Saturday, June 30, 2012

As Christ Loves the Church

When I started this blog my husband announced that I was to never write about him. So, this is not about him. This is about the love of a husband for his wife.

Everyone knows the passage from I Corinthians 13 [New International Version]: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

And who doesn’t know the traditional wedding vows? We pledge “to have and hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.” It is easy to love when life is good, the bank account has more than enough money, and health allows us to pursue our hobbies. But what about those bad days (or months) when life is not rich with happiness and health? How a husband responds is the true sign of his love.

Love always protects. Love is a husband who goes to every, single appointment. He uses up his leave time at work and telecommutes via lap top so he can sit through hours of doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy.

Love always trusts. Love is a husband who listens to the experts and asks the questions you don’t; either because you can’t or because you’ve forgotten.

Love always hopes. Love is a husband who holds your hand when you are scared. He never speaks harshly or shows you that he is scared, too. Love is a husband who continues to show you his passion. He hugs you like nothing has changed.

Love always perseveres. Love is a husband who continues with the daily routine, giving the illusion that nothing is wrong. He keeps a sense of normalcy in a life that has been turned upside down with uncertainty and loss.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” [Ephesians 5:25]. Yes, he loves me this much.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

These Things I Know

I know that every woman is an individual.
I know that every diagnosis is as unique as every woman.
I know that friends are God’s way of saying “I love you.”
I know that when you are feeling lost, alone and in the darkest place imaginable the Universe reaches out and surrounds you with what feels like a big, soft down comforter. And somewhere, deep inside, you hear the words “Be still and know that I am God.”
I know that a mother’s love is boundless.
I know that a cat who is normally arrogant and stand-offish will suddenly become your Florence Nightingale.
I know that because you are a woman you are the most courageous person in the world.
I know that it is ok to cry.
I know that when life has brought you to that lowest point possible, you must say to your best friend, “I need you.”
I know that sometimes, love is an unintended consequence.
I know that this journey is full of wonder and miracles.
I know all these things and more.
Just ask me.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Dear Scott,

We have known each other for years; decades really. It seems that you have always been part of my life. You are quiet, yet strong. You have a soft, enduring side. You are there in times of sorrow, helping to dry my tears. You are there to help clean up the mess I make in my life.

You have also been there during the joyful times; the laughter and the parties. You have held my coffee. You brighten my world with color.

For a time you were not part of my life. Then you came back, and here we are. In the end, you are my favorite brand of tissue.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Middle Child

A lot has been written about middle child syndrome. Most definitions are quite negative, describing characteristics such as feeling ignored and resentful of the first born or the baby of the family, acting out to get attention, not able to keep lasting relationships or a solid career path, and generally a sense of average underachiever. However, a middle child is also described as being a good negotiator; one who can see both sides of a situation or argument and seeks peace. A middle child may be a loner, but is also described as creative.

I recently had the privilege of talking with my cousin Scotty. I say privilege because he is a popular jazz musician in the Seattle area and here I am living north of Boston, which means we don’t talk much and only see each other every few years. In our conversations this past month Scotty and I talked of childhood memories and experiences. We discovered we have a lot in common. We are both a middle child.

Both Scotty and I have long-lasting marriages and have found success in our careers. So I guess that disproves one theory. Anyway, in our recent conversation we talked about pent up energy and how it has shaped decisions we have made for our lives. Scotty shared stories from his own life path that resulted in his music. He does something every day to feed his passion; music.

That got me thinking about my “passion.” I wrote when I was in high school and college. Somehow I got away from that. I started writing again about two years ago. Last year I wrote a couple of poems. As I said to my friend, Liz, poetry happens. It is a feeling inside that just has to get out or I’ll burst. I also realize that writing is my therapy. There is so much I want to say and I don’t necessarily want to keep it to myself. So, thanks to Scotty, I started this blog.

I don’t agree with the definition of middle child syndrome. It is probably because there is more to being “in the middle” than simple birth order. In our case, Scotty and I are mirror images of each other. He has an older sister and a younger brother. I have an older brother and a younger sister. I am definitely a negotiator. I try to see both sides of an argument and find the common ground, but that is not a bad thing. Harmony is one of my top five strengths. And Scotty is creative. So I guess we both got the best of being a middle child.

One thing that is true: being a middle child is not a syndrome or a dysfunctional state that needs fixing. A middle child is strong, and independent, and most of all passionate.

You can learn more about Scotty Harris at

Welcome Summer

Welcome summer; come this way
Welcome summer, summer’s day

Summer time is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Welcome summer; bring your cheer

Welcome all, far and near

Summer time will always be
Just so long as we have we

Welcome summer; bring your light

Welcome summer sun so bright

Welcome summer while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand

Welcome summer; come this way
Welcome summer, summer’s day

(Ok, so I ripped off Dr. Seuss)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day

I wanted to write something profound about Father’s Day but find that I really have nothing to say. I did a Google search on the history of Father’s Day and found this:

I suppose I could write about my own father. He passed away 16 years ago and I think about him every day. I miss him during those big events and milestone anniversaries. You know the ones. My law school graduation. The birth of his great-grandchildren. My sister’s wedding. Here’s a picture of us when I was young. 

I am always amazed at my friend’s memories of my Dad. To them he was kind, and gentle, and a good man. I guess I never really thought about how others perceived him. After all, he was just my Dad.

I could also write about my father-on-law; a faithful man of God. He is dedicated and caring and loves his rose gardens. Other than a few health issues he remains strong. I am fortunate to have him in my life. He has guided me through some difficult times and truly loves me as a daughter. I am thankful that he and my Dad were friends for the short time they knew each other.

This brings me to God, our Father. But writing about God in this way seems trivial. God is part of my everyday life. While the Bible and Church teach us to think about God in this way there is so much more to God than just fatherhood. (As a young person I delivered a sermon on “God as a Mother” one Mother’s Day, but that’s another story).

Finally, I think about my friends who are fathers. They too are faithful, and loving, and strong. I thoroughly enjoy hearing them tell stories about their children. One friend told me about falling in love with his daughter the first time he held her in his arms. What wonderful fathers and role models these men are.

So I don’t have anything to say about Father’s Day other than I am grateful for the fathers I have in my life. And to all you fathers out there: Happy Father’s Day!
And another one 20 years later on a very special day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Hair is 4 Years Old

I was never bald until the age of 43. In fact, I had always had hair; thick, curly hair. I was born with a full head of hair and never lost it. As a kid I remember the woman who cut my hair would often thin it because she was concerned that my hair was too thick. (At this point, anyone with thin hair is going to hate me).

Growing up I wore my hair at different lengths. In the 70’s, Farrah Fawcett bangs were the trend. My hair was so thick I never could get that perfect look. Though I tried.

My hair is four years old now. I lost it in January 2008 when I underwent chemotherapy. At the time, I made a “Top 10” list of benefits to receiving chemotherapy a la David Letterman. Cancer is not funny and chemotherapy is devastating; especially to women. I never thought of myself as vain until I lost my hair. I did not realize how much pride I had in my hair. God certainly kicked me in the butt with that one!

However, laughter is the best medicine. And there are some benefits to being bald. Here they are:

1.     Cuts down on the visits to the hair salon

2.     Don’t have to buy hair products

3.     Don’t have to style my hair

4.     I can wear my Boston Red Sox cap in NYC

5.     Wearing a wig: I can try different hair styles and colors

My hair is long again. It’s very thick and very curly. Now whenever my hairbrush gets caught in one of my rat’s nest tangles my mantra is “Thank you God for thick, curly hair.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Ice Cream Stand

Her slender form stands tall
Next to this strong, quiet boy
Delicately, they hold hands
Unsure of these new feelings
The summer is long; they grow close

Yesterday, I see them again
Walking together
Young and beautiful
Bringing sudden joy to my heart
And a smile to my memory

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Reluctant Survivor

I am a reluctant survivor. I don’t mean that I’m sorry I survived. I don’t think any cancer survivor is sorry they have lived. I mean that I’m not “one of those” people. You know the type I mean. They introduce themselves like they are attending an AA meeting: “Hello, my name is Heather and I’m a breast cancer survivor.” Don’t get me wrong; I love these survivors. They are the ones that inspire and give the rest of us strength. They are the ones that instill joy in the Universe. They are the ones I envy.

My story is not a secret. I share when the opportunity is appropriate. I reach out to those newly diagnosed. And now I participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. For years I had been the one to say, “Let me write a check.” It never occurred to me to participate. Once I became I survivor I was invited to attend several such fundraisers and my immediate answer was, “Oh, no. I could never do something like that. But let me sponsor you. Here’s a check.”
Then in 2010, almost three years after my initial diagnosis, a law school friend and student leader died. She did not die from breast cancer but a secondary cancer caused by the radiation treatments she had received eleven years earlier. Another law school friend called and asked, “Why don’t we do a walk in memory of Jan?” Before my brain filter could kick in, I heard myself say “yes.” And thus my journey began.
This year was my second Avon Walk. I was in a better place both mentally and physically. I was mentally prepared because I knew what to expect. And I was not nervous about all the “what ifs” that tend to flood my mind when I attempt something new. Physically because I had been more consistent with my training so I was stronger as well as lighter than last year.
Each walk begins with an Opening Ceremony. I can’t really explain the emotional energy of Opening Ceremony; it is something you have to experience. About all I can say is that there are testimonials and tears and stretching. We start out slow because the crowd is thick, but we soon develop a pace and some space. One thing about the Walk is that you are never alone. Most walk with a partner or other teammates, but even if you find yourself solo (because your teammates have a much faster pace) there are others who will share their space and stories and song.
On Saturday I had the privilege of walking with a group of women who sang gospel songs from their church worship. God was right there with me, assuring me that I was exactly where I needed to be. These angels had walking sticks and ace bandages but nothing was keeping them down. Along the way, at the different rest stops they celebrated my walk, giving me energy and encouragement.
Sunday, at the end of the Walk, is Closing Ceremony. Here we celebrate everyone who participated in the Walk; walkers, crew, volunteers and survivors. My first Walk I did not want to participate in the “Survivors Walk.” I got my tee-shirt and would have been happy to just stand with my teammates. But I was encouraged by others and there was an expectation from my teammates. So I reluctantly participated.
I am a solo survivor because no one else on my team is a survivor. Others are surrounded by fellow survivors who are friends and teammates. There are lots of tears of joy as we hear more testimonials. And we learn where our fundraising money is going. This year I stood next to a young man wearing a survivor’s tee-shirt. I say young because he was in the under-45 age category. He was quiet and I wondered if he, too were a reluctant survivor. But he was there; wearing his survivor’s tee-shirt. All I could think was, “How brave.” And I wondered why I am reluctant.
The truth about the Walk is that on Sunday we are stiff and sore and complaining about our war wounds knowing that next year we will do it all again. Why? Because six months from now we won’t remember the achy muscles and blisters. All we will remember is the experience, the energy of the other walkers, the tears, and the laughter. And I want to be there. I want to be there yelling, “woo hoo!” not just to excite my teammates and motivate the other walkers but because I’m a survivor and I want everyone to know.