Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A New Journey

Benjamin and I on my last day at DHS

Yesterday I told my husband, " my life, our life,  seems to have just gotten a whole lot more simple or maybe a bit more complicated";-). Either way I am  100% certain I am walking in God's will.

A few months ago a dear friend asked me to lunch. I expected to talk about T. Teal's upcoming Community Care Pack Party or a few other events on the agenda, but quickly learned there was something else on her agenda. Before we got to that, however, I told my friend and staunch T. Teal supporter about the things God had been talking to me about and how He woke me up one night with a very clear nudge, "Tarah have you dedicated T. Teal to me? I know you do this for me, but is it mine?" My reply as I quickly arose startled from what I thought was a dream, "yes Lord it is yours, you can have all of it and I dedicate every care pack, every gas card, every grocery card, every Brave Shave, and every life touched through it to you. It is yours".

As we both pondered over what could've been an insignificant night of sleep, I continued saying " I am not sure what all God is going to do with T. Teal, but it's His do what he chooses". With tear filled eyes my friend leaned across the table and asked, "what would it take for you to do T. Teal full-time?". My first reply, "well probably a salary", and without hesitation she said, "that's exactly what I am asking!".

The tears that started during the story of dedicating T. Teal became a river as I realized the magnitude of this question, and right on time fear struck my heart, along with worry, insecurity, and doubt. I left lunch with the offer on the table, asking for time to figure out finances, insurance, and to pray.

Needless to say there were a lot of prayers sent up, more worry, more doubt, and all mingled in with excitement of the opportunity. Very clearly I asked God what I should do and what was His will, and very clearly I received the answer, signs if you will, to go, this was His doing.

Ben and I scheduled dinner with our friends and with a T. Teal business plan in hand the four of us discussed logistics. We learned these friends felt compelled  to not only front a lot of their own money, but planned to  approach friends and colleagues to create a salary fund for a full-time Executive Director position over the next three years.( I want to be clear! The salary I will be given from "T. Teal" will not come from any donations, T-shirt sales, fundraising etc. The money given by friends and supporters for the salary fund is given as an earmarked donation and kept separately from all other T. Teal accounts).

I am beyond excited for this new adventure and opportunity to expand T. Teal's outreach and impact, however, with this new adventure comes the closing of a significant chapter in my life. Yesterday I walked out of the DHS Child Welfare State Office for the last time. My career and calling for the last 9 years has been with DHS Child Welfare, which was my first job right out of college. I will cherish the lasting friendships I made during my time with the state, and reminisce on stories of the field and the clients I was able to impact during my time there.

So you can see how my life may have gotten a lot simpler, and yet more complicated as I seek to grow the grassroots organization that began during my own fight with Cancer. In closing I must say, I don't go forward in this new journey without fear, but as Joshua 1:9 reminds me, " Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the Lord your God is with you.

Will you pray with me for God's will to continue to be done, and to be with all of us who seek to spread His Light and Hope  to many fighting cancer?

Much Love,


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tenaciously Teal grew from my love of spreading hope and kindness through care packs given to those next to me in the chemo room. However, with significant growth it has been tough to pass out care packs myself, but this morning I was able to return to something I truly love.

 After loading almost 40 care packs into the T. Teal wagon I waited to get on the elevator and head to the chemo infusion room.  As the door opened I locked eyes with an elderly man, in worn overalls, sitting in a wheelchair pushed by his wife. I immediately saw the signs of treatment that weighed heavy on his brow and I asked if he'd just come from chemo. His head turned down as he shook it in defeat, and his wife informed me his platelets were too low to receive treatment. I know the discouragement that comes from being turned away from chemo, and concern that without chemo the cancer may have opportunity to continue growing.

I looked back at this tough looking man whose head now hung in defeat, and noticed he had shed a single tear that was rolling down his cheek. I immediately grabbed a care pack from our wagon, and told him I wanted to give him something. He looked up and when he saw the gift and Bible verse written on the the brown paper sack he began to cry, and the one tear became many as he reached out and took the gift from my hands. He told me he had been fighting lung cancer for three years but it's now in his brain, and still weeping, he said “This is the third year I am not going to get to enjoy Thanksgiving”. 

My heart broke even more for him, so somewhat timidly I asked if I could pray with him. There in the middle of the lobby, in front of the elevators that continued to ding for those waiting, I grabbed his hand, bowed my head, and began to pray for William. I prayed he would have peace, feel God’s strength, be surrounded by angels, feel joy from the Holy Spirit, have an appetite, and enjoy ultimately enjoy Thanksgiving! As I said amen Williams rough hands from seemingly years of hard work squeezed mine tightly and he thanked me through tear filled eyes.  After the prayer he began looking through his care pack and with excitement exclaimed “wow this stuff is fantastic”, and then his wife followed saying, “he will be talking about this the whole way home”!

What is the moral of the story? First, prayer is always the right thing to do when it feels like there is nothing you can do. Second, this Thanksgiving don’t complain about the food, your plans, family, or when something doesn’t go just right. Instead wake up and be thankful for anything and everything, because someone like William is just fighting to survive and has one wish, to enjoy Thanksgiving! 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"Embrace unfairness with an advocate’s heart" by Charlotte Lankard

"“Embrace unfairness” is a phrase I read in a New York Times interview in the business section.  I know people who are doing that in Oklahoma City -- one is a young woman names Tarah Warren and the University of Oklahoma Stephenson Cancer Center Board of Advocates."...

Please click on the link below to read the whole story.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Guest Blogger: Becky Durkin

Author Becky Durkin at the
National Ovarian Cancer Alliance Conference
in her T.Teal tank.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Thirty Years Later  

The title of my book, Chemo on the Rocks: My Great Alaskan Misadventure, pretty much sums up the years leading up to diagnosis, and the aftermath of surviving a brutal disease while living in Ketchikan, Alaska. Humor rules the pages and I’m grateful I was one of the fortunate ones who can call ovarian cancer a footnote to a much longer story.

I’ve never felt comfortable with the survivor label, but today I’m wearing a T-shirt that states that beautifully, in an understated font surrounded by flowers.  I guess after 30 years it’s time to acknowledge that my “survival” is a helluva feat.

I recently exhibited my book at a conference where the main focus was ovarian cancer. The attendees were cancer survivors, spouses, family, friends, physicians, and pharmacological folks. We were provided a pin that says _ xx__ year survivor. I was reluctant to place a number in the blank space, as it was obvious by some flashy headscarves and sporty short hairstyles that some women were in the throes of the fight. There’d been some buzz about the woman who was 30 years post ovarian cancer, who’d had children after chemo.

“Go talk with her, she’s down there, selling her book. It’s amazing.” They weren’t referring to my amazing book. They were referring to my beating heart.

I was unprepared to have a number—apparently a big significant number—be the focus. The budding, and necessary, mini-marketer in me thought I better change the tagline quick, from “misadventure” to “30 year survivor”. These folks were hungry for hope. My very presence was inspiration to them. Some were experiencing cancer for the first time. Some were experiencing multiple recurrences. There I sat looking all pretty with my healthy red hair, with cancer so far behind me, while women hugged and thanked me for giving them confidence that they could beat the malignant monster inside them too. I will be forever humbled by that experience. It’s hard to go there—to be reminded that all I hold dear could never have been realized. To be defined by one number of 30 years, and another do-not-exceed number of 35, which is a cancer antigen blood test indicator of a possible recurrence.

One lovely and spunky woman asked me, “Becky, do you ever forget? Is there ever a day or a time you forget about the cancer?” The simple answer is no. And I don’t want to. It’s a part of me—this illness that has been silent in me for a while. It has jumped out from behind dark corners a few times, thrown my life in a tailspin, demanded CT Scans, and more than my yearly blood test to make sure the number is not over 35.

Cancer could happen again. I suppose the odds are higher, based on my health history, but I will not be defined by a what if, not when I’m having more fun experiencing what’s next.  
I love to laugh—to find humor in the absurd. I experience and often create a lot of absurd, so laughter’s prevailing winds usually keep me safe, and sane. Surviving a major illness, however, does not shield one from foibles for the rest of their life, and like everyone else, I experience headaches, heartaches, and life’s joys and sorrows. In a bizarre way, cancer, while taking so much from me, provided me the ability to be a compassionate, empathetic woman, and sometimes fearless in sharing with others how I feel.  I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? I’m pretty sure that cancer toughened me up enough to fight again, should that be necessary.

I’ll be 54 this week. My body sort of feels the years, but in so many ways I’m still that young woman who took a detour at the age of 24 and is just now realizing her strength. I’ll celebrate in my “survivor” shirt that I bought from the spunky woman at the conference who challenged me to own my survival.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

OKC Yogafest 2015

T. Teal booth, shirts, and
photos of the journey
I was honored when the founder of Yogafest, Christina Forth, approached me about making T. Teal the benefactor of OKC Yogafest 2015. Christina told me that "giving back" is a primary principle of yoga, and so it was important to her that each year the OKC yoga community gave back to a special cause.

Christina and I instantly connected over our love of yoga! My love for yoga runs deep, although I am not the most graceful or well-trained, I believe my yoga practice was one important aspect that supported me in my fight against stage IV Ovarian Cancer. Most days, during my 16 months of treatment, I used yoga to help me mediate, relax, and maintain some strength.

OKC Yogafest 2015, was a great showcase of the principles and practice that guide many in their ability to navigate the stressful circumstances life has to offer. In addition, through the generosity of many and selling our T. Teal shirts we raised more funds to keep spreading hope to patients fighting cancer. Furthermore, many from the community came out to support the cause, grow and increase their practice, and showcase their art. OKC Yogafest had everything from acupuncture, food trucks, classes for all levels,Kidz Yoga Fairy Tent, and many fun vendors. Maybe the best part of OKC Yogafest, however, was the sense of community and acceptance felt by all in attendance. Whether you are just beginning your practice or you've already found the benefits of incorporating yoga into your daily life, there is something for everyone at OKC Yogafest!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Farmers Corporate Care Packing Party

I was very excited when the Farmers Corporate Office invited me to speak at their Women's Inclusion Network event.  I was asked to share my story of battling Stage IV Ovarian Cancer, and how I used such a terrible disease as a catalyst to spread hope to those around me through the non-profit I founded during my treatment, Tenaciously Teal. In addition,  as part of the speaking engagement the Farmers employees hosted a Care Pack Party, and raised almost $1,000 to make over 50 Cancer Care Packs for patients fighting all types of cancer.

Like many, the Farmers employees were astonished to learn how countless individuals are out there fighting such a terrible disease with very little support or financial stability to afford going back and forth to treatment. Furthermore, no matter your socioeconomic status or the amount of friends you have Cancer is tough, and there is a lot of darkness associated with fighting the disease. A Cancer Care Pack gives fighters hope.

The Care Packs made by Farmers contained many things patients need throughout treatment, and each one contained a handmade card with handwritten notes and inspiring quotes. In addition, they all included a gas card for those drives back and forth to treatment. Following the Care Pack Party I had plans to take my grandmother to lunch for her birthday. One of her favorite things to do is to go on our monthly "Care Pack Runs", so I asked if she wanted to deliver some of the packs made at the Farmers event. Without hesitation she jumped on the opportunity with excitement. We were both so glad we went that day, because we came across three individuals in particular who were nearing the end of their fight, and appeared to be struggling. Everyone was overjoyed upon receiving the Care Packs and one individual even cried when they found the gas card saying, "  You have no idea how much I needed this, and what an answer to prayer you are". Finally, we met an 88yro women fighting cancer who had her niece by her side for support. When we gave her the Care Pack and the niece began to cry. She said, " This Care Pack was such a blessing, we were having a pretty tough day". Her aunt followed up by saying, "This token of love means so much. I have had the hardest two days and have been feeling very depressed, but this Care Pack changed everything".

We truly have no idea what our simple acts of kindness mean to others, and how it can change a dark day into a bright one! Thank you Farmers for inviting me to speak at your event, and all your hard work on the Care Pack Party!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why I Should've Shaved My Hair Before it Landed on My Pillow

Thank you Cindy for sharing your hair loss story on our blog in support of our Brave Shave services for anyone facing hair loss to treatment.

 Here's Cindy's story..

Nineteen year ago, I, like so many of you, got the devastating news, " I have Cancer". I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and had an immediate hysterectomy. I was also told by my oncologist that I would go through chemotherapy and I would lose my hair.

I, being a vein women, whom liked her hair, found that to be as big of a loss as hearing the words   "You have Cancer". What would I look like without hair? What would my husband and children think when they saw me? What was this all doing to my life? So many questions raced through my head.

I began chemotherapy, and chose not to cut my hair. After round one, I didn't lose my hair and I thought "this isn't going to happen to me, maybe it won't fall out". After round two I began seeing hair in my brush. It was a Saturday morning and I woke up to a pillow covered with hair. My hairdresser was out of town, and I was devastated.

After many tears and panic, my husband call my sister and she called Anne of Anne's Wig Shop. She was very kind and met met at 8:30 AM to shave my head. As sad as I was there was a huge since of
relief, and now I could concentrate on my health and not my hair.

When I came home my family was sitting there and the first thing they did was rub my head. It was an amazing feeling to know they loved me for me and not my hair.

I wish there had been something like a Tenaciously Teal Brave Shave so many years ago. It would have been comforting to have a party planned by a group that had experienced what I was going through, and had advice for me going forward, which would've been one less thing to worry about.

The gift of a Brave Shave from Tenaciously Teal is something everyone should embrace to give you the freedom to take care of your health. T. Teal you are angels for throwing and sponsoring these parties for those facing hair loss to treatment!

My priest told me something so profound. He said, "take care of your health and focus on getting well and God will give you your hair back when the time is ready".

May each and everyone of you be healthy and live this beautiful life we are given to the fullest. I realized that the blessing of living and fighting to be CANCER FREE is much bigger than our hair.

God's Blessings,


*If you are interested in a Brave Shave email us at tenaciouslyteal@gmail.com. We provide venue, stylist, and appetizers, along with a cool shirt that represents your courage in shaving your head. You can also have your own personal stylist do the honors or we can come to your home. However you want to face hair loss with courage is awesome, we just want to support you!

Check Out a T. Teal Brave Shave Here