Truly Julie 3.5 months after brain tumor surgery! What can I say. I’m glad I’m still here. Hope y’all are vicariously dancing with me on my special day. If you need a little motivation…here’s a video of the BEST birthday serenade ever! (courtesy of my BFF and music guru, Michael Thurber!)
Truly Julie jumping around with the “it” Kpop band, Crayon Pop!1) Kpop! If you’re a fan of Korean Pop music (aka Kpop), there are so many chances for you to see your favorite singer/band in-person. There are multiple talent shows where you can be a live audience member. And even if you aren’t a fan, the Kpop phenomenon is just wild to witness. I find it pretty remarkable that a country that’s the size if Indiana has managed to reach so many countries and people with its music. Anyone heard of Psy?!
2) Fresh Seafood! The Noryangin Fish Market is like an aquarium you can eat:) It’s only about 30min from the center of Seoul by subway but the atmosphere feels like a world away. Here, you won’t see the cutting edge fashion types of Seoul, with their designer stilettos or perfectly pale moisturized skin. Instead, you’re greeted by ocean-weathered smiles in galoshes and thick (but charming!) country accents. And if you’re into super fresh seafood, this is your heaven. Think multiple football fields worth of fresh seafood, most of which is still alive! Korea is a peninsula so the catch-of-the-day rarely travels more than 2 hours to get to the market. Once you make your seafood purchase, you can take it to any of the multiple restaurants on site. They’ll prepare your fresh purchase any way you like and you can eat it right then and there. For the true adventurous eater, try the live Nakgi squid (pictured above on the right). Only way to kill it, is to chew it!
3) The Korean film scene! You could actually do this without ever leaving your house! For the last decade, Korea has been experiencing a film renaissance that tackles heavy, taboo topics with an unapologetic fervor. Anyone who saw the original Oldboy knows what I’m talking about! (Trivia: Spike Lee remade Chan-wook Park’s controversial Oldboy last year) I met up with Director Kim Jee-Woon at a trendy cafe in Seoul this past summer and he credits the thriving film scene to 2 things. First, the country’s economic and social progress. Second and more importantly, in the Korean film world the director is the top-of-the-food-chain and the one who calls all the shots, not the movie studios. And congrats to Kim Jee-woon for successfully “crossing over”. In addition to many of his Korean movie hits, he directed “The Last Stand” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Forest Whitaker last year.
4) Food, food and more food! There’s something magical that happens when practically everyone in the whole country is a foodie. I had the most zen eating experience at Sanchon Buddhist restaurant. Tucked away in the touristy antique district, Sanchon redefines vegetarian dining. So delicious! Plus, the ambiance and the presentation of the food are worth writing home about:)5) Friends, Family and the Spectacular Seoul Skyline! Clearly for me, Korea is a very personal place to visit. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 9 years old, so those who had a huge imprint on my childhood are still in my motherland. I’ve known these beautiful people above since I was 4! We were neighbors! During this reunion, we had amazing BBQ pork at a total dive joint and caught up on old times on their rooftop overlooking the skyline. Seoul…always feeds my soul:)
True friendship is when you walk into their house and your WiFi connects automatically. –Unknown (Internet, probably) This quote is so fitting given our beautiful engagement party was thrown at Grail, the soon-to-launch news app will make you better. Big ups to founder Ryan Magnussen for masterminding & for giving us an unforgettable toast:)
There’s your family…and then there’s your “chosen” family. Me and my fiance are incredibly lucky to have both. Thank you to our Venice family for surprising us with the most incredible engagement party. Leif and I have never felt that kind of collective love. I used to think planning a wedding was somewhat tedious and stressful but after this weekend, I get it. Something magical and powerful ignites…when so many people are rooting for your love all under one roof. From friends I’ve had since 5th grade…to friends I’ve sailed around the world with on Semester at Sea…to our college friends…to my Good Day LA peeps…and, of course, our Venice family, the night was a TIDAL WAVE of love, laughter, and a firm belief in our union. And the captain of the ship? One of my dearest friends, Leslie. To know Leslie is to love Leslie. In her sweet, Texas drawl…she tells us she’s throwing a casual get-together…only to practically give us a wedding! Mix in the other Venice angels…Raegan, Farrah, Jenni, Ryan and Josh…the night was everything. Funny enough…this same crew threw me a “Throw This Tumor In The Trash” party. Leif and I are so glad we could give them a better reason to celebrate:) They say marriage is tough…and that it may take a village. We found that village in Venice. In the words of Leslie…love y’all!
Truly Julie returns to TV after, without sounding too dramatic, brain surgery!I’m back! And really, who cares? It’s not like it was brain surgery. Well…actually….(insert sheepish smile)…it was. Thanks to my gracious Good Day LA family, I got to share my incredible journey. If you missed it or you’re one of the folks who has asked, “where have you been for the last two months?”…THIS is what happened. Why I feel like a telenovela star…why I don’t regret having a brain tumor…why I’ve lost half of my vision…why I cry even though I don’t like doing so on TV…it’s all here.
Truly Julie with her…(holy cow, grownup word)…fiancé!
I had the pleasure of catching up with the Good Day LA gang this week. It’s kinda surreal. For weeks my man and I researched the best brain tumor centers around the country. Now…we’re looking for the perfect wedding venue:) Life. It always keeps you guessing. Here’s me gushing about the best man I know.
Truly Julie with a full head of hair at 3 months! 7) I’m grateful my brain tumor has brought my family closer together. We hit a rough patch after my dad passed. He was the glue. However, my health scare reminded us that it’s not worth arguing about things that don’t matter…with people that matter.
8) I’m happy hair grows back. I know it sounds vain and silly…but it was hard having a third of it buzzed. You can’t see a tumor (excluding X-ray). But you can see long locks hitting the floor & you most certainly can hear the loud humming of a shaver. Plus…I’ve always joked that God didn’t give me height but he gave me a lot of hair. Look at my baby picture above…I was born with a full mop! So to lose some of that identity was unsettling. However, that discomfort was short lived. My hair is growing back fast…and luckily, the bald, patchy parts are in the back of my head so it’s easier to conceal. Again…very trivial thing to worry about given the scope of everything. Regardless, I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to re-grow hair.
9) I’m grateful I had the chance to work with Lighthouse International for the years I was in New York. For 5 years, I emceed its scholarship lunch where college students with vision loss accomplished the unthinkable. I’ll never forget the story of one scholarship recipient. She was blind since birth. At a young age, she became a single mom to a down syndrome child. Despite the challenges…she worked hard, excelled at school, and replaced the thought of “disability” with “this ability”. Long story short, she got into a masters program at Yale. There…she married a man who respected and admired her for her differences…and had two more children. We honored her with a scholarship so she can continue her work on developing algorithms that benefit those with vision impairment. I also volunteered at the Lighthouse’s Saturday school…where children with vision loss learned how to cook, use computer programs, play instruments, make arts & crafts, etc. They focused on being handy…not “handicapped”. I share these experiences because I genuinely think the Lighthouse was put in my path to help me through this journey: one of the greatest risks of my surgery was the possibility of losing my vision. Last week…my vision test with my neuro-opthalmologist was a bit discouraging. It’s been almost 5 weeks since my brain tumor surgery, and yet, my right field of vision is still impaired. This picture on the left is a diagram of both of my eyes. The black parts are where I can’t see. Will it get better? Maybe. Maybe not. That is out of my control. What is under my control is how I look at it. I’m grateful that I have any vision at all. I’m blessed that my left field of vision was unimpacted. I’m thankful to have met so many abled folks at the Lighthouse to know…that it’s more important to celebrate what you can do than it is to dwell on what you can’t do. Recognizing this analogy may sound trivial, but here’s how I look at it…you can complain that you have so much laundry to do. Or be thankful that you are in a well enough place to own clothes and to have access to clean water. My vision may be compromised…but I hope my spirit never falters.
10) I’m thankful for having health insurance. My brain surgery cost was equivalent to buying a 4-bedroom home. In the initial stages…it wasn’t clear if I’d be covered. At times…you have to have the procedure first, then file a claim…and only then will you find out what part of your procedure will be covered. So, in addition to the scare of having a clementine size tumor in my brain…I was also fearful of going bankrupt. Not to mention…so many of your choices – doctors, hospitals, prescriptions, pre-op/post-op care – are limited by your insurance plan. For the millions who face this dilemma…I empathize with you on a new level.
11) I’m appreciative for my appetite. I didn’t feel like eating a thing for the week I was in the hospital. And once I could eat…my jaw hurt too much to bite on anything good. I could only open it by a centimeter or so. Since the entry to my tumor was through the back of my head…they had me on my face for the 6 hour surgery. Between that and having a breathing tube wedged into my mouth…my jaw was stiff as a board for weeks. We as a society focus so much on NOT eating. Don’t forget…craving and enjoying food (with balance) is a sign of health. So joyful that my appetite came back just in time for the holidays:) Above is my mom’s Korean New Year’s dumpling soup and cucumber kimchee. Mmmmmmm.
12) I’m beyond grateful for what lies ahead. Remember in my last blog post I talked about how you don’t have to see to have a vision? I can already tell that 2014 is going to be a lot brighter. When someone loves you at your worst…weakest…and without a sure answer of how you’ll be after a major brain operation… it provides clarity like you have 20/20 vision. Good bye, tumor. Hello, new year…new chapter.
Sometimes you just have to get whacked in the face and lose your mind:)
I know I’m going to sound like I lost my mind…and quite frankly, I did just have a clementine size brain tumor removed…but it’s true: I’m grateful this happened to me. Wondering if you have brain cancer for weeks, days of crying in pain in the ICU, not remembering days of events, having to go into the operating room twice, not knowing if and when your vision will fully return…have humbled and transformed me in ways I never imagined. At this very moment, my eyesight is stuck at 65%…but! I’ve never had more clarity on the value and purpose of my life. Henry Wanyoike, a world famous blind marathoner I once interviewed told me: you don’t have to see…to have a vision. Henry, with his earnings from his races, pays the electricity bill for his village in Kenya. Because of Henry…his village can see at night. I could never be as noble as Henry…but I do hope my experience can shed “light” in some way. Where I am now will always be a point of reference for me: Julie pre-tumor…Julie post-tumor. As I sit here patiently waiting to see just how much of my vision returns…I smile thinking about how lucky I am. How fortunate that I took up surfing. How awesome that my board whacked me in the eye leading me to go get a CT scan. How fantastic that the tumor was so large that the radiologists were able to see it through just a face scan…which then prompted a full MRI. And drum roll! I just got the official pathology last week and I’m relieved to report that my tumor was a benign meningioma. I genuinely feel like I have a new lease on life…and with that…my 12 days of Christmas gratitudes.
1) I’m thankful to be alive. As you can see from my X-ray, my tumor was living large (and not paying rent!!). Worst outcome from a tumor of this size is to have a seizure while asleep and never waking up. I’m still here:)
2) My deepest gratitude to the neurosurgery team at UCSF. Dr. Michael McDermott and Dr. Mitch Berger are real life super heros. Despite their world renowned status…they were approachable and accessible. I would’ve been lucky to have just one of them in the operating room…let alone both. And really, I should say three! Dr. Michael Ivan must’ve answered a million of my questions. Thank you for putting my mind at ease…literally.
3) I have a new profound appreciation for all those who work in the medical field. My ICU nurses were everything! Jessie, David, and the others whose names I’m forgetting. Excuse the “brain” fart, but I was on some serious narcotic meds for weeks:) When they relocated me to another part of the hospital, David was kind enough to come visit me to make sure I was getting the best care. Doctors, nurses, technicians, nurse practitioners, etc…THANK YOU FOR THE TRULY IMPORTANT WORK THAT YOU DO.
4) Perhaps one of the greatest blessings of my life is that my tumor decided to be benign. Thank you, tumor.
5) My family, friends, and my man…I owe you everything. During the darkest of times…you provided the light. And a whole lot of laughter! Just a day before my surgery…my cousin’s beautiful daughter, Kiki…was the best medicine to calm my nerves. And my other cousin who runs Cafe Barley in SF along with my aunt made sure I had the most delicious eats before jumping on the Jello hospital diet. And I also had family who welcomed me into their home pre/post surgery in the warmest fashion in SF. THANK YOU for the hilarious dance-off! It was just what I needed before laying in a bed for a week.And perhaps because he knew that my vision will be impacted…or maybe because he wanted me to be at my most zen state…my guy planned a day for me ride horses and to see one of the most stunning sunsets en route to San Francisco. I do think that throughout this whole ordeal…he has had it the toughest. I was knocked out, drugged up, or too weak for the first two weeks to realize what’s going on. He sat there…saw it all…and held my hand. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
In a non-morbid way…I kind of feel like this experience allowed me to attend my own funeral. I heard from friends near and far…old and new…some hopped on planes to give me a hug before the big surgery…my Venice crew threw a “Throw this Tumor in the Trash” BBQ party…the list goes on. Friends, I’m not sure you said all those nice things to me because you thought I was not going to make it…but if that’s the case…please don’t tell me. You made me feel pretty awesome.
6) So grateful for my colleagues (past & present) and YOU! Everyone at FOX 11/Good Day LA has been so supportive. Many of my Good Day peeps made me “care packages” for my journey…not to mention daily (if not hourly) check-in phone calls or texts. And I’ve simply been overwhelmed by the love and concern YOU have shown me. They say outlook is everything…and your constant flow of positive light has been pivotal throughout my healing. One of the most common side effects of brain surgery is depression. I started to feel down 3 days after my surgery…and apparently that’s when my former colleagues Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly talked about my condition on WNWY/Good Day New York. Within seconds, I was flooded with more kind messages. It was just the pick-me-up I needed to dig myself out of what could’ve been a deep, downward spiral. From offering to help pay for my medical costs (so nice of you, but I could never) to warm affirmations to uplifting “come back soon” comments…I read each and every one of your thoughtful remarks. Out of the sea of positive shout outs…I just randomly grabbed this screen shot below. Again, thank you thank you thank you.The rest of my 12 days of Christmas gratitudes will be posted soon…
Truly Julie hungry for more!It’s official. I think Jennifer Lawrence is better than the rolled up $5 I found in the pocket of my jeans this morning. I know, weird comparison…but you know you love it when you find $$ in forgotten places. Jennifer is freaking hilarious! She could have a whole side career as a standup comedian…though, she did win an Oscar so not sure she’d go that route. And she’s pretty humble. You’d never know that she’s the star of one of the biggest movie franchises of her generation. And Josh Hutcherson is kind of like Peta in real life. Such an affable guy. They both hail from Kentucky…so kudos to the blue grass state for producing this refreshingly real duo. See Peta and Katniss in action when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens November 22nd. I saw the screening two weeks ago and if you like high anxiety action flicks..then this Hunger Games will feed your appetite:)
As daring of a person I am…I’m the biggest scaredy cat. I’ll participate in Halloween fun as long as it’s the TREAT part of trick-or-treat. Case in point, costume block party at a friend’s in Manhattan Beach…Skoal! I’m there! Pumpkin decorating brunch…yes, please! Haunted Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood…I’ll pass. Too bad that was not an option. My recent assignment for work was to pretty much to wet my pants…click here(watch the video below the photo gallery) if you wanna see a grown woman (me) crying .
Truly Julie trying to undo the damage of wearing globs of makeup everyday:)It’s easy to like L.A., but it’s impossible not to love the West Side. The ocean, Abbott Kinney, and Nite Spa! Love this little gem that’s no frills, no fuss…but full of botanical goodness. I go to Danielle for facials and Christine for mani/pedi’s. The owner, Julia, has owned this Abbot Kinney staple for more than 10 years…so before Venice was all Gjelina-esque! I haven’t found the fountain of youth…but it’s sure nice to have this boho beauty cottage in the meantime to somewhat slow down the process:)