A Gem of A Woman

 

It has taken me some time to accept the difficult things that I have learned regarding my biological family.

The circumstances and story I’ve learned are not at all what I was expecting when I decided to search for my birth mother.

It took several years for me to come to terms with my adoption. However, eventually, I did find peace in the knowledge that my biological mother had wished me dead from the time of my conception. You may think I’m being dramatic or exaggerating; however, I am not.

The only information that my sister Darlene was willing to share with me about our biological mother was that Pearl tried to use a coat hanger to abort me herself and end the pregnancy. The thought of this still makes me nauseous.

I tried to put this thought out of my mind by telling myself Darlene was trying to be hurtful and perhaps was jealous of the life I had led because of my fortunate adoption into a “normal” family if there is such a thing.

Darlene was fifteen years old when Pearl was pregnant with me. Oh, and I want to make sure to mention that that year was when Pearl abandoned her oldest daughter in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was 1963. That day was the last time Darlene ever saw her mother.

You might be wondering if I ever found Pearl and if we had a conversation.

The answer is yes. I had one phone conversation with my birth mom. Her words are etched into my soul like a knife to the gut.

The short conversation went something like this.

Hi, my name is Shari. I am trying to find out a few things about my medical history, and I am hoping to talk to you regarding my biological family.

Pearl said, Who is it you are trying to call?

I went on to tell her that I had been adopted by a family in Utah when I was two years old. I also mentioned that I was born at the LA County Hospital on October 17th, 1963.

Pearl told me that she had no idea who I wanted to talk to, but it wasn’t her.

I repeated myself by mentioning again my date of birth, that I had grown up in Utah since the age of two. I also said the names of her parents and even asked her about Darlene.

I will admit that I did throw her history in her face. I wanted her to be clear that she was the person I needed to find. And that she was the person who could answer my questions.

Pearl was forty years old when I was born. This conversation took place thirty-five years later. In my mind, I thought that she would have come to terms with the fact that she had given a child up. I also assumed that at seventy-five, she might be interested to know what my life had been like if nothing more than to have closure before her death.

But nothing could have been further from the truth.

Let’s get back to that conversation.

I told Pearl that I didn’t expect to have a relationship with her. I had a fantastic childhood, was married and had children of my own. I didn’t need anything from her besides information about my medical history.

There was silence on the other end of the phone,

and then Pearl said, “why would I want to talk to you; you are dead to me.”

That was it, and she hung up the phone.

Queue dramatic music.

I am not sharing this with you for you to feel sorry for me.

I share this with you because we each have something from our past. We have a choice to make; we can continue to have that chip on our shoulder to carry around with us for a lifetime. But if you are willing to deal with uncomfortable emotions, I recommend that you put your big girl pants on and dive right into the sludge. In the end, you will be better for it.

Now back to Pearl, the “Gem of a Woman” that carried me in her womb for nine months.

Later that day, I chose to write her a note. I apologized for catching her off guard and expecting a conversation with her. I included my address and phone number just in case she ever had a change of heart and wanted to get in touch.

I never heard from her, and she has since died.

Every year, International Peace Day rolls around on September 21st. For that reason, I chose peace to be the topic of September.

Picture your families, communities, colleagues, and schools. Think about the people who have something in their lives that they carry around from their past.

I’m sure you are aware of how often our issues and burdens affect us.

On that thought, remember how we all need to be accountable for what we carry into our relationships as well as how it not only affects us each day but everyone around us.

Do you have a chip on your shoulder because of something that happened to you?

I know that I had been carrying a large boulder.

Since my adopted mother passed away recently, I have been looking at photos from my past.

I was shocked as I carefully looked at pictures of myself from the age of 25-40 years old.

There was something about what I saw in my face that was different. It was a lost look. And was someone I didn’t recognize.

I thought about those photos for several days. And then it dawned on me.

I hadn’t realized how important it was for me to go through the ugliness and sadness of knowing the truth of “my beginning.”

I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted for so many years of my life. But through experiencing the hard journey, it led me to understand and believe in who I am today.

As difficult as it is to face our demons, once you do the work and get to the other side, similar to myself, you may not recognize yourself from the past.

And I am ok with that. Getting to the other side is exhilarating. Shari

 

 

 

The Case of The What-Ifs

 

 

Life will always have its ups and downs. How you deal with hardships and discouragement will always come down to your mindset. You can learn to change your mindset if you are willing to go through the personal growth necessary.

I recently had a young mother reach out to me. She has a similar breast cancer diagnosis and, cancer has spread to her brain. She, of course, is frightened and in panic mode.

She asked for my advice, wanting to know how to stop worrying about her situation.

I shared my experience with brain metastasis. There was relief in this woman’s voice when I explained my SRT treatment.

But her mind kept spinning, and I could tell she was still freaking out, and I was running out of suggestions to help calm her mind.

We can’t control our lives, and we certainly are unable to be in the driver’s seat when we experience a life-threatening disease.

We can do our best at finding the right doctor and treatments. Finding the necessary help, we may need for our children and families. Planning for our needs and wants regarding the end of life care.

But after all of that, there will always be a time when we have to let go.

Each person in their way and in their time will need to come to peace with their situation.

If you believe in a higher entity, this is the time put it in his/her hands.

Make the most of your life with those you love. Keep planning for the future as if you have all the time in the world.

Live to the fullest. Whatever it may be.  Wishing you the best, Shari

But First, Dessert

I want to introduce you to my friend Denise.⁠ We have known each other since we were little girls.

Our mothers had been friends and were in a bowling league together. So that is how our friendship began.

Dance lessons and play dates were part of our early years. Time flys and our last memories together were decades ago when we would take ski lessons at Snowbird.

Life happens, and people grow apart. ⁠We lost touch with each other for many years.

But then unexpected circumstances brought us back together again.⁠

It started on Facebook about seven years ago when I reached out to her to say hello. Now that I think about it I’m not sure who requested the FB friendship.

We would comment on each other’s post once in a while, but that was all.

One day I read Denise’s FB status and I’ll never forget the feeling I had learning that Denise was diagnosed with Breast Cancer stage 3B.

I followed her breast cancer story on Facebook. She had a fierce battle and finally was in remission.

Shortly after my own metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, Denise posted about her cancer recurrence. Her breast cancer had spread to the bone, and she was now also a metastatic cancer patient.

Denise and I have leaned on each other for advice as we share a similar diagnosis.

How can it be that we both are the same age and are triple-positive metastatic breast cancer patients?

Both of our right breasts is where cancer had started.

We both had the BRACA test and neither is a carrier of the gene that can trigger breast cancer. Yet here we are with the same disease.

Denise came to visit some of her family here in Utah, and I was so appreciative of the time she and I had to spend with each other.

She shared childhood memories with me that I had not thought about for so many years.

We have both lost our mothers, and we shared those vulnerable emotions.

We went to dinner, and Denise said: “let’s have dessert first.” And so we did.

We could have talked for hours, but Denise had another plan.

I found myself taking her Tao Tao for a test drive in the dark. And of course, I fell and skinned my elbow.

Denise’s son had given her a Tao Tao electric bike, and we took turns riding it around the neighborhood.

It was getting late when we hugged and said goodbye. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever see Denise again.

But then we laughed knowing that someday we would.

 

I saw you

 

I recently read an inspiring story on Facebook that I knew I needed to share with you. Aaron Sherinian, I believe, is Steve’s third cousin. Aaron’s occupation requires him to travel all over the world. Aaron was kind enough to let me share this story with you.  This is his recent experience and in his own words.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

To the man outside the convenience store on U St. in Washington, D.C.: I saw you. I saw what you did a few minutes ago. I witnessed it all.

I saw your face as you overheard the uncomfortable conversation between the homeless man and the store owner. The details were unclear. But I could see from your face that you wanted to help.

I saw you quietly buy this man the items he could not afford. And then more.

I heard you subtly encourage another man to refer to this person with more respect. I also heard you treat the convenience store owner with empathy as well while you covered his debts at the cash register. I watched you try to observe the situation without judging…Just helping. I listened as you communicated it all in soft tones so that others would not notice your role.

I saw you quietly help the homeless man outside the door.

I saw you shake his hand, walk 2 blocks away before ordering a cab so that he would not feel embarrassed or beholden to you once you both left the scene.

I witnessed all this. You did NONE of it knowing you were being observed. But you were. I saw it all.

And you did not see what I saw after. I saw the homeless man sit down, eat his lunch, and say a prayer.

I have no idea who you are. But you reminded me that there are good people everywhere. I do not know what motivated your actions today. But I know it was not praise.

I saw you. And it changed the way I will look at the rest of the day. Thank you. I know that it is not always possible to do everything or help everybody. But I witnessed an act of kindness on U Street that reminds me we should do what we can whenever opportunity crosses our path.

So, Thanks. Whoever you are.
-Aaron

P.S. I also couldn’t help but notice that you bought Double-Stuff Oreos for yourself. So, extra points. Well done, you. I saw that, too. #GoodTaste

You can follow Aaron on Facebook and on Instagram

Living with Metastasized Breast Cancer – Reframing & Restructuring Your Mind – A Two Part Series

 

Are you living with a disease or merely going through a difficult time in your life? My friend JC Frias and I discuss ways you can make a choice to have a positive mindset. It may not come naturally to you, but over time and with practice, it will lead to a joyful life.

 

 

In Part II of the series, JC & I continue our conversation. Even with a terminal disease, I’ve made a conscious choice to live joyfully every day that I have. Some days are harder to keep my chin up than others. It is essential to feel emotions. However, I have learned how to pull myself out of my pity party and start anew.

 

The Pros and Cons of having a Port

 

In an outpatient procedure a few days before my first chemo appointment, I had a power port implanted on the left side of my upper chest. This quarter-sized port helps chemo drip smoothly because it connects a catheter to one of the central veins leading through my body.

Why is this a big deal? It means chemo drugs can be quickly and safely delivered into my bloodstream—and I didn’t need to get my arm pricked with new IVs at every infusion.

Are you wondering whether you or your loved one should get a port for chemotherapy? Here are a few pros and cons based on my experiences over three years of chemo and pre-op testing:

Disclaimer: These are my tips and suggestions as a patient, not as a clinician. Please consult your doctor when making a decision.

Port Pros

  1. It Speeds Up Chemo Infusions

Oncology nurses are skilled at quickly inserting the special Huber needles into the port, which hook up to the IV chemo drugs.

  1. No More IV Bruises

Because my veins are tiny, before I got my port, nurses struggled to find veins on my arms and I dealt with lots of bruises from failed attempts.

  1. Less Pain

About 90 minutes before my infusion appointments, I use a  lidocaine cream to numb the skin above my port. I liberally apply it with cotton balls and then cover it with clear plastic wrap. Nurses clean the area, and one pinprick later, the needle is in.

  1. It Can Stay In As Long As You Need Treatment

With a port, you can bathe, swim, and generally perform whatever activities you feel well enough for.

  1. It Can Be Used for Other Therapies

My port allows for quick blood draws. It also allows me to have an MRI with contrast without another pesky IV.

Port Cons:

  1. One More Procedure, One More Scar
  1. It Looks Awkward Poking Out of Your Skin

My port looks like a black-and-blue tiny quail egg-sized bruise sticking out of my skin. For the first year, I’d wear clothes that covered the port, and this helped with my self-confidence. After a while though, I no longer cared and now just wear whatever I want. Once in a while, someone will ask about it, and I’m ok with that.

  1. It Gets In the Way Of Seat Belts

You can purchase a fuzzy seat-belt cover for driving that way the belt doesn’t rub against the port. This is a simple solution.

  1. It Can Malfunction or Break

In the three years since placement, I have not had any issues.

The decision is obviously yours and your doctor’s; however, for me, the convenience—and relief from more discomfort—the port provides during my treatment easily outweigh the negatives.