A New Adventure: The Governor’s Office and Harvard!

At Harvard Yard.

Dear friends,

I have some exciting news! I’m embarking on a new journey with a new blog today, From Chemo to Cambridge

It will chronicle my upcoming adventures as I transition to my time at Harvard for the next few years!

I will continue to update this blog once in a while with recaps of my cancer journey, and will post the next few years of my life in Cambridge at the aforementioned site.

See you there!

With love,

My Tam

Reflecting on a year of living…

Dearest friends,

We made it! One full year of living cancer-free, filled with so much love, adventure, friendship, memories, opportunity, and pure joy. A day still doesn’t go by without me thinking of how incredibly lucky I am to still be here.

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Deep within me now is a fire and a core of honest living filled with gratitude, of seizing each and every single moment to its utmost potential, and truly living without any fear, hesitation or regret. 

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So how has Zee Cancer affected my life now that I’m back to the full schedule of life, work, and community? Disappointments, struggles, and daily strife seem more bearable, and being alive gives me such a deep sense of clarity and purpose. A part of this is being intentional about filling my life with meaningful memories and people I love, respect and admire.

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I’m also leaving no rocks unturned and no door of opportunity unopened. One of the most frustrating things when I was diagnosed, was realizing that all the opportunities that lay before me may never be seized, and that my potential may never be fulfilled. Thanks to the loving support of my incredible mentors, family, and friends, I’m seizing opportunities I never thought would be possible for me prior to treatment. Zee Cancer has given me wings and opened me to the world of possibility and bravery to pursue things beyond my wildest imagination. It’s given me true courage.

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It’s also given me the time, resources, and energy to coach, mentor and encourage some amazing young people to pursue their dreams of public service. One of the students I’ve been a long-time mentor of, is now a counselor at my alma mater, and applying to be an oncology social worker…I cannot be more proud of her. This in itself makes my life worthy of living. 

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It is in these bright, light-filled simple moments in my daily existence, when I feel most connected to the wholeness of the universe, and the depth of my journey the past two years. Stopping more often to see the sunset over the ocean, waking up a little earlier to jog to see the sunrise over the mountains, saying no to another event and showing up for my family and friends instead…learning how to do less, and be more.

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So here’s to growth, from the wisdom our struggles teaches us from our personal history, toward a hopeful future full of wonder and magic that we cannot even imagine, and to brave today without resistance or fear and to trust that inner voice telling us that we are capable of living in every single moment as our best selves.  

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A special thank you over this past weekend to some loved ones who made my one year mark so incredibly special:

Marian and Gene (AKA Santa) for cooking me the most stunningly scrumptious Provencal seafood stew! 

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My dear friend, Anita Verna Crofts, for a most magnificent day of dance, chocolate, relaxation, unwinding in one of my most favorite corners of the universe, with a scrumptious kazillion course lunch of deliciousness!

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My dear friend Dao, who spoiled me with hand-made Tom Douglas pasta at my oncologist, Dr. Farah’s favorite restaurant: Cuoco.

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Chris Dunford & the White Center/Southwest Boys and Girls Club & All of YOU, who came and supported the club to fundraise for the youth from the Keystone program to get to their annual leadership conference.

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David and Hillary’s beautiful new baby Louisa! 

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If you would still like to make a donation to these phenomenal young people to send them to a transformative leadership experience in March in Atlanta, please send a check to:

Southwest Boys & Girls Club
9800 9th Ave SW Ste 105 Seattle, WA 98106
Please write: Keystone in the notes section of your check.
This is the kind of program that I would’ve benefited from, and cultivating their success is something I feel very connected to as a part of my celebration of life…
Thank you for your consideration and generosity!
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Ngim and her fiance for surprising me from L.A.!

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My amazing colleagues, who made Sunday so incredibly special for over 100 newly married couples at City Hall. See all our blog posts.

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So, what else have I been up to this past year?

I traveled to New York, LA, Denver, Cabo, and Boston, and survived Hurricane Sandy.

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Celebrating Eid in Brooklyn with some dear friends.

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Had the most splendid adventures trick-or-treating with lovely Ana and Ezra  on Halloween!

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I became a citizen, voted for the first time, blogged about it, was interviewed for it by Crosscut and KUOW thanks to OneAmerica and the Washington Bus

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I went white water rafting and rock climbing for the very first time.

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I was able to smile, be present, and completely there for birthdays, weddings, graduations, send-offs…that I’d thought I would never be able to attend again

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I got to see another Thanksgiving with my family and we made a nine course meal from scratch in five hours…

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While I celebrate another year, I have friends, friends of friends, and family of friends who are newly diagnosed, still undergoing treatment and fighting for their lives, or nearing the end of their battle. I regularly hear, meet with, and coach loved ones who have someone they care about braving the world of Zee Cancer. Anniversaries and birthdays now are bitter-sweet. 

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An update on some of my friends:
You may remember Nick and Alyssa Magnotti: Nick is still undergoing treatment, and Alyssa is pregnant! They are so incredible in their continuing fight, please consider helping support their journey to their family: http://teammagnotti.org/

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And my dear dear Rose Egge: Most wonderful Rose is now engaged to the love of her life, Angel, who was there for her throughout her treatment. In addition to her day time job at KOMO, she runs a non-profit providing comfort and care packages to young cancer patients. She continues to inspire me and I’m so incredibly grateful that both of us are healthy, and very much cancer free. 

And my wonderful friend Aaron Fields: who went through treatment for a second time is now cancer free and starting school for graphic design in January.

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My heart also goes out to the many lives who are so close to me as friends, colleagues, and confidantes who are staying strong, supporting loved ones, and continue their battle with this horrendous  disease. 

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Here’s to health, healing, love, and the will and strength to continue…

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Until next time dear, dear friends…

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With love,
My Tam 

Gratitude & Abundance

Thank you to those of you whom for the past few days have called, texted, showed up at my door and window with a six course home-made meal, the favorite yogurt of their two-year-old (!) adorably hand delivered by said toddler =), toted fresh flowers and sent encouraging love notes and wonderful messages even when I resisted to not get you conTAMinated, you lovingly persisted. You sure know how to make a girl feel special, loved, supported and lovely while not feeling too well. Thank you for your kind thoughts, words, and prayers, I felt a jolt of energy during meditation tonight, so whoever is out there sending this healing power to me, thank you. It’s just a cold/flu combo that is lasting way too long and I’m slowly on the mend.  The liver condition is also looking good and improving, and I’m still very much cancer-free. Thank you, I am incredibly grateful. <3

Some Medical Updates…

Dear friends, 

I’ve been in the hospital for a few days now being treated for a Hepatitis B flare-up. I have hereditary Hepatitis-B from my parents and there is no need to worry.  Hep B is a retro-virus of the liver, and most of the time these past few days I’m just feeling fatigued and nauseous. I am on the mend, and most of my indicators are on a good downward trend. They might keep me here for another day or two just to monitor a few things. The good news is I’m still very much cancer-free! This is just another exciting momentary journey. And the ironic part is, I’m being housed at my good ‘ole chemo wing, and am feeling pretty much at home with my awesome nurses and medical team who are giving me a lot of love and good care.

All that said, Hep B is a big time API community public-health concern and disproportionately affects the API population. Below is more information for what our community needs to know. 




Thank you for your continuing support and concern.

Love,
My Tam

 

Living Out My Truth and Reigniting this Blog

Dearest friends,

We are quickly approaching the one year anniversary of my diagnosis and I am recommitting to making more regular postings on this blog once May rolls around and I’m easing out of my incredibly busy schedule and full plate at the moment. I took the photo above from a lovely dinner with some wonderful inspiring friends tonight.

This week, I’ve been bombarded with to-do lists, emails to respond to, and a body that aches for rest. Today, I took a yoga and a pilates class, one at lunch and one after work. It feels like I’m tipping toes back into normalcy, while still having some pangs left from treatment. My knees are still in pain, but it allows me enough freedom to be able to exercise physical ability and agility, and for this I’m truly grateful. This photo reminds me of culling out the beauty and essence of our daily and what seems to be mundane, actions. Eating and cooking are basic tasks of life. Yet, there is liberation, release, and freedom I find in the kitchen and at the dining room table that is sometimes lacking in other aspects of life’s daily routine. This quote on the staircase of Traveler’s restaurant in Beacon Hill, reminds me to slow down, and remember the core of everything from eating, to working, to exercising, communicating, and connecting. It sets a standard of intentional living, being, existing. It is to live in the present, with our whole selves, and not let the flow of living sweep us away. 

On this note, this blog has been a huge blessing for me and I hope to continue to cull out gems of intention and lessons learned from my life journey with you. I hope it will continue to be a resource that you can forward to any one who could use a helping hand. 

What you can expect: 

HOW TO’s

  • How to build a digital community
  • How to find a good doctor and cancer center
  • How to stay motivated and inspired
  • How to look and feel fabulous all through treatment
  • How to simplify your beauty routine during treatment
  • How to find comfy chemo clothes
  • How to set up a feeding schedule
  • How to find a creative outlet
  • How to find your cancer community
  • How to talk about kids about cancer
  • How to be there for a friend through cancer
  • How to forgive yourself for missing life events during cancer
  • How to ask questions of your healthcare providers
  • How to thank your healthcare providers
  • How to say no to certain gifts during treatment
  • How to ask for what you need and want during treatment
  • How to ease out of your “normal” life and transition into “cancer world”
  • How to set up a Google Calendar and share it with your caregivers and friends and family during treatment
  • How to still enjoy your favorite foods during treatment
  • How to keep your spirit up during treatment
  • How to use Twitter during treatment
  • How to use Facebook during treatment
  • How to set up a Tumblr site
  • How to use Instagram
  • How to tread the boundary of sharing enough to communicate and not “sharing too much” of your cancer journey and major health events
  • How to count your blessings when it doesn’t seem like there’s not much left to be thankful for
  • How to cultivate a mentor relationship to pull you through treatment
  • How to live a life filled with bliss and happiness through treatment 
  • How to manage your meds
  • How to manage your appointment schedule
  • How to arm yourself with entertainment during the long wait times between appointments
  • How to throw yourself a pre-chemo party
  • How to have a potluck party in your chemo-room
  • How to make long stays in chemo more pleasant
  • How to schedule and establish rules for visitors during chemo


INSPIRATION

  • Poem or quote of the week
  • Book or blog of the week
  • Excerpt of the week
  • Photo or art of the week


SUPPORT & RESOURCES

  • Cancer Lifeline
  • Livestrong
  • Thrive
  • Gilda’s Club
  • SCCA resources
  • UW resources


LIFE & RELATIONSHIPS

  • What to say to a friend after they’ve been diagnosed
  • What not to do or say
  • How to be there for a friend (guest posts from Team My Tam)
  • How to ask for, seek out, and maintain relationships with mentors, patients, and survivors

INSPIRATION
100 Days of Gratitude (May-July).
A friend to honor and thank a day for one hundred days, and lessons to learn from how they lead their lives.

The above is just a rough outline of what I would love to be able to share and give on this blog continuing on this life journey post-treatment. To be so incredibly blessed with a life after cancer, I’m very open to other blog post suggestions as well. Please feel free to write, comment on this post, or email me with additional post ideas, questions, or concerns.

Here is to living out our truth with intention, integrity, and honesty.

With love,
My Tam 

A Clean Bill of Health & Relearning Boundaries

Hi dear friends,

My schedule has been incredibly busy and I’m finding myself pulled along its current with my full calendar these days. I’m taking a self-imposed night off tonight to regather my energy, my thoughts, and recommitting my intentions for my post-cancer life. 

I’m so amazingly grateful for the opportunity to speak in front of Cancer Lifeline’s audience during their annual fundraiser, and am completely humbled and inspired by their work. The photo above is from the middle of my speech/ask, and I gathered some guts to pull of my scarf and show how my hair is progressing.

It is a continuing challenge to balance my health, community commitments, work, and life schedule. I am doing better and better at saying no, and maintaining healthy boundaries to make sure I am able to sustain my health and happiness. 

On the health side, I received a full bill of health last week from Doctor Farah after my quarterly check-ups and scans. I have an appointment with him next week, and will post some more after our visit. I know it sounds bizarre, and as much as do not miss treatment, I do adore my friends and circle of healthcare professionals who took such incredible care of me all through my journey.

So I am still transitioning out of Zee Cancer world, and am counting my blessings every single day, and pretty much at least once an hour. I’m especially grateful for the gift of sight, mobility, and freedom to choose the path and projection of my life once again. We are all so incredibly lucky to be living, surviving, and thriving.

I have also been preserving some lovely time at the end of the day to savor in some books (yes, real ones, not the digital stuff ;) and am grateful for every page I turn that I did not lose my vision. I am incredibly thankful to be able to once again appreciate the beauty of the written word… 


I leave you an excerpt from one of my favorite poets:


“It is the lumps and trials
That tell us whether we should be known
And whether our fate can be exemplary, like a star.” 
-John Ashberry, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror 


Magnificent days.

Dear friends,

Just a quick one today, and will post a more substantive one soon. I had a lovely lunch today with one of my mentors, and our sessions always puts great fire beneath my pants to keep me motivated and going. I’m having many realizations after our talk, and one of which, is the significance of every day. Oh, how we take all our moments we’re given for granted. There are no mediocre days, each and every sunrise and sunset we see and witness is an absolute present.

I’m preparing a speech for the annual Cancer Lifeline luncheon, and am reviewing and reflecting on everything that’s happened in the past nine months or so. How much my life has been whipped around, and how full and grateful I am to have life and health. It is a bit of culture shock to come back to living a daily regular routine after what seems like going to the moon then back. I’ve been having a bit of a hard time readjusting, switching between deep gratitude and complete confusion about what I’m supposed to be doing with myself and trying to meet what’s expected of me. 

Today though, I see through it all and have a bit more clarity. I’m challenging all the images and messages thrown at me about what it’s like to be a woman in our time. It was all so easy to see when I was sick, and now that I’m out and about, it’s all getting a bit muddled. No, I don’t want to spend time and money on clothes, make up and hair and short term material goods that do not bring long term pleasure and joy. Yes, I do want to invest in my health, my education, my career, my relationships, my community, and my spiritual and physical well being. Our culture tells me to desire more, and at the very root of me, all I’m yearning is balance and the luxury of time and health.

So here’s to real wealth, living from our core, speaking our truth, standing our ground of who we really are, and not ever taking any day for granted. There are no insignificant days.

Love,

My Tam

P.S. Feel free to read this entry in a British accent, it’s what I wrote it in after watching so many episodes of Downton Abby. 

Are we worthy of this life? On the eve of my 28th birthday…

{All illustrations in this post are by the phenomenal Maira Kalman, all photos are from my recent life adventures frolicking in nature and around the city.}

"How are we all so brave as to take step after step? Day after day? How are we so optimistic, so careful not to trip and yet do trip, and then get up and say O.K." - Maira Kalman, in The Principles of Uncertainty.

I am in awe of this life. I’m overwhelmed. Overcome. Here I am, on the eve of my 28th birthday, I’m thinking about this past 27th year of  life. So filled with gratitude, the overcoming of significant life hurdles, and a flooding sense of calm and delectable realization. Do we know anything for sure? I always love the American Cancer Society “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays” commercials. Every time it’s shown on TV the past nine months through treatment, it’s either brought a smile or tears to my face. Through the days of unknowing, of bravery, of feign hope through certain fears and in the face of death, of pain, of frustration…persisted these commercials. A reminder, that perhaps, I will make it to my 28th birthday, and how much it would mean. And here I am…given another day to live, hopefully another year and lifetime to be, and another chance to make it all worth while.

The weight of life’s blessings has never felt heavier, and my sense of obligation has never been more lifted. One of my dear friends told me recently, “who you are is enough”.  I so needed to hear that. Gone are the days of my college and early-twenty-something self, the need to please is now tempered by the need to survive and live a healthy life. Who am I to my friends, family, community, humanity and the world if I am not my whole and present self with all of my being? To be alive and well, to be who I am, and to live in alignment with my core through everything which emanates from me, is enough.

One of my favorite quotes this week, that I’ve written on the chalkboard in my kitchen is: “And that is one very big point in the plus column of life.” - Maira Kalman, in The Principles of Uncertainty. Lately, I’m counting all the “very big points” in the “plus column of life”. I’m a list-maker, when I have a million to-do’s running in my head, the one thing that keeps me sane is  to create a list, a timeline, a plan to get it all done. This week especially, I’m making a list of all the very big pluses in the phenomenal column of life…to be alive is at the very top of that list. To spend Sundays with my mom is another one. We often forget that our days are numbered, and so are the times spent with our loved ones. How often do we ask ourselves as we plan out and spend our days in our routines, are we worthy of this life? How often do we pause, to make it matter, and to take in more big points for life’s “plus column”? 

I’m slowly easing back into my work and community life. To live a life that matters, a life that is worthy of the wonders of being human, on this magical planet, to be a tiny bleep worthy of the greatness of the universe. I see-saw between the vastness of what is possible, and the humility and simple true joy of what truly matters in life and I eventually find my grounding. Seeing my little cousin perform in her elementary school talent-show, slowly limping around Greenlake—-and actually making it (though not pain-free) through all three miles with my mom on a sunny Seattle day, talking to a young woman of color who wants to truly be engaged and involved in a work project, pretending I didn’t know where we were going (even though I really did) and cracking up with three of my best friends in a car trying to surprise me with an early-birthday present of dinner at an Iron Chef restaurant. Simple beautiful pleasures, these are my great plus points of life. What is the point? That is the point.

So here’s to taking flight, and to make an existence worth living. I am not who I was a year ago, and definitely not who I was 28 years ago ;) I’ve learned the very hard way the difficult lessons of balance, self-care, and moderation. I’ve learned to let go, of the many cancers of life, in the form of unhealthy friendships, of ill-will people, of time-wasters, inefficiencies, and the idea that we are boundless. We all know life has an ending, the challenge is how to make it count, in almost every moment. I’ve learned the art of perseverance, that every day, through some action, we can do anything within the capacity of life, including overcoming something seemingly insurmountable, like Zee Cancer.  So that is the great equation of life, we are all given a finite time, but infinite possibilities within what we’re given by the deep well of potential that burrows within, are we going to live an existence that is worthy of this life?

"There is nothing illusory in this tiny heaven. 
I am silent with gratitude.
I will go and bake a honey cake and that’s all.” 
- Maira Kalman, in The Principles of Uncertainty.

Just finished my last radiation appointment. Treatment is officially over! Aaaand I get to keep the radiation mask! Yipppppeeeee!!!!! Thought this day would never come and now it&#8217;s here! Hip hip hooooraaaay!!!

Just finished my last radiation appointment. Treatment is officially over! Aaaand I get to keep the radiation mask! Yipppppeeeee!!!!! Thought this day would never come and now it’s here! Hip hip hooooraaaay!!!