Happy International Women’s Day! The most important day (after Christmas and Easter, of course) of the year. It’s a time to celebrate our womanhood, our tremendous strength in numbers and the fact that literally no one would be here without us. We basically run the world.
Kidding aside (not really kidding though we do run the world), I am loving this special day more and more each year. We at Lily celebrate today because in doing business we have gotten to know so many women who are present-day heroes. This year, we are celebrating three women who inspire us with their stories of courage, resilience and hopefulness amidst adversities.
I’d love you to meet Chris Valerio, Daniela Gamboa and Nicole Soriano.
I met Chris through our Valentine’s Day giveaway promotion as she was one of our winners. When the team sent a congratulatory message to her via a direct message on Instagram, we were met with a surprising and heartwarming response:
I was so moved by her response and positivity that it gave me this idea of honoring women for International Women’s Day. I reached out to Chris to learn more about her story. She links me to a Facebook post of hers where she shares her gruelling but character-building journey from being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer to entering the safe zone and being told by all of her doctors that her condition is stable.
She shares five things that kept her going in her journey to complete healing: hope, gratitude, trust, humility and prayer. Chris recounts, “When I first knew of cancer, I didn’t cry. When I knew it was stage 4, that’s when I bawled…I lost my sister and dad…what would make me different?” The same night when they broke the news to her that she had stage 4 cancer, she met a group of women online who were either going through the same thing or have gone through it successfully. She shares, “God must have heard my thoughts, ‘So you don’t have survivor stories eh? Here’s 35.’ Now the group’s close to 50+ and everyone is a survivor.”
Gratitude carried her through her difficulties as well. “I am grateful for prayer warriors…for a wonderful workplace…for well wishes, for elevator doors that open when I’m in a hurry, for traffic signals that go green when I pass, for rivers, for beach trips…for every day I wake up and I’m alive…I am grateful I can even drink water when water can’t pass through my throat last April. How’s that for an eye opener? Every curveball thrown to me was an opportunity to thank God and grow with Him.”
What struck me the most is her change in perspective and her learnings about humility. Chris recalls, “Someone in this journey told me that we lose all of our hair so that we focus more on God and that has stuck to me ever since. In this time of scheduling that hair rebond…taking that selfie, working that overtime – when all has been stripped of you – you only know that there is only God to schedule, plan, book time with, and work for.”
Chris wears Emma in Mother of Pearl
How inspiring it is to hear about a woman go through the toughest time in her life and yet have such a positive outlook in life. It puts having a “bad hair day” into perspective. When we step out of our situation and look at the things to be grateful for instead of focusing on the unfortunate ones, we have a paradigm shift. A notable attitude that we can all learn from this woman of incredible strength and character.
Daniela or Dan is my friend and batch mate from high school. She is also the managing editor of Bride & Breakfast and the Senior Account Manager for their digital marketing company, Catapel. In relation to Lily, she modeled (so effortlessly!) last year for a collection in collaboration with Bonita the Label.
Dan wears Cay in Shell and Lao in Jade
Last October 2018 she was diagnosed with what doctors call Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, which shows symptoms of several autoimmune diseases– Polymyositis, Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Dan explains, “Basically, my immune system went haywire and started attacking my body instead of protecting it, and it was my muscles that suffered from it.”
In a blog post where she shares about her autoimmune disease, she explains her blood test results, which showed extremely high numbers for SGPT, SGOT, Total CPK (SGPT and SGOT – indicators of liver damage when high; CPK – released into the blood when there’s muscle damage).
SGPT Normal: 5 – 55, Results: 254
SGOT Normal: 5 – 34, Results: 682
CPK Normal: 29 – 168, Results: 8,359
The autoimmune disease caused drastic changes in her body. There was a lot of falling hair. She went from 115 lbs to 94 lbs. She recalls, “Since I lost a lot of muscle, standing up was difficult. I couldn’t raise my arms, open cans, unbutton my pants, lift anything, enter a car on my own, go up the stairs. My back would always be painful or uncomfortable; it felt like my spine was on the verge of bending or breaking cause I couldn’t hold myself up well.”
She was hospitalized twice and after being prescribed multiple medicines, none really proved to address the cause, only the symptoms. Her numbers kept going up.
So she and her family decided to take a more holistic approach to her healing. Dan starting eating better and saw a functional doctor. Daily intake of fruits and veggies; no to gluten, sugar, processed food, and dairy (causes of inflammation in the body). When she started watching what she ate, her blood test numbers started going down:
As of December 20, 2018
SGPT Normal: 5 – 55, Results: 302
SGOT Normal: 5 – 34, Results: 387
CPK Normal: 29 – 168, Results: 3,725
She started an even stricter diet last January 2019 and is doing even better. She no longer needs a wheelchair and does basic exercises. She has more energy now and can last a whole day out of the house when before being under the sun for a few minutes was incredibly draining for her.
“Food truly is medicine, and there’s so much to learn about what we take in now that can benefit and harm our body,” Dan says.
In another blog post, she shares important realizations in her path to recovery. My favorite realization of hers was when she talks about opening her heart: “And when I took time to rest and embrace slowness, I realized that there was a lot going on in my head and my heart, a lot of heaviness I was unnecessarily carrying because of pressure and the need to ‘fix’ things and get things done a certain way…But once I lost control, I started to see things in a different light. I started to accept. And things have lightened up one way or another.” I am guilty of being a control freak and hearing this from her coming from a place of humility is inspiring and a good reminder to simply let go of the things you can’t control.
Aside from changing her lifestyle, she had a change in her heart and mind. I believe this to be as crucial in any form of recovery because the body, mind, and heart are indeed one. The body will not fully heal without mending both the mind and the heart.
I am in awe at how Dan has gone through the past few grueling months with such grace and maturity. She is still on her path to full recovery, but her faithfulness and optimism are much stronger than her autoimmune disease.
Nicole is my younger sister who, if you have been following Lily since 2017, has appeared on Lily’s Instagram feed as our muse for that year’s Holiday collection.
Nicole wears Dinah in Ebony
Nicole is a sexual abuse survivor. Not victim – survivor. She is incredibly wise beyond her years. Although she is three years younger than me, I seek advice from her because it is always fair and level-headed.
So when she told me that she will come out with her story on Facebook of when she was sexually assaulted six years ago (only I along with a few of her close friends knew about it), I said go for it. It wasn’t done on a whim; Nicole carefully thought it through and was even encouraged to write by a spiritual mentor.
She is a gifted writer; writing is a form of expression for her. She was silent for six years and this was the only way she imagined that could give her peace in her heart.
Read about Nicole’s story here.
Now she continues to use her skill in writing to spread awareness on sexual abuse and violence against women. A CNN Philippines article recently came out entitled “This exhibit challenges the belief that the way a woman dresses causes assault”. It was written by Nicole.
Her advocacy is to be a voice for abuse victims and to educate people about abuse. She wants to put a name and a face to abuse survivors and to remove the stigma they carry. They don’t have to live in silence, in the shadows. They don’t have to live in shame. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. It was never their fault.
Nicole is a role model of courage and strength and I’m so so proud to call her my sister.
I’ve come to realize that one thing these women have in common is that they did not simply react to the ordeals they were faced with. They took a step back, reflected and consciously decided how they would respond to their situation and the kind of attitude and mindset they were to have. That in itself is power. They did not allow their experience to dictate how they live their life. During the times when they had the least control over their bodies and the course of their life, they had the most control over their minds and hearts.
Each woman also shared about their strong support system that helped them through their hardship. We all do need some loving.
Give your mom a tight hug today. Compliment your colleague on a job well done. Help your little sister or daughter with her homework. Let’s lift her up today and every day.
Apply the discount code ONEWITHWOMEN19 at checkout to receive a 10% discount on orders placed between the 8th and 10th of March.