Wrapping Up 2020 On My Birthday
I wanted to share with you my Caring Bridge journal entry that I just posted. (Warning: it's long- ha!)
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My first journal entry on this site was on January 18, 2020. I was sharing the news I received on December 18, 2019: The News.
I remember the numb, resigned feeling of not knowing what was in store-- for my life, my family and my business. It's a day I'll never forget. The proposed treatment plan felt like a sentence that would never end: 6 months chemo, 1 month off, then surgery (double mastectomy), then 2 months recovery then 6 weeks, 5 days a week radiation, then 3-6 months off before reconstructive surgery. Didn't anyone tell my doctor, math ain't my thing?! But yes, I did the math. I wasn't going to be done with the fight until way into 2021. And yes, although I said in my journal entry I saw an end, "HEALING" - it sure didn't feel like there was an end.
And so the transformation began- not only did my daily life as I knew it change, but so did my business, my home, my physical appearance, my tribe and ultimately, my heart.
Let me explain:
Before cancer, I knew I had to slow down. I felt it in my soul- I worked too much, ran around juggling multiple responsibilities that I was too stubborn and "strong" to share- especially in my law practice. I knew if I didn't stop this rat race- there was a good chance I could die way before my time. But did I slow down knowing and feeling this? Nope. And guess what? God stepped in- and stopped me. I remember saying this to friends as I was undergoing chemo, "I knew I needed to slow down, but really Lord, I would have preferred a different means to do so!" My business:
I remember the sadness I felt as I watched my friends and volunteers from the Rock Safety Ministry come to my office and move me out of the space I felt I worked so hard to create: Shillinger Law Office 5960 1st Avenue, Ste 203, San Diego California. With a heavy heart and hiding the fear I felt within, I watched as they took down my sign. That day, I wasn't sure if the removal of my sign meant Shillinger Law was over. Established in 2009 - could it sustain through this time? I had to step back and LEAN on my faith, staff, my family, friends, colleagues, and you.
My practice moved from a three-office space to the kitchen nook of my two bedroom condo. And so, I witnessed as my staff took on duties and responsibilities that I thought only I could do; my work colleagues jumped in and took over cases as I needed to slow down; and the outpour love & support from my clients left me speechless and humbled. And as I started letting go of my busy life I was so used to- I started leaning on the Lord and all of you... Shillinger Law transformed: same heart, just more smart, less stress and my testimony will help others.
As I prepared for my chemo treatments I was warned that my immune system would be severely compromised. And so, poof! Our condo was transformed into a germ-free (as much as we could) zone. The living area was heavily guarded by a kiddy gate at the entrance way and instructions: wash your hands, take your shoes off, hand sanitizer to your right and mask up. Wow, what a trip.
My physical appearance:
I was warned that once chemo started I'd likely lose my hair and potentially lose my nails. It wasn't long after I started my treatments that my hair did start falling out in clumps-- especially while I was washing my hair. I cried. In fact, there were many times during this journey when I'd retreat into the shower to have the water mask my tears. I felt no one could hear me as I crumbled and sobbed uncontrollably. I was so determined to hide my rawness, couldn't let people see me - defeated. So, in the privacy of my shower I broke down and when I turned the water off, my pity party ended---chin up, strong Löan would reappear. My hair loss started working on my spirit. One of the many gifts I received was a gift certificate to a wig shop. In the spirit of "getting ahead" of this hair loss issue and resigned to the process, I angrily went to the shop. Nothing felt right- it all felt fake. No wig for me. My friends showed me ways I could wear head wraps, scarfs, beanies, hats.... The list went on. And although I laughed and tried to keep things light, I was pissed. I was so mad. And then one day a good friend gave a pep talk- told me that I was beautiful with or without hair- reminded me that this was only temporary. My friend said he would shave my hair when I was ready and that I didn't have to wait for my hair to fall out. His words were the gentle reminder of the Löan I know-- the Löan who faces things head on. It was time to take control. I asked him to shave my hair on the spot. He shaved my hair, then Taty's, then Tate's and lastly, I got to shave his too! What an amazing family and friend I have - team bald!
Like my barber (to this day!), family, friends, colleagues, church members, and people I don't know stepped into my journey at the perfect time. All of you were my bubble of peace. You are my tribe. The Lord constantly reminded me that He's got me. I am blessed. I am grateful for all of you.
My Tribe: Far & Near, known personally to me or not:
Now I know there are too many of you to name individually and since many of you were in multiple teams, I'll name you once. If I missed you, please know that I am speaking to YOU and thanking YOU personally and deeply.
The Game Planning Team: Nancy (flew in from Northern California), Angela (flew in from Germany), AndreA (flew in from Hawaii), Taty (didn't go back to Oregon so that she could help), Tate (his endless supply of jokes and hugs), Leah S, Shawna, Angela, Rod, Tara, John H., Marshaun, Jeff, Michael, Randy and Kathy; Chemo team: thank you for driving me to and from chemo: Jonathan, Julia (and more); Surgery recovery team: Thank you Leah L. for flying in for a week - my sista and nurse! (And more); Spiritual support team: Rock Safety Ministry Family (Carlos, Kingsley, Joe, Berry, Kristen, Mike, Chad), The Rock Cancer Care family (Tamela), Chuck, Bob, Susan R., Linda, friends, family, colleagues, clients and all who prayed and kept me in their thoughts. Hawaii Ohana- my 3 A's Andrea M., Andrea I., and AndreA, Kaui (special mahalo's to my fellow survivor), Dana, Joel, Scotty, Sandra, Verena. Ultra Running family: Scotty, Sean, Vito, the Leigh's (use of their cabin), and more. Outrigger Paddling Family: Mandy, Nay, Hanohano family, Waikiki Beachboys, (and more). Moving team: Sherry, Scot, Scott, Caroline R., Caroline M., (and more); Help w Tate: Honey Bear Family (Martine, Meredith, Elizabeth, Erin); My staff at Shillinger Law: Lys, Rebecca, Catherine, Beckey, and Annelle; Visits and Phone calls: Jackie & the Gomez family (special thank you for the hand made beautiful bracelets), Coach, David W., Anne, Ruben, Scarlett, Jean, Michelle, Sam, Rebecca,Tracy P. Margurite, Jami, Naomi K, Raha, Kim, Kimberly, Noel, East Coast peeps, NorCal peeps, Kurt and Hans and the list goes on. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and honored to have such love and support.
My Spiritual Change:
I admit, at times (especially towards the end of my chemo treatment session) I felt so ugly. I struggled looking at myself in the mirror. My nails were black and blue, hair was gone, no eyebrows and eyelashes. I remember saying to myself, " I look like a cancer patient- just like in the commercials." I cried a lot-- I felt like I was being stripped of everything. However, while I was being brought to my knees- I was being lifted up by all of you. The saying goes, God shows up in many ways - through experiences, through people & through His Word. I've always been a person of "internal faith." Meaning, I was raised with church- I believed in God, but it was internal- just between God and me. I was silent about faith. I went to church regularly in Hawaii. When we moved to San Diego, I searched for a home. One day I attended the Rock and their lesson spoke to me. That was in 2016. I believe that my story was already written and God has a plan for us all. His plan in 2016 was to help me build my faith. Build it so that when it was time to LEAN, I had the spiritual support I needed to get through. As a lot of you can see- I'm not silent about how I was guided, supported and prayed on. This wasn't an easy journey. I know I am not the same person I was a year ago. Nor, do I want to be. A few big take aways:
1) cancer is no joke and it stinks (I would love to use stronger words - go ahead and fill in the blank); 2) cancer can be beaten; 3) it's a journey not to be taken alone- which I initially thought I could; 4) though it was not pleasant, there were so many blessings revealed. The biggest blessing is realization and honor to experience and be embraced by LOVE -for me and my family; And lastly 5) today, on my birthday- I can say, I am cancer free.
Thank you all. I love you.
Kicked Cancer's A Onward and Upward One Love And this is my testimony. Warmest Regards,
Löan Shillinger, Esq