Commonplace Magic

Through the fog of a regular morning, all at once, I was standing in a parking lot in the sunshine feeling grateful for:

  • A job where I have the flexibility to show up, loosely, sometime between 8:30 and 9.
  • Wearing jeans and flip-flops to work.
  • Having long hair hanging wet against my neck and shoulders.
  • A commute that allows for morning coffee-and-a-book time at least four days a week.
  • Listening to a book that feels so real and has moments of connection so bright I get chills.
    (Love Warrior)
  • Hearing Wilder awake before I leave for work (even if she's screaming and likely making her parents nuts).
  • Real love and connection with so brilliantly-lucky-many amazing, wonderful friends (even if many of them live far away).

No matter what else, the Universe brims with goodness.

Where I Live Now

Dearest of dear ones,

At long last, the promised update! Cutting right to the chase… I now live in Portland!

Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, I know. You’ve been talking about this for years.” I talked a big game, folks, but I was never actually sure it would happen.

It’s been a little more than a week since Portland-Sara morphed from an idea into a reality, so thinking about it still gives me a swoop in the stomach and a tingle in the neck. This is not bad or good; it’s change. It’s a decision made. 

This year has been heavy with decisions, heavy with change. 

Heavy with miles traveled (over 7,000), with months lacking a proper job (6), with states traversed (17), with moments of heart-stopping uncertainty (lots), and of pure, glistening joy (countless). 

The first half of the year was so heavy I didn’t know how I’d bear it. There were times (days, weeks, months) when crying seemed my main occupation, when I could not fathom moving through the next day.  

The second half of the year found me the lightest I’ve ever been. The most grateful. The most awestruck. The most surrendered.

2017: a year of metaphorical and literal journey.  

Mid-December 2016, I was sobbing in my bedroom, yelling at God, “Why won’t you help me?!” This was a low point. Following my cancer treatment, I had rediscovered Spirit, embraced Presence, found a church I loved. (The Gathering in St. Louis, I don’t have enough words to express…) I was nourished. Then, with all of those things very much in my grasp, anxiety and darkness ate up the light. A dark night of the soul is what they call it. I managed to maintain a somewhat normal exterior, but the darkness was so deep, you guys, so why-am-I-on-this-earth-anymore deep. But that’s a story for another time. 

Back to how I ended up in Portland.

In November 2016, two years post-treatment, when I’d expected to have a clear CT scan, be named officially cancer-free and ready to move on with whatever would come next, instead the scan was ambiguous. Some tiny thing that hadn’t been evident before had appeared; and there was the lingering bronchitis, the recurring pain in my ribs. Just before Thanksgiving, following a surreally crazy test involving a nearly empty room in the deepest basement of the cancer center — Nuclear Medicine — and a kind, careful nurse injecting a radioactive substance from a small metal vial into a vein in the delicate gooseflesh of my inner elbow, the potentiality that my cancer had spread to bone was dispensed with. But still, there would be three months more waiting to see if the new spot on the scan was Something, or just a glitch. (To save you the stress I endured, it was apparently a glitch. Huzzah!) But, there I was just a tad over a year ago, yelling at the Universe for help.

Two days after that December night of forsaken-feeling anger, I was given 30 days to move out of my apartment, where I’d lived for nearly six years. 

Less than two hours after that, in a casual conversation, an angel of a friend offered me a place to stay for a couple of months, just to get me through my next scan. I ended up living there for six months — a safe, quiet place with dogs to love, and calm, solid support close at hand. The friend wouldn’t let me pay rent.

I guess Providence had heard my shouts.

That friend’s generosity allowed me to save money for a move to Portland where my biggest family cluster lives. But I was never sure the move was right. I was frozen. I was crying. I was saving up. For something.

Another tearful, prayerful night, it became clear that I needed three things: quiet, family, time. Now, to make these things happen…

In February, I got the all-clear from my doctor. “Sara, it’s time to go live your life now.”

In April, I hit a new low and, with a lot of help, got a handle on my depression. 

In May, I gave notice on the most lucrative job I’ve ever had, working for a boss and with a team I respected immensely.

In July, I worked my last day at UMSL, repacked my 10 x 10 storage unit, filled my car with what I thought I’d need for up to six months (the ridiculous-long estimate; I expected to be on the road only through October at the very latest), said goodbye to my St. Louis beloveds, and started driving.

I promised many of you updates along the way and I did manage to post some pictures and captions, but the longer I waited to write to you, the more experiences built up, and the harder it seemed to tell all the stories. So, finally here are some details. I hope once I get caught up, I’ll be better at staying in touch!

July/August — Nearly six weeks in Arlington, VA with my brother, Jason, sister-in-law, Susan, and brand new nephew, James. So many beautiful, home-cooked meals; being part of a family, baby-duty (wonderful baby-duty!) and all; regular writing dates with my brother (who happens also to be working on a book manuscript); getting to know my sister-in-law, becoming true friends; a magical week on the beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, swimming in the ocean; so much reading. I never wanted to leave.

August — Back to St. Louis for quarterly medical tests (all clear); reconnecting with people I love love love; catching up on last to-do’s before heading west.

September — Chicago for several days with my dear, old friend Sarah (and her Brian and family) in her new city. Biking on the lake, museums, food, long walks and lingering conversation — some of my very favorite things. Ann Arbor to visit Ellie and Dave, two of the kindest people I know; welcome like welcome was born to be. Detroit to mourn my darling Auntie Cathy with my uncle and grandmother. Back to Chicago with Sarah and clan for one restorative night and morning before pressing on.

September/October/ November— Denver/Boulder. The sunlight! So much connection with family. Long conversations and walks with my Auntie Mia, getting to know the daily life of my cousins. Stepping into a family unit ready for me to join right in. Cooking, relaxing, reading; long trips to libraries and bookstores; mornings spent reading, afternoons spent walking; seeing my grandmother almost every day, joining her for seven Fridays of her ladies’ prayer group. When I arrived in Denver, I thought I’d stay a week or two; I finally packed up and left after eight. Good God, this time was a gift. A pearl of hope, clarity, and intention growing layer by layer by layer.

October also saw a quick side trip from Denver to Tulsa to reconnect with home. With my beloved high school best friend, Tara, I saw Ryan Adams at the Cain’s Ballroom; reconnected with Wendy and Johnny, Nate, Shane, my brother Adam and his wife, Gina; sat quietly at my mom’s grave; and then visited Lynette, a librarian I worked with for one year, nearly twenty years ago and whose voice stayed with me longer than she’d ever imagined.

November/December — I planned to go through California after Colorado — LA, San Clemente, Oakland, San Francisco — but was called to Portland early to help out with a family injury. Not the injury, but the call to Portland was right on time. I was ready to settle for a while — a while meaning through New Year’s. By this point, I wasn’t sure Portland was for me. I thought I’d go back to Arlington/D.C. to live with my brother and his charmed little family or, more likely, to Denver, land of the shining-est sun where my spirit glowed so bright. But then, following a hike during a long-anticipated side trip to Vashon Island in the Puget Sound to visit one of my dearest college friends, Leila, and her partner, Ellen… click, click, click, like the perfect tumbling of a clock’s gears, the Pacific Northwest grabbed me, a Portland job fell into place, and I decided it’s time to stop, to stay.

So, on January 2nd, I start my new job — 30 hours per week, leaving ample time to pursue my writing, and with medical benefits — as assistant to the Columbia District superintendent for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church, a progressive religious community that is, I believe, on the cusp of exciting change. (Yvi, you might not remember, but you’re the one who suggested to me, so many months ago, over lunch, a Conference job!) I’ll be renting a lovely room in my cousin Alexis’s family’s home — nestled among stunning pines and holly bushes bigger than you’ve ever seen — and joining the Alexis-Nathan-Finnegan-Wilder household as full-time Auntie Sara. 

Who ever could’ve imagined, on that cold, miserable moving day last January… 

On my travels, in a little indie bookstore in Ann Arbor, I found two beautiful art prints made, I didn’t know at the time, by a painter in Portland, OR. This is what they say:

“Everything changes. Nothing is Lost.”


“It is well with my soul.”

Yes. And amen.

Sending so much love and peace and gratitude. I promise to be in touch again soon.


Still looking for Elgin's home

As an update to this post, Leo, my cat, is assimilating into a new home. Assuming he and the other pets who live there can make friends, he is in a very happy place!

I am still looking for a home for my darling Elgin. Here is some info about the why...

After my nearly three-year ovarian cancer treatment-recovery-follow-up (not so) merry-go-round, I’ll soon be departing St. Louis with plans to end up living near family in Portland, OR.

This July, I will enter a period of living in transition, traveling around the US to reconnect with family and open up mental and spiritual space to see what comes next.

I love my Elgin, a playful and loving 10-year-old terrier mix, but it has become clear that I need to find a new home for her. I want her to have the security, predictability, and love that she needs while I figure out what I need.

You can find more information about Elgin here:

My goal is to have Elgin settled into a new home by mid-July.

I will travel to take her to the best place.

As you see fit, please copy, paste, post, and share this information to your networks.

Peace and (ever) gratitude,

Transition Time - I Need Some Help

After the nearly three-year cancer-treatment-recovery-follow-up (not so) merry-go-round, I’ll soon be departing St. Louis with plans to end up living near family in Portland, OR.

This July, I will enter a period of living in transition, traveling around the US to reconnect with family and open up mental and spiritual space to see what comes next.

Here is where I need some help. I love my pets, (Elgin, a playful and loving 10-year-old terrier mix, and Leo, a spry and attention-seeking 12-year-old cat), but it has become clear that I need to find new homes for them. I want them to have the security, predictability, and love that they need while I figure out what I need.

You can find more information about each of these darlings here:
Elgin the Dog:
Leo the Cat:

My goal is to have Elgin and Leo settled into homes by early July.

I will travel to take them to their new homes.

As you see fit, please copy, paste, post, and share this information and these links to your networks.

Peace and (ever) gratitude,


Good News Travels Slow (Lotsa Update)

Hey friends, 

Remember when I used to send you these updates every couple of weeks because that’s just how touch-and-go things seemed?

Yeah, you remember. June 4, 2014, the day I come out of surgery into a new world. Sixteen days later the first port goes in; and four days after that, the first chemo; then exactly six weeks after the first port goes in, it has to come out and three days later the second one goes in and there are treatments and sickness, and tears, and waiting and so much support and so much love from you. 

While I had that first chemo treatment on June 24, 2014, a nurse came to tell me what to expect. Two years. Overcoming this cancer will be your primary concern for two years, she said. Fifty-percent of ovarian cancers recur in the first two years. You’ll need to stay near your doctor for two years. You’ll need to keep your port for two years. Two years of recovering and waiting and praying and hoping for the best. (But I found the best; I found all of you and so much more.) Since my sixth and last chemo was actually in October 2014, the two-year clock started ticking then. 

November 2016 was my two-year scan. “Clear scan, port out” was a mantra I chanted for the six months from May to November. (May seemed to be some sort of breaking point where I just couldn’t bear the weight/wait much longer, but of course, I did.) Round came November and a… a not-a-clear scan. A something new might be there scan. A do some other tests, then wait three months and see scan.

Here’s what I wanted to tell you: 

That wait and see scan was six weeks ago and it was clear

And it was five weeks ago when Dr. Powell said to me, “It’s time to go live your life now.” 

And it was later that week that I laid on a table and they cut that port out of my chest. And now the stitches are mostly healed and the soreness is almost gone and I can finally imagine that it’s finally ok to tell you guys what Dr. Powell said. 

“It’s time to go live your life now.” 

Did you hear it? I heard it five weeks ago, but it’s taken this long for it to mean something. 

It’s time to go live my life now. Thank God and thank you, my dearest of dear ones who kept me going when I thought I never could. I just thought that you’d like to know.

Blessings and peace for all you are and all you do and all that we go through together. 

Love and more love,

Peep Peep

Walking across campus last week, I noticed a duckling in a pond. She was doing that adorable dive under, pop up, shake off thing that ducks do, but is so much cuter when they’re still little and fluffy. I stopped on the path to watch for a minute and, I think I noticed at the same time that the duckling did that she was in that great big (for a duckling) pond alone. She stopped dunking and shaking and started to glide through the water, her bill springing open and closed as she let out a series of peep-peep noises. I felt an anxious tingle in my chest as I realized that the mother duck and the rest of the ducklings were in a separate pond, on the other side of the wide path. It wasn’t only the walkway between them, but stones blocking sight lines too. There was the gush of water noise and construction sounds from a new building going up nearby. As she floated around the pond, the peep-peep emitting more quickly and her head swiveling, I was certain there was no way so she’d be able to find her group. I wondered if there was anything I could do and knew I couldn’t just keep walking, so I waited. I stood in the middle of the path where I could see both the mother with her duckling pod, and the lost peep-peeper, and I waited. There was a large (for a duckling) distance between them and so many reasons why I didn’t think she’d be able to find her way, but then something seemed to shift. She was gliding to the edge of the water, then climbing out onto the grass, then screech-screeching at me as she ran tilting forward on her little webbed feet across the path, down the bank, and skipped into the water on the other side, sailing smoothly back to where she belonged. 

I’ve been thinking about this for days, how I was stunned into stillness by that little duck, seriously worried about what would happen to her. Walking down that same path today, I wondered about the metaphor.

Last Thursday marked the end of an eight-week class I participated in at the cancer center - “Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery.” I’d thought to take the course earlier on, during my treatment, but knew I didn’t have the strength and wherewithal to commit to showing up and being present at regular intervals. Then, just when I thought the post-treatment depression would never end, when I was really getting desperate, this class’s cycle came around again and (with no small thanks to my awesome colleagues at work) I arranged to attend. 

On the first day, something like thirteen people gathered around a conference table hoping for the best. There were two facilitators and a bunch of people dealing with cancer - some survivors, some in active treatment, some caregivers. It was the first time I’d sat in a room full of people all so deeply affected by cancer; that alone was a balm. During the initial class I agreed to meditate for ten to fifteen minutes every day during the eight weeks of the program. Though I’ve practiced yoga off and on since my early twenties and read and listened to more books about meditation and mindfulness than I can probably remember, I’d never actually established a daily meditation practice. I was desperate though. My counselor called the mindfulness course an “experiment,” but to me it felt like some sort of last ditch effort. 

The size of the group dwindled as people dealt with what they needed to in life. We ended with a core of nine including the facilitators. Nine people who - as faithfully as we could - practiced the daily meditation and met up each week to sit around that conference table and listen to lessons about mindfulness, to talk about what was working for us and what made us cringe. We cried. We laughed. We did yoga in our chairs. We listened to guided meditations that took us to forests and mountains and on boats at sea. We swung sleepily in hammocks strung between trees on our own imagined islands. 

That hour and a half each week came to feel a little bit like magic to me, like a sparkling of light breaking across the water. Somewhere during the course of the eight weeks, something led my tripping feet up out of that lonely scared pond I’d started in, and over to the place where other folks were floating. I plopped myself amongst them and we all kept paddling. It’s not only that I made it to the others, but that I tuned into the homing device inside me that could guide my way out of the lonely pond and into the one with some life in it. 

The eight weeks are over now so I’m not going to see those people tomorrow. We’re not going to sit together and listen to those marvelous facilitators, and we’re not going to get to talk about things. But they are all still with me, my mind’s own little duckling pod. I think about them when I sit down every night to do my meditation, and when I go outside at work each day to count backwards from ten and breathe in the sun. And now that I’ve written my way through this, I’ll have them in mind every time I walk down that particular path or even when, someday in the future, I might happen to notice another duckling just peep-peeing her way along. 


2015 June 4 - One Year Ago Today (Lotsa Update)

One year ago yesterday I was meeting my oncologist for the first time. Sarah had just flown in to go with me to the appointment. The doctor examined me and said, based on all the other info he had so far, he didn’t think it was cancer - 75-percent chance it’s not cancer, he said. Looks like we’ll be able to do this laparoscopically; you may be back at work within two weeks. (Someone asked me recently if he was saying this just to make me feel better.  Absolutely not - he really thought it was going to go a different way. Don’t be mad at him. In the end, it’s that doc and his team who have gotten me this far.)

One year ago today, Sarah and I went to the hospital. We sat in a waiting room, quietly. I got the IV. They nurse suited me up in a strange fitted blanket with a heater built in - something out of a 1950’s imagination of the future. The anesthesiologist walked through the door. Sarah held my hand and we joked about “the forgetting drug” as the doctor loosed it into my IV. When they started wheeling me out of the room and the lights moved above me, I asked, Is it better to keep my eyes open or closed? Closed, the anesthesiologist said. Definitely closed. 

I feel compelled to write what I now know happened in the O-R, and the moment I woke up, and then what came next and next and next until I’ve spilled out all the moments, but that isn’t for right now. What I can still barely think about are those phone calls that Sarah had to make, alone in the waiting area. The people I love on the other end of the line. (I wonder now what we’d been thinking - that it was going to be ok, I guess, that the calls would be good news, relief.)

This writing feels very somber and I feel very somber about the memory, about the truth of it all, but here is another truth: It was one year ago, and today I feel, physically, pretty close to fine. And at my last scan, everything looked fine. Sure, there is still a port in my chest, and we’re still waiting and watching, and the way I think about so many things is changed for good, and there is still so much uncertainty and loss and all of that. But things always change and there is always uncertainty and there is always loss. I’m back to doing just about anything I liked to do before, and feeling pretty good about it. In everyday life, people can look at me and not even know what happened. I’m somehow a year - a weird, surreal, horrific, beautiful, terrible year - later, mostly just regular folk again.

I thought about letting this anniversary pass without comment, but what I really want is to say thank you again. Thank you for coming to stay with me. Thank you for your time and your love and your travel and your cooking and shopping and phone calls and money and prayers and for holding my hand and thinking of me and sending me cards and flowers and letters and coming over just to talk to me and mailing me books and movies and clothes and hats and watching me quake and break down and come back to life. It’s a different life, but I hope to make it a good one. 

I seriously love you guys. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

2015 May 11 - T-Boz Roosts Here (Lotsa Update)

Dear ones,

I’ve been meaning to, needing to, write to you for a while - at least a week since my six month check-up with the oncologist - but just haven’t been able to. So, at least here is this: all is clear. Good scan and good bloodwork. Praise be. I’m still tripping my way over a very bumpy path. I still have awesome people to lend a hand. Here’re a few things I saw on my walk with Elgin tonight: a child-bird, still with some of its fluffy baby feathers, hopping and trying to fly; a tree with fresh, bright leaves that grow big and flat so when you stand under it and look up, you find  a sort of ceiling; a bamboo fence that whistles in the wind; a chicken roosting, uncaged, atop a brick fence with a hand-painted wooden sign that says, “T-Boz roosts here,” and; a whole bed of cactus that somehow survived the winter.

Love and light,

2015 March 17 - The Question of Self Pity (Lotsa Update)

Hey friends,

It's been a really long time since I've written to you. That also means that it's been a really long time since I've written. I just haven't been able to manage the energy and focus to sit down and really tell it like it is, or to (perhaps) figure out how to pretend it's better?

Some darling friends are visiting St. Louis for a few days and encouraged me to write something to all of you again - said they've been hungry to know how things are going - the good and the not-so-good. So here I am. It's something.

Here're the generalities: I've been working full time in the office since mid-January. That is going well, I think - some days I leave early, some days I come in late. (Lucky for me, I've been able to accrue sick time to cover this.) There are doctor appointments and bloodwork appointments and port up-keep appointments. But, I am carrying my weight again at work, and it's nice to know that my being back makes a difference to my coworker-friends. My three-month check-up in early February (just blood and physical, no CT scan) showed that things are looking fine - nothing new to worry about. I had more, regular blood drawn last Friday and am waiting (anxiously, as you might imagine) for those results. My next scheduled CT scan is May 1st.

Now to try to describe what life is like right now...This is an old metaphor, but bear with me; it's all I've got at the moment. I've never run a marathon (or run more than a mile - I'm a walker!), but I've come to imagine each day as that - a long stretch of step-after-step to get to the end where I try to rest up to do it all again the next day. Some days it's slow and steady, eyes on the road ahead, no room for distraction; I power through. Some days I glance around to see friends cheering along the fence-line and I can slap hands, get a hug, smile, pick up the pace. Some days, it feels like crawling along through a hailstorm. I always feel tired. I always wake up wondering if I can really get out of bed and do it again. (Well, there was one day - a Sunday about 6 weeks ago - when I woke up and felt OK! That's something, right?)

Two things I heard from doctors last week that are both encouraging (because I'm not outside the norm) and a bummer. First, that this time - 5-6 months post-treatment - is often very hard. People think you're feeling better by now and maybe you are, but it's marginal enough that it doesn't feel like much. You want people to be able to be glad you're okay - and you are "okay," huzzah! - but you still feel like only a slice of yourself. Second, that recovery from treatment generally takes at least twice as long as the actual length of the treatment. By that measure, I might be almost half-way through?

This brings me to another reason I haven't been writing. I'm stealing this from Joan Didion: The question of self-pity.
These are the first four lines of The Year of Magical Thinking:
"Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity."
I know, I really do know, that I am doing so much better than I could be. I know I'm lucky to have made it through the surgery and treatments and that things look ok now. I know I had so much amazing support. I know I'm lucky, and yet I cannot feel happy. The question of self-pity.

It occurred to me a couple of months ago that I never took a break in all these months. It was always go-go-go, what am I on the hook to do today? I was not working full time during treatment, sure, but that was not a break. I was always in treatment and recovering and trying to figure out how to work more, until working more led to the shaky transition out of treatment and back to work full time. It occurred to me that I never really stopped to breathe. On Friday, I leave for a week in California. I'll be staying for a couple of days in San Clemente with my Auntie Meg and cousin Angela, then riding the train up the coast to Santa Barbara, where I'll stay in an AirBnB set-up with a friend of a dear old college friend. (My brother, Jason, came riding along on his white horse again to get me airline tickets with his travel points.) My criteria for the trip: sun, ocean, nobody expecting anything from me. I hope this is good. I hope it helps. Send me your prayers and sweet thoughts as I try to do a little reset, get my feet on the ground.

Well, I started out thinking I was going to write you three or four sentences and look at this big, long missive. Thanks for reading and caring.

Love and more love,

2014 November 30 - My Billowing Cape (Lotsa Update)

Hi there,

It's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote to you all, but I think about it a lot; there are so many things my little self is trying to sift through and process - what's happening, what's worth sharing, how to make enough sense of it to actually send something worthwhile. So many confusing, upsetting (and sometimes beautiful and eye-opening) things are unfolding out in the world in this moment. Like all of you, I'm doing my best to pay close attention.

I've been back at work in the office part time for two weeks now, though last week was a short one. I was pretty nervous about going back, not really about my ability to move into the role I play at work - I'd been doing the job at home for months - but about my ability to take care of my physical self, my changed physical self, out in the world on an everyday basis. What if I was too tired to make it through? What if I got overwhelmed? And maybe the largest concern, though I didn't see it then, what if I just fell back into my self as I was - I must always be my best! - without allowing the space and time and energy to do the most important things: let my body get strong again and begin to process what has happened and how I will be in my life, in my world, now?

I fought serious fatigue that first week. By the time I left each day, I'd had all I could take and would go home and just sit quietly, or if I had company or talked on the phone, I was really not pleasant. I just felt so irritable and exhausted. The second week, the short Thanksgiving week, was a little better. I still felt beat by the end of each day, but maybe not tired to the point of feeling angry about it. We'll see how this next week goes, if maybe soon my doctor and I will decide I can do more. There is one piece of advice I've gotten over and over from my doc, as well as from various people in various contexts: don't go back too soon; make sure you take the time your body needs. I'm trying to hold onto that advice and be very, very careful.

That addresses logistics. Otherwise, I'm just swimming through this slithery pool of memories and experiences, trying to fish out some meaning. The biggest thing I can get my hands around right now is the constancy of feeling my mortality. Of course, I've thought about this since the diagnosis. It was an invisible band fixed tight around my chest, daring me to take another breath; I couldn't look down at it. Now, it's more like a slippery black cape, the fabric trailing behind me so I can sense it fluttering at the back of my neck, feel it brush against my heels. It's not an idea anymore, but something stitched to me like Peter Pan's shadow. One night a couple of weeks ago, maybe just after I sent the last update, I climbed into bed and had this acute, visceral sense of... how to describe it... my Self gone from this place, the part of me that would be gone. It took my breath away. I have an acute awareness that I've gotten a reprieve, at least for this moment, and also that this is not a thing to be taken lightly or for granted. That knowledge holds a vast weight.

Last weekend, I went to my favorite brunch spot and ran into a server who had moved away for about a year and is now back. We'd been friendly before and when she saw me, she gave me a hug. We went to my regular table and she plopped down the menu and said, "So, girl, what's been going on?" I stuttered and stalled for a few seconds - we hadn't been close before she left, just interested parties, acquaintances-plus - until I finally said, "We'll, I've had cancer." How do you small-talk around that? I couldn't think of a way to be real and honest without telling the real, honest truth. She cried. It wasn't dramatic and she didn't launch into a personal story that connected to her response. She just stood there looking nervous, asking questions, and wiping away tears.

This was only the second time since my diagnosis that I've felt in the position to need to reassure someone else of my okayness. You who have been reading these missives know that I decided early on not to pretend, not to be okay just to keep people comfortable. The first time post-diagnosis that I felt called upon to be okay for someone else, it was so early on and I was still so stunned, I just apologized and said that I couldn't make any promises. I knew what that person needed to hear me say, but I couldn't say it. This time, it was different. It [could see that this was more] about *her* fear than *my* reality. Does that make sense? Don't misread what I mean - I'm sure she's a deeply caring, empathetic person and she felt for me, but, I think what was really happening was that, for a second, she could see my cape billowing around me and it made her afraid that she'd have to feel her own cape too. By reassuring her that I'm doing pretty well now - "Look! I'm strong enough to come out for brunch again!" - I think I was really just desperately trying to put my metaphorical arms around her and whisper, "Yes, we both have our capes on, but, sweetheart, thank God, we don't have to look at yours yet."

I saw my long-time therapist a few weeks ago and we talked about this... it's not quite sadness, but stunned-ness that I'm carrying after the end of my round of treatment. She suggested that I am now grieving "the loss of a life without cancer in it." I may never (please, Heavens, let this be) have cancer again, but I will now always have a life with cancer in it. I can see the truth of this differentiation in the many people who have felt so keenly for me and reached out in such specific and knowing and loving ways because they too, though now healthy, have a life with cancer in it. I've been ruminating on that idea of grief and it feels very accurate - that sensation you have after the thing-that-changes-everything, a death, a divorce, a serious illness. It's foggy what life was before; you can't quite remember. It's foggy what life will be; you can quite imagine. In the middle, in the now, it's just stunning and upsetting and unfair that you have to think about either. (This brings to mind current events too, right? We are in the stunned middle.)

Over the last couple of days I've been reading Anne Lamott's essay collection Traveling Mercies. In "Ladders," she writes about grieving after the death of her lifelong best friend (it is not lost on me how everywhere I look there is cancer, there are people gone too soon). "But what I've discovered," she writes, " that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief." And later, "A fixation [on something else] can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart. But since your life indeed may have fallen apart, the illusion won't hold up forever, and if you are lucky and brave, you will be willing to bear disillusion. You begin to cry and writhe and yell and then to keep on crying; and then, finally, grief ends up giving you the two best things: softness and illumination."

I guess this is what it all adds up to for me right now - all of these walks I need to take, and the staring at the wall/ceiling/sky I need to do, all of this truth-telling and honesty you all have been willing to bear - it's in service of this idea: that I can't hide from what's happened, that the only way out is through, that in the end there is, maybe not sense in the senselessness, maybe not order in the chaos, but at least that sweet softness, that blessed illumination that Anne Lamott talks about. That's what I'm hoping for, at least. Thanks for riding along and listening; I don't know how I'd have made it to where I am without you.

Prayers for peace and love and understanding to you and far, far beyond.



Ps. Eyelashes are here! Eyebrows are coming! Peach fuzz up top. :)

2014 November 16 - A Dream or Another Life (Lotsa Update)

Hi again,

I suppose it'll soon be time to stop sending updates this way. That we'll all go on somehow and this time will start to fade. That's what people tell me. I'm thinking about other ways to keep writing about this experience, because I don't think I'll be through it for a long, long time, but eventually the Lotsa website updates will stop. I'll keep you posted.

For now though, I thought you might like to know how things have been going. A couple of updates ago, before I had my good-news test results, I wrote that my counselor at the cancer center had warned me that the period immediately following treatment, following the all-clear, can be very difficult for some. I also wrote about feeling like this tiny creature on a endless shore watching the tidal wave of regular life coming to take me down. This did not look like a surf-able wave. When it hit, it didn't feel like one either. I've been on my knees gasping for a couple of weeks now. It's been rough.

There is a sense that I should be celebrating (and special thanks to those of you who have felt the excitement for me when I couldn't), but what I think I've actually been doing is feeling the enormity of emotional response, emotional trauma, that I had to hold at bay while I went through treatment. During those months, I just had to take the next step and then the next and next until I made it out. I think it'll be a while before I really catch my breath.

As of this weekend, my pets are home.

That sentence has to stand alone; it feels like it means something bigger than the simple reality that the amazing people (Wendy & Johnny and Jen T) who took such good care of them have passed Elgin and Leo back to me. It's hard to explain how normalizing their presence in my apartment is. I feel in a time warp. Today is a snowy Sunday spent with my pets. It's like I've jumped back to last winter/spring, like the summer was a dream or another life. Whoa, I just realized that this whole thing began with a trip to the ER on May 17th... Tomorrow is November 17th. Six months. I'm not going to add an "(only)" before that, but I see the ghost of it.

Tomorrow I return to work on campus.

Another stand-alone sentence. I've been working part time from home since just after my second chemo, and I'm only cleared to work reduced hours until I get more strength back, but still, this is back in my office. Regular. Normal.

For some reason, the Wizard of Oz movie has come to mind over and over through the course of this time - different characters and scenes. Here's where I am now. Remember when Dorothy is imprisoned by the Wicked Witch and Judy Garland is on screen, all tear-stained and helpless? "I'm frightened, Auntie Em. I'm frightened!" And then... The serenity on Dorothy's face when she realizes how to get home? When she closes her eyes and starts clicking her heels together. She knows she's ok then. She knows that all will be well. I am both of those Dorothys right now. Caught somewhere in the middle.

I just tried to write a paragraph ending this chain of updates and thanking you, but I can't do it yet. Knowing you're there, even quietly and at a distance still means too much. Through all of this, I've pictured you as this stunning small crowd of people who've got my back. I guess I want to keep that image for a while longer. I hope you don't mind. I think I still need you.

Love and more love,


2014 November 5 - The Water is Calm (Lotsa Update)

Hello again,

I thought I'd share a little more about how things are going, since my last update was just a quick note to get the word out about my clear scan and bloodwork.

When I got the news last Friday, I had just left a counseling appointment at the cancer center, and pulled up at a parking meter to run a quick errand in the Central West End. My phone rang and I saw that it was my oncologist's main nurse line. This was it. I answered; the reply came, slow and deliberate.

"Sara, this is Deb."

"Hi, Deb."

"Are you ready for this?"

"I don't know if I'm ready for this," my voice was a kind of whine.

"You are," Deb said, and I could hear her smiling. "It says, 'Tell her the scan is perfect and the CA-125 is within normal range too' exclamation mark, exclamation mark!"

This is where my exact memory of the conversation fails. I know Deb said that we still need to be vigilant but this was good news, and that she saw the results and knew she couldn't make me wait through the weekend to hear. She said something about it being a great Halloween treat and that I should go and have a wonderful weekend.

I sat at the meter for a good twenty minutes, making phone calls and sending texts before I got back into somewhat-normal mode and finished my errand. I was very close to Bissinger's (chocolate shop) and decided I deserved a decaf mocha. (I guess some people celebrate with champagne; chocolate and whipped cream for me.) As the super-nice guy was making my drink, he started chatting, asked me how Halloween was treating me. I smiled dazedly and said, "This is a really good day." When he looked up, I blurted, "I've been having chemo for the last five months and I just found out my scan is clear, like half an hour ago." He said how great that was and congratulations, and murmured something I couldn't quite hear to a coworker. When he handed me my drink, he said, "Thanks for sticking around a while!" (He didn't mean in the store.) I'm not the type to hug a stranger, but it almost happened. Then he asked me to wait a minute and the coworker he'd spoken to earlier passed me a pound of assorted chocolates. As I walked out, I heard the barista say to his friends, "She just got through chemo and..."

Between the mocha and the news, I felt giddy for a little while. I came home and paced my kitchen, rubbing a hand back and forth over my mostly hairless head. God, how much I wanted to call my mom. I wanted to tell her so bad - the scan is clear, mom! She's been gone almost six years now, but it doesn't seem to matter much; when something big happens, she is still the person to tell. The only other thing I could think to do was get down on my knees and say thank you. That's what I was doing, just kneeling on the floor saying thank you over and over, when my Auntie Meg (one of my mom's two beloved sisters) called and, though I'd talked to her while I was at that parking meter, I paced the kitchen and gave her the blow-by-blow again. And then again.

I'd already made plans to have dinner at the home of some friends who live in the neighborhood. It was a lovely time and delicious home-cooked food and when I got home later, I was exhausted. Back on the phone with my Aunt that night, I made my way to stunned, then rapidly, to overwhelmed and sobbing. She stayed on the phone with me - as she has done many nights since all of this started - until I was ready to fall asleep.

You know the feeling you get during finals week, where you know you just have to get through and *then* you can crash? The adrenaline and the need to perform, to do what needs to be done, pushes you through. This was a major crash. It really did feel like there had been something pushing me to keep going and going through the treatments and the anxiety and all of it. My cousin Alexis explained it like this: there's been a bear chasing me for months; now that I can stop running, it makes sense I would crash hard. Saturday and Sunday, I could barely get out of bed and when I did, I thought maybe I shouldn't have. Monday, I worked my regular hours at home, but that is all I did.

First thing Tuesday morning, Shawnessey met me for my doctor appointment. We heard again that the tests were clear. The doctor talked about the toll the chemo has taken on my body, how I can expect to continue to feel quite fatigued for a while, explained that the shortness of breath I've been having is from chemo-induced anemia. He went on to say that this is when the mental recovery begins, that I need to take things slow, and that dealing with the emotional repercussions of everything that has happened since the diagnosis is a big and important task. His main advice was to be careful with myself and to take things as slowly as I can. He smiled and said, "You don't have to see me again for three months!" (At that point, I'll have bloodwork and an exam - no scan yet, unless there seems to be a reason for it.) Before I left, I got hugs from both the doctor and from Deb, the nurse who'd called with my results on Friday.

So, here I am, reeling. I just got off the phone with my brother, Jason, and, after I went through all of this and my concerns and the pressures and the what-will-happen-nexts, he said something like, "Well, the storm has passed now and the water is calm. It may still be foggy, but the water is calm." A wise fella.

When I'm anxious, I like to go for walks, but through most of this, I haven't had the strength to really do that in the way I want to - alone and for as long as I like. I'm still not up to a lot, but today when I woke up with a belly full of worry, I bundled up and went outside. I know that I've gotten to the important point of the walk when I stop staring furrowed-browed at the sidewalk just ahead of my feet and start looking up at the houses and trees and squirrels and sky. That's when I can really breathe. And that's what I'm hoping to find my way back to - a feeling not of just making my way down the path, but looking up to wonder at things and take some deep breaths too.

Thank you - again and always - for listening to me and helping me and sometimes carrying me. I can never say what it means to have your support.



2014 October 31 - Test Results, Good News! (Lotsa Update)


These is so much more to say, but for now, there is this: I just got a call from the doctor's office. The nurse quoted from the doctor's notes: "Tell her the CT Scan looks perfect and the CA-125 is in normal range as well!!" The nurse said we still have to be vigilant, but this is a celebration. I see the doc on Tuesday for follow up and plans, but everything looks good!

I couldn't have gotten this far without you.



2014 October 29 - Fatigue and Music and a Garden (Lotsa Update)

Hey there,

I've been wanting to write to you all for days, but keep running out of steam before I get to it. Or maybe my mind has just been working on what to say? There are too many things...

I've had some ups and downs since I last wrote. It's still difficult for me to process just how physically exhausted I am. Generally, I have 3-5 good hours in me on most days and a little less than that on others. I think I've written before that people say the effects of chemo are cumulative. Amanda, my psychologist/therapist at the cancer center has confirmed what I'm feeling - that it's the exhaustion (fatigue) that people are referring to. I just feel worn out almost all of the time. Amanda says this is the norm and reminds me that this is not just the kind of tired that requires a nap and a good attitude, but that my body is recovering from a systemic assault. That word - systemic - comforts me, justifies what I'm feeling.

When I went into Amanda's office last week, I sat down and said, "I'm a mess." I'd been so anxious - about the scan and whether the chemo did all it was meant to do, but even more about the tidal wave of real life I can see coming at me. I'm this little weakling on the shore and the wall of who-I-was-before is barreling at me with a speed and force I can't control. Amanda told me that this time - the moving out of treatment and beginning to reintegrate into "regular" life while managing my own and other people's expectations for how quickly I "should" bounce back - is one of the hardest parts of coping with cancer and treatment. Many people find this transitional time as hard as the diagnosis/beginning of treatment; some find it harder. Another comfort - it's normal that facing and moving back toward what I used to do/know/be is terrifying.

Aside from all that intensity, you know from my last cooing tiny update about that wonderful wedding I attended, that I've had some good moments too.

The day after the wedding, I saw Ryan Adams perform at the Peabody Opera House. I bought the tickets months ago and, over the course of my chemo treatments, came to think of this concert as my big celebration. So many times, I thought, "After my last chemo, I get to go to the Ryan Adams show!" It was precisely the right number of days after treatment so that I was nearly certain I'd make it. (This hope was complicated by the fact that I missed two other concerts this summer because of cancer treatment issues.) I'm usually always listening to music - around the house, in the car - but since my diagnosis, all I've been drawn to is Ryan Adams's album Ashes & Fire; many of the songs resonate, but the one that has really hit me is "Lucky Now." Like I think of the Emily Dickinson reflecting pool by the cancer center as "my place" for this time, "Lucky Now" has become my song for grieving an old me and thinking about the future. Anyway, I really, really hoped he'd play my song at the show!

The day of the concert, I actually spent 45 minutes creating a twitter account just so I could maybe try to tweet a song request. I totally chickened out. I decided to put my request out to the Universe instead, sending hopeful thoughts throughout the day. So, I'm at the show and it's great and I'm excited and enjoying myself. The music is awesome; Ryan Adams is funny and charming. After the first four songs or so, I stopped my constant wishing for that one song and sunk into just having a good time. So many songs I knew, such a good vibe. Loved it. Then, maybe a little over halfway through, the band left the stage so only Ryan was there. I figured this was where he'd do a tiny acoustic set, maybe two or three songs, before the band came back. He's at the mic in the middle of this big, decorated, lit-up stage and he starts to strum and I think maybe... Abruptly, he stops playing and walks over to the very far edge where the stage juts just a bit into the crowd. The lights go down on the main stage and there he is standing alone in front of a single microphone all strung up with white twinkle lights. He starts to play and... it's what I hoped! When he's done, he goes back to the main stage, the band returns, and then they're rockin' again. One song. The one I wanted. And illuminated by twinkle lights. I know that wasn't just for me, but it sure felt like it. Magic.

I know some of you remember this classic line from the first episode of My So-Called Life: "You're so beautiful, it hurts to look at you." Last week, I met Shawnessey for a tour of the Botanical Garden. When I arrived, she was sitting out front with a wheelchair for me. Since I hadn't seen the garden before, she wanted me to experience the whole of it without getting too tired to enjoy it. The wheelchair was a blessing because, honestly, just getting myself ready and to the garden that day had worn me out. I willingly submitted to riding and was quiet for the first little while as Shawnessey pushed me down paths and I got used to this moment in my life. The moment when, after being alone and mostly quiet inside my apartment for days, I came out and took a seat and here was all of this wonder. (How is it that I'd never visited the garden before?) Something about me being in a wheelchair and that day feeling so... unabashedly, adolescently fresh brought tears to my eyes. This was a moment so beautiful, it hurt to look at it. I fell in love with the garden, but maybe also with an imagination of going back someday when things are in bloom, and I can feel the muscles in my legs as I walk and walk and walk.

I'm starting to feel more positive about not just the CT scan scheduled for Thursday, but the future. I'm excited to live more and write more and travel more and love people more. I want to have so many chances to be more of who I am. But I'm nervous too. Your peaceful vibes and prayers - always welcome - will be much appreciated on Thursday morning, and again on Tuesday morning when I talk to my doctor about the results. I'll fill you in as soon as I know anything.

For now, I'll thank the heavens for live music and and fall and hope and people just like you.



2014 October 16 - And It Is Sweet (Lotsa Update)

I thought it only fair that, after last night's sorta low and sad update, I share with you a little moment from today.

Feeling still tired, but quite a bit heartier this afternoon, I made my way to my counseling appointment at the cancer center. Topics were intense and I left the therapist's office a little shaky, making my way to my new favorite spot, the hope monument/reflecting pool on the hospital complex. I thought I'd just sit quietly and breathe for a little while. Down the way, a street preacher was blasting his message through a megaphone. Not the vibe I was hoping for. I don't usually listen to music on my phone, but remembered that months ago, when I started taking guitar lessons, my teacher had asked me to make a playlist of 5 songs I'd like to learn to play. I dropped the guitar playing after my surgery, but it turns out my January self knew just what I'd like to listen to today. I've been sitting here, in the sunshine, looking at the pond and watching the people pass, listening to the loop for a while now. And it is sweet.

Peace and fall breezes,


PS. If you're curious, the songs particularly appropriate today... June Hymn (The Decemberists), Me by the Sea (Edie Brickell), Somewhere Different Now (Girlyman).

2014 October 15 - Strokes of Certainty (Lotsa Update)


Well, I've had a few people check in over the last couple of days to see how I'm doing, so I know it's time to send an update. (Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the checking in!)

The 10/7 treatment's tentacles seem to be longer than those of other treatments because usually by the Wednesday after (8 days), I go out and do some little thing - therapy or a quick trip to the store, something, but I'm still feeling crummy. Just so freaking tired and weak. I've been told over and over that the treatments are cumulative and particularly the fatigue is, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but man, I just feel beat beat beat down. I'm getting up and around enough to stay caught up on work, but that's pretty much the extent of it. Get out of bed. Work. Rest. Work. Rest. Go back to bed. It sucks, but I am hoping for a turnaround in the next couple of days. (And it is actually a relief to have some work to be responsible for - makes me feel not totally useless.)

With all of this resting, I've been watching a bunch of TV shows and movies, and characters with cancer just keep popping up. The other day, I watched no fewer than 7 different movie trailers before deciding on one that looked good. What was not in the trailer? Main plot line - cancer. The next day, watched another one and guess what? Cancer. The '90's family drama I didn't watch in the '90's, but am now totally sucked into - a whole season about cancer. Is this random?? Ugh. I don't know, but I watch them anyway. Earlier today, I actually found myself nodding and saying, "Totally," under my breath while watching one of the characters deal. Not sure what the use of all that info is to you... I feel crappy and am watching a lot of TV and thinking a lot about cancer. No big surprises there, I guess.

I said a while back that I'd tell it like it is, so...

I have a CT scan scheduled for a little more than two weeks from now. It is freaking me out. Everything about it. What it will be like the day of, whether everything will go ok. The 4 days I'll have to wait to hear what the scan shows. What if the scan says I'm ok for now? How do I figure out how to live like a normal human again? How can I take care of myself better so I might not have a recurrence or another cancer? What if the scan shows something bad and there is another snowball to ride down the hill? Scary stuff no matter what.

Before my last treatment, someone sent me this text: "The most important thing I can say is to have no fear through this situation. One thing is common to those who were healed: they believed first that they would be healed" (biblical context). Positive thinking, faith, the Secret. I think those things are important. Then, there are all the loved ones who have told me, over the last few months, about dreams or strokes of certainty they've had - visions of me with hair and smiling, with a partner, with a child. Multiple people, independently. And they're all so sure it's real and I *believe* them. And the newest one came last night to someone who I've grown to think of as something of a seer - me swinging on a trapeze and finding the faith to let go of what's behind me and grab onto the next bar. The understanding being that the cancer is behind me now and it's time to reach forward and grab my new life. Can you see what I mean? It's all scary, the good stuff and the bad.

I confessed recently to one of my closest confidantes that I'm afraid this disease has stolen some of my boldness. Those of you who've known me a while know that I've worked really hard for the last few years to shake off fear and be more bold - carefully cultivating in myself the kind of person who looks at the next trapeze bar and thinks, "Holy shit, that bar looks far away and I'm not sure if my hands are chalked up right, but here goes!" This whole cancer thing has set me back, but I really want to get there again.

That's all off in the distance, though, I suppose. This weekend there are things I want to do. Wonderful people I want to see getting married. A concert I've been holding out hope for months that I'll be able to attend. It's only Wednesday and things can shift quickly, so here's hoping I'll see some of you out in the world very soon. And maybe we can laugh some.

Thanks, more than I can ever say, for your continued thoughts and prayers and all kinds of other good stuff.

Love and more love,


2014 October 7 - Chemo #6, Ringing the Bell (Lotsa Update)

Well, friends, we've made it through the 6th chemo treatment! I still have the next 7-10 days of feeling bad, but the chemo infusions are done. I can hardly believe it.

Just a couple of quick and sleepy thoughts:

My dear friend, Mary, is with me from Tulsa. Her reverence and strong presence and calm are a gift. (I credit Something bigger for getting her here right now.)

Jen T came to visit the infusion center and I asked her for a poem. She recited "blessing the boats," by Lucille Clifton, and delivered it in the solid, clear, lovely way that she reads. It was the perfect poem for that moment. Please, for me, google and read it now.

Finally, Ringing the Bell is a rite of passage at the end of a chemo cycle. When I did it today, I was all drugged and sleepy and forgot the words of the quote I wanted to say, but got close enough... What I wanted to say: "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well."* What I said: "all will be well, and all will be well, and everything that matters will be well." Close enough, I guess. :)

Now, time to sleep.

Peace and love,


*from Julian of Norwich

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide

that is entering even now

the lip of our understanding

carry you out

beyond the face of fear

may you kiss

the wind then turn from it

certain that it will

love your back may you

open your eyes to water

water waving forever

and may you in your innocence

sail through this to that

Lucille Clifton (1936 - 2010)

2014 October 4 - Wide-Armed Into the Emptiness (Lotsa Update)

Hey friends,

I've been thinking about you a lot, imagining how busy life gets at the end of summer and, since so many of you are academics, the fall really kicks into busy mode. In comparison to all that, what I've been up to seems so slow-mo.

The aftermath of treatment number five went just about as expected. Kristi was a quiet wisp of a companion, taking care of me and my home, and spreading her calm energy around. After she left, I had a few more days of feeling bad (punctuated by lovely visits from Shawnessey and Jen). As I've come to expect, 10 days after treatment, the acute side effects had settled and I was left with just this vast fatigue. I'll take it! With fatigue, I can still go for occasional walks and shopping and work some, and even lunch out now and then. By this point in the cycle (end of the third week), I've even felt up to dropping in for a meeting at work.

On Tuesday (10/7), I have my 6th (and last scheduled) chemo treatment. I've spent the few weeks since #5 with my mind on what happens next, and thinking about that has me terrified into silence. The possibilities are stunning. This is stare-silently-at-the-wall/ceiling territory. I actually had a dream last week (after taking a long walk by myself, something I hadn't done yet on my own) that I was making my way down the sidewalk and it ended at this giant pool of darkness - not particularly scary dark, just dark. I wanted to keep walking on the sidewalk, but it didn't go on, so I leapt, wide-armed into the emptiness instead. There's a metaphor for ya. Yikes. Lots of uncertainty around here.

I have a CT scan scheduled for October 30th and the follow up with my doctor on November 4th to see what happens next. In whatever way you pray, please do that for me over this next month.

Right now, I'm sitting in one of my new favorite spots, though I can't take the credit for finding it.

A large part of my junior high English curriculum was memorization of poems; sometimes we had to write them out, punctuation and all, and sometimes we recited them for the class. I guess I was about fourteen when I had to memorize Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers." It's become a sort of life-long touchstone for me - my poem. At 23, I got my first and only tattoo; it was inspired by that poem.

Last week, I had my regular appointment with my assigned counselor at the Cancer Center. (The Oncology Psychology program is endowed so current and former cancer patients get free therapy and other services - it's fantastic). I was trying to describe to my therapist this amorphous yearning I've been having - for something like home or comfort - and after looping around for a while, like you do in therapy, what fell out of my mouth was this, "I just want to know that someone bigger is handling things." Then, "I just want to know that someone bigger is handling things?" After 20 years of mostly skirting the issue, I was pleading to let myself really believe in God or a connected Universe, or Something bigger than just little, frightened me.

I left, sort of stunned and sad and meandery. I didn't want to go right back to my car and on with my day. I wanted to be outside in the sun, under the big sky. I wanted to take a deep breath. I couldn't seem to find a way out of the Cancer Center except into the exhaust-filled pick-up and drop-off area, so I asked the woman at the info desk if there was some way out to nature. She told me to go out the main exit and keep walking for about five minutes and I'd come to a pretty little pond.

It is a pretty little pond, but it's also a monument (designed by Maya Lin, I'm told). The first thing I saw when I walked up to the reflecting pool was that the center piece of the monument is my poem. There, in the metal that lines a circle set into the water, is the whole thing in a string. "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all; and sweetest in the gale is heard, and sore must be the storm that could abash the little bird that kept so many warm; I've heard it in the chillest land and on the strangest sea, yet never, in extremity, it asked a crumb of me. -Emily Dickinson."

Some people see my finding this place, with my poem, on that particular day, after making that particular plea, as a sign. I'm not sure what it is, friends, but the way the light shines through the letters sometimes makes it feel like it's something, and it makes me feel a little more peace while I sit and stare at the wall.

Sending love and hope and thanks to you.