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.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Angels in Oncology

What can I write about oncology? In so many ways it is unique and individual. I had my first treatment on Wednesday, December 26. The day after Christmas. I could write about that first day; that first treatment. I could write about the preparation and the post-care. I could write about the needle in the back of my left hand and watching the drugs drip into me; waiting to see if there would be an allergic reaction. But all those things are meaningless without the Angels.

My doctor. She is a scientist, a healer, and a compassionate, caring soul. There is supposed to be a professional detachment between doctors and patients. I don’t believe that is possible if a doctor really cares about their profession. No, I don’t go to her house during the holidays and we don’t exchange birthday presents. But through it all I watched as she cared for me and others. She laughed at my jokes and answered our questions. She is personable and knows about my life outside of the doctor’s office. She works hard for her patients and is researching ways to prevent breast cancer recurrence. I am impressed by her willingness to share this part of her life with me.

Lauren. Lauren is a nurse practitioner. I met Lauren while she was still working on her Master’s Degree. I asked her why oncology? She said that she is specifically concerned for women with breast cancer and wanted to focus her career on breast health. She has no personal connection with breast cancer, yet feels called to care for us. She spends her time asking medical history questions, answering concerns that arise, and reassuring the scared and anxious that together, we will get through this.

Elaine. Elaine is a volunteer. She wanders the oncology ward stopping to ask patients if they need anything. She brings crackers, and ginger ale, and ice cream. Over the weeks and my subsequent visits she shares her story with me. She is also a breast cancer survivor. She had all of her treatments right there at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Now she spends every Wednesday as a volunteer; giving back to the hospital that helped save her life. I nicknamed her the Ice Cream Angel.

Myrielle. Myrielle is an oncology nurse. She was the nurse assigned to me. There is very strict protocol when it comes to the handling and administration of chemotherapy drugs so the nurses work in pairs. But Myrielle was the one to prep. me and watch over me to make sure everything was going well. She is also very happy. I asked her once why she was so happy all the time; especially working in oncology. Her response, “Because I am happy and I want to share that happiness with you and the other patients. You need happiness and hope. And at the end of the day I get to go home and count my blessings.” Myrielle is still there and she is still happy.

These are my Angels in oncology. And I am thankful they were sent to me in my time of need.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmastime is Here

The Christmas season makes me a little sad. Five years ago I was in the darkest place imaginable, during a time that is supposed to be filled with happiness and light. I had just had surgery and was finishing my law school studies while recovering. Additionally, I was meeting with my surgeon for post-surgery follow-up and my oncologist to plan my next phase of treatment. I found myself keeping quiet. It was difficult to share with others what was happening to me. I wanted to keep it to myself; get through it all and just move on. When I thought that I could go through chemotherapy without anyone knowing I knew I was in trouble.

My oncologist wanted to start chemotherapy as soon as possible after my surgeon gave the ok. My first treatment was December 26.

So as I reflect on that time in my life I remember the darkness; the feeling of being alone. And yet I was not alone. My husband was by my side every step of the way, keeping silent vigil. I knew in my heart that God had a purpose for all of this. My family, friends, classmates and colleagues rallied in unimaginable ways. I was surrounded by love and devotion.

But Christmas time also brings me great joy. I love the lights, the decorations, the music, and getting together with friends and family.

And I am reminded of another scared and lonely woman facing her darkest hour. Whether Christ’s birth occurred in December or at another time of year, the story is the same. A scared, pregnant woman who faces the darkness of being shunned by family, friends and society. Who has to leave her home due to government regulations and taxation. Yet by her side is the man who is her husband; unfaltering in such a horrible climate. She knows that there is a purpose for her life and in her circumstances. God has promised joy beyond what is happening to her right here and now. She has been granted grace to carry on, knowing that there is a reason for this season in her life.

We all know the story, and we can all relate. Because Mary's story is our story.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

In the Beginning

Some blogs have themes. Some blogs are personal reflection. My blog is a story of healing and hope. The intent is to share my story. Upon reflection, it seems that it is the story of who I am today. However, my history comes through and the purpose is to share it with you in hopes that you find inspiration in the grace that I have been given.
A co-worker of mine believes that it is always best to start at the beginning, so I am going to try that. Over the next several weeks I will share my story of five years ago. Five years is a long time, so I will rely on a journal I kept, my memory and my current reflections of the past. I guess I could say that my story started in October 2007, but really it started before then. I just didn’t know it at the time.
When I was 35 I had a base-line mammogram. Everything seemed alright and I did not have another until the age of 40. At 40, and each following year, I dutifully fulfilled my obligation to have a mammogram. Each year I had a second mammogram followed by an ultrasound only to be told that I had a cyst and should cut down on the caffeine. Until the age of 43. At 43 I started with my annual physical only to have my doctor send me for an ultrasound. The ultrasound resulted in a visit to a surgeon who ordered a mammogram and biopsy. None of it was real. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. Even when the surgeon told me I had breast cancer I said, “No I don’t.”
After those initial appointments my life became a blur. We decided to get a second opinion in Boston. My initial surgeon was supportive and only asked that if I chose a different treatment team to please let her know so that she would not wonder what had happened to me. We decided to go with the Boston team.
There are some things that I have learned, both from the initial diagnosis and treatment, as well as subsequent reflection. It is important:

·         To choose a treatment plan, team and location that is best for you. The last thing you need is additional stress. I have friends who chose their neighborhood hospital and clinic because of their personal relationship with their doctors, as well as the convenience due to family and other obligations. They received the best treatment possible, so you don’t have to travel hours to find the best.

·         Have a Team of doctors. My doctors were all part of a network of hospitals and clinics. As a result, they talked with each other on the phone and they had access to my medical records through the hospital database. They also met together regularly to discuss my case.

·         Remember that you are part of that Team. Ask questions. Give feedback. Make a phone call if something doesn’t seem right.

·         Let others “do” for you. Your friends and family feel helpless. It is important to give them something to do.

·         Embrace love and be open to God. I received blessing upon blessing and continue to see God’s grace in my life through this journey. I truly believe that friends are God’s way of saying “I love you.” (Even strangers provide God’s comfort).
Blessings & Grace to you. Be well.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

30 Days of Thanksgiving

Several of my friends are participating in the 30 days of Thanksgiving postings. I always think it’s a nice idea but never seem to get my act together enough to participate. This year, November is particularly interesting for me. It was five years ago that I was diagnosed with cancer. And five years ago that I had surgery (which is where I mark my cancer-free day). What makes it interesting this year is that the calendar lines up exactly the way it did five years ago. Five years ago, November 2nd was a Friday. Five years ago, November 29th was the Thursday after Thanksgiving. So, it got me thinking about my 30 days of Thanksgiving.

1.     I am thankful for my husband of 26 years. He loves me and stuck by me in our darkest hours. He truly lived “in sickness and in health.”

2.     I am thankful for my family.

3.     I am thankful for my friends.

4.     I am thankful for my colleagues.

5.     I am thankful for my classmates. They stuck by me, helping me finish school and graduate with them.

6.     I am thankful for the administration at my law school. They stood by me and supported my choice to graduate with my class.

7.     I am thankful for my great-niece Kiley, who was born near the end of my treatments and reminded me that life goes on.

8.     I am thankful for my doctors. It is through their dedication and research that I received the best possible treatment for my diagnosis.

9.     I am thankful for my nurses, who held my hand and let me laugh at the ridiculous.

10.  I am thankful for the Angels in Oncology; nurses and volunteers who took time to be with me.

11.  I am thankful for my career.

12.  I am thankful for lasting friendships; both near and far.

13.  I am thankful for my kitties. They make me smile by just being themselves.

14.  I am thankful for my beautiful home.

15.  I am thankful for new friends.

16.  I am thankful for fresh air and sunshine.

17.  I am thankful for music and dance.

18.  I am thankful for my Avon Team. Together, we are in it to end it.

19.  I am thankful for books and the ability to read; whether for learning or escape.

20.  I am thankful for good food and good drink.

21.  I am thankful for my Goddaughter and her sister. Two beautiful young women who are like daughters to us.

22.  I am thankful for my niece who went from being my little girl to being my sister.

23.  I am thankful for my nephew. I am proud of his choice to protect our country in the Army.

24.  I am thankful for my siblings and cousins. You are the best friends I could have.

25.  I am thankful for my parents. (You can blame them).

26.  I am thankful for travel and the ability to see the world.

27.  I am thankful for laughter.

28.  I am thankful for a warm fire on a cold evening.

29.  I am thankful for my past because it has shaped who I am in the present.

30.  And most of all, I am thankful for my health.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Men of Faith

Recently I attended the memorial service of a friend. He was one of my husband’s closest friends and an agnostic. I remember one time, sitting in my living room, listening to him explain that he really didn’t know if there was anything beyond what we have right here and now. His feeling was that this life is it; and then it is over.

As friends gathered at his home I looked around at who had come to pay their respects and show support to his widow and orphan. There is the circle of friends who share the same hobby and are part of our inner circle. The men who live in the area were there. And then there were the ones who came from a distance. Some, a very long distance.

What struck me most about these men is their faith. I looked from my husband to these men and realized they had more than a hobby, an annual vacation, and a friend in common. These are men who know there is a God and live their lives to honor Him. My husband presents as quiet, conservative, and a little reserved. But deep inside, he holds the truths of the Bible close to his heart; living each day with the moral principles that he was taught as a child. He treats his employees, customers, and clients with respect. He does what is right because it is all that he knows.

His friends are the same. I know them through their wives as part of our annual get-together. When they get together they party, and play, and celebrate life. When they give me a hug or ask, “How are you?” they mean it. They are men of honor and integrity. I know that they each shared their faith with him.

I am deeply saddened when I think of what these men lost with the death of their friend. It occurs to me that each one of them had a special friendship with him. And it is that friendship that helped create the relationships I saw that day. God brought him into their lives. But more importantly, this man, this agnostic chose to hang out with these men of faith. And God brought these men of faith into the life of someone with questions.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nature's Antidote

I am affected by the changes in the length of daylight hours. I think most of us are. Some, more than others. This year I became acutely aware of the short “days” around mid-October. Rather than give into my lack of motivation I decided to rake up the leaves from my driveway today. This accomplished several things.

First, I got some exercise. Second, and more importantly, I got some fresh air and a healthy dose of natural sunlight. And the icing on the cake? My driveway no longer looks like a hiking trail in the woods.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When October Goes

October is a long month. Not just because it has 31 days. It is also a month that seems to be filled with events. The best thing to happen in October was seeing my cousins. Another good thing about October is that several childhood friends have birthdays. Thanks to social media we have reconnected and I was able to wish them “Happy Birthday” on their special day.

The end of the month brings sentimental memories of my father. He would have been 76 on October 29. Then there are the life occurrences that disrupt my routine, like doctors’ appointments and a sick cat. Of course the daylight hours are getting shorter and I love sunlight.

This year October brought both an earthquake and hurricane Sandy to our area. We were fortunate here in Massachusetts. Yes, trees came down, tides were extra high and some sections of town are still without electricity. But that is nothing compared with the mid-Atlantic. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all affected.
As much as memories of my father and lack of sunlight make me sad, I still like October. In fact, this is my favorite Barry Manilow song:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What I Choose to Become

"I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung
I have been thinking about victimization lately. A few years ago I bought a box full of pink ribbon pins. I handed some out at work and among my girlfriends. I put some in a bowl that I kept on my desk. As people stopped by, friends, co-workers, and students, they were welcomed to take one (or more).

One day a student came by to meet with me. She asked about the pins and I offered her one. Then she asked, “Are you a victim of breast cancer?” I was both shocked and offended by her question, but I hope my face did not show it. Instead, I quietly asked if she would mind a “teaching moment.” She had the time and settled herself into the chair. (Our financial aid discussion was over).

It was in that moment that I found my answer; the answer for which I had been searching, for myself. There are no victims. There are survivors and there are those who lost their battle. I am not a victim. I refuse to be victimized. I am strong, and stubborn, and determined.

When I learned I would have to undergo chemotherapy treatments I became determined to take the bar exam and graduate with my class even if I were bald. Yes, I did both. When I began to learn more about breast cancer I became determined to share my knowledge with others. As friends and colleagues have begun their own battles with various forms of cancer I became determined to do what I can to fight this disease.

Along the way my determination has blossomed into dedication. As an educator I want to share my knowledge with others. I like to think of sharing opportunities as “teaching moments.” So I dedicate myself to learning, teaching, supporting others, and doing what I can to support organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Avon Foundation. Organizations that do so much by way of support services, treatment, and research.

Yesterday I gave my last pink ribbon pin to a co-worker. She seemed genuinely happy to receive the pin and said she would proudly wear it. She does not know my story; at least not from me. I know the time is coming when I will share that part of my life with her. For now, I need to order some more pins. And I will continue to share with and support others when God puts me in the appropriate situation. I am what I have chosen to become.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The following is the Apostles’ Creed. It is the basis of some Christian denominations’ doctrine. According to the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, it is the basic creed of Reformed churches. I am encouraged when I say these words, and trust that I can recite them with confidence in God’ grace.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

I believe that Christ fulfilled God’s purpose for his life when he was here on Earth. As for anything else that has to do with Christ’s life? Well, I’ll leave that up to God to sort out.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

How To Give A Cat A Pill

Beautiful Maria has been suffering from an intestinal upset. I won’t go into detail except to say that it has been frustrating for all parties involved. The vet said it was stress. Stress? Really? How can she possibly be experiencing stress? She lives in a beautiful home with numerous places to sleep, enough food and water, plenty of toys with which to play, and one lap per cat.

On the last visit to the vet, Maria received a shot and I was given some prescription pills with the instructions to give her half a pill twice a day for 10 days. The ability to give a cat a pill goes something like this:

Maria does seem to be doing better so we are hoping the medication works and all will be back to normal in another five days.


Thursday, October 18, 2012


Chemotherapy is not an easy topic to discuss, let alone write about. I never gave it any thought while I was undergoing treatment. I never thought about what it was doing to my body. I never thought about what it meant to “need” chemotherapy. And I never thought about how my treatments might affect others.

When I was first told I should have chemotherapy I did not think of myself as “needing” it. Rather, I viewed chemotherapy as preventative medicine. I had Stage I cancer which means there was no cancer in my lymph nodes or other parts of my body. So there was no need for chemotherapy to kill cancer or put me into remission. Once I’d had my surgery I was cancer free.

In many ways this is true. I think of my chemotherapy treatments as destroying any “free radicals” just in case the tests missed something and a cancer cell had escaped into my system undetected. But there was more to it than that. Yes, chemotherapy is a treatment to fight systemic cancer and works to put patients into remission. It is also the only known treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. There is no other treatment available (yet) that works to keep the cancer from recurring. Breast cancers that are hormone positive are treated with hormone blockers. Breast cancer that is Her2 positive is treated with Herceptin – a drug that specifically targets the protein that the cancer cell feeds on.

Now that I know more about triple-negative breast cancer I understand the need for chemotherapy. And I remain eternally grateful that I was diagnosed at Stage I. However, the effects of chemotherapy remain with me. I am fortunate enough to have received a newer treatment cocktail with fewer long-term side effects. And I only needed four rounds of the poison.

People are aware of the side effects of chemotherapy. The most obvious one is hair loss. There is also nausea, changes in appetite, water retention, and chemo brain. Maybe you’ve heard of chemo brain. Symptoms of chemo brain include memory loss, trouble paying attention, trouble finding the right word, difficulty with new learning, and difficulty managing daily activities. According to CancerCare® patients “often notice these problems during chemotherapy treatment. Within one year of treatment, many people find these difficulties greatly improved or no longer exist. However, for some people, chemo brain can continue for years following completion of treatment.” Of course, many of these symptoms are synonymous with aging.

When I was undergoing chemotherapy the most striking impairment was my inability to button buttons. I remember standing in my bedroom, dressing for work and having difficulty buttoning my blouse. I felt like I was five years old and learning all over again. I slowly and methodically made myself think and act through the process. Eventually I reached a point during treatment that I gave up trying. I simply asked my husband to button my blouse for me. He never said a word.

Symptoms lasting more than a year after treatment are something that I call an after-effect. I’m not a doctor. I am not medically trained, and I’ve never discussed this directly with any of my doctors. But I am aware of the occasional after-effect that was never there before chemotherapy. While I have surgery scars that are a daily reminder, I can once again button my blouse in the morning without thinking. My hair is long again. The swollen ankles are rare. I still have “trouble finding the right word” and that started at age 43 with chemotherapy. In my case, this particular after-effect is mild and I am fortunate enough to live and work in an environment that has allowed me to learn to compensate. I guess I’m one of those people who “find these difficulties greatly improved,” and in most cases they no longer exist.

However, if you are a cancer survivor and are continuing to experience the after-effects of chemotherapy, I would encourage you to talk with your doctor.

RESOURCE: CancerCare® @ www.cancercare.org

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oscar the Cat - Or Living With Dementia

I recently read Making Rounds With Oscar. The Extraordinary Gift of An Ordinary Cat, by David Dosa, M.D. While the title and cover flap purports that the book is about a cat it is really about dementia. It is a book about living and dying with the disease. It offers insight into how caregivers cope with losing a loved one; not in death but by watching them disappear into their minds. Here are some highlights that I took from the book:

·      Age really has nothing to do with memory, and problems with memory are never normal aging. People assume the two are related because memory problems become more common as we age. Yet memory impairment is always abnormal and should be [evaluated]. 

·         You have to learn to play a role and distract a person with memory impairment. “We could never bring our mother back to our reality. We had to go to hers.”

·         Many doctors don’t consider hospice until the very end because they don’t understand the concept. Hospice care isn’t limited to the end of life. It can be can indispensable resource, a [type] of support. Hospice can provide the necessary custodial care and nursing support needed to keep patients at home.

·         Imagine the anger and irritation of constantly confronting a college-educated [person] who can’t figure out how to button [their] shirt or turn on the television. You would get angry. Unlike a child that is learning, a patient with [dementia] is “unlearning.”

·         A doctor can give you a label but it’s not about that. There’s nothing in the name. You want to know how to deal with the disease; what it’s going to do to you. Ultimately it ceases to be about the name of the disease; it’s about the need to maintain a normal life, to be able to live life fully and in the moment despite the diagnosis.

·         Today there are over 5 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s and hundreds of thousands more with other forms of dementia. The tragedy of dementia is not measured by the number of patients directly affected. For every patient with dementia, there are many more caregivers whose lives will never be the same.
Dr. Dosa & Oscar
My great-grandmother suffered from dementia. Maybe "suffered" is not the right word because I don't recall her suffering. She was quite happy. I can remember visiting her with my cousins and our parents would remind us that Great Grammy may not know who we were. It never seemed to matter to me. I knew she was my Great Grandmother and I loved her. And I knew she loved us; at least she loved having a visit from children. That’s all that really mattered.
A dear friend of mine died of old age at 91, having suffered with dementia in her last years. My greatest joy is that whenever I visited her she knew who I was. She might ask me where I lived, not remembering my home of 20 years but it didn’t matter because she knew my name.
My mother is aging and we are fortunate that she is not dealing with dementia. Yes, even she admits to slowing down and feeling tired, but her mind is sharp, her heart is young, and she remains active in her community. (Plus, she follows my blog, so I have to watch what I write). Seriously, as I write this I think of my mother, and my aunt and uncle. It is important for me to keep these notes in mind as I watch them age.
Love you, Mom!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Strawberry Cake

Family dynamics are an interesting thing. In my family the relationship among the cousins is fierce. Growing up it was just the six of us; my father was an only child and my mother has one sister. Between the two of them there are three boys and three girls. We thought of ourselves as one big family with six siblings. Six kids in eight years. We even have a set of twins! (Though their birthdays are ten weeks apart).

We were inseparable. And while we would squabble among ourselves we would fight to the death if anyone tried to tear us apart. In many ways it was “us against the world.” There are many reasons for this family dynamic and I’m sure not many second generation relationships are so close-knit.
I guess we thought we would always be together. But we grew up and life took us away from each other. Five of us are married. Two have grandchildren. Most of us remained in New England. One moved to Seattle. The last time we were all together was 25 years ago at our Nana Ryerson’s memorial service. Each one of us has a story to tell about events in our lives over the past two decades. Our journeys seemed to take us in different directions but in truth we all made decisions based, in part, on our shared experiences.
This past weekend we had a family reunion. Scotty and his wife came for a visit from Seattle and we gathered together for a Saturday afternoon. (Though one of us could not make it). Scotty and Mark baked chicken, and macaroni and cheese. Cary’s daughter-in-law brought salad and homemade corn muffins. She also made strawberry cake because she knew it was a favorite. We each had a taste; even if it was a bite of someone else’s piece. The flavor took us back to the memories of what bind us together so tightly.
We are now the ages that are parents were when we were graduating from high school, going off to college, and becoming young adults. Before the reunion we agreed among ourselves that the weekend would be about us; the here and now. It would be about six cousins who share a strong bond. We have all learned to live in the moment. Yes, we discussed the aging of our parents and we did some reminiscing with the Aunts and Uncle. But mostly we focused on us. Who are we now? What is life like now? Why do we follow our particular passions? The connections are still strong and we easily fell back into the comfortable family dynamics.
What I discovered was that we are still devoted to each other and will give anything in the world to be together. Our relationship is still fierce. But now it is not about survival. It is about peace and serenity. And strawberry cake.

L-R: Mark, Priscilla, Scotty, Heather & Cary Sue

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Today's Smile

I love to laugh. And I love to read. A friend of mine is currently reading a lot of Dickens. Which reminded me of this.

Enjoy the laugh.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wishing You Away

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last year I wore a pink ribbon pin every day. And I handed out pink ribbon pins. Last year I was bold.
This year I do not feel brave. This year, I wish the month did not exist.
In December 2007 a colleague and friend gave me a journal to write in. She said it was important for me to write about my journey. The front cover of the journal has this proverb: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” I thought she was crazy. Why would I want to write anything about what I was going through? But I wrote.
I started reading my entries a couple of days ago. (Ironic that my first doctor’s appointment was in October). What is most interesting about my early entries was the positive attitude. Everything the doctors told me was “yet more good news.” Really? How can triple negative breast cancer, the worst diagnosis you could possibly receive, be good news? The good news was it was Stage I and not the usual Stage III diagnosis.
I have worked as a college financial aid administrator for over 20 years. Professionally, I am an advocate and a mentor. I advocate for students in need; I mentor colleagues on federal rules and regulations; I assist institutions with issues of compliance. How could my two lives possibly fit together?
Since my diagnosis I have known that my story has a purpose. As I wrote back in June, I am a reluctant cheerleader. My heart tells me that I am called to tell my story. I wonder how. Wearing a pink ribbon pin and handing out pins certainly shows support. However, I find myself being a friend to those newly diagnosed. I share statistics and knowledge. I post links to news articles. I am an advocate and a mentor.
So I will continue to share my story. I will continue to support research and the foundations that provide services to uninsured and underinsured women and men. I will promote awareness in my own way. And I really do not wish October away; I just wish there was no need for a Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Fear and darkness
Overtake the night
Loneliness sets in
Like a comfortable friend

Old sounds comfort
New ones excite
While searching for answers
Which come with time

Yesterday is the same
As today and tomorrow
And a friend will stop by
To ease the burden

Saturday, September 29, 2012


I recently went on a trip to French Lick, Indiana. My husband and I take an annual trip where we meet a group of friends who are from all over the world. Yes, it’s a club; similar to a cycling club or car club. We got together for the first time because of a mutual interest and hobby. Now it’s like a family reunion without the crazy uncle. Well, actually, there is a crazy uncle or two but we love them just the same.

Over the years the ladies have become a close-knit group of our own. I often hear the men wonder what the women will do while they are off on their own adventures. It really doesn’t matter because where ever we are, we make our own fun.

We laugh together, and play, and gossip. And we know each other’s secrets. We embrace the here and now. We celebrate who we are today and who we are together. These women have become my sisters.

Soon after my return home I had a visit from a dear friend. We’ve known each other for 20 years, but had not seen each other in four. There was a lot to catch up on. Like several of my lifetime friends, distance (whether time or geography) does not change the friendship.

These two events got me thinking about my girlfriends. There is a special bond among women who are true friends. All of them have been there for me in my time of need. I could pick up the phone or send an email to any one of them and they would arrive at my doorstep as soon as humanly possible. I am blessed to have a life full of such special friends.

So today I stop, and pause, and say “thank you” to my girlfriends who are my love, my life, and my family.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I haven’t written much in September. It’s not because I have nothing to say. In fact, a lot has been on my mind. So much so that I started a folder in “my documents” named “To Write.” So stay tuned. The truth is, I’ve been busy. Busy with family, with travel, with friends, and with daily living. It’s all been good (and a source of “To Write” inspiration). And I’ve learned some things along the way.
Of note is that each month, except for August and December, features cancer awareness. September is cancer awareness month for:
·         Childhood cancer
·         Gynecologic cance
·         Leukemia
·         Lymphoma
·         Multiple Myeloma
·         Ovarian cancer
·         Thyroid cancer
·         Prostate cancer
I started a Facebook page. [Warning: shameless plug here]. It has the same name as my blog: The Reluctant Survivor. You can find me at http://www.facebook.com/TheReluctantSurvivor?ref=hl. Whether you are a cancer survivor or know someone who is, I invite you to join me. During September I featured information and news articles about the different cancers that are part of the September awareness. Beyond that I share information on health and wellness, food, music, and quotes that make me smile. I also invite those on the page to share their story, as well as anything that brings joy.
So while I’ve been a little quiet in cyberspace I have not forgotten my friends here. And there is a lot more to share.
Be well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Princess Julianna

She has long, blonde hair
That curls around her face
And bright, blue eyes
That sparkle in the sunshine
Soft, pink lips surround her laughter
While her smile fills the universe
She likes worms
And delights in dragonflies
Sticks and dirt are her playground
She eats strawberries two at a time
I think Julianna is part monkey
As I watch her climb the rails
She loves lavender soap
Because of the way it makes her skin smell
The cats thrill her
They let her play with their toys
She is joy personified
But most of all, she is a gift from God
Given to her mother
At an unexpected time


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Forever Young

I have a cat who never grew up. Granted, she has the stocky build of her Persian breed and weighs in at 12 lbs. every time I take her to the vet. But this cat really, never has become a cat. She has the kitten curiosity and often expresses a puzzled kitten look. She plays and sleeps and cuddles. So, you’re probably thinking, she’s a cat. But, like a kitten, she doesn’t understand about edges and often unexpectedly rolls off the bed or sofa. I’ve watched her fall up the stairs. And she still puts her feet in the food dish to eat. Occasionally I hear a “thunk” and realize she has fallen off something and landed on her side or back. She is still my baby kitty even after (almost) four years.
Kitten Kiwi came unintentionally into my life. We had lost Horatio in August 2008. I was so broken hearted there was no way I was going to adopt another cat, leaving Beautiful Maria an only cat. My husband insisted that I call Maria’s breeder and place an order for Maria’s baby brother. [The breeder is a humane breeder who raises her cats in her home, without cages]. I understood his desire for Maria to have a companion, so between tears I made the call. No male kittens available, but litters on the way. We had first choice.
Weeks turned into months as one mother lost her kittens prematurely. Another had four kittens, but none were male. As Maria’s grief became more apparent to the point of becoming neurotic, I became desperate. After a day of trying to console her, comfort her, and allow her to cling to my side as I tried to work I picked up the phone and asked, “Do you have any kittens available?” There were three; all female. “I’ll take one!”
Baby Sister came home in November; right before Thanksgiving. She was cute and curious and not at all shy. She was goofy and playful. She wanted to do everything that Maria, the big cat, did, often with hysterical results. One day as she looked at me with a puzzled look, almost asking why she couldn’t jump up on the desk like Big Sister, I laughed out loud and said “You’re such a Kiwi.” So now you know how she got her name.
Beyond that, she brought joy and healing to three shattered lives. She did not know about our loss or grief. She did not know of my recent illness. All she knew was she was in a home with two humans and a big cat who loved her. She brought laughter to my broken heart and helped me see that God’s “other plan” is just what I needed to move beyond the darkness of the previous year.
Every time I look at her I smile. I think about how I had other plans. I remember what a gift she is to me; a gift to me, my husband, and Beautiful Maria in our time of need. I am reminded of God’s grace. And despite her limitations, I do hope she stays forever young.