Tag Archive | anniversary

20 Years After

It’s been a very long time (5 months) since I posted anything on this blog. I’d like you to know that, even though I’ve been silent on this page, I continue to write. I am in the process of writing my first book and I’m working towards a release in March. It’s been a labor of love and I’m having a lot of fun with the process. I promise more details in the coming weeks, but today’s post is focused on a major anniversary of sorts.


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of my first husband, Ray Noll. As many of you know, Ray died in 1999 after an almost-3-year battle with leukemia. I believe it’s important to remember these anniversaries so that we can all remember who he was, relish in the fun memories we all have, and remind ourselves just how precious life is. Acknowledging his diagnosis, battle, and death helps provide amazing perspective about what’s truly important in our lives.

Those who knew Ray loved him dearly. His sense of humor and zeal for life were contagious and showed up best when he was on a stage with a guitar in his hand. His talents were beyond comprehension (who teaches themselves to skillfully play the mandolin in 24 hours?) and he was the ultimate performer. Every friend he every made remained his friend for life; I don’t know a single person who didn’t love him. He was fun and silly and knew how to be happy.

One of the most fit people I have ever know, when he wasn’t performing on stage, Ray was at karate. A second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, he was addicted to the hard work and sweat of this sport. He gained a new circle of friends at the karate school, and he was passionate about teaching the next generation of karate students. When I was looking for a picture of Ray for this post, I stumbled upon this one. Ray doing staff work in the back yard.

Ray Karate in Yard 2 Resized

The three days leading up to Ray’s death were a bedside vigil of sorts, where so many of those friends showed up to pay homage to someone who fought so hard to live. I remember the karate gang showing up in the wee hours of the morning to help see him off. Family, coworkers, childhood friends, fellow musicians… they all came.

It’s interesting that, all these years later, so many people remember him — even those who cared for him during his illness. Just yesterday, I accompanied a friend to her chemo treatment. We were having a conversation with her nurse about the particular drug being administered. I was telling the story of Ray receiving this drug back in 1996 (it was a memorable occasion), and after we got to talking a bit more, it turned out this nurse was one of Ray’s nurses back on Mercy 8E. She remembered Ray well, and we reminisced about all the wonderful people who took care of him back then. When I think of all the people this nurse would have attended to over the past 20+ years, what are the chances she would remember Ray? Well, that’s the kind of impact he had on people, and so I’m not really surprised.

My life has taken a number of twists and turns since that day 20 years ago when, as a 36 year old, I was picking planning out a cemetery plot and planning his funeral. I know that he is always with me and I know that he would be happy that I got to be a mom and that I am pursuing my dream of writing a book. As someone who believes in the power of mediums, I can tell you that Ray always comes through — he’d never miss a party!

On this anniversary, I’d like to ask you to think about him. For those of you who knew him well: have a shot of Sambuca or a Heineken and give him a “salut!” (Heck, even if you didn’t, feel free to send up a toast!) For those of you who did not know him, take a moment to appreciate the joyful moments in your life, whatever is going on right now. Life is fleeting; find the joy now.

Ray with Cigarette in car

(Happy 59th anniversary to my parents in heaven.)

IMDb: 20 Years After (2008)


6 Years

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Today I mark 6 years of being cancer free.

August 31, 2012 was the date of my double mastectomy – the day I consider myself to be cancer free, even though I would still need 3+ months of chemo and 8 weeks of radiation. I documented my mastectomy adventures in this blog post.

In reviewing that post this morning, I am transported back to that day. I didn’t know how many years, or months, or days I would have left (do we ever?) and I am grateful for every day since my breast cancer diagnosis.

Some random thoughts this morning, as I reflect on these six years…

  • I spent a lot of time waiting on the day of my surgery. We had to be there so early, to sit around and do nothing. I have wasted so much time just waiting in doctor’s offices in the ensuing years.  Some doctors are better than others, but in addition to waiting the morning of my surgery, I also waited 90 minutes on my first day of chemo. These are pretty nerve-racking events and I’m just not sure that all doctors understand what they are doing to patients’ mental states by having us just sit there — waiting to have parts removed or poison injected into our bodies.  I think there needs to be more awareness on the emotional toll that is taken on cancer patients.
  • When I re-read my description of the sentinel node biopsy that day, I laugh. It seems so tame compared to my actual experience. There are truly no words to describe exactly how painful that experience was. It hurt like HELL! Not even childbirth ranked as high in my books. I always say if men had to have that done, they would a) numb the area and/or b) knock us out! Radioactive bee stings in your nipple. Yep. Good times!
  • I still have no regrets on not reconstructing, although I do wish I had emphatically stated “flat”, so that what remained was not lop-sided, bumpy and dog-eared. But doctors always assume that you will change your mind and will eventually see clear to get implants. My logical brain could not wrap itself around implanting foreign substances into my body, putting it through more surgeries and pain and inconvenience, risking infection, and more… just to satisfy a social norm. And especially considering this was my second cancer. I know it’s a very personal choice and I’m not criticizing those who make that decision. We all have our reasons for our choices and those are mine.
  • I still live with the daily reminders — scars, hearing loss, memory loss, thinning hair, fear — of cancer. But those reminders encourage me to try to make the most of each day. To not worry so much. To take care of myself so I’m here for the long-haul (however “long haul” gets defined). To eat right and get enough sleep. To focus on what’s truly important, and not get caught up in petty worries. To forgive and forget. To keep away from physical and emotional toxins. To help influence others to be healthier. To be grateful for every. single. day.

And here I am, six years later. Appreciative. Healthy. Imperfect. Doing the best I can every day. Content.

Grateful. Here’s to the next six!

IMDb: 6 Years (2015)


Life In A Year


Isn’t it amazing just how fast a year goes by? I know the adage is “the older you get, the faster time goes” but I don’t really feel that old (yet). But here we are, a whole year since I became a “retiree”. 365 days since I left the corporate world behind and moved forward in a whole new direction. What a difference a year makes.

On the anniversary of my “retirement” date (yes, the quotes are intended to add a bit of sarcasm, since it wasn’t a voluntary retirement date…), it is fitting that I have officially and fully graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I had received my mid-certificate back in January which allowed me to start seeing clients, and now my schooling is complete. When I saw that our official graduation date was also July 10th, my official retirement start date, I chuckled at the message the Universe sent my way.

It really is a reminder of what can be accomplished in a year, how much life can change in 52 weeks. I have been educated, embarked on a new career, started a new business, made new friends and business partners, and never looked back. It’s easy, sometimes, to get stuck in the moments when things don’t go as planned, or when life throws you a few lemons. But time gives us a new perspective to look back and see how far we’ve come.

I am grateful for the opportunities of this past year. My husband’s support (and my severance package!) allowed me to pursue my passions and I know I’m lucky in that regard. I didn’t have to jump right into a job I didn’t really want just to meet expenses. I had the luxury of time to build something new.

So what can be done in a year?

  • I took 40 week certification in Integrative Nutrition Health Coaching (actual time was longer considering weeks off for holidays/breaks).
  • I started a new business, complete with name, logo, website, business cards, Facebook page, pamphlets, bank account, and all the other fun tax/financial stuff.
  • I drafted an outline for a book (my goal for the next year!).
  • I created partnerships with two wellness centers, started building my client base, and delivered multiple workshops.
  • I managed a new work/life balance, figuring out how to handle varied working hours to meet my clients’ schedules, while still managing my household, volunteering, and finding time for fun and relaxation. (To be honest, housework is where I made most of my concessions!)
  • I made lots of new friends, and tried really hard to keep in touch with the old ones!
  • And I even managed to get a few things done from that big list of projects I started my retirement with. (Not nearly enough of them, but I guess we always need to have a list, don’t we?)

So what can YOU do in a year? What are you waiting for? Start. Take a step forward. A year from now, you can look back and marvel at all you’ve accomplished!

IMDb: Life in a Year (2018)

Five Years Later

When I received my cancer diagnosis in 2012, my second such diagnosis in 4 years, I was devastated. My son was only 11 years old; my marriage only five. I worried that I wouldn’t see either get older and I wasn’t sure I would survive cancer the second time around.

But here I am, five years later.  Thriving, loving, and looking into the future with a new perspective. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t worry from time to time, but cancer has taught me many things over the years and I do worry less.

On this, the 5 year anniversary of my double mastectomy (and the date that I count as my cancer-versary), I thought I would share some random thoughts on how cancer has changed my life for the better. (Perspective is everything.)

  • While none of us knows when our time will be up, cancer survivors face mortality head on. This gives us a unique opportunity to cherish each and every day as the gift that they are.
  • What we do to our bodies — or put into our bodies — matters. Whether it’s food, stress, negative thoughts, or too much alcohol or caffeine, we can either nourish or damage. I’m not perfect, but I choose to nourish with healthy, plant based foods, sufficient sleep, stress management, meditation, and yoga.
  • The little things don’t matter; and what my definition of “little things” is has changed. In general, “things” don’t matter. People and relationships do.
  • Trust your instincts and be your own advocate. Our healthcare system is broken and flawed. Don’t assume that everyone is looking closely at your case. Follow up, ask questions, challenge the status quo, get a second opinion and do your homework. I’ve said “no” a lot more times in the last five years than I would have previously. No, I won’t reconstruct. No, I don’t want to take a drug that makes me feel 102. No, I won’t do that procedure (CT scan, chest x-ray, etc) because I don’t want more radiation. No, I don’t want steroids.  Listen to your body and your intuition to do what is best for you.
  • After being afraid of dying, so many other things seem less fearful. Like starting a new career, making new friends, putting myself out there in this blog, challenging a doctor, asking for what I want/need, trying something new.
  • Nothing is a guarantee in life, but you can persevere. Always have hope.

Breast cancer recurrences “usually” recur within five years, so this anniversary is a big deal. Depending on what charts you look at, I had about a 72% chance of making it 5 years for Stage IIIA.  Overall breast cancer rates, for my age, were in the 85% range. So I am very grateful to be here.

Does five years mean I’m off the hook forever?  No.  But it does mean that what I’m doing to keep myself healthy is apparently working, and I should remain diligent in my self-care.

Thanks to all of you who have been by my side — physically and virtually — through this journey.

Here’s to the next five!


IMDb: Five Years Later (2010)

Three Years

Today marks the third anniversary since my double mastectomy.

Three years ~ cancer free!

Three quick years.

An estimated 100+ visits to doctors, hospitals, radiologists, therapy or diagnostic facility.

Over 100 hours spent sitting in waiting rooms.

Almost 500 blog posts, read in 80 countries.

More than 100 new recipes tried.
All nutritious and healing.

Innumerable joys.
One great sorrow.

1,095 days.

1,095 gratitudes for each day.

1,000,000 gratitudes for all the little, and not-so-little, things in each of those days.


IMDb: Three Years (2014)