What We're Made Of

A few months ago, I attended an event hosted by Deepak Chopra here in San Diego. He shared a story that really struck a chord with me: During a conversation with his grandson, the curious boy endlessly asking one question after the other, Deepak began to realize how we, what with our limitless curiosity, still amount to a speck of dust in this infinite universe we live in.

We are, in the grand scheme of things, really nothing, he said. He concluded the event with a meditative exercise, asking us to reflect on our selves—or, rather, how insignificant we are in comparison to the vast, unknown world around us. To him, it didn’t matter where we came from, who we were, how we were brought up, what we did for a living. It was simply about existence in this life, and using that existence to better our selves and those around us.

It all starts and ends with us.

I’ve always had a passion to delve into holistic teachings and gravitate toward alternative ways of reaching higher levels of consciousness. I think I get this from my mother—my mother whose progressive attitude and unconventional parenthood has shaped who, and how, I am today.

Recently, the healthy, organic lifestyle has skyrocketed to fame and fad, especially here in the west coast, but that lifestyle has never been new to me; it was something I learned from an early age in my own home. After undergoing surgery at six-years-old, my mother gave me chamomile tea every night. When I had a cold, she made her own concoctions to remedy the pain and, as a teenager, would take me to a holistic physician to align my chakras and energy levels. Growing up, I never understood my mother’s practices, but it makes so much sense today. It is a part of my identity.

Fifteen years ago, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite having taken such great care of her own body, it was unavoidable and she was given two options: Traditional practice—chemotherapy and radiation—or alternative medicine. She chose the latter, and the cancer was consequently in remission for nearly ten years before returning for a second time in her lymph nodes.

I don’t think most people really understand the devastating affects of cancer until they experience it first-handedly, whether in themselves or a loved one. It takes a toll on the mind and body, and it’s an easy pass to just give up. Still, my mother didn’t give up and I know she doesn’t plan to anytime soon. She decided to bypass traditional chemotherapy, and this time, not just to preserve what was left of her healthy body, but to be a part of the birth of her granddaughter—my daughter—Demi.

Soon after my daughter was born, my mother courageously traveled to Sydney to be by my side. I needed her there. When she arrived, she held Demi, looked me up and down and said,  “You look like shit. Go wash your hair and get some sleep. I’m here now.”

I don’t know how my mother did it all these years. She had four children in a five-year period and raised us all as strong, independent people. Her goal was always to see us graduate college, and we did: One in business, one in law, one in architecture and one in design. My mother was, and still is, persistent and even a bit scary at times, but her love for us, and her passion to see her children succeed, was exactly what pushed us to make something of ourselves. I can’t imagine a world without her.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so I wanted to dedicate this post to “La Carmen Alicia”—the all-in-one woman who proudly cooks a mean meal while looking fabulous in heels and bold red lipstick; the blonde bombshell who bathes her grandchildren while improvising the funniest of lullabies; the homemade practitioner who used to bathe me in flower petals to rid negative energies; the strong, beautiful, tenacious warrior I have the privilege of calling Mom.

I can’t tell you how numbing the word "cancer" has become in my family. But my mother has risen above it, stronger than ever before, gracefully battling the illness for the past 15 years.

This year, cancer found its way back when my mother was diagnosed again for the third time, no longer just in her lymph nodes but also spread in her lungs. This time, she has no choice but to tackle the illness through traditional medicine. And while this period of time is extremely difficult, my mother’s never complained once. She has chosen to battle her illness silently and still wakes up everyday with a positive attitude, invigorated by her inner warrior and never defined by the illness that will soon be overcome.

I am so proud of my mother. I am her biggest fan and supporter. I am her teacher and she is mine, and I learn from her strength and perseverance every day.

Thank you, Mom, for allowing me to write about your story. I love you