Monday, May 1, 2017

Papillary Thyroid Cancer: A Reflection


It has been just over four years since I received the phone call from the Doctor that I had Papillary Thyroid Cancer.

That also means that I am four years Cancer-Free and I couldn't be more grateful.  

Just like you, I have lost a lot of people to cancer.  (Not to mention a very special Uncle who died from Papillary Thyroid Cancer.) 
The hash tags #FuckCancer and #CancerSucks couldn't be more appropriate.  None of it is easy and none of it is fun.


And, just like you, I know cancer Survivors who are true-life badass warriors of the best kind. 


Recently, a friend asked me for all of my Blog Posts I wrote during my short stint with cancer so he can share them with a friend.  It took me a minute to not only dig them up, but read them as I dug.  

I mentioned the word GRATITUDE a ton in the posts.  I don't want to mis-represent  the gratitude in alluding that I was glad I had cancer. I had gratitude for finding the cancer in it's earlier but still considered Stage 4 phase.  I had gratitude for the support.  I had gratitude for the wake-up call.

That wake-up call took a couple additional years to finish waking me up.  While I was going through the most intense and challenging moments in my life, people showed up I never expected to be there for me.  People I had always thought would be there totally bailed.  People showed up so they can tell others "I was there for that person during CANCER."  And others showed up because we had that beautiful history of friendship and love for many years.  And I got so caught up in the gratitude for all the support that I forgot the biggest relationship I had to work on:  the relationship with myself.

I kept touching on it during my tumultuous 2013 and follow up of crazy 2014.  I kept getting glimpses of that relationship and how I had let the dying weeds in that garden completely overtake the flowers.  I retracted into a safe cocoon state, trying to sort out what's what and who's who.


I even gave birth to the light of my life--my sweet Daughter, who was born in 2016!

I can say there are more flowers in my garden, now.  Life isn't perfect.  It's messy and insane and stressful and so damn amazing and wonderful.  It is everything.  It is a ride, a journey and we get to enjoy it to the best of our ability.  Life is fleeting, days are long, suffering is a true nightmare that feels like a saga and joy is too sweet and short a bliss that takes flight very quickly. 


 Yet, here we are, in this thing called life, together.  What I say to someone at a coffee shop might impact their day and what they say to someone later as a result might impact THEIR day.  And so it goes, the cycle of affecting and impacting each other.  We wield major power with our thoughts, words and actions towards others and most importantly:  To OURSELVES.  

All I can promise is that I will continue to try to be better tomorrow than I am today.


If you are dealing with Papillary Thyroid Cancer, (Or any cancer!) feel free to reach out!

I bet if you scroll through your phone, you'll find someone out there who can relate to your journey, someone who makes you laugh and someone who makes you feel like the most special-ist person in the whole wide world.  

Find your people and enjoy a smoother ride.

The list of Blog Posts below are in order from beginning to end of my Papillary Thyroid Cancer journey.  I hope you find them helpful, feel free to share and share alike.

Much Love to all of You.




Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I grew up watching people overcome obstacles and doing things that others said they couldn't do.

That's probably where I get my "Yes I Can, Get Out of My Way" attitude.

Every time I have chosen to shift the tide of my life, I have had people who were close to me at the time tell me I "couldn't do it," I "couldn't live without them," I "would be alone," etc. etc.  Does this sound familiar to any of you?  We have ALL had at least one person in our lives who tell us we are crazy and don't believe in our strength.

What those people are glossing us over with is THEIR FEAR.  It literally has nothing to do with us.  If you're quitting an unhealthy lifestyle, your 'friends' will dissipate immediately.  They are no longer comfortable around you.  Again, notice it's about THEM.

And then there are the people who stand beside you, NO MATTER WHAT.  Those are the people to cherish.

In 2013, I had a brief stint of cancer.  (Papillary Thyroid Cancer)

When I went public with it, I got a phone call from a girl who was a "friend" who told me that now I had cancer I would never ever be rid of it.  That for the rest of my life, I would be fighting cancer and
it would come back in at least three other places in my body.  I would never be able to have children
or be healthy or stop living in fear of dying of cancer.  It was a 30-minute barrage of HER experience and fear pouring down on newly diagnosed ME.

Suffice it to say, I almost had a heart attack hearing what the future held for me.  I imagined myself never being healthy again.  She MUST be right, right?  She's the one who's been going through all the health hell, so she MUST know!  Right?

A couple months later, I had an ovarian cancer scare.  My mind went STRAIGHT to that phone call and I thought to myself:  "OH MY GOD SHE WAS RIGHT."  The scare wound up being a wicked, wicked case of endometriosis that was settled in surgery.

Confused, grateful and completely upside down, I set about my life again and tried to figure out what defined me.  I was no longer that same girl I was prior to cancer.  Or was I?  Who knew!  I didn't know, that much was for sure.

I set sail, in my mind, to go in circles by myself and try to get it figured out.  Tons of people fell out of my life, and that was OK.  Nobody knew what to say to the confused and angry girl who had just had cancer and kept looking for more cancer to hit because she was scared and listening to someone else's B.S. fear.

I had several people tell me I couldn't have a healthy baby and I would be lucky to get pregnant at all.  After the age of 35, it's hard enough to get pregnant and after cancer AND 35, all bets were off that I would produce a healthy child.

After a whole ton of work on myself, yoga, therapy, meditation and getting clear about WHO I AM...  My husband and I had the "let's be open to having a baby" conversation.  We decided we would just see if it could naturally occur.

Two months later, I was pregnant.

Nine months later, I gave birth.

Almost eleven months later, I have a sweet (HEALTHY) baby who is currently asleep in her baby carrier, against my chest, as I write this blog post.

I stand in gratitude for my health and for that of my family and know all too well how quickly things change--but I am free of the fear that was embracing my breath for way too long.

Love conquers fear, every day of the week.

Nobody defines our success and failure but us.  Nobody can let fear stick to us but us.  The minute we swallow someone else's fear as our own truth, we are in serious trouble.

Nobody lives in our skin but us.

I have watched people bounce through WAY worse than I have been through and make it through with flying colors.  I have watched people I love as much as breathing lose their battles. 

In the end, it was and always has been on their terms.  Not anyone else's.

Don't forget the word IMPOSSIBLE breaks down:  I'M POSSIBLE.

Remember, as we enter a New Year, the voice we should listen to the most is our own.

Peace, Love, Success and Health to YOU and YOURS this Holiday Season.

Michelle Tomlinson

Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Mama's Breastfeeding Journey

(Note:  I am NOT a Medical Professional, nor am I a Lactation Consultant.  I am a new Mama who's sharing a story to try to help other new Mamas!)

This is not my baby!  But my goodness, what a cutie! :)

Ever since human beings started to populate this earth, breastfeeding has been the most singularly crucial aspect of our survival.  Back in those primal days, there was no Quickie Sip on the corner to pop over and buy some formula.  Yes, there were other factors that obviously affected the human's ability to survive, but without breastfeeding, not a one of us would be here.

As a culture, we have ebbed and flowed with whether it's right to breastfeed past a certain time, breastfeed at all, formula feed only, etc. etc.  The pressure to ONLY breastfeed is astounding!  We all look at each other and judge motherhood in a snap, without taking a LOT of factors into

 We are shamed if we breastfeed in public and then we are shamed if we don't breastfeed in general.   Let's stop with the shaming and start with loving each other and showing a little compassion.

 I remember being about four years old and walking the Plaza in
Santa Fe, NM, with my Mom.  We walked past a woman breastfeeding her baby.  I completely freaked out.  "MOM!!!  WHAT IS THAT WOMAN DOING TO HER BABY!?!?!?"  My Mom laughed at me and explained that she was breastfeeding and further explained to me the importance of breastfeeding and that she had breastfed ME for the first 6 months of my life.  That was the moment that I realized how important and powerful and essential (not in that power hungry gross way) women are to the world.  Yes, we are just as smart and strong and capable as men.  But don't forget:  We have the ability to not only bring life into this world, but we can also sustain it through breastfeeding.  That was a pretty amazing TA-DA moment I had at just four years old...  (Now think about that:  If women weren't shamed for breastfeeding in public in our country, I would have never freaked out.)

When I was pregnant, I spoke to a LOT of Moms.  Everyone had their own birthing story and breastfeeding story.  Some breastfed their kids for a long time, some didn't breastfeed at all.  One of my best friends who breastfed HAD to pump BEFORE feeding, she was so engorged her baby couldn't latch.  Another friend breastfed her baby and he had such a voracious appetite that she had to hybrid (supplement) feed and do partial formula.  Another friend literally couldn't produce milk to save her life.  She would pump and pump and not even half an ounce would come out, so she had to strictly formula feed.  Another friend would breastfeed through the day and formula feed at night, as she felt she was too low on breastmilk when night time arrived.

There are a zillion factors that can affect our breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding can be more challenging after a C-Section, stress on the mother can affect our milk production, an improper latch from the baby can affect our supply, etc. etc.

My breastfeeding story with my Sweet Baby Hope has been filled with challenges.

It started with my birthing story, which was a major whammy.

I REALLY wanted a natural birth!!

I was gushing blood with each contraction and decided to go the way of the epidural.  The poor fella trying to administer the epidural wound up hitting a nerve in my back that was attached to my leg and I jumped out of my skin and screamed.  (It felt like I was hit by lightning on the right side.)  He took out the catheter and then noticed the tip of the catheter was missing.  Either it came out of the package that way or the tip was left in my back.  (Note:  He was beyond apologetic, we took several x-rays the next day and the tip was never found.  IF it is in my body, it is lodged in soft tissue and cannot pop into my bloodstream and travel.)

After that, my blood loss made me too weak to be able to push, so I asked for a C-Section when my Doctor arrived.

Since the epidural had gone south, they had to use general anesthesia on me in order to deliver my baby... Which also meant neither my hubby, my mother or myself was going to get to see Baby Hope come into the world.  Which also meant she and I did not get that moment where she crawls up my belly in search of a breast to start feeding immediately.

 Baby Hope and myself, hours after she was born

After they delivered her, my Doctor had to hunt around for the source of my bleeding and only then discovered I had some random ruptured artery.  Had I pushed to deliver naturally, I wouldn't be here typing this super long blog post.  Sooooooo, THANK GOD I listened to my body.  And if that epidural hadn't broken in my back, I wouldn't have wound up asking for the C-Section.  So for everyone who just went: OHMYGAWD they broke an epidural catheter in her back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am so grateful that happened.  It all worked out and happened for a reason.  And it's OK.  Baby Hope arrived safe and sound and I am still around.

But in terms of breastfeeding, the odds were now STACKED against us.

*General Anesthesia
*Extreme Blood Loss
*Extreme Pain from such an extensive surgery
*Pain Meds
*Baby Hope's tight frenulum (See below!)

I got to hold Baby Hope soon after the ordeal, of course.

I tried breastfeeding at the hospital (5 day stay). We thought I was on track until Baby Hope started to lose a lot more weight than what is normal.  So we had to supplement with some organic formula to get her weight back up and had to pump and pump, trying to get my milk to start flowing.

I thought we had gotten the hang of breastfeeding by the time we left.  I gave her very little formula and her latch felt OK, but I had nothing to compare it to since she's my first baby.

THIS IS NOT BABY HOPE, Image from Internet.
At her first pediatrician appointment, she had lost a bunch of weight again.  At this appointment, the Doctor noticed her frenulum was too attached to her tongue, thus shortening her tongue's ability to REALLY latch properly.  So that was another setback!  (It's also known as being tongue-tied)  I took her to the ever amazing Dr. Raffi Mesrobian (An incredible ENT who had performed my thyroidectomy when I had thyroid cancer in 2013) and he performed a frenectomy on Baby Hope.

(LADIES!  If your baby even MIGHT be having latch issues, definitely get their frenulum checked.  Apparently, it's often overlooked and I would hate for you to turn yourselves inside out when that could be the only thing standing in the way of rockin' breastfeeding.)

I was POSITIVE milk was going to start flowing now!  In fact, it seemed like it had really started to come in.

Throughout all of this crazy ordeal, I was REALLY blessed and lucky that my husband's aunt is a Lactation EXPERT.  Mary-Ann Schmutte has been my biggest saving grace through the whole process and has not only been an incredible source of "what do I do NOW?!?!" but a rock solid cheerleader.  It was thanks to her suggestions that I was producing milk at all!  She introduced me to Fenugreek, Brewer's Yeast, Lactation Tea, Lactation Cookies, and of course to keep pumping as much as I could.  I even went to acupuncture twice.  (No big difference in milk supply happened, but it was a wonderfully relaxing experience!)

My husband has also been a great source of support--the man makes my lactation cookies for me!  The secret ingredient is love, I think.  ;)

I am also grateful, beyond measure, for my Mama having been key in support and cheering me on during my darkest hours of sadness and my Mother-In Law has also been truly wonderful and supportive.  These women rallied behind me and showed constant love and support.  THANK YOU!!!

From Pixar's INSIDE OUT

After a couple months of all of this crazy making  activity and trying, I had to relinquish control of becoming a Mama who solely relied on breastfeeding her baby.  I had cried over it a million times (which doesn't help milk flow, by the way!), felt like a complete loser, was totally frustrated.. you know, feeling every negative emotion one can feel and was reminded that ALL of those things make it harder for milk to flow.

So I let it all go.  By the time Baby Hope was three months old, I accepted that I would have to 'hybrid feed' her by giving her as much breastmilk as possible and supplement with organic formula for the rest of her nutrition.
This is what I use.  There's a million options, seek what's best for you and your baby!

I had to slow my roll and recognize that given the 9,000 obstacles, I was making enough breastmilk to give her really important nutrition and have incredible bonding time with her!  When she's upset or tired, giving her breastmilk sips calms her down and helps her go to sleep.  At night, she and I get to cuddle and sleep together and she feeds off and on through the night on my breasts.

 Who am I to complain about THAT?!  Those are cherished and special moments.

Even more importantly:  BABY HOPE NEVER GAVE UP ON
ME!  She could have chosen to only rely on being bottle fed formula.  But she prefers breastmilk and has never given up on me supplying her with not only the breastmilk, but the cuddles and love that go with our sacred time together.

 To keep my milk supply groovin', here's my daily routine.  Note that it's spread out through the course of the day, not all in one whack.

*Pumping  (Renting a hospital grade pump.)
*9 Fenugreek Pills  (I tried the raw sprouts, but it had the same effect as the pills.)
*6 cups of lactation tea
*3-4 lactation cookies
*8 ml of Motherlove Milk Plus  (Thank you to my cousin Krystal for this gem!)
*Morning Oatmeal with a tablespoon of Brewer's Yeast
*Morning Meditation with my Baby

I officially make enough milk to make my baby a happy girl, but not a full girl.  I am officially at peace with being a hybrid feeder.

What matters the most is our babies feel safe, nurtured and have the necessary nutrition to grow!

If you or anyone you know are having a pickle of a time on your breastfeeding journey, it's OK.  It is OK to do what YOU need to do for you and your baby.  My insane journey comes from my own desire to be a breastfeeding Mama.  It does not come from society's pressure to only breastfeed.

Hope this helps someone out there to think of different ways of helping milk get going or at least be at peace with whatever decision you've come to in regards to breastfeeding.  And may all of our babies be healthy and safe and grow up to be truly quality humans who grace our planet.

In love for healthy babies,

Michelle Tomlinson

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Box Doesn't Exist!

Being an Acting Coach is a really cool gig.  I absolutely love watching Actors grow, fine tune their craft, find their voice and book jobs.  It's literally like watching a flower bloom!

There are a ZILLION ways to accomplish a goal.  If anyone tells you there's only one way, you need to go kick some tires and see what else you come across.  We are all unique.  What works for one person may not work for another.

Back in the "old days" we used to send hundreds and hundreds of postcards a year to Casting Directors, Executives, Directors and Producers.  This was one of the ways we could keep in touch with those beautiful powers that be, market our most current bookings and to gently remind them that we exist.  These people see thousands of Actors a year and we don't want to get lost in the fray!

Things have become more digitized, obviously, and our rockin' Film Industry has become more "green."  (Thank goodness!)

Sometimes, though, sometimes, we can approach something in an old school fashion and still have amazing outcomes.


(I am NOT suggesting we all participate in the killing of forests in order to network with Casting Directors.  There are other options now:  Recycled Paper, Rice Paper, Hemp Paper, etc. etc. if you want to keep in touch via snail mail.)

A good friend of mine still sends Postcards.  He swears they've helped him create stronger relationships with either new Casting Directors or those he has already met and sending Postcards has helped him stay in touch.  He's gotten auditions that were not released on breakdowns as a result of his mailings.

Other Actors swear by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as far as getting to know their target list of offices they want to read for in future auditions.

One of my Acting Clients (who's 9 years old, by the way!) has mastered the art of networking and his last two theatrical bookings were direct offers based on networking with grown-ups at a film festival. 

Here's a really cool story that's hot off the press about one of my 10 year-old clients.

He did extra work on a very popular Kid's Show a couple years ago.  He had so much fun that he wrote the Execs a handwritten Thank-You letter.  They brought him back as a Featured Extra.  He turned around and sent another handwritten Thank-You letter with a fun picture in it of him and one of the kiddos who's a Series Regular.  In the second letter, he also let it be known he could handle it if they gave his character a speaking line.

THEY BROUGHT HIM BACK!  They gave him a speaking line!

As you can imagine, this rad kiddo wrote yet another Thank-You letter. 

You guys.  This week, he is shooting an episode of that show AGAIN, and the ENTIRE EPISODE revolves around his character!! 

His honest and charming notes made a massive impact.  Not only that, but he showed up to those gigs on time, chipper and proved he was really easy to work with from day one. 

If we choose to think outside our box and look at what has worked for us in the past or NOT worked for us in the past, we can carve a better plan for now and for our future. 

We don't have to settle for any one way to accomplish a goal.  If we aim for what feels authentic to us and we pursue everything we do with ferocious love and fearlessness, I bet we all see amazing results.  It's OK if you're scared to change things up.  But remember:  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. 

Have an authentic and fearless week, you beautiful humans!



Monday, January 11, 2016

An Ode To Chile Rose

I have no doubt some of you will think I am off my rocker for writing this post.

And I am totally cool with that!

Anyone who has been over to my pad knows I tend to have at least one or two Betta Fish.  I think they are absolutely beautiful and I love having fresh plants, including Bamboo, thrive in their bowls.  I've always been fortunate to attract Betta Fish that have tons of personality, blow a lot of bubbles, follow my comings and goings and last a relatively long time.  (Shortest was 2 months *horrible!* and longest was over 3 years.)

I always mourn for a minute when one dies, because I respect that they were alive and I hope they enjoyed their journey.  I don't freak out and wear black for a year or anything, but I take the time out of my day to tell them I was happy to be a part of their short life.

This is NOT Chile Rose, but gives you a good idea of what he looked like!

Fast forward to Chile Rose. 

As you might guess by the name, Chile Rose was a red Betta with a lot of sass. 

The last few months have been a wild ride for this little dude of scales.

He suddenly looked like he was dying.  In my experience, when these little guys swell all weird and start swimming sideways, their days are numbered. 

My Mama was visiting and we decided to clean his already fresh water and get rid of a couple plants that were starting to look questionable.

What do you know!  Chile Rose was back to being fully sassy and healed inside of 48 hours.  A full fish turn around.  I'd never seen that before.

Last month, he got this super funky huge swollen eye thing and... you guessed it.  He started swimming sideways again.

OK, I thought... This is it.  There is no way in hell a Betta Fish can turn his little life around TWICE.  I'm pretty psycho about making sure they always have clean water and what not, so I was perplexed about this eye thing.  I decided it couldn't hurt to clean his water again and add some of his special tea tree oil goo AGAIN.  So I did that.  Then I did it again two days later.  On day four, that little bubble blowin' sassy pants was healed.  AGAIN!  What!?

Then a couple weeks ago, he just started to swim a little sideways.  I kept lighting a candle near him, telling him I was lighting it for either his good health or his swift passing and it was up to him to decide.

Yes, people, I KNOW I am talking about a Betta Fish here!  I hold all life precious...

Every day, for the last two weeks, I have gotten up in the morning and checked on him.  More times than not, he'd be floating damn near upside down and I would rub his belly with his bamboo plant roots and he'd start zooming all over his bowl and eat his breakfast.  I would tell him how amazing he was by fighting to stay alive!

This morning, I discovered sweet Chile Rose had indeed crossed over into his little fishie spirit land.  And it's totally OK.  He rocked it out far longer than I thought he was going to and I am glad he's no longer suffering!

I was reminded of a few things, during his last couple months here.

1.  We have to be careful of what we let take root in our lives.  Whether we are harboring ill thoughts towards ourselves or we've let someone else take that role, we can't let that plant take root and poison our water.  It can and will kill us.

2.  We are all worth fighting for.  All of us.  It's worth fighting for our fellow human and our own lives are always worth the fight.  If a teensy little nugget of a Betta Fish can fight the good fight and prove his desire to live, then what the hell is our excuse??

3.   Lastly, every single day counts.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Every breath, every moment, every relationship, every drop of rain and every ray of sun.  It all counts.  We are meant to live with our eyes open.

Sweet Little Chile Rose was a superstar Betta and it'll be a while before I have someone else inhabit his bowl.  He left some big fins to fill.


Michelle Tomlinson

From the naked branches to the grey sky to the sliver of a setting sun... Life is good.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Forever Remembered, With Gratitude.

I love the Holiday Season.

I don't know if it's because it's a slower paced time and allows for deeper reflection or if it's the joy of being able to see my family for longer periods of time and gift them with things they can use or will enjoy...

I love that, as a nation, we are stopped for a minute with the idea of giving Thanks.

However, for a long period of time, the Holidays brought a lot of sad memories with them.  Like you, I've lost a lot of people really close to me.  I dare say I have been to eight times more funerals than I have weddings.  I don't know about you, but loss has never been an easy thing to cope with for me.

There's a lot of marking time that happens.  The first Birthday, Holiday Season, New Year, etc. that goes by without that special someone who passed on there to celebrate with us.  And there's this crazy hole deep within that's impossible to fill with anything or anyone else.  Right?  I know I used to wonder if the entire world had stopped spinning or if it was just my own little personal globe that took a nosedive off it's axis. 

And the days and epiphanies have long since arrived that the world did not stop spinning and it was my own little personal globe that took that nosedive.  I was so upset at the marked time that had gone by and I felt completely alone in my various stages of grief, trying to find my place in the world again.

Then in came the Holidays.  Whoa!  When I was coming out of the darkness of heavy grief, the Holidays took on this whole new weird thing for me.  Was it OK to celebrate the Holidays without all these people that I love?  Was it OK to laugh again and feel lighter in spirit?  Was it OK to enjoy some living again?  Was it equally to OK to still have sadness linger with these new emotions?

I can't pretend I have the answers for anyone in the world, but I did find some for myself.  I discovered that it's OK for me to smile and laugh and enjoy the Holidays again.  I discovered that a smile does not mean that I forget those whom I miss.  I discovered that crying doesn't mean I am weak nor does it mean I am being dramatic.  It's just a way for sadness to work it's way out of my body.

I discovered that there is still a world of living people in it whom I love and love me and that we can rise together and enjoy life a little differently than before.  I discovered that scars don't go away--some of them even stay that fresh light pink that never fully heal, but even that is OK.  The holes in my spirit now have different flowers planted in them, to mark the love I feel vs the time that has gone by.

The bonds we have with those we love are never gone, never lost.  They shift.  The pain we feel when someone is gone is equal to our love for them.  The tremendous pain is the reminder of the tremendous love we have inside that carries us from day to day.  On the darkest or the lightest of days are days that mark the time.  It's how we choose to live those days that marks US.

The Holidays are upon us and for some of us it's the first set of Holidays without a certain someone special we lost recently.  Or it's the fourth year.  Or it's the third year.  Or it's the eighth year.  Or the twentieth-sixth.

This Thanksgiving and Holiday Season, I remain so grateful and thankful that I am capable of so much love for so many people.  I am reminded how much love there is left to give, especially to my baby-who is due in February.  I look around at the amazing and inspiring humans that are still here in my life and I am filled with constant gratitude.  I look at all of my family and friends I have lost over the years and I am so grateful to have had them in my life.  In fact, they never truly left my life, for their memory and spirit live on in all of us who were lucky enough to know them.  Nobody will ever replace a single one of them and I love them all, forever. 

I hope you are able to take a breath this Holiday Season and take the time to feel your own love and carry it through not only through
January 1st, but ever onward.

Happy Holidays, Beautiful People.


Michelle Tomlinson