Tuesday, April 30, 2013

R.I.P. Mary E. Bolduk

I had the privilege of attending the funeral/memorial service of Mary Ellen Bolduk this past weekend. She was one of my “church moms” when I was growing up. The following was in the bulletin. I was unable to find its source, but I appreciated the message and wanted to share it with you.

When I am gone, just release me, let me go
So I can move into my afterglow.
You mustn’t tie me down with your tears;
Let’s be happy that we had so many years.
I gave you my love, you can only guess
How much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown,
But now it’s time I traveled on alone.
So grieve for me a while, if grieve you must,
Then let your grief be comforted with trust.
It’s only for a while that we must part,
So bless the memories within your heat.
And then, when you must come this way alone,
I’ll greet you with a smile and a “Welcome Home.”


Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston, You're My Home

As you know, I grew up in northeastern Connecticut. If Connecticut has a city that it calls its own, it’s probably Hartford; the capital. We never went into Hartford much. There were a few occasions, and when my Dad got sick he was at the Hartford Hospital. But I never would have called Hartford “my city.”

I moved to Massachusetts in 1982 to attend college. I met my husband there, so I stayed. At the time that we got married, he was attending the University of Lowell (now UMass Lowell), so we stayed. He then started a business and we bought our first home; so we stayed. I have now lived in Massachusetts more than half my life, and certainly much longer than I lived in Connecticut.
Over the years I have gone into Boston for numerous occasions. I’ve been to a Red Sox game, the Garden to see a concert, the Museum of Fine Arts as well as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Boston Science Museum, the Boston Children’s Museum, and the Boston Aquarium. I’ve seen the Boston Pops. I’ve been to plays. And I’ve worked in the city.

Kenmore Square, Boston
April 19, 2013

For a number of years my career took me into Boston. When I worked in Brookline, a section of Boston the same way Cambridge or Dorchester are part of Boston, I drove. I learned how to navigate the streets that were once cow paths. It’s really not that hard once you learn the pattern. And you can’t really get lost. Just head east – toward the water – and you are bound to come across a major highway. If not, you’ll eventually get to the bay where you can pick up Route 1A north or south.

After Brookline I worked as a consultant and independent contract employee for a number of Boston colleges and universities. I took the commuter rail into North Station and picked up the Orange Line on the subway. I would then connect to another Line if necessary. I’ve taken the Red Line as far south as Quincy and as far west as Cambridge. I’ve taken the Green Line out to Brookline or to the Science Museum. And I’ve taken the Orange Line up to Bunker Hill and into Dorchester. I’ve walked to Faneuil Hall and through Boston Commons. I’ve been to State Street and Downtown Crossing. The Park Street Church. The Post Office. The Federal Building. I know and love them all. Boston is “my city.”

Yes, I am a transplant. I am not a true Bostonian. I don’t live in Boston and I don’t speak with a funny accent. Well, they would tell you I speak with a funny accent because I don’t sound like them. However, I understand all of the “You know you’re from Boston if . . .” and “You know you live in Massachusetts if . . .” jokes. What makes them funny is that they are all true. I’ve even driven 70 mph in a 55 mph zone and had people pass me. (Just don’t tell my mother). And I know how to correctly pronounce the names of the cities and towns in Massachusetts.
Monday was the running of the Boston Marathon. It ended in horrific tragedy. I had planned to visit a friend at Mass. General Hospital but stayed away simply because there was both the marathon and a Red Sox game that day. The traffic would have been horrible. As it turned out, it was a good thing I did not go in. I talked myself out of visiting Christine on Tuesday because the news reports seemed to indicate that there were blocks still closed due to the investigation. In all honesty, I was shaken and unsure of my own comfort level given the bombings.

Mentally, I kept telling myself that if I give into my fears the terrorists win. I know that. That is what they want. But I couldn’t help thinking about all the times I go into Boston in the course of the year. Do I dare go into the city? What about the upcoming conference I want to attend? Would I ever feel safe going to an event that had thousands of people involved? Despite my self-talk, in hopes of screwing up my courage and not giving into fear, I was scared.

Today is Friday April 19, and I had taken the day off from work for a day in Cambridge and Boston. I had a doctor’s appointment and a few weeks ago I arranged to meet a friend for lunch in Cambridge. We haven’t seen each other in a while and we just happened to both have the day off. It seemed like serendipity. I also planned to visit my friend, Christine at MGH since I would literally drive by that hospital on my way to and from my appointment.
I received a phone call at 6:20 a.m. from my lunch date saying, “Don’t go into Cambridge today.” After speaking with her briefly and promising each other another time I turned to the Internet and learned of the overnight happenings. I have a friend who works at MIT. I have a friend who lives in Watertown. I have a friend who lives in Newton. I have a friend who lives in Allston. And, my friend Christine is still at MGH, which was placed into lockdown. Thankfully, everyone is safe.

Today I am no longer scared. I am angry. When I think about it; profanity courses through my veins. Do the terrorists really think we are going to give into fear? Absolutely not! We are the city that started a revolution. We are tough. We are resilient. We will do what it takes to hunt them down. And if that means putting the city and surrounding neighborhoods into lockdown so our law enforcement agencies can do their jobs, we will comply. Not because we are scared, but because we want to do what is right and let the professionals do their job. We will close the whole city rather than give in. And when all the dust settles, we will be stronger than ever.
Boston, you’re my home.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jenny's Psalm

I’ve been reading through the Psalms. A chapter a day. When I got to Psalm 27 I was reminded of my husband’s grandmother, Jenny. Jenny lived well into her 90’s. She was born before the turn of the 20th century, in 1898. She was disabled, in a wheelchair, for as long as my husband can remember. He has memories of walking next door to her home, climbing onto her lap and sharing a glass of orange juice together.

By the time we got married, Jenny had been in a nursing home for over a decade. I heard stories about her formidable personality. I also learned of the distress my father-in-law felt over the fact that his mother was bedridden. He could not understand why his mother had to suffer that way. Why couldn’t God just take her and relieve her of the pain and suffering.

We were married on August 2, 1986. Our honeymoon took us up into Maine; a state that is both beautiful and one in which we share many deep roots. Both our families are from Maine. As part of our trip, we stopped by the nursing home to visit Jenny. In fact, that was when I met her for the first time. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous given all the stories I had heard about her strong and demanding demeanor.

Instead, I found a kind and gentle woman with long, beautiful hair. A smile that lit up her eyes and face. And a deep love for her Lord. She made me sit next to her, and she held my hand while she shared solid marriage advice; one woman to another. She told me about her grandson and what a sweet relationship they had. She told me that my mother-in-law was a “good woman” and that I should listen to her. She was proud of her son for choosing such a mate. (This flew in the face of all I knew about her).

We visited Jenny a few more times at that nursing home, before she passed away. During one of those visits she recited Psalm 27 in its entirety. Several months after her death we were visiting with my in-laws and reminiscing about Jenny. My father-in-law pondered why she had been allowed to live so long, with such suffering. My immediate response was, “I know why. I was supposed to meet her.”


You can follow me on Facebook at The Reluctant Survivor.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Leibster Award

My friend Melinda, the one who invited me to join a Comment Circle, nominated me for a Leibster Award. It is for blogs with fewer than 200 followers. It is a “get acquainted, pay it forward” award. And here is how it works:
  1. I have to answer 11 questions Melinda has given me.
  2. I have to choose 11 new bloggers to pass the award on to – and link them in this post.
  3. I have to create 11 new questions for the bloggers I have chosen.
  4. I have to tell the new recipients about this award.
  5. I have to post 11 random facts about myself.
  6. And finally, there are no tag-backs.
Melinda did include a clause that I can consider my nomination “honorary” and just have fun. This is a good thing, because I don’t think I know 11 “new” bloggers with followers of less than 200. Melinda nominated all of us in the Comment Circle, so my choices are limited. I do have a couple of friends who have blogs. And I’m pretty sure they don’t have 200 followers yet. The other blogs I read have many more than 200 followers, so I can’t nominate them.
However, I was intrigued by the questions that Melinda gave me, so I want to try to answer them. As for random facts, that might be difficult because I’m pretty much an open book. But I’m going to try. First, the questions.
  1. What fictional book has changed your life? If you consider the Bible a work of fiction, then the Bible. (I do not believe it is a work of fiction). I don’t think there is a fictional book that changed my life. However, The Chronicles of Narina and the Dragon Riders of Pern series certainly had a great influence on my life. They introduced me to good fantasy literature. And yes, Narnia and Pern really do exist.
  2. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? An introvert who wishes she were an extrovert.
  3. What got you started blogging? I have things that I want to say that are too long for a status update on Facebook.
  4. What’s the number one thing on your “bucket list”? I have a friend that I have not seen in over 30 years. I want an in-person reunion.
  5. If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be? The President of the United States. I would like to experience “a day in the life of” that Office.
  6. What’s your favorite food? Pasta. Specifically, macaroni and cheese.
  7. What do you like best about being grown-up? Independence. I can choose to do whatever I’d like.
  8. What do you like least about being grown-up? Responsibility. I have to do the chores, run the errands, and show up for appointments.
  9. What one thing would you do to change the world, if you had the power? World peace. I know it sounds cliché, but definitely world peace.
  10. Where do you like to go on vacation? The Caribbean.
  11. Do you have a hobby? Yes. I used to do counted cross-stitch. And I used to knit and crochet. I think about getting back to either one of them. Currently, I read. And I write.
And now for 11 random facts about me.
  1. I did not walk until I was almost 2 years old.
  2. I wanted to be a lawyer since the age of 12. (That dream came true).
  3. I believe in ghosts.
  4. I’m anxious about this year’s Avon Walk in San Francisco. Not because of the hills, but because the route takes us across the bridge.
  5. I am slightly dyslexic, and chemotherapy made it worse.
  6. On occasion, I have spent four straight days at home without going out.
  7. I believe in love at first sight.
  8. I like criminal investigation television shows.
  9. I’m a Trekkie.
  10. I never wanted to have children.
  11. Pink has been my favorite color for as long as I can remember.
Since I don’t know eleven other bloggers to nominate I’m going to consider my nomination honorary. And I certainly had fun. Thanks, Melinda!
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Survivor: Cancer-Style

February 2008
No, I’m not starting another reality TV show. However, the question of survivorship has been raised quite a bit lately in different groups and on different blogs I read. The question is: how do you define being a cancer survivor? And along the same lines, do you consider yourself a cancer survivor?

I know these questions may seem odd coming from someone who survived a cancerous tumor. But sometimes I don’t feel like a breast cancer survivor in the same way as others perceive me. Or even in the way I perceive others who are cancer survivors. Let me try to explain by sharing with you some encounters that I have had over the past five years.

My first encounter with being called a “breast cancer survivor” was when my mother told me that her friend told her that I became a survivor as soon as I was diagnosed. That was a nice thing to tell my mother, but I don’t buy it. After all, the cancer was in my body until it was removed. For me, I hadn’t “survived” breast cancer until the tumor was out.

Another encounter was few months after the completion of chemotherapy. I ran into a young woman who was one of my students and the daughter of a dear friend. She knew of my diagnosis, and my hair had just started growing back so I was still in hats. She asked after my health. I was happy to be able to give her a good report. Her response was, “Oh, so you’re in remission.” Remission??? Where did that come from? Other than the tumor in my breast there was no cancer in my body that needed killing. However, there was no reason for me to try to correct her if this is her understanding of cancer. So I just smiled and gave her a hug.

Earlier this week I had an encounter that gave me yet another “survivor” definition. I was at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for my annual mammogram (no findings other than what they’ve seen before, I’m happy to report). While in the waiting room I was drawn into a conversation by some of the other women who were waiting. One woman was there as moral support for her best friend who was there for a follow-up evaluation. At some point I told moral-support lady that I had had breast cancer and had recently passed my five-year mark. Her response: “Congratulations! You’ve made the five-year mark. You are now a survivor.” Well, yes and no.

There is so much that goes into a diagnosis, treatment plan and outcome that being a “survivor” is unique to every individual. The five-year mark is no longer statistically significant because 97% of all breast cancer patients are still alive at the five-year mark. Also, reaching the five-year mark does not mean a breast cancer patient is cured. Depending upon your pathology report there are statistical risks of recurrence beyond the five-year mark.

In my own experience I believe I was healed when I had my surgery. Radiation treatment was part two of the surgery. Chemotherapy was preventative medicine. Passing the 48 month mark was statistically significant because my type of breast cancer has a high rate of recurrence within the first 36-48 months after the completion of treatment. As my oncologist said, it was an angry little cancer.
I now have a lot more knowledge about my specific diagnosis. As a result, I have made life-style changes and work hard to stay healthy. Knowing what I know, I celebrate each passing year. And that is how I define being a survivor. It is not past-tense. It is here and now. Every day.
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.