From joy to sadness and back again… and again.

Seems there have been a lot of experiences lately that remind us how fragile life is.    And also, how beautiful.  Balancing between the pain and joy is the messy part… the living we are all blessed to experience.

Welcome to Colors of Courage!

Last week Hope Scarves hosted our signature fundraiser, Colors of Courage.  A small event that started in my friend Lauren’s backyard 6 years ago.  Now, it has grown to fill an entire airplane hangar.  525+ people joined us to celebrate hope and raise money for scarves, stories and research.  I was overwhelmed by the connections – friends re-uniting, survivors laughing and crying together as they found common ground in their shared experiences.   Riley, a 20 year old UK student and scarf recipient who faces brain cancer shared her story for the first time.  She spoke with confident, trembling hands about how much it meant to receive a Hope Scarf and the strength it brought her.  Kendall, also a UK grad-25 years Riley’s senior – shared her story facing metastatic breast cancer. Surrounded by 30+ college friends there to surprise her with their support. When Kendall finished speaking Riley was the first person to stand and  applaud.  Their following embrace brought all those around them to tears.  These connections and stories – so much bigger than me or Hope Scarves.  Yet, they are Hope Scarves.  This is what the sisterhood of the traveling scarves is.  Connection.  Hope.  Support.

We raised $54,000 in 10 minutes for metastatic breast cancer research.  Overall we raised over $165,000 to support Hope Scarves.  The most ever for this annual event.

Women who have been supported by Hope Scarves gathered by the stage.


Each scarf has a story – and we have a shared story together.

Then, on Monday we awoke to the news of the worst mass shooting in US history at a concert in Las Vegas.  Our joyful hearts, broken.

Joy turned to sorrow.

As I watched the news in tears… exhausted from a busy weekend.  I also allowed myself to give in to the pain in my right hip.  For the past month I had quietly been dealing with shooting pain, terrified the deep ache was a sign of progression in my bones  I was determined to push through it until after Colors of Courage.  But, I couldn’t deny it any longer and as I watched the horrible events unfold in Las Vegas I thought about how our happy world could also come crashing down with news of cancer progression.  I scheduled an MRI.

And I tried to put it out of my mind.  I busied myself with Hope Scarves. I worked with Friends of Hope Scarves to pack up event supplies, I started on a long list of thank you letters.  I went to a meeting with a potential partner to share Hope Scarves and discuss opportunities to work together. I was surprised to see an old friend there, now connected to the company.  I paused in my remembering of the time our path first crossed… before metastatic breast cancer.  I shared our program and my personal story.  All the time wondering if a new scary chapter was about to start.  Shifting uncomfortably in my chair to ease the throbbing, the kind hearted president and I talked about the goals for Hope Scarves and challenges we face.  Then he handed me a check for $100,000 and humbly said he hoped it would help.  I was so overcome with emotions.  Tears fell onto the board room table – tears of joy and gratitude.  Hope Scarves has never received a donation of this size.   After our meeting I slowly limped to my car in shock.  Hours later I was laying in an MRI tube.

Anxiety turned to gratitude… and back to anxiety

After careful examination by my doctors and ugly tears on my part over the weekend (in between soccer games and horse races) I found out this morning that my pain is a stress fracture in my femur.  Not cancer progression!  

Fear turned to relief.

Who would have thought a stress fracture in your femur was good news.  (People living with bone mets get it.) . Thankfully, the fracture isn’t caused by a metastatic tumor, but it is concerning that my bones are weak.  My lack of estrogen (due to not having ovaries) and the environment caused by my medication puts me at risk for fracture.   But, we can address this – I can step up my efforts to strengthen my bones.  And, I can lay off the running for a little while… (ugh.) Of course,  this weekend is the Bourbon Chase and I am supposed to run 13 of our 200 miles for team Outrunning Cancer… (Don’t worry mom & dad, I’m not going to run).  I’m hoping to walk 3 miles or so… outwalking cancer… UGH.  I hate it.   I hate that cancer has taken this experience from me and made my body weak.  My body has betrayed me. I have been advised to not put weight on my right leg for 4-6 weeks to allow it to heal.   I have to use crutches.  I’m no good at slowing down.  The idea of hobbling around on crutches infuriates me.

Relief turned to anger

But, I am aware of a much bigger picture.   I think about the 58 people who were enjoying a concert until their lives were violently ended.  I think about my friends who are facing horrific pain and debilitating weakness from cancer treatment.    And I realize how fragile it all is.   How the call from my doctor could have gone much differently.  How my relief could have been sorrow, pain or fear.  A stress fracture and crutches is an inconvenience.  I remind myself there is much to be grateful for.

Anger turned to grace

Make room for both anger and acceptance.  Joy and sadness.

Life is a wild ride… Embrace it one day at a time.  With gratitude and love.

And crutches.


My new look… for 4-6 weeks. Smile not always included.




I was there…

I had the incredible opportunity to unplug from cancer and the demands of “real life” for 2 months this summer.  As I reflect on this time, which seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, I am filled with gratitude… with a thin lining of sadness.

As I drive south toward home, tears stream down my face.  Hidden from view behind my large orange sunglasses.  My tears: sadness that these fun times are behind us,  joy for the memories we made together, concern for the stress reality brings, pain for my friends who are too sick to have a summer like this.  Fear of when this will be our reality too.

During the summer I just let it all go… schedules, consistently healthy choices, bedtimes. I love that for our time in White Lake – we almost always have another little kiddo sleepily stumble out of the bedroom with our boys in the morning.  Sleepovers that last for days, ice cream for lunch, swimming, sailing, fishing. Running down the sand dunes with arms wildly flailing until you hit icy cold Lake Michigan. Sharing our little slice of heaven with visitors from Louisville and Alabama. Spending time with my parents and lifelong friends.  Each day unfolds with spontaneity.  My son Bennett lost his shoes for days (at least a week, not really sure – days blur together) And it didn’t matter. Literally barefoot and free….

Peace like a river

Then, we spent time at Brule Ridge, our family’s place in the upper peninsula of Michigan where the boys shoot bb guns, ride 4 wheelers, swim in ponds and catch crayfish.  From sun up to sun down, we are outdoors.  One afternoon I even sat and read a book in one of the gardens- surrounded by hummingbirds, swooping in and out of the orange flowers that surrounded me.  I closed my eyes and listened to the constant song of the river… until I was shot from the deck above with a water gun and the pleading of two little boys to take them four-wheeling.  So is life with boys! Then on to Petoskey, where we spent time with my mother in law and our 95 year old remarkable great grandmother.  As her body slows and her health falters we simply listen to her stories. To live that long… what a story she has. We missed pre- season soccer games for this.   Without a second thought.  Priorities.

Before this was our trip to Glacier National Park and K Bar L Ranch in Montana then our family reunion at Fish Lake.  So much packed into one summer…

Now we are headed home.  Thankfully our kids are eager to see friends and start the soccer season.. I mean school year.  They can’t wait to “see their bedrooms.”  Completely oblivious to my tears, in their minds- summer is just a part of life.   They love it, they embrace the freedom and then they roll back into town ready for whatever lies ahead.  Their excitement buoys my sinking optimism as I plug back into the news, current events around the world, cancer & obligations.

Hiking into Nordhouse Dunes.

I think about it each year, what if we just unplugged for good.  Found a place where we can just be free.  Free of the stress of professional obligations, devastating world events, over-scheduled craziness and cancer…  Especially when we know how fragile it all is?

I guess the reality is…. reality.  We have to be aware of world events because we live in this world.  We must teach our children to live in the real world, face adversity and seek love. Jobs are important because, well food is a necessity and I like to shop at Whole Foods. Medicine is keeping me healthy which we get at a low cost thanks to good insurance, which unfortunately is tied to employment (that’s a whole other topic). And, let’s face it, cancer is actually not something we can just escape forever.  Reality also has a lot of wonderful parts to it too – friends, school, soccer, Hope Scarves, backyard gardens, parks to trail run, ice cream shops. So, we plug back in.

But, we carry the carefree days of summer with us.   As memories that make us who we are.  Maybe our kids won’t remember all the details of the fun things we did together… but,  I know these experiences shape them into who they are.  They might not always remember the 3 mile hike to the dune campsite or the spectacular sunset where we splashed in the waves and body surfed until the beach fire roared into the night sky.  But, these experiences shape them. And, I was there.  I was there for all of it – laughing and smiling and soaking up the love. I wasn’t bogged down by the fear of the perceived future. Or counting the days until we left.  I lived fully and intentionally in each and every moment.

On this night – all is right in our world

I carry this with me.  Into whatever life holds for us.

Living life to the fullest – one sun kissed, wave splashing summer day… or laundry laden, weed pulling, bill paying day at a time.

life is beautiful.  live it. live it all!


The most spectacular sunset of the summer and words to live by.



summertime freedom

We are deep into our summer vacation… from cancer.

All saddled up!

Our fun started with a family trip to Montana to explore this year’s National Park, Glacier. Then, 5 days “beyond all roads” at a remote ranch where the north and south fork of the Sun River meet. Literally 10 miles from the closest road, you only access this little slice of heaven by boat or horseback.  We fly fished, road horses, hiked, ate delicious food, sat by the fire and simply took in the majesty of the Bob Marshall wilderness.  It was the first time our family has truly unplugged- there was no cell phone or wifi service and we all took a big deep breath.  It was remarkable how much we needed to not look at a screen, check email or be “available.”  Instead of posting about our adventures – we simply experienced each day with those right around us.  And, like other adventures cancer wasn’t invited.  We could only bring one 50 pound duffel… and it takes up way more room than that. Unplugging from it all and connecting with each other.  What a special gift.  And, the trout.  Our children are ruined for fishing after this. Practically every cast of the fly was a sparkling rainbow.  I even landed a cut throat worthy of a painting.  Released it back into the mountain run off with a simple intention of freedom and thanked it for playing.  I watched my mother and father-in-law wade in the icy water to find the perfect trout hole and horseback ride for hours through fields of wildflowers. They put this trip together to take their children and grandchildren on an adventure to share what they love together – fishing and riding.  Watching them, I ached to my core to be able to do something as special with Jay and our boys one day.  Quickly shaking away this dream and wiping away the tears… for the mountain, stream and laughter before me right then.  Living in the moment.  Holding onto a little bit of hope for what might be…

Now we are settled in to our “summer home” in Michigan.  I have no idea what time or day it is.   My day is marked by my morning workout with friends and cocktail hour.   Daily choices… swimming or sailing?   Fishing or paddle boarding?  all of the above?! Jay and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary with a sail on the little sunfish I taught him to sail on when we were dating.  We went for a run and took the kids by the big red barn where we were married.  We celebrated my parents 70th birthday year with a surprise at our annual family gathering at my grandma’s home that has been a family cottage for 4 generations.  “Plewka-palooza” as it has come to be known.  I watched my grandma watching her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Over 45+ of us all there because of her.  What a blessing to be able to look upon all that love. Might I see a grandchild…?

We gathered with my mom’s extended family the following weekend for a day on the shores of Lake Michigan and released lanterns into the starry night to celebrate moments big and small for our family – two engagements, birthdays, anniversaries.   As I watched the light fade into the sky, I gave thanks for another year of stability and the gift of health.

The chance to travel, unplug, spend time with family and friends are not lost on me. When so much of this world seems consumed with hate- I wake each day to the sounds of waves and a prayer of gratitude.   Thankful my life allows me this time together with people I love.  Aware this could all change in an instant.  But, instead of focusing on the precariousness, I live each day.  Fully, gratefully, intentionally.

I know many people can’t do these kinds of things.  Cancer, commitments, complications.  There is a lot of pain and sadness in the world. Life isn’t all sunshine and lapping waves.   Find some joy and celebrate it.   Cherish the moment right before you. Jump in the ice cold water  – let it take your breath away-  feel how alive you truly are.  Love!

We are living happily ever after… one day at a time.

cheers that!