About Me

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I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin & a best friend. I am a poet, a lawyer & a survivor. I've learned that God will give you a second chance.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

My Story

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 
-  Micah 6:8

Some of you know my story because you were there with me. Some because you came along later and heard me tell it. Some may just be reading about it for the first time. It’s not an unknown story. Many have a similar one. But I feel that my story is one of a miracle that must be shared. And it is a story that continues today, more than 10 years later.

It started in 2007 with a routine physical that referred me to an ultrasound that led me to a surgeon. It was the surgeon who first used the words “breast cancer.” As I lay on the examining table, being prepped for the first of several biopsies, I was surrounded by nurses and technicians who explained what would occur. They were nice, and spoke in calm, routine voices. A medical assistant stood by the table and held my hand. She talked to me as if we were friends. Knowing where I worked, she asked about mutual acquaintances.

I was surrounded by caring strangers, yet I felt disconnected. However, I had a sense of peace and comfort. The words from Psalm 46:10 were brought to mind: “Be still and know that I am God.” And somehow, I knew that everything was going to be alright.

I had surgery in November, followed by four rounds of adjuvant chemotherapy. I then underwent radiation treatment. It was during chemotherapy that I took the California bar exam and participated in my law school graduation. Having completed that major milestone I could not imagine what would come after I finished my treatments, but I knew I had a purpose.

Romans 8:28 speaks directly to what I know is God’s work for my life: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” At the time I hoped that I would pass the bar exam on my first attempt (I did pass the bar exam the second time I took it) and go on to big things in both my career and this story about a woman who had survived breast cancer.

However, while I was undergoing radiation treatments my mother called to tell me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had the privilege of helping her navigate all that meant for her. While our cancers were very different, the trials of understanding the diagnosis and undergoing treatment are daunting. I am happy to report that we are both 10 years cancer-free.

But my story did not end there. In 2013 I became involved with transporting a friend’s mother to cancer treatment. She had a recurrence of breast cancer that had metastasized. Linda became part of my life when I helped take to her Boston for radiation treatments for the tumors on her brain. She became my friend, and we became companions as I routinely took her into Boston for chemotherapy in 2014. She passed away in March, 2015. Her death was a heartbreak like I’ve never experienced before. And yes, I would do it all again.

After Linda’s death I wondered what God would put in front of me. I call it “my next yes.” My experiences in the past three years have taken me in directions I never would have imagined. Upon reflection I realize that God has allowed me to continue to care for others who are dealing with cancer. I will admit that my heart breaks a bit each time a friend reaches out and asks, “Can I call you?” My answer is always yes. Yes you can.

You see, my story isn’t over. It did not end the day I finished treatment. Nor did it end when I reached my 10-year mark and I graduated from oncology. God’s story for my life is more than I could ever have imagined. My story is one of “yes.”  

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Someone Else's Story

When you tell a story about someone else, it is also about you, as the storyteller.” – Stephen Denning, Squirrel, Inc.

I haven’t written in a while.

Well. That’s not true. I’ve written. I just haven’t published.

My time has been limited. My heart has been full.

There have been moments of grief, and moments of anger. But there has also been joy and grace. Oh, so much grace.

There have been tears of anguish, and diagnoses confirmed long after we knew the truth. Along the way, God has poured out His blessings; reminding us of His goodness and mercy.

There is the comfort in belonging, and the newness of adoption.

You see, my life has been full. Full of living. Full of learning. Full of stories that I have yet to tell because they are also someone else’s stories.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

10 Years

On November 29, 2017 I marked the ten-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery. I know that I have shared before that I think of that day as my cancer-free date. Ten years ago I was healing from a lumpectomy and facing a round of chemotherapy followed by radiation treatments. I was also finishing up law school with a graduation date of March 1, 2008. I was reviewing some correspondence to family and friends during that time and thought I’d share a few notes with you.
From November 2007:
“What is most amazing to me is number of people I am sending this to. God has truly blessed me with some tremendous friends. Your love and support is my strength.”
From December 2007:
“I had a call from my surgeon this afternoon. My lymph nodes were clear – no cancer. And she was able to get clean margins. Both of these are excellent news. The diagnosis is officially stage one.”
“We met with the oncologist today. The doctors continue to get good news. As a result of my various pathology reports the recommendation is to still do a series of chemotherapy treatments. However, the treatments will be a total of four treatments, every three weeks (as opposed to eight treatments every other week).”
“My doctor told me I was a remarkable patient because the news is continually better than expected. I know that it is the power of prayer.”
From January 2008:
“Thought I’d share a funny little side effect. I’ve been joking around at work that the chemo has compromised my immune system so my brain isn’t working right. Little did I know that there is a name for it: chemo-brain. Yes, I was reading last night that some chemo patients experience significant short-term memory loss. At least mine is minor enough to not cause too much damage at work.”
From February 2008:
“Wednesday is my third treatment and everything went about the same after treatment #2 as it did after treatment #1. Therefore, I'm pretty confident that I know how things will go. I did buy some hats and am enjoying them. It is kind of fun to pick out a hat to go with today's outfit. I have enough variety to keep it interesting.”
From March 2008:
“Saturday, March 1 was graduation. It was a wonderful and very special ceremony. My classmates are my heroes. We accomplished something truly amazing. We made it through law school and earned our degrees.”
“My update comes as the result of a slight set-back. I was admitted to the hospital Monday night due to a very low white blood count.”
From April 2008:
“I am feeling better. My white blood count is up over 5,000, which is where it should be. My head cold has gone away, though I still have a residual cough. My energy is best in the morning and good in the evenings. I have a “2 p.m. slump” but I think that is normal. I am told that I may begin to feel more fatigue after two or three weeks of radiation treatments. It’s a cumulative effect. However, I’ve been encouraged to do some light exercise; specifically walking (or the treadmill at the gym). Now if we could just get rid of winter.”
“Thank you for taking care of me over these months. Your prayers and love have been my support.”
From May 2008:
“Radiation treatments are routine and there is not much to report.”
“My hair is coming in nicely. I am still self-conscious about the length and the amount of gray so I will keep wearing hats for a while. Now that spring is here (I think) I’ve switched over to my beautiful baseball caps. I have received many complements on my different hats and it is kind of fun to pick out a hat to wear each morning.”
“I hope this finds everyone well. I am thankful for your love, prayers and support. I could not have gotten through this without you.”
November 29, 2008
Dearest Friends & Family –
One year ago, on November 29, I had my surgery for breast cancer. I celebrate today as my one year anniversary of being cancer free. I know I faced other challenges with chemotherapy and radiation over the past winter, by I count those as preventative medicine. I truly believe that I was cancer free as of my surgery. I owe each and every one of you a huge debt of gratitude for your love, prayers and support. I learned that you can get through anything with the love of your friends. I also believe that I received the gift of healing between the time of my diagnosis on November 2 and my surgery. Even my doctors were amazed at my various test results. I know that came from the faith that each one of you carries.
While the past year was filled with challenges and losses, it was also filled with grace, love and many gifts. I am thankful for so many things: my health, passing the bar exam, and my new kitten to name a few. However, love and hope remain the greatest gifts I received. Each one of you expressed your love in a unique way and I treasure each one. I send this with a virtual hug and plan to give you one in person the next time I see you. Please celebrate with me at this time of thanksgiving.
With much love and gratitude, thank you for ten years of life.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bucket List

I want to say “Thank You” to all of you who have supported me over the years. Your encouragement. Your love. Your generosity toward my Avon Walk fundraisers. You may have heard that 2017 was the last year for Avon 39 – The Walk to End Breast Cancer. The email I received indicates that the Avon Foundation will launch a new fundraiser in 2018. I do not know what it is. And I do not know if I’ll participate. Stay tuned.

In April 2011, I participated in my first Avon Walk. A team from law school was formed from in honor and memory of a colleague. During that first walk several of us committed to walking the following year. We did. In Washington, D.C. At some point I made the decision to walk in each of the host cities; a new city each year until I had walked in them all. At the time there were nine walks per year. By the time I walked in Boston there were only seven.

Each year I have walked. Each year I have held a fundraiser. Each year family and friends helped me reach the financial goal necessary for me to participate. Each year was a unique experience. And each year I came closer to fulfilling that item on my bucket list.

This year I walked in my seventh Avon Walk, in city number seven on the list. I was only able to walk the first day due to a knee injury, but I did in fact walk in Santa Barbara. I had accomplished my goal.

I never doubted I would get here; it just seems to have gone so fast.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Seeking Community

Community. What is it, really? According to Merriam-Webster, community is a “unified body of individuals.” The definition goes on to describe community in more detail. One of the characterizations of community relates to fellowship and states that community is social activity. For me, the better definition is “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest, living together.” Though even that definition does not fully define what I am looking for.

When I think about community I am struck by all of the different places where community exists. There is my community at work. In fact, I work at a community college. Community is in the name! The community I find there is one that has the common goal of educating those who come through our doors; traditional and non-traditional students. Beyond education, we are part of the towns in which we have a campus. This community is just as important to us. We are part of them, and they are part of us. We serve a need, which is education. But we also serve the needs of the residents of those towns through partnerships and volunteer opportunities. For us, community is at the core of our mission.

Another community in my life is my friends from the Avon Walk. What started as a group of friends who attended the same law school has turned into a group of friends, their family and their friends. The Avon Walk is what brought us together. It has turned into friends who are family.

My husband and I belong to the Commander Owners Group (COG). A group similar to a car club or a bike club. We have our Commanders in common, but have found there are many deeper bonds. We have been with the group for 15 years. Over that time folks have left, others have joined. Some people we’ve known for over 10 years. Others we met for the first time last year. Some of the bonds will be for a moment in time. Others are deep and will last a lifetime.

There is also our Church. Church is a place where people of a similar faith gather to worship. Church is a community that supports its members through good times and bad. We each bring our own gifts to the community, and can give when needed or as able.

When I look for community in my life I realize I am truly blessed. There are deep riches to be found in each of these communities. At work, when there is a need we rally together to get the job done. If one of our teammates is out, others step in to help fulfill the needs of the office. We care about the college, we care about our students, and beyond that we care about each other. My Avon Walk team and COG friends are extended family. We love and support each other through the good times and the bad. As much as we laugh we are also there to hold each other through the difficulties. And Church has taught me that God’s love knows no boundaries. I have these communities because of His grace in my life.

These communities are God’s gift to me.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

7 x 7

I am training for Avon39 – The Walk to End Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara this year. This is the seventh walk in as many cities. My first walk was Houston in 2011. The Avon Foundation hosts seven walks in seven cities across the U.S. So, in many ways this walk completes an item on my bucket list: to walk in each host city.

In order to participate, each walker must commit to raising a minimum of $1,800. I have managed to accomplish this, and more, each year due to the generous donations of family, friends, classmates, co-workers, and even complete strangers.

In addition to raising money, walkers are encouraged to train. The walk is 39.3 miles over two days. The first day is 26.2 miles (a marathon). The second day is the remaining 13.1 miles. Each year I have committed to walking 13.1 miles each day for a total of 26.2 miles or a marathon.

Reebok® is an official sponsor of the Avon Walk. They publish a training schedule for us to follow, should we so choose. It’s a wonderful guide, but it is not something I have ever followed. Based on the training options, I am considered an “intermediate” fitness level:

  • You currently walk (or do other sustained activity) for 30 minutes or more
  • You can run/walk a 5k distance
  • You exercise regularly 3-4 times per week

The truth is that if I were to follow one of their training schedules, I would have to select the “beginner” level. In looking at the training schedule, it really is all about endurance. Each week you increase your total mileage for the week. I’ve been walking one mile a day for a couple of months now. Recently, I decided to try to increase my weekly total by adding a mile to at least three days a week. I started with 9 training miles per week. Two weeks ago I managed (almost) 11 training miles.

I’ll be honest. While I do try to walk a mile each day, some weeks it just doesn’t happen. Due to obligations that take me away from my daily routine I do not always try to find a way to walk that mile. Conferences are a perfect example. While hotels do have a fitness room, I find that I never pack my sneakers or a t-shirt. My excuse is lack of room in my suitcase. Other times I’m busy with commitments and I don’t build in the time to take that walk.

What I have found is that consistently walking, even a few days a week, has built up my endurance. I find that if I sit too long at my desk I want to get up and move; take a short walk around my building or home. I also find that it is easier to walk that first mile, and the second one is kind of fun. I have a teammate who does her training walks on the weekends. She has been trying to increase her pace. Recently she shared that this week’s training walk “didn’t even hurt.”

And that is the result I am striving for. To walk more each week so that 13.1 miles per day is feasible.

If you would like to support my fundraising efforts, consider a $49 tax-deductible donation ($7 x 7 years).

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Thinking of Maureen

My friend Maureen is an amazing woman. Over the past several months she has publicly shared her journey toward better health through nutrition and exercise. Specifically, she has posted her daily steps as she worked toward 10,000 per day. A feat that I find unobtainable.
Over a year ago I bought a FitBit®. My intention was that by having this gadget I would walk more; move and maybe get some exercise. The little device has shamed me into nothing. All I’ve learned over the past year plus is that 2,100 steps is a mile for me. Some days I walk a lot. Other days not so much. Weekends are the worst. I hardly walk at all.
You see, I’m supposed to be training for the Avon Walk. With the knowledge I have from this clip-on tool, and Maureen’s encouragement, I started intentionally walking during my lunch break. I work on a beautiful campus that has many different paths and opportunities for walking. I haven’t walked every day, but the days that I do I complete a mile. I also live on a beautiful street and have mapped out two, one-mile loops so that if I’m conscientious, I walk a mile before work.
In my neighborhood
Maureen and I grew up in the same small town in Connecticut. She was ahead of me in school, but our lives and our families have been intertwined for decades. A few years ago we reconnected through social media. Since then we have gotten together in person a few times. And we’ve become close friends. Maureen and I have a lot in common. Maybe it’s that small town upbringing. Maybe it’s God’s purposefulness in giving me a confidant and inspiration. Whatever it is, she is someone I can turn to. Because of her, I am on my way to 10,000 steps a day.
(Last week, I walked an additional nine miles. That’s nine miles more than usual. That’s nine miles toward training for a marathon).

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.