’d like to encourage you to keep going. Don’t give up and whatever you do, don’t lose hope. There are many who have walked in your shoes. They made it….I made it and I believe you can make it too!!!