Thursday, June 23, 2016


This past weekend, I went to my 30 year high school reunion.  It's a little hard to believe that 30 years have already passed since I graduated from high school, but time has a funny way of whizzing by in the blink of an eye.  The passage of time was evident, however, as I sifted through memories to put names and faces together. I was thankful for the name tags that included our senior pictures as many of us had changed a lot.  I know that I, personally, looked a lot different from my high school photo.  Remember, this was 1986 and big, curly hair ruled the day.  It's quite a contrast from the sleek 1/4" long white downy hair that currently adorns my head. Although many of my classmates already knew about my cancer journey through Facebook, those that didn't quickly put two and two together based on my hair.

I was a bit surprised at just how excited I was to see all of my old classmates.  After all, many of them I haven't even thought of in thirty years. In fact, there were probably a good number of people that I never really talked to even when we were in high school together. I'm from a pretty small town of about 12,500 people with only one middle school and one high school. Our class was small enough that we all sort of knew who everybody was, but it was big enough that we weren't all good friends. We all had our own little tribes that we tended to stick with, and some of us may only have encountered each other in the hallways of our school.

Despite the fact that I had almost nothing to talk about with some people, aside from the obvious, "where do you live now" and "do you have any kids" questions, I discovered that it didn't matter at all. I was still really, really happy to see everyone, even if I didn't say a single word to them all night. Every person in my class is a part of my history. We all shared a common experience that binds us together in ways that are hard to articulate. I spent the most formative years of my life with these people. It dawned on me at one point, that there were many people that I had known since I was 6 or 7 years old. Life has taken us all down different pathways, but as we danced to all the old songs and laughed with each other, I still felt connected to everyone there. They all played a part in making me who I am.

Cancer has opened my eyes just a little bit wider than they were before.  I appreciate the connections even more. I see my own energy and the energy of those around me in a different light, and I am beginning to understand just how much everyone I interact with contributes to my sense of self and well-being.

Today, I had another infusion day and we had an appointment with my oncologist (who also happens to know one of my classmates - their kids go to school together - more connections). We received good news that I am still having a positive response to treatment with stable to shrinking tumors. Some have disappeared completely and everything continues to move in the right direction.  We expected, based on my tumor marker numbers, that this might be the case, but it is always a relief when the scans match our expectations. My Dr. is extremely pleased and intends to keep me on what is appearing to be a very successful treatment regimen.

I, of course, wanted to share this great news with everyone, and I thought again about all of the people I am connected to, many of whom I have never met personally, and how much they all contribute to my state of being. I hear people tell me that I am strong, but I am not strong enough to make this journey alone. I have the strength of so many people walking with me.

The connections we make in our daily lives may not seem very important at the time, but those community connections matter. We never quite know what impact we may have on somebody, even if it isn't obvious. We are all so much more connected than we realize. I was grateful to be reminded of that by my classmates, and I am grateful every day for those that walk with me and keep me strong. If you are reading this now, that means you.  I am grateful for you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


The human body and mind are pretty amazing.  We, thankfully, have the ability to forget physical pain and discomfort. We remember it on one level, but as long as we feel good now, we tend to forget how awful we may have felt previously.  It's why women are willing to go through childbirth more than once. It's why people who swore up and down on a Sunday morning that they would never drink that much ever again, end up drinking the same amount the next Saturday. It's why people who have been sick and then get better tend to fall back into the same old habits that may have gotten them there in the first place.

I'm trying not to forget.

As the cancer recedes and my body begins to recover from the cancer and from the treatment, I'm trying not to forget how much my chest hurt from coughing so much. I'm trying not to forget how much my heart sank and I tasted the fear in my mouth when the emergency room doctor asked me if I wanted my son to wait outside the room while she told us my x-ray results.  I need to remember the crushing fatigue that would hit me three days after every chemotherapy treatment. I need to remember that I would be out of breath from climbing the stairs.

I need to remember these things because I don't want to grow complacent. I don't ever want to take for granted how amazing it feels to breathe deeply. I don't ever want to take for granted the gift of seeing my son grow taller.  I do not want to take for granted the ability to sit in the sunshine and have enough hair on my head to keep from getting a sunburned scalp. I especially must never forget the tremendous kindness and love that has been directed to me and my family. I have been humbled to the ground by so much generosity, that I may never find a way to repay it all.

I need to remember every act of kindness so that I can remember to give that same help to others.

Everybody encounters suffering of some kind.  I have had people tell me they feel guilty complaining of small difficulties in their lives because "it's nothing compared to what you have been through."  But my answer is that a challenge is a challenge no matter how big or small. We need to share our challenges with each other because we need each other to overcome them.  None of us gets through this crazy world without facing some serious pain, both mental and physical.

I am grateful that I don't really have any physical pain now aside from a few minor chemotherapy related side-effects that are diminishing daily. But I don't want to forget that pain because I can learn from it. I can learn what to do to try to avoid more of that pain in the future. And I hope that I can use the memory of that pain to lighten somebody else's load, just as mine was lightened.

We often forget that we are more alike than we are different. We often forget that we are all just a part of one great big whole. We often forget that we are here to help each other.

I'm trying not to forget.