Thursday, August 28, 2014


I love raspberries. Raspberries are my favorite berry. I’d say they were my favorite fruit, except that I love bananas as well. In fact, I could eat raspberries and a banana every day. I am fortunate that I can find Cascadian Farms frozen raspberries at my local grocery stores. They are handy to have around when fresh raspberries are out of season.

With 6.5 grams of dietary fiber per 100 gram serving, raspberries have one of the highest fiber content of any fruit. They are rich in vitamin C and are considered a low glycemic index food. And raspberry leaves can be used fresh or dried to make a yummy tea.

Most raspberries you see in the store are red, but there are also black, purple, blue and yellow raspberries. Now wouldn’t that make a colorful and yummy dish?

Best of all, raspberries are high in antioxidants, which are known to help fight cancer.

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, August 21, 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge

If you don’t know, the ice bucket challenge is this: you must make a donation to the ALS Association or one of its affiliates. You have to donate at least $10 and have a bucket of ice water dumped on you or you donate at least $100 to avoid the pain of ice cold water over your head. If you choose the ice water you should record the event, post it to some form of social media, and “call out” some of your friends for the challenge. It’s as simple as that.

I understand donations are way up.

I was tagged for the Ice Bucket Challenge by my friend and Pastor. I had planned on making a donation to the ALS Association anyway, but thought I’d wait until I was called out. 

Here is a picture of the bag of ice that I am not going to put into a bucket of water and dump over my head. If you know me at all you know that I hate being cold. Even if it seems like a refreshing idea on a hot summer day. Not going to happen.

I like Charlie Sheen’s response to being challenged. 

While I don’t have his kind of money I do congratulate him on a job well done! And I would challenge others to give proportionately based on their own circumstances.

So, while I am purposefully avoiding the icy challenge, I am not avoiding the cause. Can I challenge my friends even if you don’t see me getting soaked? I hope so.

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.

Another Disease of the Brain

The following is a guest post from my friend, Linda McKay Brewer.

Tonight, I went out to what we had hoped would be our vegetable garden. Every year on Memorial Day weekend, Peter and I would plant the garden. In the early years the garden was carefully planned, with exact spots for beets, carrots, yellow and green beans, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. Every day Peter would inspect, weed and water, and pinch bugs. And soon we would be picking splendid fruits of his labor. I quickly learned how to can all those vegetables and we enjoyed many a tomato and relish throughout the winter and into spring.

But as this disease takes its toll, the garden has as well. You can measure the stage of the disease through the garden's success.

Time was the first challenge. Peter wanted to plant too early. And of course the frost won. The following year's plants would be growing only to be weeded out. This year the garden, despite the help of caregivers, is just weeds. Chives thrive in a tangled mess, but tomatoes that once grew 50 pounds from 6 plants were a rare jewel. Squash rot on the blossom, cucumber growth is stunted, and peppers have gone. Marigolds grow on the edges as does the mint.

In this tangle of weeds where the bright red cherry tomatoes pop through when least expected, I see what is the Alzheimer's brain. A tangle of weeds, with rare moments of clarity as bright as a ripe tomato. This year we will visit the farm stands to enjoy fresh vegetables. Next year our gardens will be wild flowers. And I will weep for what was.

You can make a donation toward research and a cure by visiting

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, August 17, 2014

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Do you know that that is?

Robin Williams and the Ice Bucket Challenge are the two things that have been trending on my social media this week. I thought about writing separately about these topics, but I don’t know which one to pick first. So I thought I’d write about both.

I do not have a tribute to Robin Williams. I am deeply sadden by his death. When my husband said, “Did you hear about Robin Williams? He’s dead,” on Monday night I hesitated before asking how. When he said it was an apparent suicide I paused before saying, “That’s not surprising.” I had truly been wishing that he would say “heart attack” because, let’s face it, suicide carries with it the stigma of mental illness.

As the details of Mr. Williams’s death and medical condition come to light I am struck by the reality that mental illness is nothing more than a disease of the brain. When I say “nothing more” I do not mean to trivialize the severity of such a disease. Like cancer, it is serious. Apparently Mr. Williams had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s is depression. I say symptoms because it is not just a side effect. Think about it: Parkinson’s is a disease of the brain. So is depression. Again, it’s not surprising.

I personally know two people who are being treated for Parkinson’s and depression is very real. There are medications to counteract the depression, but often the depressed person does not even realize they are depressed. It is a vicious cycle and it is important that loved ones and medical professionals recognize it. I’m not a huge fan of big pharma, but in this case, please, take the medication.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is commonly referred to as ALS, and known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Ice Bucket Challenge is supposed to “bring awareness” to the disease. It is actually more than that. If you accept the challenge you have to make a small donation to ALS research and dump a bucket of ice water over your head (no thank you). If you refuse the ice bucket you have to donate at least $100. I first learned of this challenge several months ago when my friend Joann posted a video of herself on FaceBook. The challenge has since become the summer past time here in New England.

Apparently donations are up. And this is a good thing. My mother’s best friend died from ALS. My college roommate’s father died from it. Recently a close law school friend passed away from the disease. According to the ALS Association, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. [Source:]. Another disease of the brain.

So while the two seem unrelated, both touch on diseases of the brain. And I’m pretty sure Robin Williams would be the first one to dump a bucket of ice on his head while spewing some wit that would make us all laugh.

To make a donation to the ALS Association, click here: Create a world without ALS.

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, August 10, 2014

The Reluctant Survivor Redux

Whenever someone new finds my blog or FaceBook page I am always asked, “Why ‘Reluctant Survivor’?” I try to have a short, succinct explanation or I point them to my original post. Recently, I had a conversation with an oncologist who asked that same question. As I tried to briefly describe my “reluctance,” he said, “That’s a normal reaction. I think everyone who has been through a difficult experience feels that way at some point.” So what did I gain from that conversation?

I learned that my reluctance comes from not wanting cancer to define me, but I cannot escape the fact that the experience is a part of what defines who I am today. Without the experience I would not be “me” today.

And who am I today? I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, and a best friend. I am a lawyer, a writer, a poet, and a survivor. The experiences that I have had over the past 50 years define me as a person. What I choose to do with those experiences are the manifestation of that definition. As a lawyer I work in compliance. As a writer and a poet I share myself with you, my reader. And as a survivor I have become involved in activities that I believe God has placed in front of me for a purpose.

I still question this journey. I wonder what purpose God has for these experiences. What is it that I am to learn? What is God trying to teach me? Like the oncologist, I believe everyone feels this way at some point in their life. And that’s ok.

What I can share today is that I am still reluctant; I sometimes hesitate when there is an opportunity to share my story or knowledge. I am becoming more comfortable with the definition that is “me.” I still want to share my knowledge.

And while my story remains one of healing and hope, it is also a story of grace. Feel free to ask me about it.

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.