Sunday, December 3, 2017

10 Years

On November 29, 2017 I marked the ten-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery. I know that I have shared before that I think of that day as my cancer-free date. Ten years ago I was healing from a lumpectomy and facing a round of chemotherapy followed by radiation treatments. I was also finishing up law school with a graduation date of March 1, 2008. I was reviewing some correspondence to family and friends during that time and thought I’d share a few notes with you.
From November 2007:
“What is most amazing to me is number of people I am sending this to. God has truly blessed me with some tremendous friends. Your love and support is my strength.”
From December 2007:
“I had a call from my surgeon this afternoon. My lymph nodes were clear – no cancer. And she was able to get clean margins. Both of these are excellent news. The diagnosis is officially stage one.”
“We met with the oncologist today. The doctors continue to get good news. As a result of my various pathology reports the recommendation is to still do a series of chemotherapy treatments. However, the treatments will be a total of four treatments, every three weeks (as opposed to eight treatments every other week).”
“My doctor told me I was a remarkable patient because the news is continually better than expected. I know that it is the power of prayer.”
From January 2008:
“Thought I’d share a funny little side effect. I’ve been joking around at work that the chemo has compromised my immune system so my brain isn’t working right. Little did I know that there is a name for it: chemo-brain. Yes, I was reading last night that some chemo patients experience significant short-term memory loss. At least mine is minor enough to not cause too much damage at work.”
From February 2008:
“Wednesday is my third treatment and everything went about the same after treatment #2 as it did after treatment #1. Therefore, I'm pretty confident that I know how things will go. I did buy some hats and am enjoying them. It is kind of fun to pick out a hat to go with today's outfit. I have enough variety to keep it interesting.”
From March 2008:
“Saturday, March 1 was graduation. It was a wonderful and very special ceremony. My classmates are my heroes. We accomplished something truly amazing. We made it through law school and earned our degrees.”
“My update comes as the result of a slight set-back. I was admitted to the hospital Monday night due to a very low white blood count.”
From April 2008:
“I am feeling better. My white blood count is up over 5,000, which is where it should be. My head cold has gone away, though I still have a residual cough. My energy is best in the morning and good in the evenings. I have a “2 p.m. slump” but I think that is normal. I am told that I may begin to feel more fatigue after two or three weeks of radiation treatments. It’s a cumulative effect. However, I’ve been encouraged to do some light exercise; specifically walking (or the treadmill at the gym). Now if we could just get rid of winter.”
“Thank you for taking care of me over these months. Your prayers and love have been my support.”
From May 2008:
“Radiation treatments are routine and there is not much to report.”
“My hair is coming in nicely. I am still self-conscious about the length and the amount of gray so I will keep wearing hats for a while. Now that spring is here (I think) I’ve switched over to my beautiful baseball caps. I have received many complements on my different hats and it is kind of fun to pick out a hat to wear each morning.”
“I hope this finds everyone well. I am thankful for your love, prayers and support. I could not have gotten through this without you.”
November 29, 2008
Dearest Friends & Family –
One year ago, on November 29, I had my surgery for breast cancer. I celebrate today as my one year anniversary of being cancer free. I know I faced other challenges with chemotherapy and radiation over the past winter, by I count those as preventative medicine. I truly believe that I was cancer free as of my surgery. I owe each and every one of you a huge debt of gratitude for your love, prayers and support. I learned that you can get through anything with the love of your friends. I also believe that I received the gift of healing between the time of my diagnosis on November 2 and my surgery. Even my doctors were amazed at my various test results. I know that came from the faith that each one of you carries.
While the past year was filled with challenges and losses, it was also filled with grace, love and many gifts. I am thankful for so many things: my health, passing the bar exam, and my new kitten to name a few. However, love and hope remain the greatest gifts I received. Each one of you expressed your love in a unique way and I treasure each one. I send this with a virtual hug and plan to give you one in person the next time I see you. Please celebrate with me at this time of thanksgiving.
With much love and gratitude, thank you for ten years of life.

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, December 2, 2017

Bucket List

I want to say “Thank You” to all of you who have supported me over the years. Your encouragement. Your love. Your generosity toward my Avon Walk fundraisers. You may have heard that 2017 was the last year for Avon 39 – The Walk to End Breast Cancer. The email I received indicates that the Avon Foundation will launch a new fundraiser in 2018. I do not know what it is. And I do not know if I’ll participate. Stay tuned.

In April 2011, I participated in my first Avon Walk. A team from law school was formed from in honor and memory of a colleague. During that first walk several of us committed to walking the following year. We did. In Washington, D.C. At some point I made the decision to walk in each of the host cities; a new city each year until I had walked in them all. At the time there were nine walks per year. By the time I walked in Boston there were only seven.

Each year I have walked. Each year I have held a fundraiser. Each year family and friends helped me reach the financial goal necessary for me to participate. Each year was a unique experience. And each year I came closer to fulfilling that item on my bucket list.

This year I walked in my seventh Avon Walk, in city number seven on the list. I was only able to walk the first day due to a knee injury, but I did in fact walk in Santa Barbara. I had accomplished my goal.

I never doubted I would get here; it just seems to have gone so fast.

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, September 17, 2017

Seeking Community

Community. What is it, really? According to Merriam-Webster, community is a “unified body of individuals.” The definition goes on to describe community in more detail. One of the characterizations of community relates to fellowship and states that community is social activity. For me, the better definition is “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest, living together.” Though even that definition does not fully define what I am looking for.

When I think about community I am struck by all of the different places where community exists. There is my community at work. In fact, I work at a community college. Community is in the name! The community I find there is one that has the common goal of educating those who come through our doors; traditional and non-traditional students. Beyond education, we are part of the towns in which we have a campus. This community is just as important to us. We are part of them, and they are part of us. We serve a need, which is education. But we also serve the needs of the residents of those towns through partnerships and volunteer opportunities. For us, community is at the core of our mission.

Another community in my life is my friends from the Avon Walk. What started as a group of friends who attended the same law school has turned into a group of friends, their family and their friends. The Avon Walk is what brought us together. It has turned into friends who are family.

My husband and I belong to the Commander Owners Group (COG). A group similar to a car club or a bike club. We have our Commanders in common, but have found there are many deeper bonds. We have been with the group for 15 years. Over that time folks have left, others have joined. Some people we’ve known for over 10 years. Others we met for the first time last year. Some of the bonds will be for a moment in time. Others are deep and will last a lifetime.

There is also our Church. Church is a place where people of a similar faith gather to worship. Church is a community that supports its members through good times and bad. We each bring our own gifts to the community, and can give when needed or as able.

When I look for community in my life I realize I am truly blessed. There are deep riches to be found in each of these communities. At work, when there is a need we rally together to get the job done. If one of our teammates is out, others step in to help fulfill the needs of the office. We care about the college, we care about our students, and beyond that we care about each other. My Avon Walk team and COG friends are extended family. We love and support each other through the good times and the bad. As much as we laugh we are also there to hold each other through the difficulties. And Church has taught me that God’s love knows no boundaries. I have these communities because of His grace in my life.

These communities are God’s gift to me.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

7 x 7

I am training for Avon39 – The Walk to End Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara this year. This is the seventh walk in as many cities. My first walk was Houston in 2011. The Avon Foundation hosts seven walks in seven cities across the U.S. So, in many ways this walk completes an item on my bucket list: to walk in each host city.

In order to participate, each walker must commit to raising a minimum of $1,800. I have managed to accomplish this, and more, each year due to the generous donations of family, friends, classmates, co-workers, and even complete strangers.

In addition to raising money, walkers are encouraged to train. The walk is 39.3 miles over two days. The first day is 26.2 miles (a marathon). The second day is the remaining 13.1 miles. Each year I have committed to walking 13.1 miles each day for a total of 26.2 miles or a marathon.

Reebok® is an official sponsor of the Avon Walk. They publish a training schedule for us to follow, should we so choose. It’s a wonderful guide, but it is not something I have ever followed. Based on the training options, I am considered an “intermediate” fitness level:

  • You currently walk (or do other sustained activity) for 30 minutes or more
  • You can run/walk a 5k distance
  • You exercise regularly 3-4 times per week

The truth is that if I were to follow one of their training schedules, I would have to select the “beginner” level. In looking at the training schedule, it really is all about endurance. Each week you increase your total mileage for the week. I’ve been walking one mile a day for a couple of months now. Recently, I decided to try to increase my weekly total by adding a mile to at least three days a week. I started with 9 training miles per week. Two weeks ago I managed (almost) 11 training miles.

I’ll be honest. While I do try to walk a mile each day, some weeks it just doesn’t happen. Due to obligations that take me away from my daily routine I do not always try to find a way to walk that mile. Conferences are a perfect example. While hotels do have a fitness room, I find that I never pack my sneakers or a t-shirt. My excuse is lack of room in my suitcase. Other times I’m busy with commitments and I don’t build in the time to take that walk.

What I have found is that consistently walking, even a few days a week, has built up my endurance. I find that if I sit too long at my desk I want to get up and move; take a short walk around my building or home. I also find that it is easier to walk that first mile, and the second one is kind of fun. I have a teammate who does her training walks on the weekends. She has been trying to increase her pace. Recently she shared that this week’s training walk “didn’t even hurt.”

And that is the result I am striving for. To walk more each week so that 13.1 miles per day is feasible.

If you would like to support my fundraising efforts, consider a $49 tax-deductible donation ($7 x 7 years).

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.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Thinking of Maureen

My friend Maureen is an amazing woman. Over the past several months she has publicly shared her journey toward better health through nutrition and exercise. Specifically, she has posted her daily steps as she worked toward 10,000 per day. A feat that I find unobtainable.
Over a year ago I bought a FitBit®. My intention was that by having this gadget I would walk more; move and maybe get some exercise. The little device has shamed me into nothing. All I’ve learned over the past year plus is that 2,100 steps is a mile for me. Some days I walk a lot. Other days not so much. Weekends are the worst. I hardly walk at all.
You see, I’m supposed to be training for the Avon Walk. With the knowledge I have from this clip-on tool, and Maureen’s encouragement, I started intentionally walking during my lunch break. I work on a beautiful campus that has many different paths and opportunities for walking. I haven’t walked every day, but the days that I do I complete a mile. I also live on a beautiful street and have mapped out two, one-mile loops so that if I’m conscientious, I walk a mile before work.
In my neighborhood
Maureen and I grew up in the same small town in Connecticut. She was ahead of me in school, but our lives and our families have been intertwined for decades. A few years ago we reconnected through social media. Since then we have gotten together in person a few times. And we’ve become close friends. Maureen and I have a lot in common. Maybe it’s that small town upbringing. Maybe it’s God’s purposefulness in giving me a confidant and inspiration. Whatever it is, she is someone I can turn to. Because of her, I am on my way to 10,000 steps a day.
(Last week, I walked an additional nine miles. That’s nine miles more than usual. That’s nine miles toward training for a marathon).

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, June 24, 2017

Hotel Living

I have to confess. I like hotel living. I find it luxurious to have someone clean my bathroom and change the sheets and towels. These days, hotels are offering a “go green” option where they will provide housekeeping but not change the sheets and towels for three days. I always opt for that. After all, I don’t change my sheets or towels every day when I’m home. And getting clean sheets and towels if I stay more than two or three nights is still a treat.

I recently stayed at a hotel that offered a “no housekeeping today” option. I took them up on it based on my schedule and needs.

I have learned that even if I do partake in these choices, and I run out of those in-room packets of coffee, the hotel is more than happy to deliver some packets to my room. Or I can pick some up at the front desk.

Besides the niceties of housekeeping, hotel living includes someone else cooking my meals and doing the dishes. Most places that I stay offer a hot breakfast. If I’m attending a conference or workshop, the conference often provides breakfast. Hotels also have a restaurant attached, so dinner after a long day is not an issue; whether it is eating in the restaurant or ordering room service. And while some hotels do not have a restaurant in their arrangement, there is always one (or more) chain restaurants right next door.

While hotel living takes me out of my element, and therefore routine, I find that I can develop a routine in my new little world. I always unpack the suitcase; hanging up clothes and putting others in the dresser drawers. I set up my toiletries in the bathroom, and arrange them in a way that is convenient for my new surroundings. In the morning, I sip my coffee while I talk with my husband on the phone before getting ready for my day. Evenings are spent catching up on emails, and relaxing while I watch TV or read a book.

However, hotel living reminds me of what I miss when I am not home. I miss the schedule my husband and I have established over the years. I miss my two furry children; especially the one who curls up on my lap every evening. I miss my friends and colleagues.

You see, hotel living is not conducive to making connections or being part of a community. I am an anonymous traveler who might strike up a conversation with a stranger. But that is where it ends. There are no familiar faces; no sharing of weekend tales on Monday morning with fellow co-workers. No church family that greets me with a smile and a “welcome back” on Sunday morning. No backyard barbeques with friends during the long summer days.

I enjoy hotel living. Partly because it is a break from the mundane. Mostly, because it reminds me of the many blessings of my home, my family and friends, and my community.

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, May 28, 2017

The Strength of a Sister

My sister and I have a lot in common. We have the same parents. We were brought up in the same house; the same small town in Connecticut. We went through the same public school system and had most of the same teachers. We have the same older brother. As adults we are both married; our children have four legs and fur. Though in addition to two cats, she has a dog.

In many ways we are alike. A sense of humor that allows us to laugh at ourselves and the absurdity of the world around us. We choose to live in the present, and we love with all our heart. But in the many ways we are alike, we are also different.

My sister has a strength about her that I find fascinating. The intensity of her convictions permeates all that she does. If she loves you, she loves strong and deep. There is nothing she would not do for you. I suspect that one of her top strengths is “belief”[i] because she is family-oriented and values responsibility along with a high level of ethical conviction. Both in herself and for others.

She is the one to step up and take charge. As things fall apart around me I am the one who wants to run and hide. She is the one to evaluate the situation and hand out duties. She amazes me with her skill and determination. She will organize chaos by looking around and assigning tasks. And she’s not too proud to tell me when she needs help.  

I am sure that if you ask her she will tell you that I have strengths that she admires. I guess that is why we make such a good team. I can rely on her and she knows I will do the best I can for her. I am fortunate. Forever, I will know the strength of my sister.


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 25, 2017

Stop Saying It’s a Muslim Ban

I try to avoid politics. Yet every once in a while I feel the need to speak up. In this case it is about the use of the phrase “Muslim ban.”

The United States is a melting pot of residents with differing backgrounds. We have citizens, permanent residents, and visitors from all over the world. We welcome diversity of race, culture, and religion. I fully support the preservation of our way of life, which includes the right to assemble. Our forefathers fought hard to keep the Government from establishing a national church. We have the “free exercise” of religion, and Congress cannot pass a law “abridging the freedom of speech.” [Amendment I, Constitution of the United States of America, 1789].

However, the President of the United States has issued an Executive Order delaying the processing of visa applications from six countries, and increasing scrutiny for a seventh. Yes, these country’s dominant religion is Islam, which appears to some people to breach that commitment to freedom of religion and right to assemble. But the Executive Order is not a “Muslim ban.”

Read the Executive Order. It specifically states, “Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion. While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities – whoever they are and wherever they reside – to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.”

There are many other countries in the world who have Muslim citizens. Like India, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia. These countries are not listed on the Executive Order. Saying that the Executive Order is a “Muslim ban” is like saying countries that ban travelers from the United States have a “Christian ban.” Continuing to call it a “Muslim ban” does not make it true.

So please, stop saying it’s a Muslim ban.                 

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.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Yankee Swap

We gather for our family Christmas
The children laugh and play
Brother Bill is missing this year
He had to be away
Family is a niece
Who has children of her own
And a great grandma
Who marvels at how they’ve grown
And family is a sister
Who is pretty, smart, and strong
Family is that place
Where you know that you belong
But family is also friends we’ve known
For many, many years
We’ve shared a lot of joy
And even shed some tears
Together we are crazy
We tend to talk non-stop
Telling stories and laughing loud
Gathering for the Yankee Swap
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, January 7, 2017

A Christmas Season

I don’t take down my Christmas decorations or tree until after the New Year. There are several reasons for this. One is that my husband and I are busy with family for Christmas and friends during the week between. We often have our Christmas celebration of presents and a fancy meal on New Year’s Day itself.
Another reason is that I’m lazy. I spend a lot of time putting out the Santa collection and decorating the tree. I just don’t have the energy to take it all down only a few weeks later. 
I also like the lights and cheeriness during these dark, cold winter days.
Growing up we took down the tree after Twelfth Night, which is January 6. My mother always says that we celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas (and she still does). I think it was an excuse to keep the Christmas tree up a little longer.
My friend Robin recently wrote about the Epiphany over at Welcome to Robin’s Corner.
And maybe that is part of my reluctance to undecorate the house. I do not want to let go of Christmas and the promise that it brings.
I am a big fan of the Old Testament, and the more I read it the more I realize that each book, each story points to the Christmas story. The Christmas story is our hope. The hope for humanity as a whole. The hope for our reconciliation with God. My hope for finding grace.
May you find the hope of the Christmas story in 2017.
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.