Archive for metamorphosis

Broken Crown

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by runmyssierun

I recently cleaned out EVERYTHING in the house, the garage, the attic, every closet, etc… and found a lot of things, too many things, that took me to places I had tucked away in my memory. You know that popular hashtag going around social media? #throwbackthursday? Ya, well, this is too much for just a Thursday. In fact, if you combined all the Thursdays in a year, it would still lack enough space to handle these memories.

Lots of good ones… a few bad.

I’m a little embarrassed that I had been a packrat all these years but in a way, so very grateful, too. I made a lot of mistakes in my younger years that I thought I had learned from but for some odd reason was making those very same mistakes once again. Remembering all this reminded me of those mistakes and those lessons and how they pertained to me now.

  • Mistake #1: Being too shy
  • Mistake #2: Feeling like no one understood me
  • Mistake #3: Wishing

But what stood out the most to me was that I was really a good kid, a good teenager, a good young adult, a good adult and a good parent… I just made a few mistakes was all. A few bad choices, some naive misunderstandings and lack of experience should not have made me or anyone else think less of me. So after this lengthy introduction, here’s what I’m getting at: I didn’t need to change my shyness. Being shy is who I am. Feeling like I wasn’t understood by anyone was just my misunderstanding. In fact, I am sure that many of you reading this right this very second can relate to what I was feeling.  And there was absolutely nothing wrong with wishing… I just needed to make a plan to make those wishes come true. I simply needed to grow, experience and open my heart… not change.

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My parents spent a lot of their time with me and Donny whenever they could. They taught me all that they knew about the importance of family and God and education and work ethic and how you spend your time and who you choose to spend it with. And some how some way, my parents made each lesson jam packed with fun and happiness every single time.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up – especially in my teenaged years. Donny and I went to a very good private Catholic school (I went all the way from 1st to 9th grade and Donny went from 1st to 5th grade). They struggled to pay the tuition each month and used uniforms each year but they got by. We didn’t have air conditioning or cable or were able to go on summer vacations but we were together and happy. We took weekend trips to Bentsen park and camped out in tents and made s’mores and fished in the river with fishing rods made from tree limbs and bait made from squished up bread on hooks we found along the river bend that others had thrown away.

Amazing that we didn’t have to worry about stepping on those rusty old hooks and spending the weekend in the emergency room getting tetanus shots! Or snakes or illegal aliens crossing over from Mexico hiding in the bushes or coyotes (both kinds) or… cancer.

We could wake up on a bright sunny Saturday morning, watch Looney Tunes and drive away for an hour to South Padre Island with a foam ice chest filled with a big chilled watermelon, cheese sandwiches and bags of doritos and not have to worry about Chemo.

Momma taught me that if I wanted something bad enough, I had to work hard for it. They provided me with enough food to nourish me, clothes to cover me, a house to call a home and love to encourage me. I worked odd job after odd job, many times working at several places at the same time so that I could get my first pair of designer jeans, pay for gas in my car and books for college. I never had to worry about invoices totalling thousands of dollars from MD Anderson every month.

And as I was flipping through all the photos, cards, receipts and memorabilia of yesteryear, my eyes were led to one very special memory. In order for you to get the point of it, I’ll have to set the mood and history for you.

I spent a lot of time alone, grounded, in my room growing up.  *Not because I was a bad kid or anything but I think my parents figured out that it was cheaper to find an excuse to ground me than to give me money to go to the movies or play video games on the weekends and they never had the heart to tell me they couldn’t give me money. I would sit on the ledge of my window sill and write in my diary, read the Outsiders over and over again, listen to records and practice smiling in the mirror or curling and braiding my hair and day dream. I was that awkward girl that shot up taller than everyone else in 6th grade (but then stopped growing). I walked with my head down and hardly spoke a word to anyone so when I gave my heart to a boy for the first time and experienced my first heartbreak, Momma was there.

“Don’t let someone keep your heart if they want someone else’s heart,” she said calmly as she was driving making a left turn from 4th street to Sprague. I remember this as if it happened minutes ago. My eyes were focused straight at the stop light. I never looked at her. I never said a thing to her. She hadn’t seen me cry. She didn’t know what had happened or at least I didn’t think she did but clearly now I can tell that she knew. She must have seen the heartbreak in my face. It must be a “Mom” thing.

After speaking to the “Metamorphosis” group of empowered young ladies and listening to some of their challenges (broken families, teen pregnancy, peer pressure, drugs, gangs, grades, homelessness, rape, cancer), it hit me suddenly how I remember being that young and thinking how destroyed I felt when I thought I couldn’t talk to someone because I was so shy or that I thought no one understood what I was feeling or that my wishes would always be doomed to just daydreams in my head. Everything I went through gave me lessons and strength to be able to better cope with the increasingly more complex tribulations of life. As a teen, I experienced everything they experienced. They continue to contact me – and it thrills me to no end – to talk about dreams and mapping out plans to transform those wishes into goals.

One girl, I won’t say her name, reminded me soooooo much of myself. She never said a word. When I asked her a question, she blushed and looked down and to the left and hid under her long mane of hair… just like I used to. She was the first to find me and request me on a social media site. Still hasn’t said a word… but just like my mom knew something was up on that drive home when my heart was broken for the first time.. I know that little girl like I know myself. And I think she’s going to go further than she ever imagined. And I want to be there when it happens.

I am shy by nature but I work on my shyness when the event calls for it. I struggle with public speaking and simply just talking to someone I don’t know yet and it is difficult for me to expose my true self and experiences to others and it’s REALLY hard to ask people for donations… but it’s important for them to know and for me to let it out and to get over that fear. So I don’t change.. I just improve on myself a bit more and a bit more each time and am constantly working on my communication skills because of this. I’ll admit that my first instinct still tells me that no one understands me and the only ones who truly get me are inanimate music lyrics of favorite tunes but once I take that little step back, talk about it to a few trusted friends or even let it out on this blog, the responses that I get tell me that my problems, my emotions and my reactions are no different from so many others out there. I am a dreamer. I kind of like that about me. I hope that never changes because my dreams are big… gargantuan, in fact. But now I can take that dream and figure out a way to make that dream come true. Seriously, whodathought I’d be where I’m at now? Gotta hand it to me, I’ve had a hellovalife! And my dreams aren’t over yet. I’m just getting started.

So as I was emptying that last box in the garage and saw my old pageant crown crushed into pieces under all those memories, I cried just a little bit, regained my composure, smiled a little and continued on. After all, there is a kingdom I still reign over and a sunset I plan to ride off into. A broken crown won’t stop me. It never has.

Never give up on your dreams. Don’t change for anyone but improve on those flaws that stop you from achieving your best you.

 

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Sole Survivor

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2014 by runmyssierun

I spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning with over 200 young ladies at a nearby local high school. The organizer had called me up after receiving some recommendations from the other speakers she had lined up that week as well. The week long seminar was designed to empower these young female students with leadership and life skills by providing a personal testimony of our own examples and an inspiring speech. Honestly, I was floored.

Me? Wow!

The topics divided up into the various days were: education and awareness, physical and mental fitness, health and beauty

I had a blast. Of course, I got choked up when I spoke to the girls about a few parts but made sure to emphasize the silver lining of it all… after all, it was supposed to be an inspiring talk – not a sob story and not a braggart story – but a story that told them that there will be times in your life when you’ll be knocked down to rock bottom and you’ll have to find the courage within yourself to get yourself back up. It’s a story about hope, determination, love, stewardship, sacrifice and faith. And when someone say’s that you can’t do something, turn around and tell them “watch me”.

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I was a little —- no—- I was really very very very nervous in the beginning. I feel so much more comfortable typing my feelings and experiences on a computer rather that talking about them under a spotlight in front of a couple hundred strangers staring at me. But I needed to say it out loud. To them. For me.

I cried. I warned them about my crying even before I started so I guess I was covered on that but I cried a lot. There was one time that I had to stop, wipe my tears and take a few deep breaths… I’m sure the silence was awkward for them. And I managed to  struggle through with two ovations to boot!

My story was unique in that it touched each one of the topics over the several days. My story was NOT unique in that EVERY speaker began the same way and ended the same way and each of us stressed to the girls that no matter what adversity life gives you, keep going after your dream.

“The question is not Who’s going to let me. It is Who is going to STOP ME!”

There was a defining point in my speech where all their eyes were fixated on me. Come to think of it… It was quite the defining point in my life as well.

It wasn’t planned that way, at least no one told me about it if it was, but each speaker began their speech with “I am no different from you. I am not any more special than you.” We were all from this community. We were all from humble upbringings. We all had similar values – family, education, God, health, community. We had all been given opportunities at one point or another and it took sacrifice to receive those opportunities. We had all had a visit and tour around rock bottom. We all lived to tell the tale. And we all did pretty good for ourselves.

Sound familiar? Maybe a little like you?

Good!

I know my story has a lot of death in it. I try very hard to let people know about the experience of death, witnessing it, dealing with it and doing all you can to move forward through it in a healthy way without making it sound like I’m dwelling on it.  Yes, it has been very very difficult but I also had to remember that I have two boys that still need me healthy, happy and alive for them. So when people connect to my story, I know deep inside that they have a rock bottom experience as well. That’s when I turn it on.

One girl raised her hand to ask a question but immediately got incredibly timid when I asked her to repeat it because I couldn’t hear her. She repeated it again but even softer and then shook her head and said “nevermind”.

I knew immediately… this was an important question. So, I didn’t back down. I stayed there until she said the question aloud again for everyone to hear. It was important for everyone to hear this. No question was silly, stupid or unworthy… especially this one.

“After all you went through, did you go to therapy?”

My reply was:

“Yes, I went to therapy. I still go to therapy. Running has become my therapy. There are some days when I train in groups for events. And there are some days when I run by myself for this very reason. I need to be alone with my thoughts, with myself and I pray when I run. It’s ok to feel sad sometimes. But we HAVE to find it within ourselves to get ourselves out of it and find happiness again.”  I wish you could have seen their faces when I told them it was ok to feel sad sometimes. It was as if I had given them permission to be normal.

It’s been proven that physical exercise helps us cope and reduce our stress levels.  Clearly I could have gone the other way and fallen quickly into the rabbit hole of depression. But I didn’t. Running saved me. Team in Training saved me.

I am a sole survivor.

I just spoke to the most amazing group of young women and my heart melted when a swarm of them caught me as I was leaving. They each asked me to take individual photos with them and spoke to me about their own experiences with cancer and their own "impossible goals" that they want to achieve. Honored and humbled and a smile from ear to ear!!!

I just spoke to the most amazing group of young women and my heart melted when a swarm of them caught me as I was leaving. They each asked me to take individual photos with them and spoke to me about their own experiences with cancer and their own “impossible goals” that they want to achieve. Honored and humbled and a smile from ear to ear!!!

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I lost my best friend to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma just a few months before he was to walk with me down the isle at my wedding. His name was Rodney Perez. He bravely battled cancer for 5 years. He died at age 24.

I lost my grandmother, Lorenza “Lencha” Cavazos and grandfather, Narciso Cavazos to Leukemia.

I lost my baby brother, Donny Cardenas, not from cancer but from what cancer does to loved ones and caregivers… what no one talks about, the stress that the family deals with while caring for their loved ones like financial stress and emotional stress. He felt he had to take on this burden by himself. He dealt by eating all the wrong things, drinking, locking himself up from the world. He had a heart attack at age 38.

I lost my Aunt Sissy – the woman who raised me while mom worked and went back to school. Leukemia stole her from us and her three years of retirement that she worked all her life for.

I lost my beautiful close friend Jana Miller. A brilliant doctor, fun loving and kind hearted. She was diagnosed at stage IV during her 3rd year of med school. She finished, practiced and became an active member of the community. Few people knew she lived ten years with cancer. Her smile fooled everyone.

I lost my Momma. On Easter of this last year. Exactly one year after we lost my baby brother Donny. Eight months after losing her sister Sissy.

I’m sorry. I still can’t talk about my Momma.

I joined Team in Training because I thought that if the world and God saw how hard I was trying to do this impossible run… then maybe, just maybe, the world and God would make the impossible cure possible.

And when I ran my first full marathon in San Diego, just a couple of months after my Momma died, a woman yelled at me – when I wanted to quit – I was at mile 22 – she said “You are running for the treatment that has kept me alive! Please, don’t stop!”

Thats when I understood that hundreds, thousands of strangers for years before this had run for the treatment that allowed my mother to spend 6 more years with me, 3 more years with Sissy, 10 more years with Jana.

So I close with what I’ve had posted on my facebook over this last year…

I never ran to try to beat your time

I ran because I tried to buy my mom more time

I ran so that I could help find a cure

I ran so that I could help my mom pay for that cure

It didn’t work out the way I had planned

Now I run so that you don’t have to go

through what my mom and I did.

See, the thing is that I first thought I was running for a cure for my Momma.

I had no idea that Team in Training would be a part of MY cure.

 

Thank you

 

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