Sumaira Flower

Sumaira 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 ;)