An Open letter to Employers

Dear Hiring Manager-

Chances are you are reading this because you searched my name and this blog came up. Or, I might have sent you the link as a preemptive explanation for what this web space means to me. Whatever brought you here, if you are interested in me as an employee please keep reading.

When I began thinking about transitioning to Seattle from the Netherlands it was obvious this move would involve seeking out new employment. I also understood that as I apply for jobs there will be recruiters/managers conducting their own internet research to gain more information about me. It is a reality of the digital age we live in and within this blog there is a treasure trove of information.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I can’t predict how my words here will influence a hiring decision. For a moment I considered taking the website down. I can’t control how people will view my process or my choices. I am sensitive to the fact that, with healthcare the way it is in the US, my being a cancer survivor can be a factor. I firmly believe it is in my past but understand it can be seen as a liability.

Eventually, I decided to leave it up. Everything I have written here is ME and gives a much better picture of who I am than my technical skills or experience will ever show. Rather than deleting it I am choosing to highlight a few characteristics that are (hopefully) evident in this blog and why I believe they make me a better employee.

1. When life gets tough and unexpected things happen, I choose to grow not complain. I take responsibility for the things I can change and let go of the things I can’t. Even with the best planning development projects are dynamic and it is important to be adaptable, find solutions and continue to move forward.

2. I have the courage to be authentic. I have let go of pretense and pretending to be anything but myself. Life is too short for anything else. This allows me to operate with confidence and offer creative solutions more freely.

3. I connect with people. People with diverse backgrounds, cultures and personalities. I will always attempt to understand, embrace and encourage personal differences which helps me to strengthen cross functional teams. I treat people the way I want to be treated and recognize that everyone has a story to tell.

Thank you for your time and if you are still interested in further discussions I look forward to hearing from you. If you don’t feel that I am a good fit for the position or the company I wish you luck on your employee search.

Sincerely,

Lynnea

 

End of a Season

One thing I have learned to embrace these last few years is…transition. And I am now in

Sea-clogs coming to Seattle

Sea-clogs coming to Seattle

the midst of another major one. After 4.5 years of Dutch living this Seattle girl will be packing up and moving home in September. There are so many things I love and will miss about the Netherlands/Europe but it is time to be closer to family. Expat living can be difficult even under the best of circumstances and I’ve had a few extra challenges. But I would do it all over again. I appreciate the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the lessons I’ve learned and the way I have grown as a person…I am returning to Seattle a very different Lynnea. And I know Seattle has changed too. We will need a period of re-acquainting.

This summer will be a bit of a limbo land as I close things here and anticipate what’s next. (Which I truly have no clue) It is overwhelming. How do you say good bye to a place that has become home and people who have become family? I don’t know…but I have 2.5 months to answer that question. I imagine it will be a mixture of laughter, tears, gratitude for how my life has been profoundly changed and…lots of Belgian beer. :-)

And once I am settled hopefully this video by FStopSeattle inspires you to come visit…it truly is an incredible city.

 

Blessings,

Lynnea

Journey with a tattoo

Well guys…I did it!! And I will admit to feeling extremely excited and damn proud of myself. :-) I’ve decided to make the finished product public to maybe inspire other women to take this particular healing route. I needed stories of brave women before me to help my decision and am proud to do what I can in return. But I have been on quite a roller coaster.

Finished scar cover tattoo

Finished scar cover tattoo

I shared this post last Wed about my decision to cover my mastectomy scar with a tattoo rather than pursue reconstruction. I just re read it and laughed at how confident and determined my words were. They sounded a lot more put together than I felt. In reality I was fighting an active battle against fears that were slowly chipping away at my resolve. I was leaving for Antwerp Thursday morning with my tattoo appointment at 1 pm on Friday afternoon. And…

I did not have a design I was happy with. Not even close. I had gone through a few iterations with my artist…her making a design…me providing feedback and suggestions for how to improve…her making another design…me providing feedback…repeat. The latest design I received on Wednesday REALLY wasn’t it. I just didn’t love it the way I needed to in order to go through with the tattoo. And I had no clue how to fix it.

My heart caught in my throat and I had a moment of panic. What was I doing? Was I pushing too hard? Maybe it isn’t the right moment to move forward with this tattoo. I like the idea but it is a big/PERMANENT decision. Maybe I need more time? Aack…I’m not ready. There is NO WAY I can do this in 36 hours.

Time was evaporating quickly. My plan was to be on the 10 am train. Was this all a big mistake? I had been thinking about this tattoo and planning it for so long…backing out would be extremely disappointing but maybe in a small way it would be relieving…then I wouldn’t have to risk anything. Not having a design would be a good excuse and I could stay safe. I could stay in the known without venturing out into this uncharted (potentially VERY painful) territory. I would never know how tough I could be but I also wouldn’t face the possibility of stopping part way because I couldn’t take it. Maybe I really wasn’t as tough as I thought I was? My mind was spinning.

OK. Stop. Deep breath. Deep breath again. And again.

What do I know?

I know that by the grace of God I have survived an immensely painful season in my life. Doors have opened for this tattoo, with this specific artist, on this specific day in a way that felt divinely orchestrated. So, if God is in this…I need to trust that it will all come together. And just like the emotional pain, by His grace, I could handle the physical pain.

So I packed for Antwerp…and prepared to meet my friend and catch the train in the morning. I TRUSTED. Even though I couldn’t see how all the pieces would come together…I had faith they would. And I guess, for me, that’s what practical faith is. It’s getting on the train and starting the journey. Believing things will work out even when I had no idea how.

Well…you can see by the finished photo that I eventually reached a design I was happy with. I had a little craft time on the train. :-) I brought printouts of the last design I liked (from Tuesday), scissors, glue, my sketch book and pencils. I was prepared to make VERY good use of the 4 hours between Groningen and Antwerp. By the time I got to Amersfoort (2 hours) I had a design I LOVED and would ultimately get. Thank you Jesus!

OK…first hurdle overcome. Next hurdle…convincing myself and my tattoo artist I can actually handle the pain of the process. Gulp.

I know how I looked when I first strolled into Original Sin’s shop for my consultation. I don’t have any tattoos and I had never even been in a tattoo shop before. I don’t know

Tattoo space

Tattoo space

what I was expecting. Yoga studio? Massage parlor? Zen atmosphere. Don’t know. But I’m sure my eyes were wide as I took it all in and tried to play it cool and pretend that my mind wasn’t screaming “What am I doing here?”. It was a bit of a beautiful creative chaos. The space is a big open room with a waiting area immediately when you walk in. Two work desks split the room in the middle and separate the tattooing space from the reception. Designs and drawings were everywhere. Piles on the desk. Pinned to the walls. Taped to mirrors. True to the Original Sin name most of the decor revolved around religious icons. Multiple Jesus statues and pictures on the wall. My artist, Vicky, greets me. She has awesome dread locks with gauged ears, piercings and (obviously) A LOT of tattoos. Her partner was this tough looking guy with a shaved head, spiked collar and a dark black face tattoo that runs down the bridge of his nose and onto his cheek. Again “What am I doing here?” This is so far outside my comfort zone.

But I summon my courage and start to talk to Vicky about my design. She was open to working with me but was managing my expectations from the very beginning. “You’ve never had a tattoo before. You are asking for a big one in a very painful area. I anticipate it taking around 5 hours and we will probably need to take this in stages.” I had absolutely no idea what it would be like. I just said “we’ll see” and booked my appointment.

When I arrived last Friday she was again trying to split up the design. I’m sure she gets naive first timers all the time who come in and ask for something they think they can handle and then fall apart. I was scared but I was also determined. Her suggestion “Maybe we just do the top now and save the trunk for later”. My response “I would like to get it all done today, if possible. I have no idea what I can handle. I’ve been through pain and like to think I’m pretty tough and I’m definitely very determined…I think I can do it.” She’s still not completely convinced but I think she could see my focus…so she gave in.

She printed out the transfer and placed it on my body. Alright…moment of truth. I laid down on the table and she started with the lower part of the trunk on my ribs. It was like an intense, burning, vibration. It hurt A LOT…but not unbearable. I took a deep breath, said a prayer – Jesus you need to do this – and settled in for the next 4 hours. After 5 minutes Vicky looked at me and said “You didn’t flinch or jump when the machine touched your skin. OK I believe you…you’re tough…you can handle pain…you’ll be fine…we will finish this today” And, by God’s grace, we did :-)

I walked out of there a little sore…but EXTREMELY proud of myself. I’m so glad I didn’t let the fears keep me from this awesome experience. I love this piece and it means so much more knowing everything I overcame to get it. I’m not going to lie…I feel pretty BAD ASS now.

Well good for you if you made it this far. Sorry it’s so long…there was just a lot to the story. :-)

Blessings,

Lynnea

Redeeming Scars

Tattoo double mastectomy

News Article: Pink Ink – Tattoos transform mastectomy scars into beauty. Photo credit: Tina Bafaro

Cancer changes you. Physically. Emotionally. It leaves permanent scars. Every woman who faces breast cancer follows a unique path on how to heal from it. I am going to write about MY path. I am not judging anyone else’s choices…but explaining why this was the best route for ME. I also know it’s a bit unconventional and want to share my process. Maybe my words can help someone else make their own personal decision. I couldn’t find much information online for women like me. (P.Ink was the most helpful) Women who don’t want to do reconstruction but also don’t want to leave their scars the way they are. Women who are looking for something a bit different and to create something NEW.

Well…information or not…I am scheduled on Friday for my first tattoo…to use my scar as a canvas for a piece of art.

I am excited. I am nervous. I’ve cleared it with all my doctors. I am ready. Here’s how I got here:

First let me start with…why reconstruction wasn’t for me.

When cancer is discovered and a mastectomy is the recommended treatment most often that breast (or breasts) are fully removed. In Dutch it is called a “Borstamputatie”…literally translated a Breast Amputation. Harsh but true. Typically, a woman is left with a blank space and scar where the breast used to be…so when she begins to think about moving forward a new breast truly is RECONSTRUCTION. There is nothing there. It is not “enhancement”. They need to build a completely new breast and it often involves multiple surgeries with many months of pain.

There are various ways to go about reconstruction and I will just briefly describe the one recommended to me so you get an idea. They suggested a silicone form for the breast…but you can’t just go straight from nothing to silicone…first they need to create a space for it. And that involves Tissue Expanders. Imagine a tire jack slowly lifting a car to create space underneath to change the tire. Tissue expanders work in a similar way. They are periodically filled with a saline solution to increase the volume and create more space for the implant. Women I know have described this feeling as having a rock in their chest they can’t remove and it can be very painful. Since I had radiation, there is a good chance my skin/tissue is so damaged that I couldn’t keep the tissue expander in place and there would be complications. They solve this by taking a thin muscle from my back (Latissimus Dorsi) and wrap it around the front to increase the strength of the area. Then they fill the expander over the course of 6-8 months (or longer) until I’m ready for my exchange surgery where they remove the expander and place the implant. There is always a chance for complications…and the recovery can take some time.

Many women choose the reconstruction route. The trauma of losing something so tied to what it means to be a “woman” is overwhelming.  It can affect self-esteem and confidence. Reconstruction can be healing and a way to reclaim something cancer took. There are many many reasons to choose reconstruction. Again, there is no judgment from me…more power to ya. Go for it!

However for ME…reconstruction is completely unappealing. My journey with cancer was literal as well as metaphorical. I had cancer in my body. I had cancer in my spirit. I had cancer in my marriage. I had no idea. But once it was revealed I have spent the last 2 years carving it out…blasting it with chemo…burning it with radiation…removing it from my life. God has gone to work on my heart and soul and I am a completely different person than I was before I started. I never had the level of grief some women face after a mastectomy. I adjusted quite quickly…probably because with my body type I can hide it well. If you didn’t already know you can’t tell. My entire wardrobe is still available and in general I feel normal. This definitely makes it easier. I also considered the physical recovery and how much I enjoy running and being active. It would be difficult to scale back on those activities and to have a high risk of decreased movement/increased pain in my left arm. I thought through all these things but the biggest reason:

I don’t want to replace what has been removed with something fake…I want to replace it with something NEW…something beautiful.

I believe in a God who will create beauty from ashes…that is moving mountains…that continues to give me HOPE even when I can’t see the path or the end. A God that is writing a redemption story in my life much bigger than this tattoo. I don’t want to go backwards. I am moving into a new future. Pushing into uncharted territory. And for me that journey involves covering my scar with a tattoo.

I can’t see very far down the road but I can see Friday. And this Friday is a VERY big day. I started the design back in March and had a good idea of the direction I wanted to take it. It is a tree (of course) and I’ve attached a couple of my inspiration pieces. I knew I needed to find a very good artist to execute my vision and saw a piece in a magazine from Vicky at Original Sin in Antwerp.  Somehow I knew immediately that she was the right person. (Side Note: I love that this redemption tattoo is being done by a shop called “Original Sin” – I think God has a sense of humor :-)) So I booked the appointment for May 9th. I just looked back in my blogs to try and remember what I was doing on May 9th 2012…and I didn’t realize it when I scheduled it but on May 8th 2012 my life took a nose dive…and this day 2 years ago was very VERY dark. How AWESOME to have this appointment to not only redeem the scar but redeem the day.

So, wish me luck for Friday. Now that I’ve told you I can’t chicken out. It is quite a big piece (~5 hours) in a very sensitive area. I know it will hurt A LOT but I’m ready. I have approached this like everything else on this journey…with a deep breath (or 10) and straight in. This pain will be temporary and I will have a piece of art to last a lifetime. I might need to take it in a couple sessions but we will see how it goes. I’m not sure how brave I’ll be to post an after photo…I will decide when it’s done.

Eek…so excited.

Lynnea

If you are interested in more information on mastectomy tattoos check out the Personal Ink – P.Ink Pinterest page here.

Tree of life pen and ink – by Marcia Carole can be found here

Praise the Lord for “Something Benign”

I wanted to write a quick update since I chose to share about my recent health concerns here.

Too Soon? :-)

Too Soon? :-)

I got my MRI results today and the words that continue to ring in my ears are “it is definitely NOT cancer”. It has been 1 month since my bone scan showed an area of increased activity and an xray confirmed there was definitely something in the bone. They were focused on a part of my hip that had been hurting for over a year but I had dismissed thinking it was tendonitis from running. It was difficult to calm the anxiety during the day and sleep became almost impossible. Cancer patients call it “Scanxiety” because we’ve already been on the receiving end of bad news. Often when we go for scans and wait for results we relive the trauma of the original diagnosis…

the way it felt when the earth dropped out from beneath our feet…

how time seemed like it was moving at warp speed and standing still in the same moment…

how we feel our dreams and plans for the future evaporate in an instant. Not because the disease will ultimately be fatal but because we are forced into an unexpected battle and immediately focus on the near term threat…

how even though we felt perfectly healthy a Dr is telling us we are sick and in the end the treatment will make us sick…

because we know that with this beast of cancer we are never really free.

It became an act of will to keep my mind from constantly wandering through all the scenarios and wondering whether I will re enter an active cancer treatment with chemo and radiation. The 5,000 miles that separate me from my family felt like an insurmountable chasm and at a certain moment the waiting here was too intense that I booked a last minute trip to Seattle. These past few weeks have been overwhelming.

But today my oncologist told me that the results of the MRI were a “Synoviale inclusiecyste” (a certain kind of cyst – this is where the Dutch/English thing can get a bit tricky and I need to do more research). My onc admitted that this was not her area of expertise and proceeded to call some orthopedic surgeons to see what it was exactly and what I should do next. It took a few phone calls and some persistent questions on her part but we reached a level of information I am comfortable with. An orthopedic surgeon looked at the MRI while she was on the phone and also confirmed it was benign and suggested I schedule a consultation with the “hip experts” for how to proceed.

So that is what I will do…in the next few weeks I will meet with a “hip expert” to discuss my options. The most common treatment paths are letting it go and seeing if time will take care of it or surgery. This saga is not over but I am much more comfortable waiting knowing that it is something benign and that it has nothing to do with the breast cancer. Deep breath out.

Someday soon I might be up for cautiously celebrating but right now I just feel like I need a nap.

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

How are you smiling?

Today is Easter Sunday. A day when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and how he defeated the power of evil by rising from the dead. Through his resurrection we have hope for a new life. A new, full abundant life. A life of love and freedom. A life of peace and joy. And it’s not just for the future in heaven but available to us right now…in THIS moment. It’s an awesome day!

A good friend of mine who I haven’t seen in a few weeks came up to me at church and told me I looked fantastic…like I am enjoying life. Laughing. Smiling. I said thank you and

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

we proceeded to catch up for a bit. We talked about life and I told her what has been going on for me the last few weeks. Her next amazed question

“How are you smiling?”

You see what I filled her in on is…my cancer might be back. A few weeks ago my Dr. confirmed there is something in my hip bone and I am currently waiting on the results of an MRI I had last week. I don’t know what it is. I know it is in a place where I feel something like a bruise but it has been more annoying than painful. The last few weeks have been a process of getting scans and waiting…waiting…waiting for results. It could be benign. It could be malignant. I don’t have any answers.

I wasn’t going to go public with this process until I knew more information and could tell a definitive story. Posting information like this makes people concerned and I don’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily.

But I was convicted this morning that I need to share this. Right now. In THIS moment. The moment where everything feels uncertain again. The moment where my tentative future plans are once again abruptly stopped. The moment in the midst of the fear and anxiety BEFORE I know what the path forward is. Because THIS is the moment where I experience the power of Jesus most profoundly.

When my friend told me that I looked fantastic and seemed happy…it’s because I am genuinely good. When she asks “How are you smiling?” I think of Philippians 4:7 which says “and the peace of God which transcends understanding will guard you heart and mind in Christ Jesus”. I can’t explain it. I just know I’m not faking it. There is a peace deep in my soul that can only come from God. I am always a bit hesitant to proclaim this because I know everyone has a different experience of God’s peace and I don’t want to say it always feels like this. I have been through seasons of grief and sorrow where peace was much harder to experience through the pain.

But, right now…for me in this incredibly difficult moment…God’s got me…and I can’t help but smile.

My future in this life is completely uncertain…thanks to Jesus my future after this life is solid.

So…How am I smiling? It’s Easter Sunday…He is RISEN…a better question is How can I keep from smiling?

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

 

Preparation and Expectation

A lesser known fact about me is that my dining table is (almost) always set whether I am planning a dinner party or not. I enjoy it. It is a rotating design feature in my home and keeps my table from collecting mail and other clutter I can’t be bothered to put away. My life, somehow, feels a bit more ordered when it is set.

This is a common dialogue for a first time visitor:

Them: “Are you having people over for dinner?”

Me: “Nope, I don’t have anything planned at the moment. I’m sure I will eventually.”

Confusion…Them: “Then why is your table set?”

Me: “Ummmm…I like it like that.”

Them: “Strange…that seems very American

Me: “Not sure…I think it’s just me.” :-)

Recently, I have been thinking about this a bit more deeply. “Why do I like it set so much?” I’m sure it’s partly due to the creative element. My rockstar mom has made almost all the napkins and table runners for me…so it’s partly feeling like my family is closer than they are.

But mostly it comes down to HOPE and EXPECTATION.

I don’t need to have a dinner party planned to know there will eventually be one. That sometime in the future friends will come over to laugh and share a meal together. I am preparing in advance with an expectation it will happen. And it always does. Sometimes it is my initiative and sometimes it is a spontaneous evening. I never know…but either way I am prepared.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 24 in anticipation of honoring Jesus’ death on Good Friday and celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is one of His final sermons and He is talking to His disciples about the last days…how He will come again in judgement and establish His kingdom on this earth. You can feel the urgency in His words as He compels his disciples to stay alert…to be vigilant and prepared…because no one knows the hour or day He will return in glory…and they don’t want to be caught off guard. There will be trials…they will be persecuted…many people will turn away due to the rampant sin in the world…but those who endure will be saved.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm til the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:12-13 NIV

I confess that I don’t think about Jesus’ return enough. Most of the time I think about how thankful I am that God loved me enough to come to earth and cover my sins with His son’s life. I think about the resurrection and how I no longer need to fear an ultimate death. I think about grace and love…broken chains…redeemed lives. I mentally stop at Easter Sunday…get caught up in the present day and forget that Jesus WILL return. And when He does, will I be prepared? If I live with the EXPECTATION He will return, would my life look different? Would I stay selfish or surrender easier? Would I love more? Forgive more fully? Serve others? Live with more generosity? Build my life on hope even with significant trials?

This Sunday…look beyond the resurrection…will you be prepared?

I wish you all a very blessed holy week. Remember Christ has died…Christ has risen…Christ WILL come again.

Lynnea