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My journey with breast cancer stage 0 DCIS

My journey with breast cancer stage 0 DCIS

What do you do when you are told that you really don’t have Breast Cancer, but in reality and along the lines of “treatment plans” — You do. You pick your ass up and you move forward. That’s what you do.

The readers digest version of this story?

I was diagnosed with DCIS, Stage 0 Breast Cancer on September 2, 2014. It carries with it the same treatment as if it were a higher stage factor. Make the decision to have a mastectomy … or lumpectomy with 30 treatments of radiation. I chose the lumpectomy and radiation.

Why didn’t I tell people?1941357_10204003985113959_3224841898343693846_o

Several reasons I guess. Six can be related to in another photographers blog post here and why she hid her pregnancy for 8 months….

When you are in business… you have to be on point. Always. There is no time for personal interruptions.

IMG_8534Below are some of my journal entries along with my story for the past 4 months. It’s probably the longest blog post I will ever do. It’s the most personal look you will see into my world. If you don’t read anything else. Read the last 7 paragraphs… If you don’t scroll to the bottom. … do one thing… get your mammogram. Don’t put it off.


I’ve seen the articles. I’ve seen the ribbons – and the pink. I’ve even bought and worn both. I have a shirt that says Fight Like a Girl, and another that simply has a pink ribbon on it. I’ve had friends, cousins; three to be exact, who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. As women, we are all “Aware.” Aware that we need to do our monthly self exams – our yearly mammograms. Yet – as women – we are busy. We forget. We say – “Oh last years exam was good, I’ll just skip this one year. And then a year turns into Two. And then you are not sure when your last exam was. And then you play catchup, check all of your healthcare boxes like a good girl and carry on with life. Right? This is true for some…. This time. It wasn’t for me.

My last mammogram was December 2011. I was due for my yearly follow up in December 2012. December 2012 came following 2 months of being practically bed ridden with headaches that refused to go away. By the time the Christmas season was upon us and I felt better the last thing I wanted was to be in a doctors office. As January turned into February, so did March of 2013. With my yearly exam done, that box was checked, yet my mammogram wasn’t. The paperwork existed, for I had held it in my own hand. As the middle of April came and then went, my mother of 47 years did too. Yes, my mother died. She suddenly left us one morning as the result of a massive catastrophic stroke. It was devastating to say the very least. She left behind a huge hole in my heart, my cognitive thinking and an aging father with a host of his own health issues. My life focus changed, and it didn’t surround solely around me and my bubble. Again, as life unfolds – days turn into months and months become years. This past summer in June, I found myself sitting in an outside bar, with family following a family reunion.IMG_9233 We hadn’t wanted the festivities to end, so we carried the party elsewhere. It was hot, the beer was cold and the music loud. I looked around and saw my uncle who had joined us, cousins from states away and then cousins practically in my back yard. The strength of one, in her doo rag – now going through chemo for treatment of Breast Cancer. She being the 3rd of four sisters in the last three years to go through this. Standing there on that concrete slab time stood still and as I knew we may never have this moment again, I also made a mental note, a silent promise, to myself to make my own appointment which was so far overdue. By now I was also overdue for my annual exam. Within the week I had called and scheduled for the end of July. As July approached, I realized there was something more appealing that I wanted to do, so I called and rescheduled for the following month in August. I mean after all, what’s another month… Right?

August 7…
At my annual exam, everything check out great. I had lost over 25lbs in the last year and a half as a result of diet and going to the gym and I was on my way to loosing more and being healthier than ever!

Next Stop Mammogram-
Monday, August 18, 2014 saw my mammogram appointment. As the tech wIMG_9492as checking the films she advised me to not be surprised if I got a call back since it had been a while since my last. Not to mention the fact that I had lost two cup sizes in the past year and a half. So it was no surprise when I did in fact receive that phone call for a repeat performance on Thursday, the 21st. Even though my cousins had received a cancer diagnosis, I wasn’t hugely concerned. After all, it typically is from the mothers side, and I had no other links or relatives along this line with issues. My cousins were from my paternal side of the family. I was easily given an appt and back in the squisher I went. After the repeat mammogram I was required to have a sonogram. … Ok. Better safe than sorry. Have an even closer look, even though this was not part of the routine that I would have been familiar with – but what is “familiar.”

I was then taken to the doctor who was reading the X-rays. When you are sitting that that dark room, and you see images of your breast that are larger than the size of your head, there must be some sort of chemical secreted that causes every bit of your mind to go blank. What I do remember is initially both breasts were in question, but upon my return they determined it was only the right where there was concern, the left had been a “shadow” on the films and changed when they looked closer. The concern with the right was what she called “micro calcifications.” That was it. No name – just pretty pictures that showed little white dots. Little did I know, she did have a name for it. I was told I needed a biopsy to give conclusion to what she saw.

August 26th…

breast cancer stage 0 dcis
Visit breast cancer stage 0 dcis


Within a week, I was back having a “steriotactic biopsy.” I reported to Ambulatory Surgery… yes, that is where they start you. I was gowned up, and then walked down the general public hallway to the Women’s Diagnostic Center. If you are trying to be private and not have your business in front of the world, this was not the route to travel. Awake during the procedure, it was undescribably unpleasant. When an assistant places their hands on your shoulders and advises you to hold as still as possible you know $%#@’s about to get real. I was left with a “titanium marker” within my body, “for future reference.” I was sent home with a follow up appointment with my primary care provider and told that the normal time frame for results was 2-3 days. Within that time frame, I received a phone call from a representative from the office and told it was not cancer and my follow up was scheduled for the following Monday. Yay! Right? yeah .. no.

Monday Arrives-
September 2nd… As I sat waiting for the PA to come in, I was scrolling through my phone, checking messages, reading texts and glancing around the room killing time. I notice the calendar had been flipped to September. Today was the second. I smiled to myself knowing that in two short weeks I would be preparing for my trip to Hilton Head, SC where I would stay for a week learning new photography skills, techniques and soaking up a huge amount of vitamin D! Finally, after what seemed like forever, the door swung open and in came my physician. The first words spoken were “I bet you’ve read everything there is to know about DCIS.” To which I responded with a blank stare, and stated “I have no idea what you are talking about.” Rewind back two weeks to when I was looking at those pretty films. The radiologist stated THEN what she felt it to be. Unbeknownst to me, because, well… I am not a doctor and terms and medical acronyms I am not familiar with. This is why I overheard my physician on the phone – asking what my preference was – if I just wanted to see a surgeon first OR go with the biopsy. This is why when I went in for the biopsy – before ever having it done they handed me a pink folder with all kinds of breast cancer information including a list of surgeons. It was slowly making sense. I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Two Hours Later-
After going over numbers and acronyms and pluses and minuses and what they mean, I left my easy follow up appt knowing:
1. I had to have surgery, a lumpectomy – even though there was no lump.
2. My follow up from surgery would be 6 weeks of radiation which would sterilize the breast to prevent any further cancer cells. My alternative choice was No radiation, but I would require a right breast mastectomy.
3. I would be put on a hormone therapy for 5 years to prevent any further activity in each breast. Because, even though I would have radiation, “it” could come back.
4. Ignore this completely and face full blown invasive Breast Cancer.

The World Stopped and I wanted OFF.-
By this time my phone was being blown up. I could feel it vibrating and glanced at it to see Tom was texting. He knew where I was. Knew I should have been home by now and was checking to see if all was all right. I was by myself because I had totally TOTALLY expected it to be nothing more than a routine follow-up – ten minute check and I’d be out the door. No way had I expected a fraction of what was unfolding in front of me. And so this is where I will say, if you are ever called back for a second look, you should always have someone else with you. As forward thinking as I like to think I am – I did not on this one.

i am strong, i can do this...
i am strong, i can do this…

It took me a bit to digest everything. I had plans ! I had dates on the calendar ! I had a trip in two weeks ! Sand – Sun – Photography !! The next day I called the surgeon to schedule my consult. There were no openings until the Monday following my return from South Carolina. I had been told during my followup from the biopsy, and the revelation of this kink in my master plan, that although it was not considered an extreme emergency, the surgery needed to take place and needed to be done in the very near future. This was something I never could have prepared for, I never thought it would happen to me. I have no immediate first line blood relatives who have received this diagnosis. Now – I am the beginning of the medical history for my sisters and my daughter and my future grand daughters. From now forward, I am a part of their medical history. They will have to be aware the rest of their life. How many of us are fully aware – regardless of our medical history – or anyone else’s? My cousins and their struggles came to mind… And yet I still let my own care lapse.

...on the beach, where I needed to be.
…on the beach, where I needed to be.

As I slowly digested the events of the last few weeks, I slowly began telling immediate family members and friends privately.

and the morning photo shoots begin.
and the morning photo shoots begin.

The trip to South Carolina was probably one of the BEST diversions EVER. How better can you prepare for something like that than to be at a beach resort for a week with the love of your life, learning new photography techniques. Perfect.


We won 5th place !
We won 5th place !

Vacation Over.-

Monday came and the surgeon confirmed all that had been said before. The decision was completely mine and mine to make alone. Tom and I both agreed that OUR choice would be the lumpectomy and the 6 weeks of radiation. Surgery was scheduled for Friday that week. “Let’s do it, Let’s get it done! Get it going and over with.” On the bright side of things, having radiation would not cause me to loose my hair. As much as you think of the what if’s and general things, that was a concern. The surgeon told me on the outside no one would know what was going on. The radiation would probably cause fatigue, but it was manageable. It was up to me who I told about what was going on. So far, only a handful of people knew, and at this point, it’s how I wanted to keep it.

Scheduling surgery starts a whole host of events. There had to be pre-op interviews and a EKG. After having to have an EKG prior to surgery, I also had to have a MRI.

Lynn baked me my favorite. Spice cake.
Lynn baked me my favorite. Spice cake.

September 26th…
We arrived at the hospital at 0930 for a one thirty scheduling. Why so early? Well, the marker that was left during the biopsy two weeks prior needed to have a wire run to it to map out the location where the surgeon would travel to remove the DCIS. The amount of tissue to be removed was estimated at about a golf ball size. Originally I’d been told it was about a half inch in diameter. The amount was different, I was told, because they wanted to make sure that the “margins” were clean. The idea of “The Wire” had wigged me out the entire time prior to being here. After all, during the surgery I would be asleep. I knew I would be awake for the wire… Entering into the room, I was sat in a chair and wheeled up to the mammogram machine that months earlier I had stood in front of when all of this started. At this point, I spoke up and expressed how uncomfortable the biopsy had been and asked for something, anything, that could possibly make the experience more bearable. This time they gave me TWO shots of lanocane. Although it was still uncomfortable, it was no where near as bad as the biopsy. Again, I felt the nurturing hands placed on my shoulders to not only console, but to make sure I did not move. The worst part was being a contortionist and being put in the machine and then having to hold still. The area that the DCIS was in was near the chest muscle. In fact, I was told it was right up against it. With that in mind, I had to really get up into the machine for the area to be seen. Once that machine grabs you – you are there… regardless of size. LOL. Unless you want to be minus a body part, you don’t move. Wire inserted I was returned to my pre-op room to wait for the surgical team which arrived promptly at 1:15pm.

Tom, Emily and my sister, Lynn had been sitting with me the whole time. Given a number, they were directed to wait in the waiting room where a television screen would identify my progress from surgery, to recovery, to post-op. My number revealed, I was in the OR at 1:29.IMG_1268

I climbed on the table on my own after being introduced to my team of OR participants. This team consisted of people who will possibly recognize me on the street and I will never ever know them, especially since the only recognizable asset I saw were their eyes as every other ounce of flesh was covered in surgical gear. As they fluffed and arranged the warm blankets around me there was a little piece of me that screamed “ah this is heavenly” and my mind automatically went to prayer.

Waking to beeps and more warm blankets, there was slow movement around me as the nursing staff tended to me and other patients who were in the same twilight as myself. Ah the joys of the recovery room. Thankfully, there was no sickness, no heavy feeling. Just a feeling of coming out of a deep sleep. Nice actually. That feeling where you bend and twist and point your toes and roll back over to pull up the covers. I was in no position to do that though, so just a closing of the eyes was the next best thing.

From there I was moved to PostOp. As I was being wheeled down the hallway a familiar face came into view as my blurry vision started to focus on Tom. He had gotten tired of waiting for them to bring me back and had come looking for me. It still brings a smile to my face to remember that. That’s my Tom. Very quickly, once in PostOp I was given juice and crackers. Emily had been to the cafeteria, and had bought a bag of Sour Cream and Onion chips. That girl knows her mom, my favorite. 🙂 I was allowed to have whatever I wanted, and these were at the top of the list. Having not been able to eat before the surgery, by now I was STARVING! It wasn’t long after that I was able to go home. Once home I laid on the couch and slept!

Later that evening there was a fund raiser for a friend of ours who was running for local office. Being the hard head that I am, I wanted to be able to attend. Tom had gone on ahead of me as I took refuge on the couch and the plan was for Emily to bring me over later. Armed with pain meds, and a small well concealed ice pack, Emily and I attended the event for about an hour or so. By the time I returned home, the bed was my savior and best friend.

As the new week began, so did my attention to setting up appointments for follow-ups and moving forward. New words began to enter my vocabulary… radiation, Oncologist, hormone therapy.

October 3rd, the Friday following surgery found me back in the surgeons office to get clearance to move forward. The doctor was very frank. The margins had not been clean, and I had to go back. Go back? Yup, everything you have just read above from surgery day to this moment right here… DO over. I hate these kind of do-overs. All of the healing I had already done was for nil. Surgery was scheduled for the following Friday. So by the time Friday came, I was a full two weeks into healing only to be set back again. This further compromised my plans for going away the first week of December to PA for a women’s getaway AND pushed back my finishing up radiation to right before Christmas vs having a couple of weeks to get my act together. I was pissed. And not only did I have to go through it again, so did Tom, Mike and Emily.

That evening Tom and I were scheduled to be at the Osprey Gala for the St. Clement’s Hundred doing portraits. The evening was windy and after a trip home to change into something warmer we managed to deliver over 100 portraits in a 3 hour time span.

October 4th, 2014
A little wine and chocolate could cure the world right? Tom and I went to the Sotterley wine festival to walk around and just take my mind off of life in general. We were able to see a lot of friends, see vendors and smile in the sunshine. One of the things about seeing people in public when you are going through something like this is the smile. It’s important to smile. People in general want to be happy. I want to be happy. The last thing you want to do is bring another person down. So you smile. Regardless of what is going on in your own little bubble – you smile. As I stood talking to friends I hadn’t seen in a while, the last thing I wanted to do when asked “How have you been?” was to tell the truth and then see the “Ohhh.” So it was better to take more motrin, hold Tom’s hand and feel the sunshine on a day that was absolutely beautiful. It was during this time that a talk with my mom would have been so very nice. She always knew what to say, she always listened.

After Dad’s regular appt on with Dr. Chhabra, an Oncologist, Thursday, I stayed in Lexington Park doing errands and catching up on things that had gone undone. My own appt with Dr. Chhabra wasn’t until later in the afternoon. I had the choice of either him or another, and I chose to see Dr. C since I’d already established a relationship with him through dad. It was completely different being on the patient side of things. We went over what would be done once the last surgery and radiation was over. The “pill.” That pill is Tamoxifin. A hormone therapy that will help prevent the reoccurrence of any cancer cells. It will also throw me over the cliff of menopause. I knew it was going to happen eventually, it’s just now right in front of me. Hot flashes. In the winter that may not be such a bad thing considering I am always cold. And there have already been a few here and there… we will see how that goes. I have no choice really the way I see it.

Doc C also talked about a tumor board that three of the doctors meet and discuss; which consists of the surgeon, the radiologist and the oncologist. My “case” will be a part of the discussion on the right treatment. Why are these words even a part of my vocabulary? I tend to go into ignore mode. And that is not healthy for anyone really. I remind Tom that it’s really important for him to pay attention to these parts just in case I miss anything.

Even though my second surgery is going to put me two weeks behind, so far, the schedule for the radiation will should not change.IMG_0242

Friday, the 10th arrived and Tom and I were back at St. Mary’s. Lynn and Emily arrived and the waiting game began again. This time there was no wire to be inserted. They had scar tissue to follow to the point that needed more tissue removed. They were late this time, so my 11:30am surgery didn’t start until 12:15. Once they took me, Emily made a dash to Chic-fil-a. That girl knows how to steal my heart. After coming back from recovery, chicken strips and a container of pickles were waiting for me. It makes me smile again to think of it. It probably drove everyone else crazy smelling it. Once Lynn knew I was out of recovery she headed out since she had other plans to go to PA for the weekend. So now the healing could start again… and the hope that they were able to get it all.

When there’s a Party, you need to get off the couch…..IMG_0247

Saturday brought a picnic at Cedar Lane for all of the families of the residents. Aunt Bebe, my grandmothers sister has been a resident there for the past few years. IMG_1290She had personally invited Lynn and I during one of our visits to come as her guest. Armed with pain medicine and a small inconspicuous ice pack, Tom and I visited for a short while. She was so happy to see everyone and it is such a blessing to still have her with us. She is 92.

IMG_0262Sunday was filled with a lot of couch time and then a visit to the Optimist Ball Park for an oyster scald for a friend who is running for political office. Dad loves oysters and lives less than a half a mile away from the ballpark so we encouraged him to attend as well. He did, and in his words “got a belly full of oysters.” It makes me smile.

Another week of healing following Friday’s surgery now under my belt and I

Tom and I wait for my appt. - CLEAN MARGINS !!
Tom and I wait for my appt. – CLEAN MARGINS !!

return to the surgeons office. Tom once again has CWS (compressed work schedule), so he is able to be with me. He is now going on 4 continuous Fridays off from work. Two of which he had to take leave. Fingers crossed, the surgeon comes in and announces Clean Margins ! Let the healing continue. Little did I realize though… the official healing would not begin for another 8 weeks.


IMG_0363 IMG_0365October 18
Breast Cancer 5K Walk – Calvert County
Lynn and I walk the 5k for the third year in a row in Solomons.

October 21.IMG_8565
Tom and I arrive in Charlotte Hall at the Chesapeake Potomac Regional Cancer Center. I had made the decision to have treatment locally… close to home… Not in Annapolis where a lot of people from this area go. Their reasons are many… mine is it is close, the pathology is the pathology, the treatment is the same and my days – 5 days a week, for 6 weeks will not be completely interrupted by this schedule. The radiation will not begin until my incision has had a good amount of time to heal. As far as skin concerns, there was no way I could be “guaranteed” that I would not “burn” as a result of the radiation. There were creams and lotions that would be recommended and they suggested I use them regularly. I asked about the pool and the gym. At this point, the gym had been pretty much cut out because of discomfort. I was still able to keep my routing of the pool on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30am. Yes. That early. And yes, it’s awesome. Considering my incision is looking “excellent” according to the doctor, I am scheduled for sometime between November 3rd and 10th to begin. A cat scan would need to be done to determine my treatment plan. What a way to enter into the week that would begin my 50th year of existence.

October 23, CAT scan.
As Doc Settle explained, a CAT scan was in order to determine my treatment plan. This included new tattoos. These are not the typical tattoos one goes and gets on purpose. These are purposeful dots that are placed strategically on your body so you can be lined up for the laser beams on the radiation machine. I think I have 5. This was my first time meeting Liz. She ended up being one of four techs I saw when I came in for treatments.

IMG_7764October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Word started to trickle into the street. October 22nd, brought a phone call from a friend who I hadn’t talked to in a while. She had “heard” and had called to offer support. Before the call was over I was invited to a “Wine and Design” event that evening in support of Breast Cancer. I was considered a “survivor” so there was no charge for me to attend. Again, a new word in my vocabulary. As I sat painting, I was reminded of a speaker in Hilton Head at LightPro talking about the faces of Breast Cancer. She had done a piece on women, beautiful portraits with their story. I decided this is something that I as well need to do for our local area. It’s important for people to know they cannot skip their mammogram. I’m an example now. I realize too that my story is no where near so many other women who have been through this. Mine is just a scratch of the surface. Mine was caught early. Thank God. And with this knowledge, I know so many others are out there and there’s should be caught early. But it won’t be, because they won’t get tested. And then it will turn into something considered so much worse, or “too late.” I know in my heart I need to share this with others. I’m just not ready yet. It’s funny how it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and be the best cheerleader, but when thrown into the game it’s a whole different perspective. It’s true until you are walking the walk, it doesn’t truly affect you in the same manner.

I received my treatment schedule…, November 4th I was “dry fit” in the machine and November 5th day one of radiation.

November 5Day one. My 49th birthday.

IMG_8008Lynn came both days and was there “just in case.” It was both comforting and heartwarming to know she was there. At the same time I felt bad that the time I was there was very little and I didn’t want to put her out. I’m used to being on the “being supportive” side of things. I was able to have her come back and see the machine that will be treating me. It’s a little intimidating, but I wanted to be able to share it. I am actually a full week ahead of what is normally scheduled following surgery date. I’ve healed extremely well and fast. I liken it to the two years of exercise and clean eating that Tom and I have been doing. I show up at 7:40am as I would everyday, Monday thru Friday for the next 6 weeks for my 7:45am appt. As the machine was being moved into position, in a room that is cold, dark and surrounded by beams of red laser lights, I just closed my eyes and began to say my prayers; my coping mechanism. This would become my ritual.

November 7, Friday.
A NEW CAR !!IMG_8039
After driving the same vehicle for over twelve years, Tom called today and asked if I was interested in a new car…. Duh! We came home with a Honda Crosstrack which had just 25 miles on it when I first climbed into it. Sunroof, leather heated seats. I’m in love. I swear when I accelerate it lifts up, the wheels fold under and fire comes out of the back of it ! Note to self, don’t get a ticket.

November 10, Monday
Tom took off from work to be able to be with me today. He was able to see the machine just as Lynn did earlier. I think it’s good that he see’s and knows where I disappear to and what exactly is being done.

November 15, Saturday
IMG_8094After attending a trade show all day I went straight to Cedar Lane to see Aunt Bebe. I’d received word that she wasn’t doing well and her birthday party for the next day had been cancelled. She turned 92 on the 11th. By the time I arrived, she had already slipped into unconsciousness. With a heavy sigh, I sat with her and held her hand fighting back so many memories of after mom had had her stroke. I am so very thankful for the time leading up to this day that I visited and spent time with her.

November 16. Sunday. 10:30pm
Aunt Bebe passed.

November 17, Monday
8 treatments down. 22 to go. I really am beginning to notice a difference in my skin. I’m actually sore and it is definitely red. Like a sunburn. I’ve been using the shea butter to moisturize. I am still going to the pool three days a week. The technicians keep asking if I’m still swimming and I keep saying yes. They are insistent I will have to stop soon. I keep piling on the lotion/cream. I learned a valuable lesson. Don’t shave the armpits. I wish someone had told me that before hand….

Lately I have been showing up for my appointments a little early. I’ve taken interest in the new jigsaw puzzle that’s currently being put together…

-Everyone wants someone to listen to them.
-Love goes a long way.
-Think first – Speak second
-That armpit – no shave – during treatment issue
-Live with Gratitude
-Let “it” go. What is “it?”
-Be Early – Focus on Being Early.
-Start to USE that time for journaling OR reading

IMG_8052Written in my journal:
Textile feelings
Less Electronics
More Crayons
More paper
More exploration
Feel texture
Feel the earth
Feel surroundings


November 19
ONE THIRD of the way DONE ! Celebrate ! I am itching like you wouldn’t believe ! They have suggested Benadryl cream. So far I have used Arbonne Moisturizing cream, Forever Eden shea butter, natural Aloe, Aquafor and an all natural soap.

November 23, Sunday
Treatment today so I don’t have to come in for Thanksgiving or the day after. Yay! Long weekend.

November 25, Tuesday
IMG_8062I am now halfway done. I saw Dr. Settle yesterday – weekly I see one of the doctors in the office and my skin is checked – I also get x-rays to check the progression of the radiation. I’ve had a couple of blisters so I am really beginning to get concerned. By now I’ve been prescribed a Rx cream that is also an antibiotic. Aside from the couple of blisters the skin has been doing really well, but this morning will be my last swim in the pool until after everything is over. Before leaving the office I had another CAT scan and IMG_8422new tattoos because I will be laying in a different position for the machine. I’m entering into the home stretch. The last 7 treatments will be done with me laying on my back, arm over my head. So far, I’ve been laying on my stomach, with an opening on the table on the right hand side; hands stretched out over my head like I’m super woman. Hey, why not? I am concerned about the last 7 treatments. Dr. Settle has specifically said she does NOT recommend the pool. I’m definitely more sensitive now than before, I guess I just tend to push forward. I’m so afraid of burning, so I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize my skin. My friend, Clare picked me up to drive me this morning and she said today was “my” day so we went to Bob Evans for breakfast after treatment.

After Clare dropped me off, I called to check on Dad who had been at the ER for a nose bleed. I went to sit with IMG_8241him, and 5 hours later he was finally taken care of and released. It was a day full of chores, then a nice dinner and falling asleep on the couch in front of the tv. The fatigue is definitely starting to set in so I am learning to pace myself and take naps when I needed. As luck would have it, dad’s nose started to bleed again, so it was back to the ER for him. Another couple of hours later, and we were back home.

November 26, Wednesday
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I am thankful for everyone ! I give the entire staff hugs before leaving after radiation. Tom is with me today and is standing there holding my coat as he has every other time. He just smiles and shakes his head as I cause a ruckus saying Happy Thanksgiving and giving hugs to everyone.

November 29
IMG_8263We’ve prepared an awesome set in our living room to do Santa photos for the holiday season. I’ve managed to get the tree up early after having to return the first one. Too big. I feel like goldilocks. Anyway – I have filled my calendar so full I don’t have time to think about hurting or not feeling good, or pains shooting through my chest or the fact that I’m really getting tired. On top of that, if anyone catches wind that I may remotely be sick – business could suffer and I cannot let that happen.

November 30, Emily's last night living at home. Tomorrow she moves into her own apartment.
November 30, Emily’s last night living at home. Tomorrow she moves into her own apartment.

Tonight I am teaching a wreath making class. Mom would be so proud. I have eight people scheduled to show up. Tomorrow Tom and I will be taking promo pictures of Mary’s kids in the Santa set so we can start promoting the pictures. The wreath making class and the photos have generated such a buzz on Facebook that I have more people asking for additional classes. I’ve added Friday the 5th of December and Tuesday the 9th. IMG_8307I also have one private class. Now to gather all of the greens and buy the supplies. By the time I finish the classes I will have helped others make over 25 wreaths for the holiday season.

December 6
Help Portrait. We are back at the Charlotte Hall veterans home donating portraits to the residents there. We have about 10 other volunteers with us and by the time the day is over have donated over 65 portraits. This is the 5th year we have done this and I always consider it the best way to begin the holiday season.

After Help Portrait went to the Installation of Officers with Dad for the Fire Department
After Help Portrait went to the Installation of Officers with Dad for the Fire Department

December 8
Eight treatments left. This will be the last one laying on my stomach as super woman. Tuesday will begin the last seven. They tell me the last seven will be more concentrated in a smaller area, no additional radiation – just concentrated in the area where the cancer was. We are in the home stretch – hoping beyond hope to get through this with minimal skin issues. Right now my skin is very dark, especially under my arm.

I’ve started to make sculpty clay “glow worms.” ha ha – get it? Glow worms. Some of them have wire framed glasses. I plan on giving them to each of the people who have been taking care of me at the center. I also plan on getting a box of Krispy Kreme donuts to share. LOL. I know – sick sense of humor, but oh well. You have to laugh about it all. I will be so glad when it is done and over with.

December 11. Thursday.IMG_8150
When I walked into the treatment room it was SO cold. I complained about it and one of the techs said “Oh, it’s not THAT bad. I told him “You bare your chest to it and let’s see what YOU say.” To which he told me he had no breasts. I then told him, “Yes, but you have nipples and they would not appreciate it!”, to which he took his hands and covered over his nipples over his shirt and laughed. When you are in this “space” – conversation flows a little more freely and modesty is a thing of the past. Once on the table I actually started to shiver it was so cold. And then they told me to hold still ! I told them to turn the heat up and it would be easier !! My tolerance is becoming less and less – know my time is limited. Cold is not my best test of tolerance either though.

December 12, Friday
Today is Tom’s CWS day so I have company! After this mornings radiation, I have only 3 treatments left. It can’t be over soon enough. This morning as I came in I did my usual GOOD MORNINGs!! As I turned around I saw sitting in the waiting room someone I knew. It caused a little bit of an interrupt in my stride, but I also realized that they

My new best friends.
My new best friends.

hadn’t planned on seeing me either. We all have private things going on, and this is a very public place. They must have listened to me yesterday about the temperature. It was a little warmer and before the tech went to touch me to move and align my tattoos he rubbed his hands together to warm them up. Seems like he listened and it’s things like that that go a long way in comfort and care.

This past week has been really tough. I am burning more – I itch terribly and my skin is constantly on fire. I am tired. So tired of the whole process and I just want to be done.

Whenever a warmer than normal day would occur, the beach was my best place of comfort.
Whenever a warmer than normal day would occur, the beach was my best place of comfort.



After leaving my appointment this morning, Tom and I went to breakfast and then on to the Loffler Senior Center. We are donating portraits to the Seniors during their annual holiday party. We gave away over 100 free portraits. Afterwards a lunch at Red Robin – YUM. I am SO tired. I noticed today that where I am receiving radiation under my arm, the hair is no longer there. Nice. The hair has been burnt off of my body.

December 13. Saturday
A day without radiation ! A day to heal. Only THREE more treatments! It’s gone by fast, yet it seems like a lifetime. Mom would be here helping, if she were here. I looked at her photo last night – often I won’t allow myself that luxury, it makes me sad and angry that she is gone. Looking at her photo, my first thought was “I wonder when she will be home – because I am REALLY getting tired of waiting.” Really tired of being patient. Then the reality; I really do wish she were here. Trying to find my place, or space – trying to make sense of everything that has been going on – loosing Aunt Bebe. New traditions. Holidays. Old traditions, gone.

I sit and I breathe and focus on Good. Pay it forward comes to mind. Make a difference. Could that possibly be the new mantra for 2015?IMG_8164

Simply – to…
Make a difference?
Be a difference?

Be Who You Are…

Return to the simplistic.

IMG_8522December 15, Monday
Today would have been Mom’s 80th birthday. I wake at 2:30am. I’m doing this quite a bit now because I’m sore and getting comfortable is a challenge.

This morning while watching the news, Channel 9 came on with a “Health Alert” from the Journal of the American Medical Association reporting that women diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer are receiving too much radiation. Two thirds of women are getting it for too long, currently receiving treatment for 6-7 weeks and they are finding that 3 weeks is just as clinically effective. Um. Um. I’m finished with this whole thing Wednesday. sigh.

Almost Done !
I was laying on the table I told the tech, (who I hadn’t seen in about a week) that I had only 2 treatments left. He immediately looked at my chest and exclaimed “Your skin looks amazing!” Any other time this would be really really awkward.

December 16th
I packaged up all of the little glow worms to pass out tomorrow. Tom and I will stop by the grocery store and pick up the Krispy Kreme’s in the morning.

December 17th, Wednesday. 5:33am

I’m Here ! I MaIMG_8535de It!
Tom took off the day to be with me in celebration !IMG_8536
Two months ago this day seems to far away. Last day of radiation therapy ! My six weeks are over ! 29 treatments done ! Number 30 to be done in a matter of a couple hours. I saw Dr. Settle yesterday, I will follow up in a month for a recheck and then back again in 6 months. She told me to keep doing what i was doing that my skin looked really good. that she could tell where I wasn’t receiving radiation any longer and the skin was beginning to heal. I never attributed the peeling I’d been experiencing the last week “healing.” But that made sense. One of my complaints right now is the pain that randomly shoots through the chest. Using cold packs and 800mg motrin takes the edge off of it. I’m looking forward to the two weeks from now when it feels better and then two weeks from then when it is a distant memory.

IMG_8380Today was a flurry of gifting the Glow Worms and Donuts. To Mrs. Dyson at the front desk I have been nicknamed “Sunshine” and “Peppermint Lady” (one for now, one for after treatment, and one to find in my coat pocket later as a surprise!, she always encouraged me to take a fourth for “Just in case.””) I changed into the same type gown as all the times before, got one the table, got my last ZAP and that was it. As I lay there, listening to the sounds of the machine move over my

Last time having to have my bar code scanned....
Last time having to have my bar code scanned….

head and around me, my memories of the music being played during the last 6 weeks ran through my head. They had a range of reggae, to jazz and ended with todays “Oh Holy Night and Fa La La La La La La La La… I laughed to myself thinking of the week before when I told them they needed to change the music currently playing if they expected me to sit still. I’ve never been successful sitting still when disco is playing… and then… I was done. I floated out of the place. Noticing, as I had every time, the beach chair photos and canvases that are on the wall to represent calm. The magazines that never changed during the time I was there, that dated back three years, but the information contained within the was just as current as a new magazine is today. Everyone gave Bone Crushing hugs… and before I knew it – it was over…. I told them how much I was going to miss them all… but not really. And they understood.

IMG_8127I saw three puzzle changes during the course of treatment. I am so thankful that it is done and over with !

December 18thIMG_8589
Today thru Sunday, a visit from my brother, George and his wife, Kathleen.
What a gift! What a blessing! George and Kath are visiting and staying with us until Sunday morning. I haven’t seen George since Lynn and I visited him in WV over the summer following his heart attack. What a special treat to end radiation and have George visit.



December 21st, Sunday

Oh how special is this ?!?!!? Winter Solstice is always so special to me. It’s a celebration of the days getting longer again. A “return of the light.” Oh how perfect that this comes following the end of radiation and four months of trials and tribulations. Tom and I celebrated it in our backyard by having a bonfire with a few close friends and Mike and Emily. I wrote on a piece of paper the things I wanted to let go from 2014 and the things I look forward to in 2015. A bottle of champagne that dad had given us from mom’s refrigerator in the barn was cracked open and “Celebration” was the subject of the evening.

December 22nd, Monday

IMG_8625It’s the morning after the Solstice – The Return of the Light. I breath in and out – Just as much a sigh of relief as it is a will to push forward. I’ve driven to Colton’s Point, so I can watch the sunrise. The new light in the new day. And even thought it is not a spectacular sunrise, I know in my heart this is exactly where I am suppose to be. And it really doesn’t matter. The sound of the water is my only background music, that and the constant knocking of the metallic pulley banging against a naked flag pole. The air is cold. Thirty four degrees to be exact. I’ve left the warmth of my fireplace to be here. On the point – the closest place I can find to be – when the new sun – the new day makes it’s appearance. I’ve written this “blog post” – this writing a million times in my head in the past few months as I’ve driven back and forth to treatments. I’ve had so many rewrites and cross thoughts. And I am still at a loss for words… My brain has written in fractured sentences… and so it was here that I began the writing of this, probably my longest blog post ever….


and so here we are….

and so ... Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
and so … Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Since the time of my own diagnosis, I have had several people tell me that they have scheduled their mammograms because of me. Mammograms that they didn’t think they would need – or ones they thought they could skip. I have one friend who has received a call back… and I pray all is well.

So many days… holidays have come and gone. Months ago – I was in one of the scariest moments of my life. I began hearing words I’d never heard and words that I still don’t understand. I am SO glad that it is now over. I am SO lucky that it was caught so early. It was caught early through the grace of God, not by my being diligent in getting my mammograms done regularly. I am so fortunate that it had not spread. I am so fortunate that it was seen at a time that it was advanced enough to BE seen. There was No lump. I always did my self exams. There was nothing there. But deep within, within the microscopic view of a mammogram it was found.

The months of November and December 2014 will be marked as my time as Super Woman. My point to prove – whatever that was. My point to prove that I was “Ok.” My zest to give back and pay it forward however way I could.

2014-05-15 05.45.33During the time of two surgeries and 30 radiation treatments, I attended numerous events for friends running for political office, photographed the Ghosts of Sotterley, walked a 5k for Breast Cancer, had 10 scheduled photo sessions, said a final good-bye to my Aunt Bebe, photographed and donated over 240 portraits (with Tom’s help), helped others create over 25 wreaths (and donated a couple to boot), had two full scale Santa sessions which captured and restored the magic of Santa and Christmas to over 16 children, 2 cats and an owner who loves her cats as if they are her children. Even though I was right up to the last minute Christmas eve wrapping gifts. I had gifts. I had completed all of the shopping needed. I’d given myself permission to just buy gift cards if it came down to it, but it didn’t. All of this time… I continued to take care of my dad.

This experience has been a good one. Really. It has. And parts of it have been not so good. I am very thankful for everything. Every experience. Everyone in my life. They all have had a purpose and a reason. There have been days when all I wanted to do was crawl up into a little ball. But I made it through.

Where do I go from here? A2014-05-15 20.57.03n appointment next week will start hormone therapy for 5 years. Monday will start me back in the gym. I’ve gained five pounds and my body feels like it has gained fifteen. I need to kick my muscles back into gear and get my body back to where it was the third week in August before all of this craziness started. I will have mammograms every 6 months until they tell me otherwise. I will continue to pray that I never have to go through this ever again. Or any other woman for that matter. And I am a lucky one. Mine was Stage ZERO.

As women – in this particular circumstance, we are all sisters. Look out for your sisters. Take care of the girls. You never know when you could BE the one to start your own family history. There are times when I am still in denial – I push it away to the darkest parts of my thoughts I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to remember. And then I do. I’ve had Breast Cancer. It’s been fixed. I still need to get it checked regularly. I am a survivor.IMG_8794


Welcome July

Welcome JulyJuly!

I love July driving along the highway, surrounded by fields of corn, feeling as though you are navigating your way through a corn maze. The sun is high and HOT! Car windows down, sunroof open and on the radio, Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” begins to play ….  Start background music here Instantly, as if I’ve driven through a vortex surrounded in green, I’m 13 again….

It’s the middle of the summer, literally. The only job the tobacco in the field has to do is Grow. This is the in-between time. A time when my biggest responsibility on the farm is making sure I “hoe” the weeds (mainly “pusley”) from around each plant. Eight rows a day, and then I’m free. Free to get on my bike and spend the rest of the day at the Denby Hill Pool. I can smell the dirt, feel it soft and cool between my toes. The stickiness created from being in the field will soon be erased with the first jump in the pool. The sun beating on my shoulders, my 9volt transistor radio, hanging out of my back pocket of my OP shorts; the same radio I would soon bungee cord to my bike for my mile ride to the pool. I push through it all thinking of each row as an eternity. I could only wish in today’s world that that was my only responsibility each day.Transistor Radio

It’s songs like this that bring back some of my fondest memories. It’s amazing how music can transcend you. Simpler times. Times taken for granted. I can almost smell the hot cement and hear the splash of jumping in that pool. No worries, except being home before dark.

I can’t help but smile, thankful for this time. The lessons. The memories.  ….. and yes, Joe Walsh, although I may not be riding around in a limo, …….”they say I’m crazy but i have a good time, I’m just looking for clues at the scene of the crime, Life’s been good to me so far…


The Birds Are Still Singing

It’s. Raining. Again. 15 days now …  But the birds are still singing. 

Right?  The birds are still singing. 

If I had no sight –

I would HEAR them sing even louder. And I would not be caught up in the visual. I would be told, simply by their song – that today was a happy day. 

So close your eyes and even if just for a moment, HEAR, hear the song in your heart. 

#MakeYourOwnSunshine #passiton


Shedding a Layer

shed a layerThis week I have begun to peel a little from the sun I received while in FL a week ago.  Although I never felt “burnt” or as if I had received “too much” sun, my body felt the need to “shed” the top layer.

Metaphorically speaking, I see it as stepping out of one skin and into another.  Although the current temperature outside will not allow me to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, I know the time is right around the corner.

I sit and reflect on this layer that bit by bit is peeling away revealing the new, the fresh.  I am excited to let go of things that have been holding me back.  I am excited to begin again, to pick up where I left off.  The winter seems to slow things to a crawl for me.  Not only my body, but my mind.  I tend to go within.  Reflect2Renew.  As much as I despise it, It’s needed – the winter that is…  I only wish it wasn’t as extended and as extreme as my body feels every ache and pan that being alive for 50 years brings.  going away last week has given new perspective.  I realize it is necessary to feel the cold – maybe not on such a continuous basis, but necessary.  It’s necessary to miss something to such an extreme, so when it returns your appreciation is even greater.  Considering we are in the Lenton season, this can be understood and applied as well.  Restraint comes to mind… Not sure how it factors in… just comes to mind.

As I reach around to rub an itch on my shoulder, I am again reminded of the layer leaving.  The discomfort of dryness that winter brings.  I know that with the return of warmth, will return the humidity.  Something those who love the cold, hate.  The humidity will soften my skin and replenish it’s moisture without any extra effort by me.  There’s that word – “effort.”  Something I am focusing on for 2016.  Balance and Effort.

So in order, to feel better in my own skin, I need to take effort in applying extra coconut oil or lotion to allieviate the physical and mental symptoms of the striss on my body brought on by the cold air.  In taking a little extra time for me, not only will I find comfort, I will find balance during a time when I am not in control of my environment.

Take time for the little things that could make all the world of difference to the big picture.  So, as this layer leaves, a new one is ready to emerge.  Fresh, renewed, relieved, rejuvenated.


#sheddingalayer #thebigpicture #chooseyou #newskin #bewhoUr #reflect2renew


Giving/Receiving Love… with Limits

“I love you… but….”

As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, there is a lot of focus on Love.

All my life I have heard lessons of Loving Unconditionally.  Put no conditions on those you love.  Love them for who they are in the uniqueness of which they vibrate.  Easy enough? Right?  In some cases yes, others unconditional love just doesn’t happen and better suited for another writing.

Today’s thought is on Giving and Receiving Love, WITHOUT Limits.  I am talking about what we ALLOW ourselves to give and what we allow ourselves to receive.

First, let’s visit what we allow ourselves to give.  We are given the ability to Love freely, and equally.  For various reasons, we don’t.  Our life experiences cause us to react in many different ways. We love with limits.  There are lines drawn in the sand and unspoken boundaries set.

When we invest time in people, it is human nature to feel that as a tribe, they will return this investment in us.  When they do not, it is hurtful.  We recoil. We limit the next time the amount of effort put into the relationship. We limit what the future for that relationship is — we begin to feel time spent, is better spent where it is more effective for the greater good.

Reciprocal Love and Respect —

Finding a balance in the give and take of a relationship is sometimes a little sketchy.

Ah, the receiving part.  It is better to give than to receive. Although this is very accurate, it is also unrealistic.  Face it, Love just makes you feel good.  So of course, by all means, we all want it! And a lot of it! Don’t show me the money… Show me the LOVE !

Friendship vs. Professional
What is your position? Where do you find yourself in a relationship with someone? Is it strictly a business/professional relationship? Or does love factor in?  If love factors in – is it reciprocal? Do you feel an allegiance to a business or a person, and why? Is each person vested in the same outcome? Does one expect more from the relationship than the other?

love falls out of your hand

“You are the most unique person I have ever met. You are so talented .  I am not going to support you though.”  You feel the love, right in the palm of your hand, you grip it, you hold it and at that moment, you reach out to grasp another’s hand in comradery, it reaches forward and bites you, and slits a vein of hope and trust in your wrist.

What is this thing called love when paired with the female species trying to get ahead in this world?

What is a business friendship vs a friendship? Does “going through” something together change an outlook or outcome?

How do you know where you stand in this “business friend relationship” when someone states “they love you,” yet they do not support you? My friend, that is love with limits. And there is certainly a difference. This is truly simply a business friendship – there is no love lost because there has been no love given.  The boundaries have been set.  Yes, they “love” – with limits, therefore, it is not love in it’s purest of form.  It is merely dutiful.

What is your definition of loyalty? Business vs. Personal. Dividing the two.

Emotion – when it’s important to leave it out?

Men vs Women – Friendships, vs Love, vs Loyalty vs Business

Men…men, don’t worry about this stuff.

How do you fix this?  Roll your sleeves up and dig in.  Do the work. Love.  Love without Limits.  Know who you are, and where you come from – surround yourself with Love – and #believe … #believeinLove.



Finding our tribe, Being within our Circle

circle of hands

Finding our tribe, Being within our Circle

We all wish to have a sense of belonging.  A place where we are comfortable.  A place where we feel safe.  A place where we feel accepted. Regardless.  We are one with the circle.

How do you find your people?  How do you find your circle?  I have several. And each one feeds a part of me that is hard to explain.  And yet if I put the contents of these circles together, they may not groove or jive as the community I so desire.  So for now I will continue to collect a piece of each, for it is what makes me who I am.

The circles…

The crafty bunch

The spiritual bunch

The memories from school bunch

The free spirited bunch

The healthy-gym oriented bunch

The eclectic bunch

The historical preservation bunch

The professional bunch

The driven for success bunch

The networking bunch

The support group

Now go back and look at your own circles to see who bleeds over into another… who resonates with your core, your everyday?  

You are the sum of these personalities and habits. Be with “good stuff.”


Living with a Purpose

Living with a Purpose

A while ago, I began the website and FB page, “Shoot with a Purpose.”  It suggested that when you go out with your camera, you shoot with intention.  Shoot with a purpose of capturing a specific subject in mind.  A moment, a shape, a theme.  

Sitting here this morning, “Living” with a purpose comes to mind.  Are we simply living – or are we living with a purpose?  And that purpose has complete permission to change and be changed at any point in time.  What is your purpose today?

What is your goal?

What are you going to do everyday – even if it is a small thing – to bring you closer to your end goal?  


Figure it out !!


A Guide to Taking Your Dream Mediterranean Cruise – A Fun & Exciting Travel

You know you’re destined to be a fashion designer if you: a) spent most of your childhood making clothes for your Barbie dolls instead of playing with your friends; b) read fashion magazines instead of your school books; c) ran a boutique out of your basement at age 10. In other words: if you want to be the next Yves Saint Laurent, it helps to be completely and utterly obsessed with fashion.

However, there are many aspects of the profession.

Working as a fashion designer can just as well mean supervising a design team at a sportswear company as producing a label under your own name. Although the former career may not seem as glamorous as the latter,


Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!


Death has no mercy and grief no timetable.

Death has no mercy and grief no timetable.

Two years ago I was on the cusp of what I felt was “soaring.”

I was loosing weight.  I felt healthy. I was eating right.  I was transitioning a business my husband and I built from the ground up over to our son, which in turn was giving me more time to myself to pursue my own life’s passion, photography.  Every day that I woke, I felt like a spring bud just ready to burst.  After all, great things were happening.  Every morning, I began my day with Alicia Keys, “This girl is on fire.”  It was my motivational.  My attitude adjustment.  My way to begin.

Saturday morning, April 13, 2013, the windows were open, the birds were literally screaming with delight, the sun bore down with what promised to be an awesome spring day and a day of “getting things done.”  I had been to a yard sale early that morning and bought a chair for mom to sit in for our upcoming family portrait on May 5.  All of mom’s children were going to be in town at the same time and we wanted to get a really nice family portrait.

Cherry Blossoms, April 2013
Cherry Blossoms, April 2013

I hung up the phone from a lawnmower parts supplier after confirming they had the part we needed and prepared to get ready to leave.  The first phone call came from my cousins phone and I missed it.  The second came from my sister, Gail’s in the Outer Banks.  Knowing that my parents were visiting, this gave cause for concern.  As I stood there looking out my kitchen window at the cherry blossoms in full reveille, the words that came through my phone from my niece were incomprehensible to me.  I had to ask her to repeat, and even then they were indistinguishable, yet I knew exactly what she had said.  “Grandma has had a stroke, they are flying her to Norfolk General, we are driving there.”

Timehop so elegantly replayed parts of the day for me yesterday. April 13, 2013

Just writing those words causes me to stop and have to find my own breath.  We weren’t certain of the severity – after
all, she had been talking to the rescue personnel as they were helping her.  Within a half hour, Tom, my husband, and I had packed a bag and began what would take us four hours to drive to Norfolk.

Two hours into our trip, I began texting my sister for updates.  Surely they had heard something by then.  When the caller ID showed Gail’s number I answered immediately.  The words “it’s not good” and “she’s on life support” to this day, echo in my head.

We were about an hour away at this point in our travel.  As I put my phone down, Tom asked for the update.  As I could feel the cars speed increase even more, it would be another 20 minutes before any words could be formed.

Arriving at the hospital we began the descent from the upper level of the parking garage.  The warmth of the day and the newness of the season had not had the opportunity to spill into the concrete structure which held darkness, wet and cold as hidden speakers belted out “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive by Travis Tritt.  Soaking it all in I paused at the bottom of the stairs listening, only to look up with aggravation and say “Seriously God?”

Like walking through the Soul Train dance along (I’m telling my age), I passed through the sea of on lookers to get into Mom’s room.  From care givers to family members who had already arrived, the numbers were growing.  And there she was, sleeping.  Sleeping as I have seen her sleep my entire life.  Only this time, she would never wake up.  My dad sat holding her hand not saying a word.  A position he would hold for the next 17 hours.

As family began arriving during these next 17 hours we began to see and feel the impact of the inevitable. Our mother was dying.  The glue that had so feverishly held our unit together was chipping, cracking and ultimately fading away.  Upon giving mom her last rights, the local priest simply said, “the vigil is the hardest.”  Sleeping on floors, chairs, gurneys; against walls, in hallways, upright in a chair holding her hand, night began to give way to morning and the last family member to arrive, did. Bittersweet knowing now the moment had come.  All that could be done — had — and now it was time.

As the birds outside began to wake and start a new day, as they had just the day before, my mother of 48 years, quietly slipped away.  And in the gentleness of that I could hear the metallic squeak and squeal – like that of a train breaking – the sound of the world coming to a stop.

In the days, weeks, months that followed,change was the keyword.  Life events and holidays, although on the outside were reflected, within – were no comparison.  The dynamics of family and friendships changed like the ebb and tide of a body of water.  What was there one minute was gone the next and new relationships were formed.  Rocks that had been a solid foundation of the shoreline were now gone and other anchors had taken their place.  Previous sources of comfort resurfacing. Old friends now new again.

Christmas 2013
Christmas 2013, our first without Mom.










Death has no mercy and grief no timetable.

When one mourns the death of a loved one there are no rules, and there is no timeframe in which you need to “get it done and over with.”  You never “get over” having loved someone “SO much.”

When my mother died – the very first few hours I simply looked at Tom and said the best thing you can give me is patience.  Please be patient with me.

When one looses someone who has had such a huge impact on their life, it’s not only the person you grieve.  It’s your lifestyle. Your way of thinking.  It’s your wake up.  It’s your go to bed.  It’s how you fold laundry.  It’s the meals you cook.  It’s their habits that have been passed to you.  It’s new traditions, and honoring old.  It’s in how other’s treat you now that someone else is not watching them.  You grieve not only the loss of their life – you grieve the loss of the life you had with them in it.

Some of the worst things said when one has lost a loved one is “give it time,” “time heals all,” “in time you will feel better.”

All of these statements are in fact true.  The wounds of my mother’s death and the storm of emotion that followed it are healing and the wind is subsiding.  It’s taken TWO years and there are still times, moments when.. when… well, you just want your mom and no matter what – that is pretty much the only thing that will make it better.  The friendships that disintegrated, or merely faded away have made way for new.  Old friendships, once thought forgotten, renewed, and “family” has taken on a new meaning with my own rules of commitment.

Death changes us all.

Death has lessons that when you pause and listen, can give you a multitude of answers and open a whole host of

This life we are all living, none of us will get out of it alive.  While here, we need to focus on the good.  BE the love and light you wish to receive.  Reflect outward what you hope to gain.

As I sit here watching the sway of the newly budding branches I eagerly await their explosion.

Life !  Beauty !

Cherry Blossoms, April 2013
Cherry Blossoms, April 2013

Just like April 12th, 2013.  The last time I heard my mom’s voice.  The day I simply sat in my backyard photographing cherry blossoms exploding and bee’s humming with delight.  Just like that day, hearing the birds sing and feeling the warmth of the sun.

It’s time to get this train back on the tracks.  It’s suffered the effects of derailment for far too long.  I love my mom.  I miss her profusely.  I remind myself – I am a mother, and my children did not loose theirs, no more than I lost my own mother when my Grandmother passed away.  I have reminded myself for the past two years that being “present” is of the utmost importance.  And, Tom, that rock that never left the shoreline, no matter how high the tide, …. I am the luckiest woman I know to have the support and love he has shared and showed.

The one thing I can tell you though.  If you have the opportunity to take those family photos.  Take them.  Everytime I photograph a family it brings me great JOY to know that I have been able to preserve this moment for this family.  That they will have this precious heirloom.

With great anticipation, I watch the trees, waiting for rebirth and renewal.  For the sounds of moving train wheels.  I think I can, I know I can —  Afterall.  It’s a great day to be alive.

Mom's Chair
Mom’s Chair