Tag Archives: happy

A new look at beauty

“Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it”


Lately I’ve found myself thinking about what the definition of beautiful really is. The world is full of beauty but each of us seems to have a different idea or perspective on what beauty is.

I used to compare myself all the time to people based on how they looked and what I judged to be beautiful. But both age and experience has changed my opinion of what beautiful really means. To me, what makes a person beautiful depends on how they treat others and their actions, not their appearance. Beauty is not in what the eye sees but rather what the heart feels and how it speaks to our soul.

Earlier this morning, while trying to watch the sunrise, although it was very cloudy, I was reminded something about beauty, that sometimes you have to change your perspective in order to find it. Despite the dark clouds and incoming rain, the sun managed to peek through for a while. It’s brilliant orange rays glowed against the little bit of blue sky and reflected off the water. It was absolutely beautiful! But when I turned my head to look at the sky in the other direction, it was completely different but equally as beautiful. It was filled with various shades of grey and black clouds mixing together. The colors seemed to be airbrushed and looked as if someone had cleaned out dirty lint from a dryer vent, placing it in the sky. So there I sat, captivated by both sides of the sky. One side was majestic and radiant while the other was ominous and threatening. Both were beautiful, captivating, and spoke to my soul.

Although it was not a typical blue sky and cloudless sunrise that I’m used to, it was still a beautiful way to start the day. Sometimes, more than often, in order to find beauty in life, we need to adjust our perspective. You never know what beauty you might find.

“Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how beautiful they are but everyone else can. People are like that as well.”



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Dancing through life

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”

-Erma Bombeck

Does anyone else besides me turn up the music really loud and dance around the house when they’re home alone?

So I have a secret confession, I am very guilty of this and my music choices range from Enrique Iglesias (or anything latin pop, great dancing music), Disney classics, Justin Timberlake, Spice Girls, Usher, Chris Brown, and anything with a beat. There is nothing better than to come home after a long, exhausting day and just shake it off. I have found on those kind of days, when I am in a terrible mood and have barely smiled all day, turning on some tunes and dancing around like an idiot is often the best therapy. Within seconds, I find myself smiling and laughing, although I’m usually laughing at myself for being so stupid but at least I’m smiling! My neighbors or anyone walking by my house probably think I’ve gone mad, oh well, they can judge.

For me, dancing has always been a way to relieve stress, fear, and worry. In fact, dancing is probably something that saved my life. Shortly after receiving radiation, when my health started to go downhill, and doctors thought I would die within weeks, instead of giving up, I started to dance. Even though I couldn’t walk by myself, my mom and I would spend hours dancing around our house. She would hold onto my hands just like a mom does when teaching a baby to walk and we would just move to the beat. Every Saturday, the local radio station used to have “a disco night” where they played disco music from 7-11pm.  We would spend hours dancing to disco hits, making up routines to our favorite songs, and shaking “our groove thing”. It was so much fun and quite a workout too. Little by little, my mom started to let go of my hands, I began to pick up my feet, move on my own, and retaught myself how to walk.  Along with my physical health slowly improving, my attitude on life, and my mental health started to turn around too. So technically, dancing and disco music (along with other things) saved my life.

Along with the obvious physical benefits of dancing, it can also help with one’s mental health, keeping your mind sharp and boosting your happiness by releasing endorphins.


I am guilty of being a bit dramatic sometimes, second-guessing myself, and worrying way too much. But lately, I don’t know what’s gotten into me but it seems like life has stolen all joy from me. Worrying about tomorrow, next week, or  where I’ll be this time next year. Making up problems in my head, focusing only on what ifs. Being depressed about a present situation and standing still in fear, anxiety instead of taking action to fix that problem. today

But one day this week, after being stuck in a funk, I broke out my iPod, turned the music up loud, and just danced. I felt a genuine smile come across my face as I moved through the room, pretending to be in Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body video. Slowly my worries, anxieties, and problems danced away with the music. My mind felt clear once again and my soul felt happy. (yes, it sounds weird but it’s true, don’t judge)

Dancing may not be the secret cure to cancer or the solution to every problem in the world but it is fantastic therapy for body, mind, and soul. So when life brings you a new challenge or a difficult but fun situation to overcome, don’t just stand still, dance through it.

Dancing through life
Swaying and sweeping
And always keeping cool
Life is fraught-less
When you’re thoughtless
Those who don’t try
Never look foolish
Dancing through life
Mindless and careless
Make sure you’re where less
Trouble is rife
Woes are fleeting
Blows are glancing
When you’re dancing
Through life…


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Filed under Positive attitude towards life

The I word

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do

-John Wooden

The other day, I was reading an article my friend posted on Facebook written by someone who is disabled and how she feels regarding the I word. (inspiring or inspirational) Throughout the piece, she explained how it bothers her to hear the I word used all the time towards her and it is almost demoralizing at times.
After reading this piece, I had mixed emotions. Not to sound ungrateful but I can totally relate to her frustration. One thing the author said that stuck with me is how she is trying to get through life like everyone else and has no intention of being inspirational but she is. There are definitely times when I get tired of being seen as inspirational and only for my disabilities. I’d like to be seen for more than just being disabled and that’s why I constantly show people my abilities and what I’m truly capable of.
But something I’ve come to realize with time is that by trying to not be inspirational and hide my disabilities, I’m denying who I am. Being inspirational is my responsibility, my job, it is part of me. There are days when hearing the I word is overwhelming and I’m not sure what to say besides “thank you” while smiling sweetly. But at the same time, it is humbling and fulfilling to know that I inspire someone and that I am able to help them through a difficult situation in their lives just by being me!
On Friday of this past weekend, I attended a Relay for Life event as a cancer survivor and on Sunday evening, spoke to a parish group. Both were wonderful events and extremely emotional. Every now and then, we all need a reminder that were special.
Relay for Life is an fantastic event that benefits the American Cancer Society and is something I became involved with in college. One of the most important aspects of Relay is to highlight the survivors with them by kicking off the event with the opening lap for survivors and having a reception afterwards. Something I personally struggle with about being a cancer survivor is “survivor guilt” and wondering why I survived when so many haven’t. My guilt tends to make me feel not very inspirational. Events like Relay for Life though remind me that I have a purpose and that as a survivor, it’s my duty to carry on behalf of those who aren’t able to.  Then on Sunday, sharing my story, my faith, and how blessed I am is always an incredible experience.  The responses I hear afterwards, the people I meet, and am able to inspire; it brings me so much joy, happiness, and a feeling of fulfillment.
I remember one time after speaking, someone came up and told me about his daughter who recently passed away from brain cancer. As he heard my story of surviving brain cancer and becoming disabled as a result, he thought of her and how at that moment, I brought her back to him. I probably looked like an idiot just staring at him with complete shock on my face, not knowing what to say but talk about an awesome response! I had no intention of doing that. God works through me in the craziest ways!
The I word is something I get tired of hearing every now and then and at times wish I was seen for more than being inspiring. But as egotistical as it sounds, being inspirational and spreading hope through my story is my job, my purpose, and my responsibility. By hiding my disabilities and pretending the I word doesn’t exist, I’m ignoring my true potential or purpose in life. So how are you keeping yourself from achieving your full potential?
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be
-Maya Angelou

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Filed under Being disabled, Life in general, My faith

I forgive you

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
-St. Augustine


One of the most beautiful things about being disabled, at least in my opinion, is having the ability to inspire others and encourage them in ways that you never could without them. Not to say that because of my disabilities, I am so much more inspirational compared to those who aren’t disabled, which is totally not true; everyone is an inspiration in some way. Everyone has overcome some sort of difficulty to get where they are today, had the courage to face the challenge head on and to embrace whatever laid ahead of them.

This past Monday, one of my good friends from college asked me to share my story with the youth group she leads. The theme of my talk was trusting God and forgiveness.  I absolutely love my talk on forgiveness because it shows that even though forgiving someone is difficult, when we do forgive, we lose the negativity that holds us back in life and help ourselves to heal.

When I was younger, I had brain cancer and after several surgeries to remove the tumor, it kept growing back. (It was just as stubborn as I am) So instead of trying surgery one more time, I tried radiation. Well long story short, the radiation destroyed the cancer but left me physically disabled and nearly killed me. It was like an atom bomb went off in my head, I know really awesome, right? The thing was my doctor overdosed the radiation too. The radiation I received was new technology at the time and I was the youngest patient to ever receive this type of radiation so it was pretty risky. If all went successful, destroying the cancer and leaving no major side effects, my case would have been famous in the medical world and my doctor would have been famous too. Before the radiation treatments were even finished, he had written papers about me to present in conferences. My parents and I found out he rushed my radiation treatments for his own good; not out of a desire to heal, but out of a selfish desire for glory. He caused me to become physically disabled, and changed my life forever. I was just a “little” angry with him. But like the quote at the beginning implies I could either stay angry at my doctor or have the courage to forgive him and move on with my life

Being angry at someone or only focusing on the negatives is exhausting and draining. Besides that, who really wants to be around someone who is always bringing them down?! A couple years after the radiation, I started to realize it was time to let go of the past, forgive, and stop being so angry at the world. As much as I hated my disabilities and being  different from everyone, they are part of who I am.  My disabilities make me a stronger person, allow me to inspire others, and help them to see anything is possible. So maybe I am physically disabled, but I am alive, I have a loving family who supports me and I am cancer free. Forgiving someone is never easy but when I forgave my doctor, this huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and all of a sudden, my life was so much more beautiful and full of opportunity.  

We’re human, we all make mistakes; some bigger than others. When someone betrays us or hurts us, it is hard to forgive them for what they have done, but being angry or holding a grudge against someone only creates a brick wall between you and that person. It also gets in the way of letting wounds heal from past experiences and finding your own happiness. So before you hate or even begin to hold a grudge against someone,  take a step back and forgive them, for everyone deserves a second chance and it is in forgiving that we set ourselves free from anger.

“Forgive others, not because they deserve it but because you deserve peace”

-Jonathan Lockwood Hue

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You’re never fully dressed without a smile

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

-Mother Teresa

As the temperature begins to drop and winter approaches, going outside goes from being a pleasure to something we dread. Although I am not a fan of cold weather, dry skin and eyes, and constantly being freezing, I do love how the cool air causes the muscles in my face to twitch.This might seem a little odd to some but this is a feeling that I missed for so long.

After being overdosed with radiation when I was 7 years old to destroy my brain cancer, a million different things went wrong. I was no longer able to walk or function on my own but the one thing that was the most devastating to me was that I had lost total facial movement. I could no longer smile, frown, or even give someone a dirty look. My face stayed expressionless and my cheeks became puffy and full almost like chipmunk cheeks. As a result of this, I also drooled all the time, it was really lovely.

So fast forward a couple years later. I retaught myself to walk, was continuing to live my life one step at a time, and proving everyone wrong. I had overcome some difficult obstacles and although I should have been proud of my accomplishments, there was still one thing I wanted back, my smile.

To me, there was nothing worse than not being able to smile at someone. For years, my parents and I tried to find a doctor who could return facial movement to my face but we had no luck. I even underwent 2 “unsuccessful” facial surgeries which only resulted in my one shoulder becoming weaker than the other. (the doctor ended up cutting my shrugging muscle in half and put the muscle in my cheek)

In 2001, shortly after my dad’s death, I was referred to a facial surgeon in Canada who is well known for his surgery on those born with cleft palates and has given many their smiles back.   Long story short, after undergoing 2 surgeries on each side, Dr. Zuker was able to restore facial movement to my face. After 4 years of having nothing, I was able to smile again!

However it was not an automatic change like I woke up from surgery and was smiling. It took about a year for the surgery to work completely and for my muscles to adjust. Even to this day, my smile isn’t perfect but it is better than not smiling at all and my cheekbones are slowly starting to became more apparent. I love just sitting somewhere and all of a sudden my face pulls or when I get really cold, I can feel my muscles twitch in my cheeks. After spending years without facial movement, I forgot what it felt like to smile or to have functioning muscles in my cheeks but now that I have movement back, it is one of the greatest feelings and not only changes how I look to others but also how I feel about myself. Having facial movement and my smile back helps me to be more confident in who I am.  It enables me to stay positive. There are times when I just casually smile but then end up looking like a fool because I’m reminded of when I could not smile so as a result, it makes me beam with happiness. I used to think I would never smile again. It really is amazing how something as simple as a smile can change everything.

Getting my smile back was a life-changing experience. There is a fantastic organization, Operation Smile, that sends doctors, nurses, medical students, etc. all around the world to restore smiles to those with cleft palates and facial deformities. It is truly incredible what they do and how many lives they change. To those patients, a smile really is an action of love.

This week, I challenge you to smile more instead of taking it for granted. Even if you’re having a horrible day or feel awful, just try to fake a grin and make the first step towards a positive outlook. Or greeting everyone you meet with a smile, you never know how that simple smile could change their day.

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do”

-Mother Teresa



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