Great Expectations

Usually I feel energized after acupuncture, so I look forward to the appointment, and then revel in the feeling afterwards. But this morning after my appointment, I was disappointed to drive away feeling tired instead of energized.

Of course, there was reason to be tired. Our busy weekend included lots of driving and attending the MA state gymnastics meet to watch our seven-year-old son compete.

I never competed state-wide for anything, so I was already amazed to be there, even as an observer. I hoped to see his display good behavior, a solid performance and a fun time with his friends.

We watched him closely in each event, and his performance and scores were solid. There were a lot of good competitors, but he could be proud of his performance. He was also a good teammate and having fun. How he placed felt secondary to us, and we all enjoyed the meet itself.

In the end, he placed 6th in rings, 6th all around, and first in the high bar. First in high bar in the state. Wow.

He was rightfully proud, and we were thrilled for him. We took lots of photos and made a fuss over his medals. Having no expectations to win made it feel like icing on the cake, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Maybe I needed to get rid of my expectations around acupuncture (and lots of other things outside my control) and then I could enjoy whatever I won from it. And then simply move onto the next thing.

After the meet, during the long drive home, he called from the backseat.

“Mom, look at this!”

I assumed it would be something related to his medals. I looked back at him still wearing his uniform and the medals around his neck. He pointed to his mouth as he blew a big bubble with his gum and smiled. The gymnastics meet? So 15 minutes ago. He was having fun meeting the next challenge in front of him. I am thrilled that he is still only seven, after all.


Every little action helps (or, where is my rosary and how do I say one anyway?)

A former student traveled to Rome and bought a rosary for me at the Vatican. Not only was I incredibly touched that this eight-year-old girl would think of me during her vacation, she also selected a beautiful set of wooden rosary beads that feels lovely to hold.

For awhile, I carried them with me to every chemo session, keeping them in their little white paper bag from the Vatican shop. I didn’t actually use them, but I felt better just having them with me.

Then about 8 weeks ago, I couldn’t find them. I have several different rosaries that I love, but I hate losing objects that are meaningful to me and I went into a panic. I dug through everything I own and worried that I may have lost them at Dana Farber while I was in a chemo haze.

I vowed that if I found them, I would pray the rosary every day. They didn’t show up.

Then I did what worked for my ring – I prayed to St. Anthony, but this time laughingly. I had looked everywhere and this was a silly last resort.

But yes, less than 24 hours later, there they were, next to my bed. Crazy.

Wooden Rosary from the Vatican

I happily said one rosary, even though I don’t really know how to say the rosary. Yes, I looked online for instructions, but it seemed like you are supposed to meditate on different mysteries depending on the day of the week (with some exceptions, of course – why can’t this be straightforward!) and THEN, for each set of prayers within the rosary, meditate on a different mystery within the major category. It all felt so complicated.

I know that for each little bead, you say one Hail Mary. I seem to recall that on the larger beads between the sets of 10 little beads (decades), you say one Glory Be and an Our Father. But I don’t know what prayers to say at the Cross or at the funny little symbol that connects them.

So I did what I knew and called it a really good try.

They next day, I didn’t seem to find time to say the rosary until late at night. The day after that, I started to say one after I went to bed (counting on my fingers instead of the beads) and fell asleep shortly after starting.

The subsequent days, I only thought about doing it.

On Thursday night, walking down the hall to say goodnight to our sons, I passed by the rosary beads. As I continued walking, I said something like, “Mary, I’m going to need some help with this.”

On Friday morning, I went to a Mom’s Spirituality Group, where the group leader provides a topic and structure for our weekly discussion and we work within that structure. This week, the topic was stress, worries and anxieties. We were to write down our individual stress, worries and anxieties, then pick a buddy and discuss.

I don’t like to focus on these things, but I pretty much do what I am told so made my best effort. Janet and I finished first, so we paired up. After discussing our assigned topics, we started talking about life in general. At one point, seemingly out of the blue, Janet shared that a friend of hers told her to pray the rosary. Janet wasn’t sure where she would find the time, but realized that she spends so much time in the car that she could easily do it while she was driving.

She also told me that she doesn’t pray the “official” version of the rosary, just her own version. She believes that is okay because even doing that shifted something inside her, and events began to change for the better in her life. She assured me that Mary works to answer our prayers.

Though I appreciate all the details she shared, my favorite is simply that the topic came up at all.

I received direct help on how to get going on the rosary and the assurance that it can be meaningful without being a big event. Of course, that makes me stop in amazement and gratitude.

I want to thank my young friend for the beautiful rosary and the wave of miracles that unfolded because of her lovely act of kindness.

I thank YOU for every little action and thought from your heart. Regardless of how big or small it feels, each one is meaningful and has a beautiful ripple effect as well.


Time for tea

Susan held up the metal teapot and cloth tea cozy that belonged to her Scottish grandmother.

“Tea was the answer to every problem,” she said. “If you weren’t feeling well, my grandmother would say, ‘Let’s have a cup of tea.’ If you broke up with your boyfriend, she would say, ‘Let’s have a cup of tea.’ We would have tea, and everything would be much better.”

She paused briefly, then continued. “Of course, it wasn’t the tea itself. She had a whole routine of making the tea, then we sat down together, over cups of tea, to talk.”

Last week, I got to participate in a session run by Health Story Collaborative. The Health Story Collaborative is founded on the theory that there is healing in telling your story and in listening to the stories of others. The WBUR CommonHealth blog wrote up a summary of the session.

I shared my story, and the session felt so intensely personal that I wasn’t going to write about it here. The evening was filed with authenticity and laughter, and the energy that I felt afterwards left me wanting to just be with it. I didn’t want to check texts, emails or Facebook – unusual for me. Others who attended felt the same way. That gift of life force energy carried me for days and I continue to hold it in my heart. I didn’t want to do anything that might dissipate its special, powerful impact.

Then on Tuesday, I got my tumor marker measured. Over the past months, it has been going down, bit by bit, maybe 10 points or less at a time. Though the doctors label that “stable,” I am grateful for each drop.

This time, though, it dropped from 340 to 290 – a reduction of 50 points, or almost 15%. That is significant.

So, I’m stepping out of my silence to say, find a friend and take out the teapot. Share your stories, and listen with your heart. These seemingly small things make a big difference in our world.

If you are interested in sharing your story, find out more at Healing Story Sessions or email


The Great Divide

I finally traded in my 10-year-old car for a new one. My old car was pretty basic. It didn’t have keyless entry, fancy radio access, GPS, Bluetooth, or the ability to play my iPhone music through the car speakers. I’m still figuring out all the gadgets on the car. In fact, it took me awhile to figure out how to put the transmission into drive and reverse, as well as how to turn it off. I’m not kidding.

Aside from being confused with the technology every time I drove my car, this week was awesome in so many ways. To top it off, I was honored to give a talk to a group of teenagers on a retreat at our church.

Driving there, I wanted to listen to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” which I have on my iPhone. But when I went to play it, Nanci Griffith’s song “The Great Divide” played instead. Maybe there was a problem with the connection. I would just find “Viva la Vida” and select it again. But again, “The Great Divide” played instead. Argh.

After futzing with both the car and my IPhone for awhile, I finally got “Viva la Vida” to play, but the display still showed Nanci Griffith. That must be a glitch, but at least I could hear the song I wanted and I decided that, later, I would figure out what was going on.

I arrived at the church and talked with the facilitators to prepare. One of them asked if I had a song to go with my talk. Great idea.

I love Sara Groves’s music and its spiritual theme, so I quickly looked through the titles I had. No song seemed to fit and then I remembered how Nanci Griffith was so persistent on the drive there. So I listened to “The Great Divide” to make sure it was appropriate and, yes, it integrated well with my theme!

Though I am more and more aware of these serendipities in my life, they still make me stop in awe and laugh with joy.

I wish you many awesome, joyous connections in your week ahead, and, as always, much love.

Everything stable

My CT scan results show all tumors stable, and my tumor marker is slightly lower. Thank you deeply for your prayers and good wishes!

We discussed taking a chemo break, but decided instead to continue with chemo for about 6 – 8 more sessions, rescan and, assuming stable or better, take a break over the summer.

Thank you again for all you do to hold space for these miracles.