Looking at people’s Instagrams, you would think everything about their lives are perfect – from the big smiles to the perfect poses taken from very scenic locations. Our guest today is makeup artist Arax Gevorgyan. Judging from her Instagram and not knowing her, she gives off such a positive vibe that you would never know she was battling a health condition. Getting a breast cancer diagnosis in September 2018, Arax took it as a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to redesign her life. She talks with us today to share her battle with cancer and how she turned that negative diagnosis into something to be grateful for.
Listen to the podcast here:
How Stage 3 Breast Cancer Turned Out To Be A Blessing In Disguise with Arax Gevorgyan
We have a very special guest, Arax here with us. Welcome, Arax.
Thanks for having me, Greta.
I’m very excited to have her. I stumbled across her Instagram. I’ve seen it here and there over the few years that I’ve been on Instagram, but I’ve never honed in on her page and paid attention.
It’s not a very exciting page. I’m interesting in my stories though.
I wished I knew you earlier.
I’m not good from afar.
I love your stories. Your dry humor is everything. I’m always laughing and I love people who can make fun of themselves. That’s one of my favorite things. I feel like the most confident people can make fun of themselves. Don’t you agree?
You had a double mastectomy due to breast cancer. I wanted to bring her on and talk about her experience because judging from her Instagram and not knowing her. I felt like she was such a positive person. I was so inspired as to how somebody with a husband and two kids in this negative situation can be so positive. Arax, tell us a little bit about yourself before the diagnosis.
My diagnosis was in September 2018. A little overview of what my life was like at that point. I’m 32. I work as a hairstylist and makeup artist. I have two kids, a two-year-old, and a four-year-old. I’ve got a husband. He’s cool, great and a photographer. I was doing hair and makeup at that time. Six years in or so, I started getting some cool gigs. Netflix, American Idol, BuzzFeed, some real red carpet celebrities, not the ones that happened to go because they happened to know somebody, it was great. My husband and I had started working together a lot to create cohesive images where I styled the brides, he did all the photos and we landed a beautiful wedding in the South of France.
Ironically enough, the entire time, everything I wore, my husband was like, “Your boobs just keep popping out.” I’m not a very provocative dresser. It was like, “I don’t know what happened.” I gained weight. I lost weight. I have two kids. I breastfed both of them. Come to find out this pap smear with my gynecologist that I’ve put off three times is coming up and I go and Pap smear is fine. My doctor does a little physical and he’s like, “I feel some asymmetry,” I’m like, the same thing. “I lost weight, I gained weight, I breastfed.” I thought maybe it’s like a thing of milk. He was like, “Just go get an ultrasound.” I’m like, “Sure.” He goes, “Now or tomorrow.” I’m like, “That sounds urgent.”
That’s when I started preparing myself because I don’t like emotional surprises. I do very well with other unexpected situations, but I would say mentally is where I am most calm, organized and Zen. I like to prepare myself. There’s this comedian Jerry Lewis. He said, “Expect the worst. You’ll never be disappointed.” I was like, “Expect the worst.” I went into Marcia Ray Breastlink in Glendale Memorial Hospital. They did the ultrasound. They were like, “You’re going to need a mammogram too.” I was like, “Are you sure? He just said ultrasound.” They’re like, “You’re going to need one.” I’m like, “Something might be up.” I asked them to use their phone charger, which is irrelevant but to show you that I am not always prepared. After that visit, they’re like, “You’re going to have to come back for a biopsy.” I came back two days later for a biopsy. That was on a Wednesday and the radiologist couldn’t even wait.
She called me on Friday instead of calling my doctor directly, which is what they’re supposed to do with the reports. She was like, “I just can’t let you go this weekend not knowing. I know we thought it might have been some old breast milk or whatever. Unfortunately, it’s not.” She goes, “It’s metastatic breast cancer. It looks like it’s gone into your lymph nodes too. We’re going to need some imaging to see if it’s gone anywhere else.” A little background on me healthwise, I’ve never had health issues. I don’t have allergies. I’m not the person looking in the menu to see if I can have this or that. I go to the doctor. They ask, “Family history? No. Allergies to medicine? No. Do you have any preexisting conditions? No.” I have chill pregnancies. I don’t get sick when people are sick. I don’t say don’t sneeze around me. I’m not a germaphobe. I was healthy. I never knew to expect this. I got off the phone. I was staying at my mom’s house and I started walking. I call my husband, he was on a pre-wedding shoot and I texted him. I was like, “It’s cancer.” I’m not very good at breaking news like that.
Did you text him?
I think somebody else texted me like, “How are you doing?” I was like, “I’m not that great. I just found out I have cancer.” I’m super casual about the delivery of bad news. I like to go above and beyond with good news.
What did he say? I bet you he called.
He was like, “Are you going to be fine?” I was like, “Finish the photoshoot.” He was like, “I’m going to do a good job.” He told them too, “We’re going to knock this because we’re going to knock that out too.” That was life. Prior to that, we had bought a house. I’ve been working with my mother-in-law at her salon. Things were chaotic and very stressful for me. I spread myself too thin. I always have. I like to under-promise but over-deliver. Right before getting diagnosed, I had talked to Roman and I was like, “I can’t imagine my calendar ever being clear.” I can’t imagine that it hasn’t been that for so long. I sometimes work twelve, fifteen hours a day. I did it when I was pregnant. I did it when I was breastfeeding. I would put color on a client, pump some breast milk, put it in the mini-fridge and come back. I got peace of mind that my kid’s going to get breast milk. This client’s going to get the best color. Everyone’s going to get the best of everything except Arax because I’m tough, I’m resilient, and I’m high spirited. I can bounce back from everything. The thing is the more you could tolerate if you’re a people pleaser, the more you take on so that you can alleviate others.
I know you said that this is a negative thing, but for me, it was a blessing in disguise because I have been working since I was fifteen-years-old. I have never had nine months off. Once I got this diagnosis and when Roman came home, he was like, “Is there anything that you want that will make you feel better?” I was like, “Just not to worry about everybody else right now.” The weekend before that I had one bride in Burbank. I had another bride in Riverside. Not just the bride, eight to ten people, bridal parties. Not just Americans. We just got to be ready by 4:00 PM. One’s Egyptian. I was up at 3:00 AM, not knowing I have two tumors, stage three breast cancer. I’m just trying to make these people’s weddings perfect. I keep wondering like, “Why don’t I have enough energy? I’m such an energetic person.” When I come home, I don’t want to shortchange my kids. I’m still going to play with them. It was a very negative diagnosis per se, but the urgency that it came with for me to redesign my life couldn’t have happened at a better time. Had it been less urgent or less of a shock, I don’t think I would’ve been on top of it.
Did you feel like that when you first got the news or now that it’s been a while?
I’m not much of a reactor just in general. I don’t do that.
You don’t panic over it.
A lot of times it’s great, but sometimes it’s not so great because I tend to put things off because everything’s going to be okay. My main thing when finding out is I know from what I’ve seen on television and heard from people, cancer is bad, but how bad? What are we talking about? Because I’ve also heard pregnancy is bad. Before I got my period, other girls who had their period made it seem like it was bad. Before I got married, people talking about marriage would be like, “Wait until you guys are together for a year. You’re going to get sick of each other. Wait until you get engaged. It can be so hard. Wait until you’re planning a wedding. Wait until you are married for a year. Wait until you have a kid.” It’s this repeating cycle in life when people tell you things are going to be bad and they’re not. I was wondering about cancer. Is it that bad? What’s going to happen? Am I going to die? Is it just going to be hard for a while? My initial thoughts were that and like, “What if my kids don’t have a mom anymore?” Some thoughts get super dark, which is new to me. I don’t get dark thoughts.
It’s because you put it off.
No, I naturally handle stuff. I like to handle things and avoid them even getting bad because I think I know myself. I know my triggers.
You take care of it before he gets to that bad place.
I’m not that organized with anything else in my life, but emotions, because I’m so full of them I learned to handle them earlier on. The initial shock was, “How bad?” When I get new news, I’m constantly trying to prepare myself for the worst because anything better than that will be at least alleviating. Thinking something’s going to be bad than finding out it’s going to be worse. That’s a terrible feeling.
Is that how he found out?
No, finding out I had cancer was the worst of it. She said such things at stage three. I talked to my doctor, he’s like, “She wasn’t even supposed to call you.” He was very upset about that, but I didn’t care. It doesn’t matter how you find out. He says, “For a lot of people, it does matter how they find out.” I like to just say, “What?” That’s my response to a lot of things. I found out we have to get more imaging. I had my imaging done and the first shred of good news, which was very highly celebrated was it hasn’t spread to anywhere else. Your lymph nodes did their job. They kept it in and it’s not in the bones. The doctor had said sometimes go straight from breast to brain and that didn’t happen. That was something to be grateful for.When death becomes a reality, it can be a blessing and a curse because the urgency makes you more present, but the fear makes you crumble. Click To Tweet
Once he told you “Thank God, it hadn’t spread.” What was the next step? What did you have to do after that?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have health insurance. Cancers were the most expensive things in the world, next to Armenian children. I was fortunate enough that at that office, they told me across the way, there’s a women’s center. They’ll help you fill out some forms and stuff. Because that visit was going to be like $495 and I was like, “I’m going to put it on a card.” They’re like, “Just go fill out those forms.” I’m like, “Honestly, I just want to go home.” She’s like, “No, fill out those forms because you might need more than this.” That was still before the diagnosis. I went there and there was this girl named Anna who I have to find and I have to thank. I have to do something amazing for her because I was shaking, I don’t know what I was doing. She helped me fill out these forms. That’s humanity. She filled out the forms for me and I had come back to see the doctor get my diagnosis. I came out, she handed me a paper with my medical ID number. She’s like, “You’re set.” To do that for somebody you don’t know, it’s new level humanity for me, I’m like, “That’s crazy.”
I know you feel uncomfortable but these things need to be released. If you’re reading, thank you for being a good human being.
She didn’t have to do that and I wouldn’t have been like, “What a terrible worker.” She helped me with the forms and I would’ve been like, “That’s amazing,” She could have just given me the forms. I would have still written a good Yelp review, but she helped me get Medi-Cal and paid for everything. That was the next step. Because I was part of this program, which is called Medi-Cal for Breast and Ovarian Cancer and it’s straight covers start to finish everything involved at some of the best institutions. A lot of people have Kaiser and they couldn’t get the treatment I had. Me, without any insurance and I got this Medi-Cal, I was able to get consultations at City of Hope, Cedar-Sinai. The City of Hope, I didn’t like it. I liked Cedars a lot. My brother’s wife Susana came. Her dad had stage four lung cancer. She was like, “They told me to say bye to my dad.” She went to this doctor and she like, “He had seventeen consults. He went to his doctor, he liked him and I want you to go get a consult.” I was like, “Before I could do that since I had filled out my forms here, I had to go to their doctor.”
I went and these two male doctors, I called them the MeToo doctors, grabbing the wrong breast, telling me I don’t even look Armenian while touching my face. This is the time where I just found out I have stage three breast cancer. I have two little boys at home. My legs are shaking. I’m sitting there with this paper gown and he keeps going like, “It looks like…” I’m like, “Doctor, it’s the other breast.” Cupping it. He goes, “We’re going to do the Angelina Jolie test on you.” I’m like, “Angelina Jolie? You mean the BRCA exam?” He’s like, “Yes.” I’m like, “These people are like coked out or something.” That was my first glimpse into finding out that most businesses run the same way. If you’ve been to a hair salon that makes you wait too long, there are doctors’ offices that do the same thing. Just because it’s a respectable field, it doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be well-run offices and poorly run offices and people who just got their license. You don’t even know-how.
That was one of my first lessons. They come back and they’re like, “What’s your name?” I was like, “Arax.” They’re like, “This isn’t even your file.” They had somebody else’s file by the door. I’m not a control freak. I’m not a paranoid person. I usually tend to feel comfortable with professionals. I’m not a micromanager. I’m like, “This makes me feel uncomfortable.” My husband’s sitting right there next to me and the guy even started grabbing my husband’s breast to make it less awkward. This guy leaves and then they’re like, “We need to have a woman here while we examine your breasts.” I’m like, “A woman doctor?” They’re like, “No, just a woman.” They grabbed some scared associate from the front. She just standing in the corner staring at me while there examining my breast. I’m like, “This is weird.” This other girl comes in, she goes, “We just need to get a blood sample.” I don’t look when they do and she was like, “Oh my God.” I’m like, “Are you okay?” She goes, “Look.” I’m like, “No.” I look and the blood coming out and it was not going in the syringe. It’s on my hand, clothes and phone. I’m like, “Let’s take it out.” She’s like, “I need the blood sample.” I’m like, “I got another consult at the City of Hope. I’m going to go.” She goes, “Are you sure?” I’m like, “Yes.”
I left that office and I went to the City of Hope immediately. I didn’t like the drive right away and I didn’t like the people were wheelchaired out. I felt like it was a good system but I didn’t jive with any people. Most of my experiences, I prefer smaller and more centralized as opposed to huge, whether it’s a hotel or restaurant. I like intimate. I went to the office that my sister-in-law Susana has suggested, Dr. Youram Nassir. I went there mortified. He looks up. He goes, “What are you so scared about?” He goes, “You’ve got this handsome husband.” I’m like, “He’s cute.” He’s like, “You’ve got the breast cancer.” These are the things that I need. I don’t like, “Honey, you’re going to be fine. Just be positive and reach for the stars.” I need facts from credible sources. I’m like, “I’m going to be okay.” He’s like, “You’re going to have a bad year.” I’m like, “I’m okay with a bad year. I have two kids. I’ve been having bad year. That’s fine. I can bounce back. Tell me I’m going to be okay.” The next major lesson I learned is all we want to know is it’s going to be okay. Once I got that little sense of relief, they were like, “Diagnosis is pretty crazy. You’re young, you’re healthy because your tumor is young and healthy too. If you’re 70, everything’s growing at a slow rate. You’re like fresh soil.”
One of my tumors is six centimeters and the other one’s three centimeters. That’s the super-aggressive one. He says it’s in the lymph nodes and he goes, “This diagnosis twenty years ago was very scary but now, medicine’s come a long way. We have these hormone receptors, which your tumors have these antennas that they will attach to and they deactivate it.” This used to be the scariest of breast cancers. Thanks to research and everything, it’s one of the most responsive to medicine and finding out it hasn’t spread anywhere. I’m in this doctor’s office, finding out I’m going to be okay and finding out that this type of thing is very treatable. The next few things that I had to worry about were so small compared to this. I’m going to be bald like Sinead O’Connor but I get to live. These workers they look scared sometimes. If you’ve ever gotten your hair done by somebody who looks nervous, it’s not a good feeling. What I liked about this office was that they were too chill. Cracking jokes, very honest about what’s happening.
I think it’s your perspective.
I’m very clear on my perspective. It’s not everybody is.
This doctor’s office made you feel good.
I liked Dr. Nassir and his approach and then they were smart. Things that were taking too long for me to get, he’d get on the phone, he’d be like, “She’s 32, she got two kids. She needs this imaging right now. What are you guys going to be able to do for her?” I’m not an aggressive person. I’m very like, “Everything’s okay. You guys can do it however you want. I’m just going to be a good sport. Just call me when you need me. I’m sorry to bother you.” To have somebody that was like, “No, she’s getting there right now. You guys need to do these tests. I need to know exactly where she’s at.” I’ve got this other peace of mind knowing they’re fighting for me. My husband the whole time is funny. I constantly kept trying to think about, “Since I tend not to feel good these days, what does make me feel good these days?” It was a few things. A lot of self-improvement books. I read about fifteen or sixteen books nonstop. It was humor, comedy, researching comedy, studying comedy and watching comedy. It’s one of the only truths in the world. If it’s funny, even if it’s inappropriate, even if it’s offensive, it’s funny. That can’t be said about religion. It can’t be said about very few other things.
Comedy was one of my biggest comforts and my husband always say like, “Why are you walking like that?” Because when you’re scared, you hunched over and slanted back. He’d be like, “Walk up straight. It’s nothing wrong with you. You look better than you did. You feel better too, don’t you?” Two weeks ago is that weddings that I described to you where I was up at 3:00 in the morning. I was working until 2:00 in the afternoon. I drove back, I got home at 4:00 and I was with my kids until 8:00 putting them to bed and then got ready for the next day. I don’t think I even ate that weekend, to be honest with you. I think maybe a Cliff Bar or some coffee. I was so bad to myself that I never knew I was bad to myself because I didn’t know what my basic needs were and they seemed like they were met.
It’s because everyone around you was happy and they were good.
I was in a great mood and very happy. I took care of my staff, my clients. I try to take care of everybody.
That’s a huge lesson in life.
I wouldn’t have learned it any other way. For me to get the pair of socks that says F-cancer, I don’t have that much resentment against cancer because of everything that it gave me. It gave me a year off. I never had a year off. It gave me all these lessons that I kept reading that don’t hit home until it hit home.
Now that we know what your most life-changing lessons were, what was the process of chemo like?
I had one more life-changing lesson that I forgot. If you’re going to fight for your life, you’ve got to do a good job living it. That was the biggest one. I’m going to fight to live and I’m going to say things like, “I’m going to throw my kid a great birthday party.” No, you’re fighting to live. Live as now. Like Justin Timberlake, the famous philosopher, once said, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow’s a mystery. I see you looking back at me.”
You got to live in the now.
Not a Marshall’s plaque that’s in your bathrooms says Live, Love, Laugh. What’s now?
You’re very present now.
I’ve never been like this before. I would’ve been here and I would have thought about, “Are you thirsty? Maybe you want some water. Does she need anything? Is anybody at home need anything? Are my clients texting me?” That lesson, I would have paid anything. I would’ve gone to one of those weird Tony Robbins things and gotten groped in the audience.
I love Tony Robbins.
I would have paid for that if I could afford it. I’ve got some lessons that people get at that type of level, just within a crash course. I needed that. My soul was thirsty for that. Perspective is everything. You’re right. Maybe there’s a bigger plan here because I couldn’t go on much longer being that person.
You would have crashed at some point.
According to my doctor, I would have crashed in four months that he thought I had to live if I hadn’t had that tumor identified.
How do you even process that or do you not process that?Chemo, in a nutshell, sucks and it's temporary. Click To Tweet
There are people that cross the street and get hit by a bus and they never had time to call that person they got into a fight with and be like, “I’m sorry or take medicine to make that go away or go to the hospital and have a chance to fight.” Not only that is not promised, but the next moment’s also not promised either. Yes, there’s death and my future, but how do I know it wasn’t going to be closer in my future if I hadn’t continued doing things? Death becomes such a reality and a constant reminder and a constant thought, which like everything else is a blessing and a curse because urgency makes you more present. The fear might make you crumble and that’s why mental health over anything because fear is debilitating. I experienced fear for the first time. I’m not a scared person. I’m down to go scuba diving, sky diving. I don’t get scared. I don’t need somebody to walk me to my car at night. I never had pepper spray. Before I met my husband, I never locked doors. We never had keys growing up. That was a new thing for me. This is my first time and then I had to break that down too. You’re scared, but what are you scared of? Are you scared of dying? No. I’ll be honest, I’m not.
What were you scared of?
The unknown. Am I scared of being some pain? No, we’ve had kids. It hurts. Am I scared of being nauseous? Again, pregnancy. I know what that’s like. Am I scared of not being cute? I fluctuated before. I’m cute. I’ve been not cute. I know how to bring it in other ways. I’m worried about the unknown but had to break it down. Because fear is that giant shadow, the closer you get, the closer you see it. It’s like little meerkat just getting too close to the light and it looks huge. If you get further that shadows get bigger and it shows you, but if you get closer and stand up to it, it becomes smaller. That takes a leap of faith too. I couldn’t do that alone. Unfortunately I’m not religious enough. I’ve read the Bible three times in Armenian and English. I used to be, it just doesn’t give me the solitude it used to anymore. That’s okay because there are other avenues. I was like, “If I’m having a hard time finding positivity, if I’m having a hard time knowing what to do with fear, I’m sure there are experts on it.” There are researchers and psychologists. I went to Psychology Today website and I started studying all these articles on fear. I listened to different podcasts.
One, in particular, was The Goop, where Gwyneth Paltrow was. This one was exactly what I needed. I had a headphone in as I was getting my body scanned for tumors. It was this woman named Marianne Williamson. She’s running for office and somebody has said that her tagline should be, “Don’t Google me.” That does not discredit her message to me. Her message in that podcast, the title was, “Who Are you in a moment of crisis? Who are you in a moment of fear?” I was like, “It sounds like me.” She was like, “Martin Luther King and every that marched with him, they didn’t have time to get brave and find their inner strength and get ready for this. It was happening then and there.” Anybody that had to be brave, you don’t get prepared for it because that’s what I kept waiting for. Like, “I just got to wait. I’m going to be able to handle this better. I’m going to get stronger and I’m going to get desensitized to the news once I keep hearing it from a bunch of different doctors.” I did get desensitized, but there are actual ways. If a certain muscle hurts, there are therapists that will be like, “Try these exercises. That’s going to help loosen that up.” For fear, it was that podcast and from that podcast and went into a lot of self-help books and a lot of journaling.
What’s your favorite self-help book, the one that made an impact?
There’s one called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
What’s the message in that book?
Only about the essentials in life. That book taught me so much. We’d go to these jobs we hate to get money to spend it on things we don’t like to impress people that we don’t like. That’s a vicious cycle. You’ve never known what it means to be good to yourself if you’ve never canceled on a good opportunity to get some rest. That’s the level of essentialism that they’re talking about. If you’re in a deserted Island, all you got to look out for is your physical, you and your mental you. I hadn’t even thought about me. How do you not know there are lumps in your breasts? Because my constant thing is “I’m fine.” There’s another one that I read on stoicism. Stoicism helped me a lot and the image they use is of the cow that’s in the wet rain with flies by its face. It doesn’t look sad, it doesn’t look happy. It just is. The message there was everything is. If we zoom out, we’ll see Los Angeles. Zoom out more, California, the world, the globe. In the big realm of things, we are so small. We don’t know if the cockroach outside if its leg is hurting. That’s where we’re at on a big scheme of things. Do you have breast cancer? That does not throw off the axis of the earth. Everything will go on.
I remember talking to my brother and I was like, “What about my kids?” He goes, “What about them? You never grew up with anybody whose parents died?” I’m like, “They were fine, weren’t they? They were fine enough to have you as a friend.” He goes, “They’ll have a social life.” It’s such a scary, weird, twisted thing to talk about. What if I die? Honesty was the only form of comfort I was seeking. Not somebody to rub my legs. I’m not a hugger to say it’s going to be okay. It’s like, “Your kids are going to be fine without you. I’ll take care of them. Your sister will take care of them. Your mom will take care of them. Look at all these people, your kids are going to be fine. Worry about you.” I needed that to constantly boomerang back and be like, “My husband’s going to be fine. He’s not going to think I’m totally ugly.” My kids, I told them like, “I’m going to take this medicine because there’s a thing inside. It’s not too good, but this medicine helps that go away, but it also makes my hair fall out and that’s okay. I’m going to have to shave it.” He was like, “You’re going to be like dad? I’m like, “Yes.” He was like, “When I kiss you, it won’t get into my mouth?” I was like, “You guys are so pure.” I’ve had hair down to my calves my whole life.” Everything that was so bad was not that bad when you zoom in and look from a different angle.
It’s all about perspective.
If it helps, why not? It’s not going to be a pleasant ride, but you got to get through it. I want to get through it in the best way possible. I remember telling my husband, “I want to be the Serena Williams of cancer.” I want to handle it better than anybody’s handled it before. Maybe I’m a little competitive. I don’t care. I don’t want pity. There are people that felt so sorry for me. I was like, “Even with this, I still feel sorrier for you.” Sometimes it’s about how you handle it, not what you have to handle. There are some people that get a splinter and it’s the end of the world.
It’s how you look at things and the way you approach situations.
Much of your perspective is shaped by your determination to grow and your transparency with yourself and holding yourself accountable. I know the areas that I don’t need to grow anymore in. Being knowing how to please people and knowing how to speak. You’re not getting nervous in front of people. “I know all those things.” The things that you’re not good at or so hard to admit, they’re so shameful. It’s hard for me to tell somebody I don’t like something even if I don’t like it. Everybody’s got different ways to grow and forcing yourself to do it is what’s going to change your perspective and changing your perspective is going to help you glide through life. I feel like it oils the way for you.
Everybody should focus on their perspective.
Because if we all threw our problems at a giant pile, that’d be your biggest problem. The ones that we don’t know about. You saw mine, hers and I saw yours, we would pick ours back up and go. Because we think it’s so bad, but if we put it and we saw what everybody else is dealing with, you’re like, “At least I know how to handle this. At least I’ve got some practice in this.” If perspective is going to help you handle your biggest issues with grace, poise and efficacy, why not fix it? It’s free.
It’s all up to you. You have all the control and power over your perspective.
You’re the only one in your way.
That’s the worst part. You’re the one in your way.
There’s another book, The Magic of Thinking Big.
What’s the message in that one?
The message behind that is the person who you think is the most amazing at anything is no different from you. You think smaller. Who is the master of all podcasts? You’re just like them.
Let’s say I think Oprah is the best. I enjoy every single episode of Oprah, she’s just a well-spoken.
Oprah thought she was good enough to do that. She thought she was good enough to be well-spoken and if her vocabulary wasn’t there then it probably needs some help. If I’m her pronunciation wasn’t there, then she can get a dialect coach. That doesn’t mean you can’t do work, but knowing that you have what it takes to get to your goals is everything. It seems so simple and it seems like a silly motivational thing to say, but a lot of times we don’t. There’s been a lot of workouts I haven’t tried because I truly didn’t think that I would wake up. Because if I thought squats for 30 days are going to do that for me, I’d probably do it. The people who do it, they do think it’s going to work.
Do you feel like those people will see the results?
Absolutely. Those same people, there’s another aspect of their life where if they applied that same will and determination, they would excel, but they don’t. For me, I’ll push myself in terms of intellect because that’s where I have a chip on my shoulder. I grew up with intelligent brothers and parents and I didn’t want to sound dumb. I’ll work hard on that. I came here as an immigrant. There weren’t any Armenians in my school, but I was very social. They’d speak to me in Armenian and I would speak back in gibberish just because I wanted to talk to them. Speaking well was very important to me. I know somebody that wasn’t very happy with the way that they looked growing up. She did everything to look the way that she wanted and she will preserve that until the day she dies. If she applied a little bit of that to maybe reading a book, she’d get along with her husband and her mother-in-law better and her clients. This is an imaginary person, but I know you could think of seven people off the top of your head who it applies to. That same person is probably super organized and diligent in other aspects.
You put your energy and everything. You’re will and determination, the things that are important to you and it’s probably a little bit of your unconscious in the back working because it’s the one thing you’re scared of failing at. Tell me about the chemo. What was that like? Were you scared like the first time you went in?
No, I was ready because I felt it was going to work.
You got the reassurance from the doctor. You were like, “Let’s do it. Let’s start.”You should treat the tragedies and the joyful occasions of your life just the same. Click To Tweet
Plus I love progress. I love moving forward. What gets me is anticipation, not momentum. This was easier to start than it is to continue. I want to start. That was my perspective on day one of chemo. What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had in your life?
I’ve never had a hangover. I’m a very disciplined drinker.
You make sure you’re hydrated. You know when you’ve reached your limit.
Once I reached my limit, I’m good. I’d never had a hangover in my life.
Have you ever been exhausted, dehydrated, malnourished, overworked and pregnant?
The first four months of pregnancy.
I was extremely nauseous. I’m short and thick. I’m not a frail person. I felt extremely weak. My weight finally went down to the numbers that I’ve always wanted it to be and I was not feeling it. It hurts when you sit on the toilet. It’s not fun. Skinny is not all it’s cracked up to be. There are a lot more health risks with losing weight than gaining weight. Society adds so much shame and stigma to gaining weight. There’s so much more from losing weight. It’s much more dangerous. I will never in my life go on a diet again. I will never in my life restrict myself from eating anything again. I will never force myself to work out until I pass out. If something is a pleasant, joyful movement, I will engage. If the food is good, I will have some and I’ll stop when I’m full. That was another thing of trying to be kind to my body because I would have tried anything to lose weight before. How was chemo? My chemo was tough. I sat there for twelve hours, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. I had to have many bags. My tumors were very different from one another. One was more responsive to certain medicine and another was different. I had bags and bags of IV cocktails coming at me.
For twelve hours straight, you sit?
Once every three weeks, six times. That’s my chemotherapy. In between, every single week I go in for IV hydration. That thing that all the hot chicks do. I had to do that. I read a lot. They have those little trays that they keep their stuff on. My husband, he called that his laptop tray and he was there with me all the time. He would sit and edit his photos and we would have long silences. We would have long conversations. We would laugh, we would chill, start to be pissed together. It was the most organic and fulfilling time of our marriage.
No, it’s not crazy because you are just being.
I was grateful. My support system is out of this world. My mom, my mother-in-law, they took all my kids. All my aunts from everywhere, they’re trying to cook. They’re trying to make my juices I don’t want to drink. They’re asking everybody they know for all the recipes. Armenians, they come at you with like lemon things from this, “Drink this and do this.” I never thought what a fortunate problem to have that I had too much support and that’s what I was overwhelmed by. I felt like I was comforting people about my situation. I’m digressing again. How is chemo? It’s toxins, it’s poison and it’s going straight to your liver. I know you’ve never consumed too much alcohol, but it’s how it would feel if you did. It was a lot of poison.
Do you feel it while you’re sitting or you feel it for days to come?
You don’t feel it while you’re sitting. You’re just sitting and your arm’s out and there’s a needle in there and fluids are being pumped in. You don’t feel it. Just like when you’re in the hospital, you don’t feel the IV.
When do these horrible symptoms hit?
The next day after chemo has been completed, you come back and you get a shot that’s called Neulasta. What Neulasta does, it increases your white blood cells. What that does, it increases your immune system because chemo goes in and it kills your cancer cells but it also kills anything that’s good. That makes you more susceptible to other illnesses or infections, too compromised immune the system. While it increases your white blood cell counts, it fills up your bones to the rim. They feel swollen and inflamed. It gives you bone aches. The next day after that shot, the bone aches feel like I’ve been with a baseball bat. I would try to go for a walk and I felt like Bambi sometimes. That was a bit tough. Walking helped me a lot. The fresh air helped me a lot.
Anybody that’s gone through it or is going through it the number one thing that helps is hydration and it’s hard for me to keep fluids down. With the IV, I would feel like a wilted flower just sprouted up again. It helped me a lot. The first day, right when you’re done getting the chemo, you’re on steroids the day before and the day of. Those steroids want to give you strength and adrenaline because of what chemo’s about to do. You feel pretty good. You get the chemo. I went home. I was like, “I got this.” Maybe for everybody else, but I might be strong. I’m a delusional optimist. All these things could go bad, I’m like, “I might not even need all six of them. I don’t know. Let’s see.” Day two it hurts. On day three, I want to die. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to answer my phone. I don’t want to see anybody. I can’t hold anything down.
The effects of it are a little bit residual. In the first round of chemo, you still have a lot of strength. The second round, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, your strength decreases. The steroids pump you up. The chemo messes you up. The Neulasta increases your immune system but adds a lot of pain. The effects of that died down. In week two, after chemo, I’m already feeling much better. I’m walking around. I wanted to be with my kids. That’s when I do a lot of my reading and planning. In week three, it feels like nothing ever happened and you start again. It hits you a little bit harder than the last time. If you keep your mental health up and you’re not anticipating how much worse it’s going to get, it doesn’t get as bad. While it’s hard to believe that perspective has so much to do with how smoothly this thing transitions, it’s everything.
Your brain controls everything.
It’s just a hard thing for somebody like me to believe because it’s not a tangible thing. It’s not like, “Take this pill and you’ll be fine.” It’s like work on every corner of the inside of you that you can’t see or feel.
Sometimes your hormones and all of the physical agony that you’re in, that’s the hard part.
After round two of chemo is when my hair started falling out.
What does it feel like?
You have a lot of hair. You don’t brush it every day I’m sure. You know when you haven’t brushed it for a while, you’ve got that knot in the back? Especially if you’ve been sitting with the kid on the rocking chair and you finally get through that. It just clumps and it was everywhere. While everybody I met that have gone through breast cancer said that was the most traumatizing part for them, I was a hairdresser for six years. I’m used to people’s hair falling out in clumps. It didn’t faze me.
You’d think it’d be the opposite about the perspective, it didn’t faze you.
I love progress so it made me feel like, “Let’s do this.” Honestly, I’ve had long hair down to my butt almost my entire life. We had our family photos. Roman called his photographer friend Nodic. We walked to the park down the street. We took some family photos. We came back. I put on too much makeup and I started cutting my hair. We took out the clippers and busted it off and I didn’t feel much. I feel like I put on a new outfit and got a spray tan. I felt different.
You didn’t feel any negative emotions.
No, I didn’t need my hair like I thought I did. This is somebody that would freak out to get trims. If I don’t feel cute, my hair’s going to do it. If my eyebrows don’t match, guess what side my hair is going over? The bad eyebrow. If I forget an earring but I have the other one, what’s covering it. I thought my hair was everything and it wasn’t. I shaved it off and then we went to Palm Springs the next weekend. My kids didn’t care. My husband didn’t care. Snapchat sure didn’t care because it was giving me such cute selfies. Not Instagram, ever. That was chemo in a nutshell. It sucks and it’s temporary. What I will say about chemo is there is something for every symptom. Don’t try to tough it out. That’s one of the most difficult things for me is troubling people and asking.
I would be so nauseous and I didn’t want to bother the office and tell them the nausea medication isn’t working. When I did, they’re like, “The one we gave you is way too weak. Even pregnant people take that. Try this one.” I’m like, “Thanks. Sorry to trouble you.” I was vomiting and had diarrhea at the same time and that was probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever gone through my life. You feel so empty afterwards. Even for that, there’s an Imodium. One of the biggest mistakes I had made was trying to eat for cancer, but you should eat for chemo because it gives everybody different symptoms. If you have diarrhea and you’re trying to eat a plant-based diet, it’s not going to help you. You need mashed potatoes or bread. Once I got over my fear of food, which was bigger than my fear of death.We should accept things about ourselves that are too hard to change. The eagle isn't out there trying to become a dolphin, and vice versa. Click To Tweet
Everything in the food world is either evil or it’s going to heal you. People come at you with a lot of different advice and this is how it’s so similar to pregnancy, “Don’t eat this, don’t eat that.” It’s usually not the doctors that are telling you. It’s other people who know someone who went through it. Some people are telling me, “Cut out meat, dairy, sugar. Go low-carb. Try Keto.” All of those vigorous conflict with one another. You can’t go Keto and cut out red meat. If I cut out sugar I’d be like, “I’ve been through basic biology. Everything is sugar.” Beets are sugar. They’re also one of the healthiest things in the world. Pomegranate is sugar or refined sugar. I’d be like, “Refined sugar or fake sugar.” I’m not saying medical medium on Instagram, but read real science books. The body doesn’t know how to distinguish fake or real sugar. People are like, “Sugar feeds cancer cells.” Everything you eat feeds cancer cells. They’d be like, “Try to starve your cancer cells.” You’re starving yourself too though. I went to a dietician at Cedar Sinai. One of the best pieces of advice I could give anybody that’s going through cancer is that there’s a lot of resources out there, especially if you’re in Los Angeles, especially if you’re in America. It is something I’m very grateful for.
A lot of these resources are free or included. I went to a psychologist and I got therapy over there. I went to a dietician and I was like, “Should I eat dairy?” She was like, “Are you lactose intolerant?” I’m like, “No.” She goes, “Why wouldn’t you eat dairy?” I’m like, “What about sugar?” She was, “Do you like sweets?” I’m like, “I prefer ranch and French fries. I’m not a sweets eater.” She was like, “Why are you trying to cut it out? Do you have a problem with it? Do you get weak in the knees when you see it?” I’m like, “I can never eat sweets again and not care, but French fries? I don’t know.” I’m like, “What about starchy food?” Which is what I prefer. She’s like, “What about it?” I’m like, “Sometimes it just feels like it’s hugging your tummy. How about red meat? How about salt?” She goes, “It does look like you have low blood pressure. Salt helps that.” I’m like, “What should I not eat?” She goes, “Don’t eat anything you hate and savor everything you love.” She told me about intuitive eating.
Don’t eat anything you hate, savor everything you love and learn to listen to your body. You’ll know when it’s full. A lot of times you keep eating past being full because you don’t know when you’re going to get a chance to do this again or without somebody seeing you, without you shaming yourself, without somebody else shaming you. I grew up scared of a lot of food. I don’t want to drink soda in front of my mom. If I came home with a bag of McDonald’s, I would eat in the car, throw it in a trashcan up the street. I don’t think anything’s going to happen. I used to work on set sometimes and it’s just an entire roomful of food and snacks. You walk in and it’s you grab one thing.
If I go to a vending machine, I want six things. I do think that restriction is not good. Intuitive eating, that’s what it taught me. That restriction is not good, no food will kill you and no food will heal you. It’s just in your system for about 24 hours or however long it takes you to get it out. It’s just fuel. You shouldn’t do intermittent fasting and you shouldn’t stop eating before you’re full. You shouldn’t think that it’s not hunger, it’s thirst because it probably is hunger. If you eat and get on with it, you’ll be fine. You would never take your phone off of charge because you don’t want it to reach 100%. You should fill up your gas tank until it’s full, but we don’t do that with ourselves. We don’t rest until we’re rested. We don’t eat until we’re full.
It’s because we get all this misinformation that we don’t even know is misinformation. You’re telling me and I’m second-guessing all the information about food that I’ve ever been taught or learned.
It’s like an onion. Do you know how many layers we have to peel back? Our moms or even people didn’t know. I was telling her, I was like, “How about herbal supplements?” She goes, “You’re Armenian?” I’m like, “Yes.” She goes, “You guys eat more herbs just with cheese than Americans do in a month.” She goes, “I’ve seen you guys eat mint, basil, cilantro, parsley.” I’m like, “That all is just in my refrigerator.” She goes, “The girl before you she goes, American diets were iceberg lettuce, tomato, maybe some onion. That’s nothing for us.” She was, “You guys have such rich food and nutrients.” We throw it everywhere. Our kids get used to it at a young age, Indians and Mexicans too. That’s why they’re so healthy.
In America, diet is an $86 billion industry. 95% of all stats are made up on the spot. There are millions and billions of dollars of an industry trying to get you to spend money on losing weight, not eating, being ashamed of it, and feeling guilty for it because nothing sells more than guilt and shame. That’s how they started selling deodorant and mouthwash because nobody was buying it before until they said, “Other people might think you smell.” I want to say that it was terrible, but just like everything else, it’s not that bad. I got through it. No matter how bad your day is, it’s going to come to an end if you’re lucky enough to live that long.
What happened after the sixth week, once you’re done with chemo?
It took me so long to recover. I thought like, “January 23rd, that’s my last chemo. On January 24th, I’m getting my hair back. On January 25th, I’m getting my booty back.” It took a month to be able to start eating again. I went for ten days just eating maybe four saltine crackers a day. I couldn’t hold anything down. I tried to go for a walk, threw up in all the lawns. I had all these like throw up bags. It’s bad but the day’s going to end. Every time a day ends it’s like people in jail. You just put another tally on the wall and know how much is left.
When did you finally start feeling like yourself again?
I have not yet. I think I side with the Buddhists on this one where your old self doesn’t exist.
I was going to say I don’t think you’ll ever feel like your old self. I feel like a new Arax.
I don’t even know if I like her anymore. That Arax, sometimes she would go by Roxie because it was easier for people to put it on the Starbucks cup. That’s okay. She was trying to help. Arax doesn’t mind that it’s a difficult name to pronounce. I’m not trying to fix everybody’s problems and I am not so scared about being a burden. I keep going back to how it changed me for the better, but that’s not to take away from how terrible it was.
Back to perspective, wouldn’t you rather see it that way than a negative way?
Absolutely. I posted this thing on my Instagram once when I was like, “Post chemo me hates the bubbly pre-chemo me.” Because then I’m all bitter, upset, mad at life. I was like, “This is great. Number three, halfway there.” I’d feel so silly. I’d look back, I’m like, “This was stupid. Why are you even being so positive?” That it doesn’t work. That it doesn’t change the situation, but the thing is it does change the situation. The only thing is halfway through chemo, I went to get an ultrasound and they couldn’t find anything. I’m not usually a believer in spiritual things. I’m not superstitious. There are no blue eyeballs at my house. There’s this one horseshoe that my mother-in-law gave me. She would be too offended if I took down, so that’s still up. I don’t believe in superstitious things or manifest it and it’ll come back, but now I might. Because I was saying, “I don’t need a nose job, so I can’t be one of those Armenian girls that pretend they can’t breathe to get a nose job, but I do need a breast job. What if I get breast cancer? That’ll get me some new breast, wouldn’t it?” Guess what I got? I got breast cancer. When I started, I was like, “I don’t even know if I’m going to need all these.”
Halfway through, I think they’re going to be gone because usually, I do well with medicine. I got a headache, I take an Advil, and I’m fine. Whereas some people take an Advil and they’re not. I don’t know if I’m delusionally optimistic and I don’t know if a certain perspective produces certain chemicals in your body that equip you with whatever you need to handle things. Halfway through chemo, I went to the ultrasound and they said that they see scar tissue. The lady was like, “Are you’re sure you had tumors?” I’m like, “I’m pretty sure.” She’s like, “This is wonderful. I don’t find a thing.” You still have to finish. I still went through all six rounds, but round four, five and six would have been a lot harder if I didn’t think that I was clean.
When you’re feeling bitter and mad at life, how do you get yourself in that moment of positivity? Because it’s easy to be positive. We’re having a great day, an enjoyable conversation. We had coffee. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, mad at life and nauseous.
It’s probably a little bit more than you and your willpower can handle at the moment.
What do you do? Do you let yourself ride it out?
The first thing is to permit yourself to do that. I love to share positivity, but I don’t like to share negativity. That’s where I’m a bit of more of an introvert. I like to handle my thing privately. If you need to cry, I journal a lot. I brought it. I write a lot and get it out. Like the guy who wrote A Farewell to Arms, he writes and doesn’t look back. There’s no fixing things or erasing things and then you have an outlet. If you cannot get into a positive state of mind, there are things that help like therapy. If I’ve already reached that point, I don’t believe it in my hands anymore. I’m going to go to therapy. I’ve listened to this podcast called Happier by Gretchen Rubin, and she had this what she called the Happiness Hack and she was a happiness researcher. Like the Brenè Brown but not of shame. She would have these things that make you just a little bit happier. Not much, but maybe 2%.
For example, your keys should be in the same place all the time, no matter what. The same place in your purse, the same place in your house. When you get in the car, if it’s keyless, it should always be in the same place. You never have to look for your keys again. In this long span of your life, make you about 2% happier. When you’re down, you can use all the wins you could get. When you’re not down, you need to pay attention to all the things that spark joy. Maybe even write them down and when you’re down, just give yourself all of that. I would go to a manicure, pedicure, but I don’t care for a manicure, pedicures that much. I don’t like massages. I kept trying these conventional ways that make people feel good, but they don’t work from me. Whatever works for you, foods and the conversations that I enjoyed. I had noticed I can’t watch any movies that are remotely good or deep because I don’t want to think any more than I’m thinking.
Also, those problems in those movies are so minute.
If they’re big, they’re a little too big. I don’t want to watch cancer movies. I don’t want to watch movies about somebody’s wife dying or somebody losing their mom or even their dog. I want to watch Adam Sandler be stupid and Jennifer Aniston is a little bit hot while she’s still got it. I want to watch dumb movies like that.
The whole message here is to stop looking around you. Stop looking around you and stop looking at what society is telling you is going to make you feel better. Look deep within yourself and find the things that make you happy. Break it down.
If you don’t know, it’s exciting to get to know yourself. Do you ever meet somebody that you click with? You can’t wait to have all these conversations with them. Somewhere down the line, we don’t know ourselves that well. You made all your choices for yourself. You made this person so you should get to know them. I kept a little list of things that would make me a little bit happier.
What was one thing on that list?Time heals everything, but you got to give it time. Click To Tweet
It is going for a walk. I don’t know what it is about not seeing walls. They’ve done brain scans on this. This whole concept of having buildings, that’s relatively new for humanity. We’ve been in fields, caves and open spaces. That’s why toddlers have a hard time too. Going for a little bit of a walk, it increases the production of dopamine and serotonin in your brain, which scientifically will make you a little bit happier. I’m not unrealistic about it.
No, it makes sense because when I first had Levon, that was a huge life change for me. Very exhausting and overwhelming. It’s one of those experiences. I always talk about that death it changes you to your core. You come out to another person. I remember my mom would say, “Just put the baby in the stroller and go for a walk if you feel overwhelmed.” I was like, “No, mom, I don’t want to do that.” I was mad at life, overwhelmed, tired, exhausted and hungry. I would do it or go for a walk. It seems so minute. I was like, “How is fresh are going to help me, mom?” I would do it and I’m like, “I feel better.”
We’re in America. We’re in the land of like specialized treatment just for this. There’s medicine for migraines and the medicine for joint pains. Going on a walk is across the board just supposed to make you feel good. Those are the things that we’re less likely to reach for because we want something to fix this right now. What I learned here is, “This can’t be like this for a year. I can’t fix this right now.” It’s not going to change. What can I do not to fix this right now, but what can I do just to be in a bit of a better mood because I don’t like being unhappy? They say “Happiness is as simple as choosing one thought over another.” I meditated a lot. I have this app called the Calm app and I just put it on. There’s a segment called 21 Days of Anxiety. I would do it every day. I can’t say that I’m anxious and nothing helps if I haven’t tried everything for my anxiety. I would meditate and they would say, “The anxious thoughts, you got to just see them like little sticks in the river. You see them, you acknowledge them. You don’t act like they’re not there, but just know that they’re about to pass.” If you’re trying to get some sleep and those negative thoughts won’t happen, you got to do something visual. See them as balloons or bubbles and you pop them.
There’s a reason why these games on the phone are fun because these are things that comfort your brain. These are things that are scientifically tested. I will try them and they do work. I loved things that have been tried and tested because you’re not trying to be a guinea pig for everything. You’re not trying to just figure it out yourself. I’m not trying to write a book that’s already been written. There are books on anxiety. We’re in an era of misinformation and what I’m very grateful for in terms of American education, although I’m very uneducated. I don’t have a bachelor’s degree or anything. Whatever I’ve learned in high school and in community college was how to be a critical thinker, how to check for the right credentials, how to know if a site is legitimate and how to cite your sources. Very simple things, but if you apply that to all information, there’s a lot of people will probably stop listening to Dr. Oz or that one guy on the Armenian channel that’s telling our parents everything to tell us.
I’m happy because I think you’re giving people an eye-opening conversation because you’re letting them know that it’s going to be okay.
Even if it’s not, it’s going to be okay. That’s also what you have to prepare yourself for. A lot of people will prepare themselves for this immediate, “You have breast cancer, but it’s going to be okay.” You have breast cancer. It might progress. It might come back. It might relapse. It might get worse. It might become another type of cancer and it might be death. All of that has to be okay.
How do you get yourself to that okay?
There’s this poem called If by Rudyard Kipling. I like literature a lot because words are the recipe for a lot of things and people have done it, people much smarter than me. There are so many resources. That poem I was saying, it says that “You should treat the tragedies and the joyful occasions of your life just the same.” That’s what Stoicism is. You can’t overly celebrate the good things and then just be overly taken back by the bad. If you’re neutral on things, you take it as it is, flowing will get you places forcing never could.
We’re doing a separate YouTube segment and she’s going to give advice. What kind of advice?
It’s going to be very different from everything I’ve been saying because it’s not going to be vague and far stretched. It’s going to be very specific and very clear. I’ve kept it done five or six points. That’s how it’s going to be different because very practical and applicable.
Be sure to check that out. The whole takeaway from this episode is to work on yourself, cherish yourself, and look after yourself. Stop forcing yourself to be or do the things that you think might make you feel better or look better. That’s a tough pill to swallow and I’m probably a hypocrite even talking about this because I want to lose a few pounds or a lot of pounds. Tell me what you think that you want people to take away from this. What’s the big message here? Because I think it’s about working on yourself and changing your perspective to be a positive one.
If you are not a naturally positive person, I think that is also okay because the world needs that too. The world needs people who are going to anticipate the worst. I would be a much better psychologist than a doctor because there are some things I don’t want to look into and there are some things I don’t mind digging. One of those weird inspirational people aren’t motivational people on Instagram, Gary Vee. He said, “F your weaknesses. Triple down on your strengths.” If somebody’s weakness is that they’re not naturally an uppity positive person, I feel like maybe that’s okay too. Maybe channel your energies into all the negativities of cancer. Maybe you’ll discover something. I have more to offer the world in terms of positivity because it comes naturally. I feel like I have so much love and joy in my heart that it just spills out of me and that’s why I don’t do well with chaos and I don’t do well with depression and sadness. I think my takeaway is that some things about ourselves might be too hard to change and I think we should accept them because if we were animals, the eagle isn’t out there trying to become a dolphin and vice versa. Be good at flying if that’s what you’re good at. Maybe you’ll never learn how to swim. Learn how to swim or learn new things.
The only absolute statement you’re allowed to make in sciences that nothing is absolute, if your perspective is negative, there might even be a positive out of that. If you’re naturally a suspicious thing person, maybe you’d be a great private investigator. That’s something I’d be terrible at. If I were trying to help somebody catch their cheating husband, I would fall asleep, I’d be eating in the van, I would follow them to one location and then I would be like, “It’s just not nice to follow people.” My sister would be a great private investigator. Why should she try to turn into me and vice versa? Whatever tools that you have that are your strengths might be able to help you get through whatever it is you’re getting to.
It might help you be a happier person.
I do agree with you. If your perspective is a barrier to your happiness, I feel like it’s water flowing through a hose. Whatever the barriers are, remove them and it will flow if you have a desire to be happy. If you do not have a desire to be happy, that’s what depression is. It’s not being sad all the time. Some people don’t know that they’re depressed because it just means you don’t feel like getting out of bed. You don’t feel like doing things. That’s what it is. It’s not, “I’m so sad and everything’s awful.” Sometimes you might be depressed and not know, but if it is a barrier to you feeling fulfilled, there are resources. If you can work on it and you have what it takes and the desire to do so, work on it. If not, you can outsource everything in your life.
That’s what I learned. Whatever I lacked in psychological comprehension, somebody with a psych degree more than compensated for. Whatever my ignorance is like in terms of nutrition, a dietitian at one of the best institutions in the world, Cedar Sinai, lend me that knowledge. If I don’t know what cancer cells are, my oncologist did. If I don’t know how to meal plan correctly so I can have peace of mind because the future gives me anxiety in terms of planning, I can use your planner. Removing the barriers and even knowing what your barriers are, what’s hindering your flow of happiness is huge. I didn’t know what mine was and that’s why cancer has been a blessing in disguise for me.
It’s very real. It’s not so much and people can interpret it the way that they want, but that’s just what it is.
Hopefully, they see the genuine nature of this because it’s so hard to share this. I’ve only shared good things. I have been the girl whose life you see in Instagram highlights. You see super cute photos of my husband and me. You see cute pictures of my kids and me. You see me being funny and me making girls look good. It was so hard to share something so negative and I didn’t do it for attention because I was getting attention just fine. I did it for awareness because in our community that is lacking and there is no transparency. People don’t want to talk about the bad. Tom Cruise said in a very bad movie, “The sweets not as sweet without the sour.”
It’s true, because you can’t appreciate the sweet without the sour.
The bad in my life has made me cherish the good in my life. It’s a weird time for me to talk about positivity because like I told you, I haven’t been very positive. It’s been a lot of blows. I am I got this other surgery coming up. I’ve got a lot of imaging to do. There’s this thing in the Cancer Meme Society, there’s this page called The Cancer Patient, which got me. I forgot to say that page alone got me through I would say 60% of the difficulties of cancer because comedy helps you find common ground. It’s honest and it’s relatable. The first meme I saw was a girl with her leg wrapped around the IV pole. She was like, “When you got to do chemo but ho is life.” Her little butt cheek was hanging out. I was like, “People are making fun of this? Let me get a seat at this. I got jokes. Me and my breast have been trying to get a divorce for years. We stayed together for the kids.” How’s that? Comedy helped me get through so much. Whatever you’re going through, there’s a meme for it. That helped me. Just being able to laugh with other people and finding comfort in community and even helping others know how to go through what you’re going through. I don’t know what my mom went through and I try not to think about it, to be honest with you.
Did she have cancer?
No, I did. Even knowing how to deal with the people who have to deal with what you’re dealing with. It’s easy for me to be a good sport. I just show up there. If I had to think about someone I love being in that chair, that would kill me. How did my mom go through this? How did my sister go through this? How did my husband watch me go through this? They all try to be strong for me and help me out and stuff and I appreciated it. I’m like, “This too shall pass.” Everything is temporary. The good is temporary. The bad is temporary. I read this thing once that said, “None of us are going to make it out of here alive. Let’s be nice to each other.” I found so much solstice, so much comfort in truth, transparency and humor way more than I’ve ever had, in religion or any other source of comfort where that’s the only place where you can attack anything. You can be funny about anything. Nothing’s off-limits and yet there’s a whole abundance of compassion there.
How are you now? What’s the next step now?
It’s harder for me to be positive. When there’s a big storm and you’re just trying to get through it. Afterwards you look back and you’re like, “It ruined everything.” I look back at it and I’m like, “My digestion is ruined. My skin’s different. My hair is coming back curly.” Those are nothing. My son has regressed. I’ve been absent for a year. That very precious time between two and three years old, I wasn’t around though. He was with my mom for weeks at a time. While he’s being more than taken care of, it created a lot of social anxiety for him, separation anxiety for him and a speech delay. His speech regressed. I’m dealing with all the things that everybody was trying to deal with for me while I was going through cancer so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Afterwards you’re like, “You still got to put this kid in school. You got to work on this one’s speech. You still have to work on all your insurance papers and then the business and then all the expenses that catch up with you.”
Moving forward with this new person that you’ve been forced to become and you have to embrace it, figure it out like a new car. Figure out how to drive it. How is it different from the old machinery because the operators the same, it’s the brain, and move forward. It’s like when you get a new BMW and the brakes are super hard whereas Mercedes is a little bit more chill? I’m a lot more fidgety. I’m more paranoid. My mind goes dark fast. I’ve never had a dark mind. I’ve never thought about death so much and I think about it a lot. Blessing and a curse because I think before I was a little too uppity. I didn’t think that there was ever a chance of anything being bad.
How do you move forward when you have days or months like that?
Everything is temporary. This too shall pass. Think about the time where you’ve been at your lowest. I do. It’s in the past. Sometimes when I’m at a red light and it seems like it’s taking forever, I think back at another red light, maybe one that had a train that just kept going and going. That past, that time where I felt all that anxiety and all that difficult things in your past would pass and so will this one. Time heals everything but you got to give time some time. Moving forward, I might not do a good job. I’m not too prepared, but you have to. You just got to keep moving. That’s why there are songs about it. That’s why Dory says “Just keep swimming.” That’s why Sia says “Just keep moving.” I listened to one of the best psychologists in the world and he was like, “A lot of times I listen to my patients and they’re telling me I’m going through this. If you have any advice, I’m going through the same thing at home.” We’re all human and just because one doctor has figured out how to solve a headache doesn’t mean he doesn’t get them himself.
You just take it day by day.Look forward to the future and to aging because it's not a privilege that's granted to many. Click To Tweet
Day by day, moment by moment and this too shall pass. Tomorrow might be a better day or worst day, but after that, there’s going to be another one. I do find comfort in continuity and progress knowing that things are just moving. You should look forward to the future and you should look forward to aging because it’s not a privilege that’s granted to many.
Thank you so much for talking to us about this. I know this was difficult. I can see the anxiety in your hands sometimes. I love your humor. I love your positivity. I’m wishing you good health. I’m wishing you strength. I genuinely from the top to bottom or all over my heart, wish this. Whatever difficult thing you’re going through, this too shall pass. I want to give you a big hug.
Thanks for having me. I’m not a very high profile person. I’ve never done anything like this before. I think that you and I both did it for reasons beyond ourselves and for a greater cause. I think that hopefully carries out in the message. I’m very grateful that you even had me here.
I’m very grateful that you are brave enough to talk about this. I hope you feel some sense of relief just talking about it and putting it out there. I can guarantee you, you’ve helped a lot of women reading. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know someone who’s gone through breast cancer or cancer in general.
I think 100 people told me they went and got breast exams and that’s crazy for me.
That’s a huge thing. Did you know that 99% of the time if breast cancer is caught in the first stage? You have a 99% chance that it will be gone. Thank you so much. Where can we follow you?
It’s Araxjan. I got a salon, so when my treatments were done, my mother-in-law gave me the keys to the salon. It’s on Victory. I’m trying to remodel it and make it a chill vibe, like an Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters vibe and not too many crystals and stuff.
What it’s called?
Do you have an Instagram page for it?
I do. It only has one beautiful long layered haircut. That’s what I’m good at. Araxjan is just me.
Do you still do hair and makeup so people can book you?
If you’re in LA, Glamourax, Araxjan, follow her. Go in for a haircut.
I don’t do well with short hair and even granted the circumstances, I don’t do well with blondes. I’m not good with obnoxious makeup. If you want to look like yourself, I’ll hook you up.
Thank you and we’ll see you in the next episode.
- YouTube Segment – Tips/Advice From A Breast Cancer Survivor On How To Get Through Chemo
- Instagram – Araxjan’s Instagram page
- Marcia Ray Breastlink
- Psychology Today
- The Goop
- Essentialism. The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
- The Magic of Thinking Big
- A Farewell to Arms
- Happiness Hack
- Instagram – Gamourax’s Instagram page
- Inspiring Women Instagram
- Inspiring Women Pinterest
- Inspiring Women YouTube