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all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure...
fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important...
There is no reason not to follow your heart.
-Steve Jobs (Stanford Commencement Address) 

October 18, 2011                                          

          October is Breast Cancer Awareness's hard to miss with reminders everywhere.  Our email boxes are full of cute baby girls imploring us to find a cure for the next generation, requests for donations for swim-a-thons, run-a-thons, bike-a-thons and just straight up contributions.  It's hard to remember a time twenty years ago when breast cancer was only whispered about in the shadow of the ravages of the AIDS epidemic.  Katie was on the bandwagon early raising millions for the Komen Foundation and recognizing the importance of early detection.  While we all knew people who had been touched by cancer, Joan's breast cancer diagnosis at age 45 was a pivotal point for each of us during The Miracle Chase journey, causing us to stop, reflect and reconsider.  As Steve Jobs' poignant death reminds us, there is no excuse not to seize the present moment to live our lives.  October is the perfect time for Joan to reflect on how her breast cancer diagnosis - and survival - changed her life.
Joan, Katie and Meb 

             Katie was right last month when she wrote, " would today be different if, in fact, we knew we were to die tomorrow?"  She allows how, " one would say they should have spent more time at work, or wasted more energy sweating the small stuff."  In my case, staring death in the face with an invasive cancer diagnosis, I realized that her words were absolutely true.  In The Miracle Chase I admit that a diagnosis of cancer brings with it a lot of baggage, not only the fear and the not-knowing, but it was like sticking my hand out of a speeding car window and watching my world go by in fast forward with all of its highs and lows.  I was afraid, but thinking about my 5 year old son, I knew that there was only one choice and it was to forge ahead.  Thankfully, I am one of the lucky ones - ten years and counting - and I try to remember this every day...

     As awful as it seemed at the time, my diagnosis had a silver lining.  As a compulsive "yes-sayer," it was an opportunity to take a big step back; a chance to listen to the silence within and to make new decisions about what was really important in my life.  Like other life-altering experiences, cancer makes you focus in a new way about how you really want to spend your limited time here on earth.  I reorganized my personal hierarchy and gave myself permission to take a rain check from all non-essential responsibilities.  For the first time, I found myself not feeling guilty about not being first in line to offer assistance or to take charge.  Not surprisingly, although I had taken a break, the world continued on without was an important lesson.

     In retrospect, what I learned was just the message I needed to hear. Many of us get overwhelmed by our own busy-ness.  In my case, it fed my need to belong, to contribute.  And yet, perpetual motion saps our energy and can take on a life of its own, reprioritizing our commitments along lines we might not even realize we had chosen.  Sometimes, even now, it is hard to remember what I have learned, to live my life differently, and not fall back into old patterns.  In following my passion and intellectual curiosity, I am mindful of making intentional and conscious decisions about how I want to make a difference.  I try hard not to be deluded by the notion that haphazard involvement equates to existence. 

       I now consider a new question before engaging and taking on new projects, "Would I continue even IF I had cancer?"  It's a good question for each of us to ask ourselves.  We live in a stimulating world of 24/7 and while I wouldn't trade today's world for 'the good ole days' for an instant, being involved in areas that are inspiring and motivating is how I choose to spend whatever time I have.  Certainly, exercise, diet and routine checkups for all of those nasty things we don't want to think about, are the obvious parts of taking care of ourselves, but I know that for me following my heart is just what the doctor ordered.  I hope you will take Steve Jobs' advice seriously and not wait to have cancer before you try it...

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Pennsylvania Conference for Women
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Expert Exchange Session
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Thursday, November 17th

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Thursday, December 8th

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Joan, Katie and Meb
co-authors of The Miracle Chase
It's About Friendship
"I worried that she was blowing off the 'cancer thing,' as she called it, minimizing the seriousnesss of the illness and, in a sense, minimizing herself. She was too important in my life for me to let things go without saying something."