When a Spouse Leaves for Work and in a Minute Life Changes….

Where he would rather be.
Rolex TOC 2018 after the practice round

Everyday this happens to so many…in our case my husband, Ken, started his Saturday like any other teaching day. He is a golf instructor. After about 6 hours of lessons he called to see what I wanted for dinner. He was going to stop at Boston Market and pick up dinner. The next call I got from him changed our life paradigm in a way that we never could have anticipated.

Before I move forward, I will step back a moment. In April of 2016 we made a decision that changed our lives dramatically. My mother was taking a turn for the worst after having liver disease for approx 20 years…I had to be closer to my family (all live in NJ). Leaving California…my job of 32 years, selling our home, uprooting my husband and youngest son. I treasure the opportunity that gave me the chance to be with my mom at end of life. Sure wish it had been a different outcome. As she would always say, “It is what it is”.

That phone call; “Lisa, I am having that feeling in my left side again”, Ken said. Presenting what seemed to be a stroke. I was on my way to pick him up, my sister, Sandy (an EMT) was on the line with him. The symptoms passed and he called me and said he was driving himself to the hospital (men). I turned around and met him at the hospital. Being unable to stand upon entering the waiting area a code was called. Ken was rushed into a brain CT. After about 15 minutes we were greeted on a screen by a tel-a-doc neuro specialist. “I don’t see any brain bleeds. So we don’t believe you had a stroke. We do however see a brain tumor”. WHAT?!

That is the exact moment you know life as you know it has changed.

The tests start, hypothesis begin…all you want are answers. But not being our first rodeo (going through my cancer diagnosis 11 years earlier), we know nothing is for sure until after surgery and pathology. Everything else is a guess. Trusting the medical professionals and hoping you make the best choices based on their advice and experience. Only way to roll.

Our sequence of events:

8 Dec 2018: OCM Emergency Room, Head CT, Brain Tumor

9 Dec 2018: OCM MRI’s Transfer to JSUMC, Many more tests. Craniotomy Scheduled. Awesome surgeon discharges you so you can play golf possibly one more time. Just in case. Even more awesome your buddy from Cali flies in to play with you.

Thank you for coming in to golf…sure meant a lot.

17 Dec 2018: JSUMC Craniotomy into ICU…wait for pathology. Post op preliminary diagnosis some type of lymphoma…entire tumor not resected. Protocol for Lymphomas. Also, having a surgeon that chooses not to damage you during the process. Make it through without any deficits. Home in 48 hours and before the Christmas holiday.

20 Dec 2018: Diagnosis – Primary CNS Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma B-Cell of the Brain (Well that sucks)

26 Dec 2018: JSUMC Start MATRIX chemo protocol. At least 6 days in hospital…2 Jan 2019 discharge.

My Reality in all of this…difficult to take on new clients. Doing my best to keep on top of current clients. Managing Ken’s care, medications, appointments and daily needs. While in hospital chemo is happening…making sure he has what he needs…spending 6 – 8 hours a day being at the hospital for him. Missing him at home terribly. The dog misses him too.

Updates as they happen will be posted. Keep the prayers and good thoughts coming!

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Pop-Up Gallery Event 3/5 & 3/6

Pop-Up Gallery

Pop-Up Gallery

Soooo excited to share my 1st, of I hope many, Pop-Up Gallery shows!  Every person who comes to see the show (not just during the reception) will be entered to win a limited edition print..

Life is too short to wait for opportunities to come your way…I have decided to make my own: I have invited 4 other exceptional artists to join me.  Come and support the arts, chat with the artists and enjoy some nosh and refreshments during the reception on Saturday evening.

Jennifer Calderon  Photographer with a unique view of the world and the beautiful way she sees people.

Rigo Iglesias  Naturally talented photorealist sketch artist extraordinaire. He will be sharing some new pieces at this show.

Courtney Tomey  Brilliant young photographer who has the vision of an old sole…her talent far surpasses her age.

Norma Warden  When I saw Norma’s portfolio I was immediately taken with her artistic interpretation making every photo a fine art piece.  She is a seasoned artist with a distinct point of view.

Lisa Lewis  Me, what can I say.  I have been elevating my work to become a fine art photographer.  The journey has been incredible.  This will be the debut of showing my work at a public event.

Come have an ART ATTACK!

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Lisa Lewis Photography

The link to my portfolio, enjoy!

Lisa Lewis 500px Online Gallery

Wait for upcoming POP-UP Art Gallery Show information…


Skylar and his puppy Lakai.

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My Cancer Truths; Breast Reconstruction Choices

My Cancer Truths; Breast Reconstruction Choices

My Breast Cancer Truths; Reconstruction Choices

The first thing every person asks.  Did it hurt? No, it did not hurt because I have no nerve  endings left in many parts of my body. The breasts being one of them.

I would like to start by sharing with you what I see when I look at this photograph, I am sure you see something very different:

  1. The scar left by my chemo port.
  2. The blue dot tattoos that mapped the lazars for my radiation.
  3. The skin discoloration and scarring from radiation.
  4. Beautiful tattoos that make it almost impossible to see the mastectomy scars (before photo at the end) . A pink feather that represents my cancer breast, placed where my nipple used to be.

It never occurred to me to cover up my scars.  I didn’t think that was the point.  I said from day one that I wanted full breast tattoos…sounded more fun than having 3D nipple tattoos or other faux nipple tattoos.  I am an artist at heart and this just appealed to me personally.  (Remember this is my choice and is not for everyone).

The surprisingly shocking truth is that I felt free from the thought of not having nipples the moment I came home and took a good look at my new ink/art.  The feeling that something had been taken away from me melted away in minutes after 7 years of waiting to have this done.

Quick facts: I was diagnosed with Stage 3C  (10 cm of cancer tissue and 28 lymph nodes that had matastisis) Breast Cancer in November 2007, December 2007 I had a left mastectomy with concurrent DIEP breast reconstruction (yes, you read that right,  I had, and knew I would need radiation.  I still had concurrent reconstruction). TAC protocol chemo.  Because I was starting to trend toward problems with my Tamoxifen I choose to have a hysterectomy (they took everything).  I also had my Gallbladder removed.  Four years after my diagnosis I found out I carried the BRACA2 gene.  I have no family history and wasn’t even a candidate for the test.  SURPRISE!  So I opted to have a prophylactic right mastectomy with concurrent dorsi latissimus breast reconstruction. I am currently still on adjunct meds (Tamoxifen) for ten years.

This blog is meant to share the beautiful work of Surgeons Dr. Maggie Dinome and Dr. Tracy Cordray and Tattoo artist Mo Southern. You have choices and I share mine and what is possible when surgeons work together for the best possible outcome for their patient.  Also, do what feels right for you, owning your choices gives you control and the steps to “take back your life”. Grateful to all of them.




After Mastectomy Reconstruction and before my Tattoo's

After Mastectomy Reconstruction and before my Tattoo’s Photo Credit Courtney Tomey

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SCV Relay For Life, May 16 & 17, 2015

me and mom Feb 2008My Donation Page Link:


This year I decided to do something a little different; I know so many of my friends and family also participate in BC & Other Cancer Fundraising. That’s why I am only asking for my friends and family to donate $8 in support of my 8 years of survivorship…It would mean so much to me if you would each show me some love in this way!

In addition I have decided to share my Pathology Diagnosis so you can google and find out just how important my 8 year survival is, to me of course, but mostly to newly diagnosed BC patients. (see the link at the end)

3C BRACA2+ 6 rounds of TAC Protocol Chemo Therapy (all 3 drugs every 3 weeks for 6 rounds), 28 sessions of radiation (6 weeks). Tamoxifen (in my 8th of 10 years that I will be on this drug to reduce recurrence)/ Related Surgeries, L Mastectomy with DIEP concurrent reconstruction; Radical Complete Hysterectomy/Oophorectomy; Prophylactic R Mastectomy with Latissimus Dorsi flap concurrent reconstruction; Port a Cath Insertion and Removal; Gallbladder removed (likely a chemo side effect); The hidden side effects that I will live with the rest of my life, various supplement balancing, Heart issues and the list goes on…..and on!

BC Pathology Report

SURVIVORS = HOPE  Thank you for your support! Lisa

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An Open Letter to My Niece (written with a heavy heart)

I have loved you since the day you were born.  Then I was given the honor of being your Godmother.

Whether near or far, of all my nieces and nephews; I have always tried to make things just a bit more special for you.  That’s what Godmother’s do.

Our family is a tight knit large group.  We have always been there for each other through thick and thin.  Since I was a child our family has run on certain traditions, unspoken rules and high moral values.  From simple things like greeting each other with hugs; showing up for all occasions from birthdays to school events, athletic endeavors and holidays;  To more important life events like college graduations, weddings, babies and life threatening health issues.  These are not always easy choices as you grow and have a more independent life into adulthood. It’s called common courtesy and respect for the people that have raised you.  Your first 20 years, was never just your parents raising you.  The yarn that knits a family together…that keeps a family together.

No family is perfect.  Challenges come up and we do our best to hold up the members that are struggling no matter what that struggle is.

In life there are gardeners and there are flowers.  Your grandmother and grandfather are among the best gardeners in the whole world bar none.  Their empathy and compassion for the human condition cannot be challenged by anyone who knows them.  They give even when it’s a struggle.  There is something they ask in return…to do what’s right.  To be kind, respectful and courteous and continue the family values.

The way you have decided to deal with a life event of your own, has left the entire family heart broken and confused that you have decided to alienate us all. Be disrespectful and selfish to no end.  When the reality is that all any of us want is your happiness.  If you don’t question why the people that have been closest to you, and love you so deeply, are the ones you have put a wall in front of is ok.  I will ask for you?  Why aren’t you seeking their sage advice? Why aren’t you running to us instead of away from us?  Stop hiding behind the concept that people in the family don’t treat Gary the way you would like them too.  You have not done anything to move toward resolution.  Instead you are digging in and trying to place blame and accusations.  Acting like a bratty 10 year old instead of a mature young woman.  Time to learn to see both sides.

Taking on the role of being an adult has responsibilities you seem unwilling or too immature to execute.  These feel like harsh words I know; but they are very true.  They are meant to teach, not to cause pain.  As one of the older members of the family I feel a responsibility to address what the majority are feeling.

No amount of “he said, she said” will bring this situation to a happy resolution.  You instead have to make some very hard choices now;

In making choices remember that it is very important to be able to own them, take responsibility for your role in the situation and stand by them without regret.  Stand firm and don’t waiver. Additionally, understand there are three sides to every story in life; the perception of each person involved, the interpretations of others and the truth (Truth is often unknown and irrelevant because the emotions of perception rule our brains).

If your choice is to burn bridges with the family, remember that rebuilding comes at a very big cost.  Having a family interested enough in your wellbeing and happiness, is a blessing even when it feels like a curse.  Yes, we judge the people you bring into our family.  If we have reservations we ask questions.  If YOU have the conviction that the relationship is exactly what it needs to be; then show us the person you love, who is your friend.  Locking us out causes more walls and questions, not less.  Make us believers too!  Do you have to?  No!  Should you want to? Yes!

For the family that is so hurt and can’t understand your choices;  The hurt they feel is what is lashing out…a lot of strong feelings and words being thrown around.  This is often how love disguises itself when we fear we will lose the person we love!

You use the phrase and believe that “the people that come to the wedding are the people who care and those who don’t come, don’t care”.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  You have made it impossible for me, your godmother, and godfather to be there.  You have chosen to disregard two other major life events that were already set in stone.  And worst of all you have chosen to disregard and disrespect two of the most important people in your life among others.

I wish I was going to be there for what should be one of the many Happiest Days of your life!

This letter has no conclusion…just the hope of family unity! Taylor You Are Loved by this Family.

Nothing is more important than this day. Stay present in your life…Happiness is the Truth!

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Robin Williams….let the smile last forever

Robin Williams…


There have been so many mixed opinions about his death and suicide. I certainly have my own take on this and it is off the beaten path as far as an opinion.

Let me start by saying I am not one of those people who are super fans and will do just about anything to meet or enjoy a person they adore. I do however love finding out about people who intrigue me; either because of their extreme talent or intelligence. Robin Williams has been one of these people in my life. I think I have seen the majority of his movies; Grew up on Mork and Mindy; can’t resist a good talk show or any other interview. There is no favorite movie…the body of work is incredible. My favorite interview, Inside the Actors Studio, Season 7, episode 10 Robin Williams (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IDy5GlUuf8). Love peoples stories.

If you were a fan who knew any of Robin Williams back story…you are grateful that he made it work for 63 years. His personal demons by all rights, could have and should have taken him much sooner. Robin hung in there, continuing to bless us with his craft, his gift. That was a mind that worked faster than anyone I know. I feel joy to have lived in parallel with his life.

It upsets me when people choose to judge something they have no personal knowledge of. Mental illness and drug addiction, these vices and diseases come in a million forms and are different yet the same for people who battle them. I have many friends and family who have and do face these battles and battles they are. They never succeed in winning the war. Whether that means a lifetime of torment and dogged control or taking their own life through suicide or overdose. It is rarely a choice made with a clear mind. Think of being unable to control your thoughts no matter how hard you try. Although frustrating is a word that comes to mind…I would think there has to be a word that far exceeds this feeling. There are people who get a handle on this with help, either stabilizing drugs or great support. That is a long drawn out constant that is hard to maintain. It appears that is what kept him with us for so long.

Although I actually have faced some of these problems myself. I feel fortunate that I have never come to or understand what brings someone to feel so helpless that they could take their own life. What twists and turns the mind must take to get to that place is a total mystery to me. I have however faced situations where my physiology betrays me and controls my thoughts and actions. Predominantly through hormone imbalances I have faced throughout my life. On the other hand I have had to fight so hard for my life that I want to scream out “nothing is worth taking your own life for”. It would be futile in the long term; they want to believe, but their minds betray them. That is why short term solutions and help work for a while. The sad reality is you cannot watch another human being 24/7 to protect them from them-self.

In the press so many have attacked the issue of suicide using words like coward, selfish etc. Also, in Harry Rollins of the LA Weekly’s case calling him out as someone who should have somehow had more control and choose his children over his demons. Here it comes…California girl calling you out Harry. Harry if you think he wouldn’t rather be here as the father his children deserved, you are dead wrong. I say that without reserve. And I don’t know them, but think they probably have a much greater understanding of how difficult being in his world was. I would go so far as to assume they were grateful for their time they had with him. The people close to you, whether admittedly or not, always know the constant suffering.

Being a born artist (not a career but a calling for me). I salute Robin Williams for the amazing life of accomplishment for all of us to have and hold forever. To his family I hope that there are memories to hold you through your lives and remember him as the kind beautiful person he was to the world. Celebrate the Life.

There are people out there that can help: http://www.afsp.org Seek Help Always!

Russell Brand has some unbelievable insight through his personal challenges: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/06/russell-brand-philip-seymour-hoffman-drug-laws; http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahprime/Oprah-Prime-Russell-Brand-and-Heroin-Addiction

In remembrance of my brother-in-law, Jeremy Stamper gone too young! Do you think he wanted to leave these beautiful boys?!


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Turning Point Project by Tibor Deme

This is a project I was photographed for (with my son Sky).  It will be a coffee table book when it’s done.  Click on POST below to get to the Facebook link and the full story!

Me & Skylar

Me & Skylar

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Cancer Truths…from an innocent comment…

…sparks a very emotional point of perspective…
meI no longer see the person I remember pre-cancer.  I believe most survivors FEEL this way with either their outer or inner being or both.  For me personally it’s both.  I have learned to accept what I can not change and rid my thoughts of vanity before life.  Lessons I could have used, about age 16 would have been nice.  When making choices about treatment vanity was never a thought.  That was driven home so many times while talking to people who were deciding what treatment they wanted to have.  When they would ask about nipple sparring or scars or pain; I would pose the question, “Is vanity more important than your life?” The most aggressive treatment to keep recurrence at bay is my sane place.  Choose not to live in the shadow of cancer as a wise doctor once told me.
While taking my beloved pink pat pictures at the SCV Relay for Life a survivor commented to me, “No thank you, I look terrible in pictures”. I convinced her to do it anyway.  After I sent her the photo she said, “See, I told you”.  The following was my response to her. 
“I know this is unsolicited, but, I want to share my perspective on this with you…  Self image as a survivor is not about our outward appearance any longer.  I was a svelte, beautiful woman before my health problems started.  Now all I see is an elephant arm from having 29 lymph nodes removed, bodily scars that make me feel like the Bride of Frankenstein* (to allow me to look “normal” in clothes), a pregnant looking stomach that no one can explain why I have it, no metabolism left after chemo to allow me to shed weight, missing patches of hair in the oddest of places….If these are any of the things you feel; It’s Not what your loved ones See.    They still see and feel our beauty and the strength that got us to survivor-ship, it actually intensifies that beauty to them.
If we succumb to this I realized it would be unfair not to allow myself to be photographed for them…not me.
Allow your inner beauty to shine through your eyes and smile no matter how you are feeling about the facade.  Give them that…they deserve that!”
I owe them that!
This is just the beginning of my Cancer Truths; the things you rarely talk about because you are so grateful to be alive.  And almost only share with other survivors, especially when you find a resolution to deal with it and possibly help others.  What ever it is at that moment.  Don’t ever think we would trade the struggles post treatment for our life.  We have fought so long and hard that it pains us to see people smoke or do just about anything that risks life needlessly.
I value my journey and the ability to share HOPE!
*(important note; the reference to feeling like the Bride of Frankenstein has to do with the amount of surgery’s and scarring and NOT the quality of my reconstruction.  I had the best surgeons ever.  Dr. Maggie Dinome and Dr. Tracy Cordray)
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No Words Properly Explain Who They Are To Me!

Photo by Sandra Iovino, edited Lisa Lewis

Photo by Sandra Iovino, edited my Lisa Lewis

Big Thank you to my Sister Sandy for taking this picture it warms my heart! I am Who I am Because of Them; there are a few missing people. In this photo my mom, Mary Lou, Jeff & Pat Thompson, Phil & Judy Jones, Victor & Beverly Timpanaro, (Aunt) Joan & (Uncle) George Clevenger, Aunt Connie (Johnson), My Dad, Carlo…missing Uncle Charlie and Aunt Rosemary.



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