October Happenings

Oh my. My daughter just informed me.

The year 2024 is closer than the year 2005.

This of course has nothing to do with anything currently spinning around my little mind. I’m sipping a Pumpkin Spice iced frappuccino sweating in 90 degree weather and sniffing my unlit cinnamon pumpkin candle (too hot outside to light). These are my meager attempts to capture autumn. The calendar informs me fall arrived last week, but each day feels like endless summer. Just like 2005 feels closer than 2024.

Today I am reminded to base my faith on facts, not feelings. I don’t feel any different the day before, the day of and the day after my birthday. But the fact is each birthday marks the passing of another year. Okay, and sadly the fact is I need reading glasses now. God’s character and His Word remain steadfast and unchanging. My feelings are fickle and change based on my circumstances. We do well to invest in knowing and learning about the facts of our faith rather than rely on our feelings to dictate how we decide to live.

Didn’t expect the rabbit trail. The original purpose of this post was simply to share a few fun opportunities to hear radio interviews about Warrior In Pink coming up in October. And also to ask if you are the praying type to pray for the different speaking events. I’d be grateful for your prayers in the coming weeks.

IMG_2724Mark your calendars and please share with your friends:

  • October 3rd I’ll be sharing my cancer story at the St. Jude’s Breast Cancer Survivor’s annual retreat in Brea, CA
  • October 5th and 6th radio interview with FamilyLifeToday (those of you in southern California can tune into KKLA 99.5FM at 8:30am). Will also be available to listen online.
  • October 12-16th radio program Discover the Word (those of you in So Cal can tune into KKLA 99.5FM at 1:30pm). Also available online.
  • October 15th I’ll be sharing at Biola University as part of their annual Torrey Conference
  • October 21st. Interview with Jamie Ivey on her popular podcast The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. She will be giving away five copies of Warrior In Pink. Meeting Jamie and conducting interviews, taping IF:Equip videos and participating in the racial reconciliation roundtable at the IF:Gathering in February was one of the main highlights of the conference.
  • October 23-25th Darrin and I will be speaking at the UC Santa Barbara Cru Fall Retreat

Happy October to you all!

Celebrating 5 Years Post Cancer Treatment!

Five years ago, on October 22, 2009, I wiped tears out of my ears. Lying still on a cold metal table I couldn’t hold them back. Silent tears of exhaustion and relief rolled out of my eyes and pooled in both my ears. After clearing out my ears, I glanced around the dimly lit room one last time. A quiet prayer of thanks and then I rushed out of the room and down the hallway, determined to never set my eyes again on the hand painted flower mural covering the cement walls. I renamed the basement radiation office “the dungeon.” For six weeks I walked around smelling like a giant tube of aloe vera gel. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I would take my place on the cold table under the Star Trek Enterprise looking giant zapper. Thirty-three radiation treatments to eliminate any lingering cancer cells. I started hunching my shoulders to keep my blistered, angry lobster-red skin from touching my T-shirts. Finishing radiation treatments marked the end of active treatment. Ten long months of active treatment. Three surgeries, 32 physical therapy appointments (to help regain range of motion and later to treat lymphedema), six rounds of chemotherapy and losing all my hair.

Five years ago I finished active treatment for breast cancer. At the time, I wondered if this day would ever come.

darrin and viv sans hair

For many cancer survivors the five-year mark is a milestone. For me, every year is a milestone. Watching Jonathan graduate from high school three years ago, shouting an extra loud “Woohoo!” as Julia promoted from elementary school to intermediate school last spring, and looking forward to this weekend as Michael attends his Homecoming Dance and begins applying for colleges in the coming weeks–I relish each and every one of these milestones.

I finally worked up the courage to ask my oncologist about recurrence. She shared that the aggressive type of cancer most young women are diagnosed with usually recurs within the first three years post active treatment. For my type of cancer, she said if it would return it would be in 7-10 years. So, though I am able to go through most days now without any thought of cancer, I find there are days when unwelcome fears circle around and enter my mind. On those days I am faced with the choice of how to proceed. Do I live in “what-ifs?” Do I obsess? Do I lay down my anxious thoughts and receive each day as a gift? Most days I walk in freedom knowing my days are numbered by the One who knows how many hairs have regrown on my head.

As I shared in my last post, along the way I have met remarkable people who have come alongside to help and encourage during both the cancer journey as well as the writing journey. This theme of community plays on repeat now in my little life as I go along each day. My soul has been altered for the better having been loved so well. My mind is filled with the faces of family and friends near and far who rallied, prayed and carried our family through the darkest days. I lift my pumpkin spice latte with deepest gratitude to each of you who came alongside us. Thank you.

I am also so grateful for these friends who are hosting book giveaways this week:

Gillian Marchenko, author of “Sunshine Down” is hosting a book giveaway here.

Lesley Miller, fellow Redbud Writer and friend, is hosting a book giveaway here.

And here’s my first article for Today’s Christian Woman, “Caring for Friends with Cancer” here.

Oh, and an hour long live Interview on My Faith Radio program here.

The month is not over and several other opportunities still remain to win a copy of the book. Keep checking back.

And join me in raising a pumpkin spice latte to celebrate five years cancer free!

 

Meeting Warriors In Pink

Cancer is no respecter of age, race, faith, socio-economic status, life-stage. All of us have been touched by cancer whether personally or someone close to us. The day after receiving my cancer diagnosis, Darrin and I sat in a cold, sterile office with a nurse practitioner. In addition to receiving a crash course on all things breast cancer, a bulging folder stuffed with pamphlets about treatment, we also learned statistically most everyone will deal with some form of cancer in their lifetime. Sobering news. Sadly, I’ve found the nurse’s words to be true.

This past weekend I enjoyed the company of the wonderful women from Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. The theme of this retreat: “A Willing Heart.” Several women shared how cancer touched their lives. Our shared experience connected us; the theme applying on an entirely different level. What blessed me was seeing their warrior hearts, their willing hearts and also seeing the loyalty and love of friends and family who came alongside to help.

Following the retreat I had the privilege of FaceTiming and joining, via technology, a gathering up in San Francisco. My dear friend, May, pulled together an impressive team of women who walked 40 miles (not minutes, which would be about what I could handle, but MILES!) this past July in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. This photo is missing two others who were part of the team.

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They sweetly included me as an honorary team member. I was out-of-state during the walk. Honestly, if I joined them they would have had to dump me into a wagon and pull me along. 40 MILES. Wow. I did, however, wear my matching shirt, personalized with surVIVor, on race day. My heart remains grateful for these women and their families. Their willingness to train and walk, raise money and awareness blessed me. My heart is especially grateful for May and her loyalty and love throughout our cancer battle.

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With the continuation of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to highlight a blog post I wrote following the Webinar with Fullfill Magazine on “Helping Those Who Hurt.” I am grateful for this book review written by friend and Cru ministry leader, Andrea Buczynski. You can read it here.

And here is another place to enter for a free copy of Warrior In Pink. Asian American Women on Leadership blog is giving away a free copy, you just need to comment to be entered into the drawing.

Another five copies of the book will be given away later on this week over at Today’s Christian Women magazine and several more bloggers are also hosting giveaways. I’ll be sure to let you know when and where.

Still more to come!! Stay tuned!!

Warrior In Pink Book Giveaways

Warrior In Pink. The book is traveling to places outside the United States. I received this tweet from a woman in Uganda:

Earlier in the week I found out a friend was sending the book to a friend in Scotland! Another friend mentioned it was being read in Central Asia. I’m all goofy-face grinning.

Here are a few other places with book giveaways:

The amazing Mary DeMuth edited Warrior In Pink. She is offering a book over at her website. So far only one person has entered so your odds are ever in your favor (*high Hunger Games British accent voice). Click here to enter:

I’ll be participating in a webinar on Wednesday October 8th with Elisa Morgan, editor of Fulfill, cohost of Discover the Word, author, and gifted leader, teacher/speaker.  Two books will be given away during the webinar. The topic is “Helping Those Who Hurt.” The webinar will be interactive with content, polls, and opportunities to ask questions. Click here to sign up for the webinar until midnight tonight (Oct. 6th).

One more day left to enter the drawing over at Robin Lee Hatchers website. Click here to enter.

Still more to come! Also, I’d love to hear if you know of the book being read in countries outside the U.S. :)

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

“I hate cancer. I hate thinking about another person having to battle cancer. I hate that you will walk the painful treatment road. As much as I hate cancer, I want you to know from my experience that God used cancer to expand my heart. I have met some of the most remarkable people on this journey. I have been blessed in thousands of ways by the thoughtfulness and generosity of so many. I am not the same woman today because of cancer.”

-excerpt from letter to a newly diagnosed cancer patient in “Warrior In Pink”

What? October!? I’m seeing pink everywhere. Two enormous horses towering outside PF Changs Restaurant at the Mission Viejo mall are painted pink. It must be October.

This is going to be one crazy month! The first Breast Cancer Awareness month after the release of Warrior In Pink. Yesterday I relished the sweet reunion of half of the Oasis group, Mellanie, Paula and Annie, along with Leila of the Awesome Threesome (those of you who haven’t read the book yet, these descriptions will all make sense after you read the book).

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The five of us drove up from Orange County to Los Angeles to participate in Kaiser Permanente’s Pink Day Celebration. I shared a bit of my cancer story with 1000 folks comprised of cancer patients, friends of survivors, employees at Kaiser, and fellow “Warriors In Pink.”

signing "Warrior In Pink" for a fellow warrior in pink

We marveled together thinking back over the past five years, never imaging the doors God would open. These dear friends are at the top of my list when I think of examples of people who love well.

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The Pink Day Celebration served as a great kick off to what will be a very exciting month filled with book giveaways. I’ll be linking up on this blog to other websites hosting book giveaways or highlighting the book. This is your chance to win a FREE book. Or if you have friends who are interested, please let them know about the giveaways. FREE COPIES. What’s not to love?

Some of the remarkable people I refer to in the excerpt above are authors like Robin Lee Hatcher. She has won every award in existence for Christian Fiction authors. Robin was the first author to endorse my book. A fellow Warrior In Pink, she has generously promoted my book from the moment she read the unedited version sent by my literary agent. Robin has posted an interview on her blog that I did with my friend and fellow Redbud Writer, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun (also in the remarkable category), who interviewed me about my cancer journey and road to publishing. Thankfully Dorcas is gracious and understanding. I forwarded the interview we did together to Robin thinking I would reconnect over the content, and then didn’t follow-up (#newbieauthor #loopybrain #notgoodwithdetails #thestruggleisreal). With Dorcas’ permission, we have reposted the bulk of her interview.

I will be linking in the different websites and book giveaway opportunities on this website, so you will be receiving a good chunk of short posts in the next four to five weeks. Please share with your friends. And if you are the praying type, I would deeply appreciate your prayers during these next couple of months.

  • Book Giveaway over at Robin Lee Hatcher’s website here.
  • Blog over at CaringBridge (the medical blog I used during cancer treatment) here.

Stay tuned! More to come!!

 

Offering Everything Back to Him

She asked me to tilt my head forward, combed my wet hair straight through to the ends, and then looking at me while we both faced the mirror she said through her smile, eyes twinkling,

“It’s long enough to donate, you know.” 

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Wow. It would be like coming full circle!”

She threw her head back laughing, and with her warm, Alabama accent she declared,

“That’s exactly what I was thinking! Full circle.”

Last Wednesday, the official release date of “Warrior In Pink,” I had an appointment with Jesslyn to get my hair cut. The same Jesslyn who has always, always cut my hair. The same Jesslyn who knew I was pregnant before I knew because she could tell the texture of my hair had changed. The same Jesslyn who gifted me with the sassy magazine haircut when I was diagnosed with cancer and knew I would go bald. The same Jesslyn who came over to our house to shave my head when the harsh chemo meds began taking over my body and my hair began to fall out. The same Jesslyn who styled my crazy “muffs” when curly chemo hair grew back.

Fighting back tears I replayed in my mind those milestone moments with Jesslyn.

Full circle.

And how wonderful. How absolutely appropriate to donate my hair back to someone who would be walking the now familiar road of cancer treatment.

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And symbolically the donation of my hair reflects the place the book holds in my heart. I’m seeking to offer everything back to Him.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things…

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Cancer has altered my hair from stick straight to wavy curls. And cancer has altered my heart. The One who remains unchanging through each and every twist and turn is the One who has sustained, provided, led, and loved with perfect faithfulness.

To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

We are blessed to be a blessing.

He is worthy of our all, our everything.

It’s No Joke: Warrior In Pink Has Released!!!!

I can’t smell, taste, or hear. Pulled a muscle in my chest last night from coughing so hard. But all of this pales in light of the excitement I feel having “Warrior In Pink” officially releasing today.

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What is an official release date? I’m not exactly sure. I do know that now the book will be available on Kindle and Nook and on iTunes and will start showing up on book shelves in real book stores. Amazon has been sending pre-ordered books out for the better part of March, so it feels kind of like the book is already out. But today, April 1st, 2014 is the OFFICIAL BOOK RELEASE–so bring out the pom-poms and cowbells!! It’s time for celebrations!!

The Book Release Party is taking place on Saturday, April 5th at Mariner’s Church from 2-4pm. Can’t wait to celebrate with friends from near and far. Special out of town guests include my parents coming in from Nevada and my literary agent, Karen Ball, flying in from Oregon! And of course Darrin, Michael and Julia, the Oasis women, the Awesomes, the California Cohort, and so many who loved our family so well and prayed us through cancer treatment and someday-book-turned-actual-book.

I’ve enjoyed taping two pre-recorded radio interviews and giving two live radio interviews so far about the book. You can check out the Speaking Schedule page for other radio interviews coming up. I think most of the interviews will be available to listen online at the links on the websites.

So grateful for your love, encouragement and prayers leading up to this day. Appreciate all of your help in getting the word out about the book. Please keep on sharing, reposting, tweeting, etc.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

Here

Another full week. I can tell based on the volume of dog hair I vacuumed up this morning. Differing levels of disorder fill the rooms. The flat surfaces around our home are covered by either dust or stuff. Or dusty stuff. Our dog intermittently has donned the dreaded cone-of-shame for an infected anal gland. He started on his second round of antibiotics today. Very little on my to-do list or the way I wanted my days to look turned out how I wanted this week. Mild irritation began growing into full-blown frustration. And then today I stumbled upon this TED talk:

And now I sit here humbled, sobered, grateful, sad.

Jennifer and I both were diagnosed with breast cancer the same year. Five years ago this week I lay in bed recovering from my first surgery to remove what ended up being a 4cm by 6cm tumor. A call from my surgical oncologist came with the devastating news: cancer had spread to three spots on one of my lymph nodes. A second surgery was quickly scheduled to remove all the lymph nodes under my arm.

My story didn’t turn out like Jennifer’s, but it could have.

Now I sit with renewed perspective.

I am still here.

Here.

And regardless of the circumstances around me right now, God has gifted me with more days and years to live and love.

Life is a gift.

As I look around at the mess, both within and without, rather than annoyance I find myself whispering prayers of gratitude and thanks.

 

Save The Date: Book Release Party

Warrior in Pink - Vivian MabuniA mere six months to release date. Thrilled to share the news:

Warrior In Pink Book Release Party

  • Date: Saturday, April 5, 2014
  • Time: 2pm-4pm
  • Place: Mariners Church Bookstore in Irvine, CA (5001 Newport Coast Dr.)

Please mark your calendars, save the date, invite your friends, and let me know if you will be able to attend. :)

 

And the Cars Drove On

Warrior in Pink - Vivian Mabuni

September 1st=SEVEN MONTHS TO RELEASE DATE! This is how Chapter One begins in the pre-edited version of “Warrior In Pink.” So thankful for all of you who have helped spread the word. 

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Don’t forget sugar cookies! was scribbled with a big Sharpie pen on one of several Post-its stuck inside my planner.

It was one of many things to remember on this especially busy day. We had finally arrived at the last Friday of school after an abnormally full week, which included a Christmas orchestra concert at the high school and a Christmas dinner with the leadership board of our church. I had been up until 1 am the night before addressing Christmas cards. The week was culminating with two holiday class parties at the elementary school.

My six-year-old daughter, Julia, had food allergies to dairy, eggs, and peanuts. So, as with every school party and birthday party, I baked something special she could enjoy. In this case it was allergen-free, extra large sugar cookies for her to decorate in class and eat. The cookies were placed in a Tupperware container on the counter by the phone so I wouldn’t forget.

A quick stop to get a mammogram, and then off to school to volunteer in Julia’s first-grade class. Then I would pop in to eleven-year-old Michael’s sixth-grade class to help a bit with his party and catch up with the other moms. Then back into the car to head over to the high school to pick up my fifteen year old, Jonathan. He had early out. Then into the car and back to school to scoop up the kids. And then the mom taxi service would be able to go off line for a spell.

I was looking forward to the weeks ahead as a time to exhale and take in the wonderful stretch of Christmas break.

Two weeks earlier I had mentioned a suspicious lump to my new doctor. She checked and said it didn’t worry her. But just in case, she gave me a form for a diagnostic mammogram. I stuffed my Bible and journal in my bag on my way out the door. As a mom of three, I squeezed in whatever chunks of time opened up to connect with God.

The mammogram took longer than I had remembered from the previous two in years past. As we finished up, the technician told me that they needed to do an ultrasound. And so I awkwardly grabbed my bag and held closed the ugly front-opening smock as I followed her out of the room.

We snaked around the hallway to another waiting area by the clothes-changing section. I was unsettled at needing further testing so I pulled out my journal and Bible and tried to get comfortable on the stiff waiting room chairs. All the while my hand kept tightening as I bunched the fabric to keep the smock closed. Elevator Christmas music played overhead. With one hand I flipped to where I had left off. My Bible reading plan had me camped out in the book of Psalms, found in the middle of the Bible. Part of the reading for the day was Psalm 66. It was already colorfully underlined, a sign that those verses had significance to me in the past. This time as I read, my eyes stopped as I came to verse 12:

“We went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.”

God impressed on my heart that this verse was for me. It was as if He laid out for me what was ahead—a testing through fire and water. And a promise that He would bring us out of it to a new place. A place of abundance.

I scribbled down thoughts and prayers in my journal until I was called into a darkened room. I lay down on the cold table as the ultrasound technician took measurements. The sound of her tapping keys on her computer and clicking measurements was similar to what I heard when my belly was large with babies. The cold, clear lubricant smelled the same.

The technician left after a while and returned with the doctor. I started shaking from the cold. The doctor measured and checked and muttered. “I don’t like what I’m seeing here. No. This is not what I wanted to see.”

I asked her, “Is it bad?”

She looked me in the eyes. “I’m not going to pussyfoot around. I don’t like what I see, so we are going to have to take tissue samples. After the biopsy comes back we will know for sure.”

I was handed a clipboard with information about getting a core biopsy. I had to read and sign papers, but could barely hold the pen steady in my hand. They left to gather instruments for the procedure, and I was alone again, lying in the dark room. My shaking grew stronger. When they returned I focused on a spot on the ceiling and used my Lamaze breathing, learned in child-birthing class, to try and calm down. They took three or four tissue samples. The loud sound from the device was startling and despite having a shot to numb the area, the procedure was still painful.

After the core biopsy I was taken to another room to get bandaged up. The nurse gently wrapped gauze around and around me. She gave me papers to read and sign. When she finished, she looked at me. “I am so sorry.” She hugged me before she left. I found the hug odd, but comforting. I don’t remember having a nurse hug me before. It communicated to me what couldn’t be said until the biopsy results came back.

When I finally left the office, I took out my phone to call my husband, Darrin. Three hours had passed. My knees felt so weak and I collapsed on the sidewalk outside the office. I felt somehow violated. Tears came as the shock wore off. Julia needed her cookies, could he take them to her? Could he apologize to her for me for not coming to the party? Could he pick up Jonathan and could he be home for me because I was shaking and scared?

I managed to make my way to the car through blurry, tear-filled vision. Inside the car I sat in the driver’s seat trying to calm down and looked out the window as cars drove by. Everyone was going somewhere. And I sat and watched.

My life had suddenly come to a standstill.