Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Way We Were

“What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget. So it’s the laughter, we will remember.” – Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were

I received a phone call yesterday from a childhood friend. It has been decades since we’ve spoken. He is my “big brother” from my youth. We spent most of our time talking about the here and now; our lives as they are today. We didn’t reminisce about any “do you remember when” events but we did talk about the past. And he wondered if we only have fond memories of childhood activities because of the passage of time. Why are difficulties and struggles colored by nostalgia? Did time paint them over?

The most traumatic event of my childhood was the death of my friend’s sister when we were in the eighth grade. I learned of her death over the loud speakers at school, though there had been rumors all day long. I will never forget the heart wrenching sobs as I sat in that classroom and heard those words. My classmates tried to console me, and it was even suggested that someone call my parents so they could pick me up from school. I stayed, and took the bus home only to be met by my mother who had taken the day off from work because she knew that her children would need her.

Now I think about how our lives changed. Amy and I became closer friends. To this day she is my “sister” and we can talk for hours today even if we just talked yesterday. It is because of Nancy’s death that Amy took me to her brother’s Youth Group. And it was there that I met Seth and his younger brother. My world was changed forever. Many future life events are the result of meeting those two brothers and having them in my life during High School.

Today I look back on our time together; the fun we had as a group. I think about today and how blessed I am to have them in my life again. As Seth wrote me a few years back, some connections are meant to last. Yes, those memories are all warm and fuzzy, and colored by time. But that’s ok because we were given the gift of a forever friendship.

So it’s the laughter we will remember.

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, March 23, 2014


Positivity is my number one strength according to StrengthsQuest.™ Part of the description reads: “Somehow you can’t quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive.” How true is that?!?! If you know me, you know I find the “good” in every experience.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my bad days. We all have them.
There’s a new pop song from Despicable Me 2* that is a delight. It pretty much sums up how I feel about life.

*I’ve never seen either Despicable Me movie, but I have to admit that those minions are just darn cute.

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.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I have had several interesting and inspiring conversations as a result of my last post. Some were out of concern for my health. Others were supportive of my message. And others shared their own experiences with the “stages of grief” associated with their journey through hardship.

First, let me assure you that I am healthy. I am six years cancer-free and continue to feel well. My anger just finally caught up with me. I hate that cancer even exists. A longtime friend asked if I hate that I have to live with the fact that my cancer may return. I had not thought of that being part of my anger, but it probably is.
Where there is fear there is also anger. Anger that my husband and I have lost friends and colleagues to cancer. Anger that anyone has to live with the fear that cancer exists; that you may be diagnosed because there is a family history. Anger that once you’ve had a cancer diagnosis you are statistically more likely to have another diagnosis. Fear that the original cancer might come back. And anger that such a thought is even in the back of my mind.
I have written about knowledge and how knowledge can be, and is, powerful. But tied to knowledge is fear and anger. I seek knowledge out of fear and curiosity. Knowledge also feeds fear, and maybe it’s a healthy fear to know the facts of my diagnosis. So, I am going to embrace my anger. I am going to let myself be angry. But I am not going to let anger consume me. I am going to look at my anger and ask, “What can I do?” Well, I can continue to share my knowledge along with the latest news and information. I can work toward finding a cure for all cancer. And I will be there for a friend (or the friend of a friend) in need.
To continue my message of “knowledge is power,” here is a video regarding dense breast tissue and its correlation to breast cancer.
Another P.S. – March is colorectal cancer awareness month. If you have a family history or are over the age of 50, get yourself screened.
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, March 8, 2014

I Am Tired

I have become weary. I could blame it on the exceptionally cold winter this season. I might attribute it to some extra responsibilities at work. However, this feeling of ennui has been with me since before the bitter temperatures of December arrived, and long before things got busy at work.

I started thinking about why I feel this way and I realize that I am not tired; I am angry. I am angry at this “thing” called cancer. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is known for identifying five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is recognized that the stages do not have to occur in that exact order except that grief generally starts with denial and ends with acceptance. And even after acceptance the stages can be and often are revisited.

I have heard that anyone who has experienced a traumatic event in their lives will go through these stages. The event does not have to be the death of a loved one. A common circumstance is a life-threatening illness or diagnosis. I was once asked if I ever got angry about my diagnosis. The answer is no, I don’t think I have. I seem to have skipped over that part.

But now I’m angry. I am angry with the small town doctor and radiologist at my local hospital (before I moved my health care to Boston) who overlooked years of questionable mammograms, telling me I had a cyst, because there was no history of breast cancer in my family. I am angry that another local hospital overlooked a friend’s symptoms of a recurrence. I am angry that yet another friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am angry that cancer has become an epidemic.

I recently watched the documentary Pink Ribbon, Inc. Did you know that back in the 1940’s and 1950’s one in twenty-two (4%) of women would be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at some point in their life. And it was a post-menopausal disease. When I was diagnosed the mantra was “one in ten.” It was barely two years later that I read “one in eight.” That’s right, 12%. And there is an increase of breast cancer in women in their 30’s and 40’s. I was considered young when I was diagnosed at the age of 43.

Anger is a powerful tool. Some people become activists. Some become inspirational speakers. Many write, whether it’s a journal, blog or book. Anger is a motivator. So I am going to continue to do what I can to help promote awareness for all cancers.* I am going to fundraise for the Avon Foundation’s annual Walk for Breast Cancer. I am going to help my friends when and where I can.

I am angry. But I am also tired. I am tired of this disease. I am tired of this epidemic. I am tired of cancer.
*March is colorectal cancer awareness month. Aka bowel cancer to my friends in the U.K. This is a reminder to get screened.

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.