December 18, 2014

Salon 10, Newbury Street





When I learned that I'm likely going to lose it all, I became completely devastated and immediately ran to Saks to buy myself a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Naturally, right? #typical - I'm such a girl.

***

This past weekend, I experienced what we call in my world a bit of a "relapse". Despite all the infusions, immunosuppressants & Satan's tic tacs I've been religiously force-feeding myself, my condition does not, under any circumstances, want to stabilize. 

This lead to a conversation about switching my chemo drug to something more powerful and hopefully effective, but not without side effects. The day I'd been having nightmares about since chemo started finally became a reality: I'm going to lose my hair. 

Like any other 25 year old female, I was overwhelmed with many feelings that I don't want to bore you with. However, after I bought my snazzy shoes and had time to absorb the new information, I decided this could be as fun as I make it - I could rock a different hairstyle with radical colors depending on my mood!



Through a friend, I learned about Salon 10 on Newbury Street. I scheduled a consultation with Patricia, the adorable owner with the most gentle demeanor, who has a stellar collection of wigs and routinely works with oncology patients. She is an expert on transitioning patients in and out of hair loss. I'd been dreading this appointment all week for fear that I'd have a mental breakdown but it actually turned out to be a really enjoyable experience. 

Patricia spent and hour and a half with me, taking the time to understand me, my needs, and what I'm comfortable with [and that my friends, would be edgy LOL] She was incredibly informative about styles, color, texture, care etc. She even let my friend try on some wigs for fun! Patricia has also founded a non-profit organization - Wigs for Well-Being which graciously donates wigs to those in need! http://www.wigsforwellbeing.org

I know when its time, things won't be easy but I'm so happy I met Patricia because I'm confident she's going to make one of the most challenging periods of my life as seamless as possible. I'm anticipating days when I'll really miss my hair, but ya know what, it'll grow back and in the interim, I'm going to enjoy sporting all kinds of looks!  Plus, I've heard your hair grows back even more beautifully - something to look forward to next year<3


PS.  I'm not afraid of going bald anymore - You'll find me decked out with an Alexander McQueen scarf delicately wrapped around my head, obnoxiously fab earrings and Ruby Woo lipstick. Ciao xx

**If you or anyone you know is suffering from hair loss due to imminent chemotherapy, please explore your options - there are many insurance plans that will cover a portion of the cost for wigs**


December 10, 2014

Boiling Down Happiness

This week, Earth lost an incredible woman but the heavens gained the most cheerful angel. I dedicate this post to Cheryl Venezia - a beautiful, effervescent, and most importantly, one of the happiest people who I feel lucky to have known and learned from

***


Between undergoing arduous treatments, starting a foundation, my sister's philanthropic trip to Tanzania, and now coping with the tragic death of a friend, these past few months have had me really thinking about what happiness actually equates to. 

My view on happiness has drastically changed. I used to believe my happiness had a direct correlation with how happening my social life was, my designer shoe collection, the number of admirers I had, etc. Gosh, in retrospect, I feel so silly for thinking this way but that's all I knew. Such is life - you live and learn.


Up until recently, I would feel pangs of physical pain in my chest when I'd come across pictures of myself before NMO - it was unbearable and torturous to see. I looked so happy, care-free, and naive; my smile was different then it is now. I'd see those pictures and feel self-pity because that Sumaira was clueless as to what was coming her way. For a long time, I wanted to go back in time and tell my old self to embrace every day because of the unimaginable I was about to face. I wanted to tell myself that I had it so good and to enjoy it because things would never be the same. 

June 29, 2014 - The last day before symptoms presented themselves

Today, I want to go back and tell myself that yes, your life is about to change, you're going to go endure some nightmarish times, things will be difficult, but you're about to board one helluva journey that's going to open doors and amazing opportunities, introduce you to incredible people, and teach you about life, happiness, and whats' truly important. 

I'm a happier person now than I was before I got sick. I'm happy to be alive, walking, and to have one good eye. I'm grateful for my support system who reinforce optimism and happiness. Being able to help others through my foundation brings me inexplicable joy. Jazz and chicken wings (especially together) take me to a very rosy place. Some would argue that it's too bad illness brought me to this outlook but I disagree. Ironically, I'm happy NMO has awakened me and allows me to see things for what they are!

I don't mean to preach but if there's any insight I can pass along it's to make happiness a priority. Live in the moment, be honest, don't waste time, be efficient, laugh hard, love passionately and try to make others feel good while you're at it.

I end this post asking you to take the time to think about 5 things that provide you with priceless happiness. I bet it won't be what your initial thoughts are... xx Flower 

November 27, 2014

Grateful to Feel Thankful

Historically, the holiday season has always been what carolers suggest - the most wonderful time of the year. It's always been a time of travel to be with family, becoming an absolute glutton, gift shopping while sipping on Starbucks' artificially-flavored latte of the season, and attending holiday parties adorned in the glitziest of dresses every weekend. 

I was in deep thought this week during my infusion. I didn't get much work done; just stared out the window fixated, and in a way, fascinated, on how much has changed since last Thanksgiving...

I was 24, healthy (with some extra pounds too!), and in retrospect, so naive. When I think about it, aside from the cookie-cutter bundle of thanks, what was I really thankful for? Don't get me wrong, these are very important to be be grateful for (family, friends, job, good health, etc.) but was that as profound as it got? Yes, it was. Frankly, I was thankful to be wearing Burberry at Thanksgiving dinner. Embarrassing yet accurate. 





It's unfair to say that I was spoiled because I've worked for the little that I have. But, it's so easy to get sucked into this whirlpool of materialism our society promotes that ultimately outweighs what's actually important. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you you choose to look at it, I would've never reached my current mindset if it weren't for my health today. 

As twisted as it may sound, I feel enlightened to be in the place I'm in now. Though my situation isn't ideal and I've had to make a lot of sacrifices (including SBUX lattes) I believe I've gained some perspective. I'm able to appreciate little luxuries that are sometimes never acknowledged. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I'm truly grateful for being able to feel thankful. 

While it's important to be grateful every day, this year I'm especially thankful to have access to modern medicine and to be living in one of the medical hubs of the world. I'm thankful for the strength and resilience that I never knew I had. I'm thankful for growing up and waking up. I feel lucky knowing that I now have a new purpose in life. 

I hope you all have a joyous Thanksgiving with your loved ones - I'll be eating vicariously through all of your snaps on social media so keep em' comin! 
<3 Flower

November 18, 2014

At The Mercy of Medication

I read somewhere that steroids are known as Satan's tic tacs...

Let me give you a short synopsis in case you're stumbling upon my story for the first time. In the summer of 2014, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease - Neuromyelitis Optica [NMO] - that affects the optic nerves and spinal chord. Currently, there is no cure and the cause of the disease is unknown. According to the NIH, 10 out of 1 million people get diagnosed worldwide with 35% of patients getting misdiagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 

I'm writing this post (in efforts to distract myself) while hooked up at an infusion center getting Rituxan pumped into my body. I'll be getting infused for 6 hours, once a week, every week for the next 8 weeks. Tedious, I'm aware. 

I came to a very harsh/sad reality last night - I am at the mercy of my medications. In the last several months, my medications have dictated my appearance, appetite and diet, energy, sleep and social life. I am ultimately controlled by pills and potions... 


I've always been known among my family, friends, colleagues (and even my readers!) for having a vivacious personality. Since childhood, I was that "happy-go-lucky", bubbly one who obnoxiously cackled like a hyena. My presence was felt wherever I went (largely due to the volume at which I operate). But honestly, I don't know where that Sumaira went. One of my biggest fears once I realized I was "sick" was that I would lose myself. My fears are becoming a reality and I know my meds are partially to blame. 


The Rituxan infusions - I can handle. The plasmapheresis - I managed. The lumbar punctures - I survived em'. But these steroids.... they are crushing my soul. If you've ever been on steroids, then you know what I'm talking about (weight gain, voracious appetite, mood swings, etc.) Steroids are legitimately the best/worst things  you could put in your body. While they help you, they harm you. Whether intravenously or orally, I've had 16,680mg of steroids til date - that's A LOT. Thanks to steroids, I've looked like Alvin the Chipmunk and acted like Cruella Deville since July.







Sometimes when I'm alone, I stand in front of the mirror and think "who are you?" I used to be that person who had to look at every mirror that I came across. Now, I can't stand the sight of who I see looking back at me. Same goes for photographs. I used to act, model, and just be a straight up camera whore. The camera and I have shared a very warm relationship since the beginning of time - I just loved being clicked. Now, I dread them. Out of insecurity and embarrassment of what I look like, I hide behind my sunglasses and hair.


Steroids have morphed my face and personality (or lack there of) into someone I don't even recognize anymore. I know this is all temporary and my doctors are doing their best to get me off of steroids as quickly as possible but I'm suffering besides the obvious. At this stage, I just want to see, feel, and look like ME again. 

Staying positive during all of this has been a challenge but a priority. Initially, when I learned about the aggressive treatment plan put in place for me, I was devastated. I viewed it as a prison sentence. But perspective is a powerful tool and I'm changing it. I'm going to look at these infusions as an exfoliation. Each session is a deep cleansing that will get me one step closer to good health in the near future. I'm not perfect and for now, this is the best I can do. I pray every night that once I'm off the steroids and done with infusions, the Sumaira that I've known my whole life comes back because I really miss her. 

Until next time, xoxo. Flower





November 07, 2014

A Tribute to Aishwarya Rai



November 1st marked the 41st birthday of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, former Miss World, Indian film actress, philanthropist, mother & wife, and my role model. I dedicate this post to the woman who's inspired almost my every move thus far - literally! 

Many of you may not know this about me (especially with the saturated posts about my health recently) but I've spent a good chunk of my life chasing the dream of becoming an actress – in particular, a “Bollywood” heroine. From a very early age, I became fascinated with the idea of being a triple threat – an actor, dancer, and singer all in one career. So, at the age of 4, I decided that's exactly what I was going to be. I pursued this career path up until the age of 22 having been classically trained as a Kathak dancer for 15 years, attended an acting institution in Mumbai, featured in 14 foreign language music videos, and took voice lessons for over a decade (dreadful). Most recently, I starred as the female lead in an English-language independent film titled Humble River. Yup...this is basically my best kept secret on my blog; the cat's out of the bag ;)

Back to the premise of the post. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – also globally recognized as the most beautiful woman in the world - was one of the main reasons I really wanted to be a Bollywood actress. She's the epitome of sophistication, versatility and talent. Her name has become synonymous with beauty. Aishwarya's screen presence is unparalleled. Her graceful dance performances have left audiences in complete awe. Over her 20 year career, Aishwarya's been one of the most sought after artists in India, establishing herself as a muse to filmmakers, photographers and fashion designers. To me, she's not just a pretty face – she's a woman I've aspired to be like. She's one of the most influential women of our times - she is India's pride.

Alongside the abundance of praise, Aishwarya's also seen her fair share of negativity from a lot of haters over the years. It's amazing how much scrutiny Mrs. Bachchan faces; people love to pick on her. One of the reasons I admire her so much is because she's mastered handling flack from the media like no other. Seldom has she lost her cool or allowed any unfair criticisms (i.e. post-baby weight) bring her down. 





In celebration of her birthday, I've organized a list of a few of Aishwarya's successes to simply illustrate how amazing she is (and especially to prove her haters wrong!)
  • Won the Miss World crown in 1994
  • Has acted in over 40 films (Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali)
  • Was the 1st Indian to become a Jury Member of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in the early 2000's. She's been an internationally-highlighted attendee at the event since 2002.
  • Appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 2003


  • Became a global brand ambassador for L'oreal Paris in 2003 (she's also had brands like Longines, Pepsi, Fuji, De Beers on her resume)
  • A tulip in the Netherlands was named after Aishwarya's beauty in 2005
  • Featured on popular American shows including Oprah (twice – and even draped a sari on Ms. Winfrey), David Letterman, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America
  • Was interviewed by Sir David Frost in 2012 
  • Her humanitarian work includes being the UN Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, Smile Train, The Eye Bank of India, Polio, to name a few causes...
  • Received the prestigious Padma Shri award from the Indian government
  • Honored by the French government in 2013 with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres)

    After having spent most of my life (up until recently) being obsessed with Bollywood, I've gotta admit that I've completely lost interest. I can't believe these words are coming out of me considering I pursued a career in that industry for years. The majority of films nowadays are produced solely to make money; rarely do they showcase talent. It's become all about "the 100 crore" club and selling to the masses. For the most part, actresses have become mere eye candy. In my opinion, none of the actresses of the current lot come close to Aishwarya's caliber whether it's from a talent standpoint, aesthetics, or general demeanor. Though she hasn't been in a movie in over 4 years, she's managed to remain at the forefront of audiences' minds - now THAT is star power! Plus, which other Bollywood actress (or actor for that matter) say they've done all of the above?


Anyway, I wish Aishwarya the happiest of birthdays and even more success. She's the only celebrity I'd ever cry for if I met and yes, it'd be an absolute frikken dream come true if I did. I'll admit it, she's been my woman crush for 20 years. xx

PS. Here is a link to my “past life” - Enjoy ;)

October 24, 2014

New Plasma, New Me


It was the Thursday before Columbus Day Weekend. I had an early morning flight to New Jersey the next day to spend the weekend with my family. I hadn’t left Boston in a while so I was really looking forward to a change of scenery. Though eager to get out of town, I’d been experiencing increasing anxiety. I knew something wasn’t right; I was seeing black again. A part of me didn’t want to say anything out of fear I’d be sent back to the hospital. Alas, I spoke up. We ran the tests. It was back. I was relapsing. My heart was pounding with fear. I thought I’d been on the mend – WTF?

I was admitted for the 3rd time in 4 months. A 4th MRI and 2nd lumbar puncture was performed. I endured yet another 5 days of IV steroids. To add to my extensive resume, I underwent 4 days of something called “plasmapheresis”. In layman’s terms, a plasmapheresis is the filtration of one’s blood. A central line catheter was implanted on the right side of my chest for easy access to my veins. Lovenox and insulin shots were injected into my belly sometimes multiple times a day. Finally, I was discharged on October 16th with the central line catheter still intact. The next morning, I had my last plasmapheresis treatment as an outpatient followed by the explant of the catheter.   

That was easily the most stressful week of my life. I didn’t even know what to make of it at the time. I was confused, sad, and frightened. Why was this happening to me? I couldn't help but feel so much anger towards my own body for hurting itself without any rhyme or reason. I lost sleep. So many questions were running through my head - Am I going to survive? Will I ever get married and/or have children? What if I can’t dance again let alone walk?


I felt like a prisoner. I kept thinking to myself, “If this is how the rest of my life is going to be, then I don’t want to live like this.” I remember looking over at my mother, who was stressed beyond belief yet trying so hard to reassure me that everything would be okay, feeling guilty for considering euthanasia. I had hit an all-time emotional low. I lost faith in my own body and the quality of my future. I had never felt like this before.

But then, something happened…something visceral. From the moment that catheter was removed from my body, it was as if all the stars aligned. I felt a magical sense of liberation. I left every bit of negativity back at the hospital that day. There isn’t an ounce of fear, anger, or sadness left inside of me. I feel “lighter” and the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m fearless now (actually, that’s a lie – I’m still deathly afraid of mice, rats, and wild turkeys). But that moment was truly miraculous.

Since then, I’ve been on a natural high on life and I’m hoping it lasts. Sure there are going to be challenging days, but I believe that I'll be able to weather through tough times with finesse. Despite everything, I believe now more than ever, that I am blessed. Blessings can arise from unexpected places. I've made a promise to myself that I’m never going to allow my illness dictate my life. I’m striving to live a happy, fruitful life to the best of my ability. And I will get married and become an amazing mother some day. 

With all the cuts and bruises on my body, I look like a war veteran but I feel like a reincarnated baby. I'm not religious by any standards but I've thanked a higher being every night for making me feel the way I've been feeling. I'd rather live a short happy life than a long miserable one. I’m so grateful that happiness was the end product of that nightmarish week. Every day, I’m learning and one thing’s for sure - life can be as beautiful as you allow it to be and I won't have it any other way. xx

PS: Someone passed this quote along to me. The relevancy is so uncanny it gives me the chills!

October 12, 2014

Flower: The Converted Bostonian - 4 Years Later

I may not have children , but I have a blog. This year, my sweet little sunshine turns 4 years old. Damn, we've been through a lot together.

I started my blog in 2010 at Boston University as a senior year project. Never in a million years did I foresee that the role of this blog would evolve in my life the way that it has.

Initially, I started by casually reviewing venues of wining and dining, clubs, and lounges. Then, I upgraded to reviewing places of luxury living (spas &salons), hotels, tales of traveling, uber, you name it. Most recently though, I've found the most satisfaction in writing about life & its many revelations, dating and relationships, and friendships. Oddly enough, I've found myself maturing and learning through my ramblings.



This year in particular, my blog has played a major role in my life both professionally and personally. On the professional front, "Flower..." has opened a blogosphere door to Ms. Taniya Nayak of Restaurant Impossible of HGTV. Additionally, I've been invited to give a lecture to BU public relations students this Fall semester. 

As fruitful as the professional opportunities have been, the personal benefits are beyond priceless. This once silly hobby has turned into a therapeutic and powerful tool in my new initiatives.

Given my recent health occurrences, this blog's given me an outlet to vent and share insights with someone who may benefit from reading it. My blog's presented me with a springboard to make a difference by starting a foundation, developing a meaningful voice, and becoming a symbol of hope regardless of whatever hardship someone is presented with. 

Despite this dismal evening being spent on a hospital bed at MGH feeling like absolute crap, I feel grateful that I have this beautiful channel of communication to unleash information and emotions through. This year, I am not only going to thank my viewers for continuing to support me but I'm specially going to thank my blog for being such a reliable source for me in so many ways over the past few years. I hope to grow with each other even more so and see where life takes us for years to come.


Happy birthday sweet Flower. Xx

October 07, 2014

All Eyes on Beirut Couture


Beirut – the Paris of the Middle East breeding tri-lingual folks, a beachy city only driving distance from ski resorts, and of course, the birthplace of celebrated fashionistas [cough, Mrs. Clooney]. Beirut, for many reasons, is the Middle East’s best kept secret…

I’ve been following designers and their careers ever since I can remember. Though I can’t afford their designs (yet) I love drooling over their collections every season.  As I was Pinterest-ing last night, I came to an interesting conclusion which prompted me to write this post - all three of my favorite designers are from Beirut – giving me one more reason to finally visit this amazing city!

Let’s be real here for a second: generally when people think of Lebanon, I imagine that the first thought isn’t about high fashion. However, this country has given birth to some of the most talented fashion designers of our time - Elie Saab, Reem Acra, and Zuhair Murad.




Elie Saab: Hands down, one of my favorite designers of all time. His designs ooze femininity and sophistication. Oftentimes, Saab seems to remember his roots by adding a hint of the east in his creations. Whether it’s one of his structured taffeta gowns or flowy silhouettes, Saab’s work speaks for itself. Celebrity clients include: Queen Rania of Jordan, Aishwarya Rai, and Halle Berry (styling her for the Academy Awards became a turning point in his career)






Reem Acra is best known for her luxurious line of bridal wear typically ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000+. She expanded her designs to evening gowns in the early 2000’s becoming a regular at the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. Acra’s craftsmanship is evident in the meticulous beading and intricate embroidery of her designs. Celebrity clients include Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Jessica Alba.





Zuhair Murad is on a different level altogether. Every one of his carefully crafted creations is a showstopper. He has a remarkable aptitude for blending elements of eastern and western cultures into his collections. Murad is one of those designers who knows how to keep his admirers on their toes; his collections are simply breathtaking. Celebrity clients include Miley Cyrus, Marion Contilard, and Jennifer Lopez.


While each designer has their unique styles, they share the common denominator of creating universally beautiful pieces with elements of the Middle East. Each designer has a knack for designing gowns tailored to perfection. Saab, Acra, and Murad have established themselves as masters of their craft on an international platform. They’ve been recognized around the world with clients ranging from royalty to Hollywood. Hollywood A listers are continuously sporting all three designers’ gowns on the red carpet and you better believe that I’ll soon be one of them… Until then xx ;)

October 03, 2014

Boston Medical Aesthetics, Downtown Boston




In my opinion, the growing popularity of Groupon/Living Social etc. has led to the devaluation of services frequently featured on the sites. One of the most affected industries is easily the beauty industry. When I worked at a medical spa five years ago, clients didn't flinch once when they learned that a laser hair removal package would cost them well over $6,000. Now, clients don't even want to pay a fraction of that because they can purchase a package for 90% off. This behavior has led businesses to not offer that elevated experience they once used to since most clients are oftentimes "hoppers" and looking for the next best deal. However, this hasn't stopped Boston Medical Aesthetics...


Boston Medical Aesthetics (BMA), located in the heart of Faneuil Hall, is in its own echelon when it comes to service quality and delivery. Owned and operated by nurse practitioner, Jennifer Canesi, BMA offers a wide variety of services from Botox & fillers, laser hair removal, chemical peels/microdermabrasions, Sclerotherapy, and now CoolSculpting.

CoolSculpting is a revolutionary solution that freezes and eliminates unwanted fat cells without surgery or downtime. (Www.coolsculpting.com) BMA is one of the select few practices in the Greater Boston Area offering this state-of-the-art technique of noninvasive weight loss management. Under the direct supervision of esteemed plastic surgeon, Michael Tantillo, Jennifer offers free evaluations to determine whether or not a patient is eligible for CoolSculpting and/or other services.

I highly recommend Boston Medical Aesthetics for many reasons. Jennifer's no-pressure, "non-salesy" approach makes a patient feel comfortable and at ease. She exudes confidence while explaining treatment plans and will never push something on you if she doesn't feel it's necessary. At such a young age, Jennifer has built a loyal clientele who continue to see her because of her expertise, excellent care, and of course her notably kind demeanor. Check out BMA's beautiful new office located at 21 Merchants Row in Faneuil Hall.

September 26, 2014

Zaftigs, Coolidge Corner


I've lived in Boston for 7 years. Every one of those 7 years, I've said to myself “I need to eat at Zaftigs”. There's always a crazy long line even on the coldest of days so naturally I've been intrigued. My curiosity led me to believe that they must have been serving something magical! It was only last weekend when I finally got around to it...

What's my verdict? Well, this joint isn't worth the wait AT ALL! Zaftigs, in my opinion, is a glorified diner and that's being kind. Coming from the divine land of New Jersey, Zaftigs doesn't even come close to some of the diners I grew up around.

Listen, I get the appeal of Zaftigs – it's the only one of its kind in the cute neighborhood of Coolidge Corner where you can munch on potato knishes and omelets all day every day, but it's just not that great. Speaking of potato knishes – actually, I'd rather not go there. Let's just say I'm very disappointed.

All in all, I think Zaftigs is an overpriced, understaffed establishment with an overwhelming menu filled with mediocre food and a ridiculous wait. Would I come here again? Maybe. Would I ever wait 45 minutes to get seated here? Never again. YIKES!