Thursday, February 27, 2014


I received an email a while ago; one of those generic emails from a woman soliciting my input in support of her foundation. She asked that I consider sharing her story, but also my story on her website. Her cause is a good one; the fight against cancer. Specifically, her husband had died from lung cancer. I saved the email thinking I might reply to her. I never did. However, her inquiry into what inspires me intrigued me, so I saved her email.
When I think of inspiration I think of stories of hope and courage. However, inspiration is more than that. Inspiration should encourage me to move forward with my goals. It is not just a “feel good” story. Inspiration gives motivation and determination to keep going when I want to quit. So what does inspire me?
The woman with metastatic breast cancer who walked in the San Francisco Avon Walk last year. She inspires me. I had read about her through the Avon Foundation. I also found myself walking in front of her. I knew it was her as I listened to the woman behind me tell her walking partners about her treatment. She has Stage IV breast cancer and she will eventually die from the disease. She was on her fourth different drug treatment. The first three had stopped working to hold back the progression of the disease. She had entered into an experimental protocol that was designed to target the cancer cells. She took pills, but still had to go into the hospital once a month for an infusion. She also had to have blood tests and follow-up appointments to see if the new drugs were working. She is an inspiration. She was walking 39.3 miles through the hills of San Francisco with a debilitating disease that will kill her. I kept walking.
Babies are an inspiration. Little ones offer hope for the future; hope for a future without cancer. My great-niece was born while I was undergoing radiation treatment. I held her a few weeks later. As I looked at her sweet face and beautiful bald head I felt as if I were looking into a mirror. Here was a miniature version of me; of what I looked like in 2008. As I have watched her and her older brother grow I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such beauty in my life.
A co-worker just gave birth to twins. Another friend is pregnant. And yet another is hoping. While I don’t have children of my own, each birth, each pregnancy brings me joy. I am happy for them; for the growing families. I want to spend this year making baby blankets. New life keeps me knitting. (A hobby I have always enjoyed and am just getting back to).
My friend Tina is an inspiration. Her love and devotion to her family is beyond measure. She balances life on a small farm with a successful career. She cares for her mother with endless energy and determination. At times I feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities at work, but then a smile or kind word from Tina reminds me of how far I’ve come and I realize I’m here, living today, for a reason and a purpose.
Upon reflection, it is not a thing that inspires me. It is people. The people around me, whether it’s a chance meeting, family, or a lifelong friend. That is what inspires me. That is what keeps me going.
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. Now on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Coffee Break

Our silence is comfortable
She naps
While I concentrate on driving

This journey we’re taking
Is a choice
We need each other

We are in this together
And in the end
There is sadness

But that is Life
And in the meantime
There are beautiful days

We find blessings
Today there is sunshine
And coffee




Saturday, February 15, 2014

Learning Curve

My friend Linda needs to go to the hospital every week and I am part of her transportation team. Last week I took Linda in for her short or quick appointment. She had a 10 a.m. appointment for the administration of some drugs. We were on our way home around 2:30 p.m.

I have to admit, Linda and I had a few giggles about the “short” appointment over the course of the day. However, we also learned a few things; things that I think can help her caregivers as well as others who find themselves in a similar situation.
First, and most important, don’t panic. There are so many things that can go wrong throughout the whole day that it is vital that we did not care about the delays along the way. In fact, it gave us a chance to be together. We talked, we checked e-mail, we chatted with the nurse. I learned a few things. Linda felt free to ask me about my experiences. Beyond that, we agreed that the day was a learning experience.
For one, traffic happens. We can leave her house at the same time every week and one week we will be early, another on time, and at some point we will be late. But that’s ok. The doctors and nurses are just glad we get there. They have a system worked out that allows for delays, back logs, and rescheduled appointments. As a result, they will take you next.
One of the nice things that we learned was that if you are there for a treatment over the lunch hour you get fed. That’s right; two very nice volunteers came by with a sandwich cart offering lunch. They feed the patients first and then make a second round, feeding the caregivers. (I was a bit surprised to be referred to as a “caregiver” but that’s for another post).
We learned that each week Linda will be evaluated based on her vitals and blood counts. Sometimes the results are a little off. When this happens the formula must be calculated by hand. That’s right; the medical staff have to pick up their number two pencils and slide ruler and do a hand calculation. Then a new prescription is written, the prescription then goes to the pharmacy, and finally, the cocktail is administered. This process takes time. In our case, it took hours. This is good to know because the next “quick” appointment may or may not take all day.
On the way home Linda and I talked about the day and the surprises along the way. But we both agreed that there will be learning along the way.

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

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saying Yes

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning you know that I struggle with being “that person;” the one who wears my breast cancer diagnosis as a badge of honor. I am also reluctant to get involved. I wrestle with the knowledge that my survivorship has meaning and that my life has purpose because I often don’t see what that purpose is. Until I am called upon to step out or step up and my heart says “yes” before my brain can filter the response so that my mouth says “no.”

Saying “yes” to opportunities has been on my mind a lot lately. Back in November I had the opportunity the help my friend Tina. Not only did I say “yes,” I insisted on being part of the solution. I work at my pay check job three days a week, which means that Tuesday and Thursday is usually filled with appointments, errands and other activities. At the time that Tina needed help my calendar was completely open on those days so I was able to step up and say “yes” without even thinking about it.

Now I am faced with having said “yes” to Tina and her mother, who has become a friend. Mom’s name is Linda, and Linda needs our help. I am lucky because I have the time. And I know that saying “yes” is the right thing; it is what I’ve been called to do. When I look back on all of my experiences since completing cancer treatment I realize that those events, those turning points in my life, have lead me to today. God put the three of us together for a reason. And it is my responsibility to say “yes” to His calling, whatever the outcome.

What I find amazing is that saying “yes” is still scary, but there is a strength (and at times it feels like physical strength) that is so overpowering that “scary” is no longer an overwhelming emotion. But I do think about what I am afraid of.

This past Wednesday, knowing I would be seeing Linda on Thursday that old nag of doubt crept in. And I realized that my fear is the fear of failure. I fear that I will fail Linda in some way. That I won’t be there for her when she needs me. That I will say “no” at some point out of a selfish desire to do something else. I don’t want to be “that person” either. So I am going to hold onto what I believe is God’s purpose for my life right here, right now. And I will continue to say “yes.”
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. Now on Twitter @relucsurvivor.