Monday, August 18, 2014

Banksy's Zebra

Often, what makes a piece of art so powerful is our own constructed meaning, rather than the artist's intentions.

Famed graffiti artist "Banksy" creates political conversations through his street art; but for me, this image of a woman washing a zebra's stripes - atop the rubbled roofs of Timbuktu, Africa - is more than an ironic statement on desert realities ... It is a reminder of the daily work it takes to keep positive and moving forward in an often deserted, unforgiving land where (on average) a carcinoid patient is screaming into the wind for 3-7 years before someone brings them an ounce of relief for the right diagnosis.

Keep on keeping on my zebra friends.




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Talking Zebras with Allure's Beauty Director

Jenny Bailly and I at Saks 5th Ave
Last Thursday, I met the charming deputy Beauty Director of Allure magazine, Jenny Bailly, at Saks Fifth Avenue's 3rd annual Beauty Editors Day, sponsored by "Look Good Feel Better" - an organization that provides free cosmetics and makeovers for women with cancer.

I first became involved with Look Good Feel Better as a patient at Sloan Kettering. Two days after my right hemicolectomy surgery for carcinoid cancer, my mom came into my hospital room and giddily announced: "I signed you up for a makeover! The nurse will come get you in an hour."

At the time, the last thing I wanted to do was "glam up" my hospital gown and medical tubes, but the incredibly sweet and caring beauty volunteers of Look Good Feel Better not only made me physically appear "less sick", but also gave my mom a memorable non-cancer moment with her daughter. (CLICK here for my original blog post about my hospital makeover.) It was amazing how a little mascara made me feel more like a "normal" girl and less like a walking war.

Fast forward four years.

I was flipping through Allure magazine, and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the below editor's note:

I couldn't register fast enough.

The day of the event, I was more than nervous - after all, there is nothing about me that screams high fashion; but as soon as I met deputy Beauty Director Jenny Bailly at the Dior counter, her genuine warm welcome immediately set me at ease. I told her how special this event was for me personally, and shared my carcinoid story. I even gave her a carcinoid zebra-ribbon fashion lesson!

We continued chatting for a while and discovered that we were both English Literature majors, which took us down two similarly circuitous paths - hers leading to the beauty industry, mine to teaching. We also discussed the immense social media pressures facing today's teenage girls, and I posed a question: if she could go back in time and give her 16-yr old self some advice, what would it be?
"Don't be afraid to play. Makeup is supposed to be fun... I wish I hadn't played it so safe when I was younger." Bailly wistfully answered.

I thought that was great advice; we ran through a short list of celebrities and agreed actress Lupita Nyong’o embodies an enviable free spirit when it comes to style, and is a wonderful fashion role model.

Like Lupita, Bailly is constantantly experimenting with the latest trends and beauty advancements. She explained that as Beauty Director, she receives literally crates of products to try out. In fact, sometimes she has to "split" her face down the middle and apply different products to each side - just to get through it all.

I asked her if the job ever became tedious, and she was quick to respond, "I never get tired of it. I still love it." Then she flashed me a smile that mimicked what a kid would look like after getting a job at Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

After a thoroughly delightful conversation with Bailly, I was whisked to the other side of the Dior counter for a makeover. Several of the Dior ladies said they overheard my cancer story and wanted to tell me how fabulous I looked.

Really? I don't consider myself "fashion forward". Every piece of make up I own can fit into a ziplock bag; when I force myself to get a pedicure, I correct papers so the time seems "less wasted"; the few occasions I've updated my wardrobe in the last 6 years have been primarily out of shear necessity because of weight loss...

Bailly's advice sparked an epiphany of sorts - I have been so busy putting on a brave face for others, that I had forgotten to throw on a bright red lipstick or neon green eyeliner once in a while - just for me. Bailly inspired me to finally take the time to create a personal style that makes me feel confident and feminine. After all, this blog is named after style icon Jackie-O, who captivated a nation through her signature look and seamless elegance.

Every time I share carcinoid information with people in the media, I become a little more hopeful that someday the mainstream medical community will adopt this orphan disease. In the meantime, I'm going to head over to my local Sephora and frolic among the candy colored, rainbow shades of liquids, powders and lacquers... because for the rest of the summer this girl is banning beige.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Theme Song for Kicking Cancer's Butt

This amazing woman says it all.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Monster in Hiding

love our salt water aquariums; they are more than underwater gardens, they are secret doorways to hidden worlds. You see animal behavior you can't believe - like our anglers literally holding hands when they feel threatened, our rock skipper's colors changing for no apparent reason at all, our corals dancing in the current, and our clownfish hunting live guppies and feeding them to its host bubble tip anemone.

Salt aquariums force you to work through complex problems, and research constantly. You also learn patience and flexibility; for example, you could spend hours setting up your rocks perfectly only for an urchin or hermit crab to rearrange things in 2 min. Every day there is something new to discover ... it's a living hobby that brings me joy and wonder every day.