Smile, World.

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.
To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”

Mark Nepo, shared with me by my favorite pilgrim and amazing yoga instructor, Savonn

I have come to the end of this chapter of my life, this long, strange visit to cancer-land, where I blessedly seem to have been issued a round trip ticket. And so while I end my story here, amongst the waves, I bid you a hearty thank you for coming along. And, of course, this is not the end, but rather a wonderful new beginning for me.

The turning point for me was when I walked the Susan J. Komen race back in September. The throngs of pink clad women walking and running in the streets of Portland was a site to behold.

There were two amazing moments on that day that told me I was no longer a cancer patient, but a cancer survivor. As I was rounding a curve, with my proud bald self, a woman with flowing blonde hair and a pink tiara came up right behind me. She slowed for a moment and said over her shoulder, “I looked just like you at this time last year. Hang in there!” She smiled warmly and then explained that the year before another woman had come up to her and told her the very same thing.

When I was crossing the finish line in the special “Survivor” lane, I was amazed to see a long line of smiling faces greeting me, with hands extended for multiple high fives. Some of them held tight to my hand for a second and I could feel the positive energy flow into me.

Race for the Cure!

These brief but meaningful exchanges filled me with both gratefulness and a sense of responsibility to continue the circle of support that I was offered.

In closing (or opening!), below you will find a “Dear John” letter that I wrote to Cancer. I thought this was a very original idea but upon putting it to the google test, I sadly realized that there are many, many such letters already written.

Dear Cancer,

Well, it’s no secret that I was really pissed at you for awhile.We’ve had a rocky union and I’m not sad to say goodbye.

But there are a few parting words I wanted to share.

Damn you for giving me the scariest week of my life last March when I heard, “Kerri, you have cancer,” but didn’t know the why, the how, or the what-next yet.

And for those days that I felt like hell.

For taking away half-a-year of my life. Not to mention my breasts.

Me and my oncologist on the day we got the good news. Not sure who's more happy!

And I will never forgive you for making my little toes and right hand forever numb. (although I intend to defy you on this prognosis.)

But I also wanted to say . . . thank you.

Thank you for this unexpected, unintended, but not altogether unpleasant gulp of air.

For letting me keep most of my eyebrows and even a few eyelashes when I was bald.

Those scarves were good comfort on chemo-daze.

For inspiring me to covet vintage silk scarves that were collected from afar and sweetly gifted to me. As I wear them now and someday hand them down to my granddaughters, my thoughts will be woven of silky love and vibrant strength.

Thank you cancer for forcing me to “defrag” my own internal hard drive.

And for putting the twinkle back in my eyes. And for recharging my smile. People tell me I look better now than I did before cancer.

For teaching me how to take better care of myself, from the inside out.

Thank you for giving me a hall pass from life for just a little while.

And for pushing me to see my bald self as beautiful. To grow a new kind of confidence bold enough to shelve a $1,000 wig after only a few weeks of wearing it.

For coming along when the Portland sun was shining and children’s voices filled the summer evenings.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story so other 40+ women who might have put off their mammograms too will get themselves to the doctors right away.

For peeling away the many musty layers of fatigue and cynicism that I didn’t even know that I had.

Toasting with some of the good friends who pulled me through.

For renewing my faith in the goodness of people and their immense generosity.

Thank you for bringing me home to my husband Dan and my daughters Hadley and Emma.

For getting me back into my kitchen again. For turning me on to whole food that does wonders for the body and the senses.

For showing me that life really is short but it’s never too late for a “do-over.”

Thank you for teaching me that when someone looks a little “different” they don’t want you to avoid them or worry about saying just the right thing or feel sorry for them. They just want you to look them in the eye and really “see them.”

And finally, thank you for showing me that when you smile at the world, the entire world might just smile back.

Janet and me, on another day not so long ago, filled with food and laughter!

I dedicate this last post to a good lady named Janet, my dad’s partner of 30+ years, who passed away early today on Thanksgiving. She was a fellow breast cancer survivor and made a mean hot and sour soup, along with many other culinary talents. We will miss her laugh and hope she has found peace at last.

For all of the rest of you pilgrims out there still journeying in this dark and foreign place called Cancer-land, and especially for the ones with the one-way tickets or frequent flier status, I keep you in my heart. And I deeply wish that you find light. I’ll keep mine burning and hope that it’s bright enough for all of us.

So long.

Me today, feeling sassy and sound. I will miss this blog and all of your voices. XO_KHP

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  1. Alison R
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad your trip to Cancer-land is over and you are so much stronger and more beautiful for having made the trip! Thanks for sharing the highs and lows of your journey. You’re brave, a great writer and a fighter. And I love your short new do… reminds me of Emma Watson’s new haircut – you wear it well. Love, Alison

  2. Nancy Olson
    Posted November 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Ker, Just reading your entire journey makes me want to do those “whole foods, healthy living, be nice to one another and bring in the light” kind of thing. Thank you for finding your way up and over and around those waves while being amongst them. Your humbleness is so admired. Janet put up with a lot and will be missed. I remember lots of her the cauliflower with cheese sauce. My thoughts are with you, E, K and Papa Dew. Love, love, Mom

  3. Yvette
    Posted November 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    It lifts my spirits each time I go to your pages. We are so blessed to know you, Kerri, Beautiful Amazon that you are, and to have this intimate access to your thoughts as you’ve been living through these enormous challenges. Thank you for sharing the people and strategies that have sustained you.
    Also, our condolences to your dad and family for Janet’s passing. Even as I write you now, my youngest brother’s wife is also passing – Old Winter is as good a Season as any to make the journey.
    I hope you will begin a new blog sometime for those of us who treasure your wit and wisdom.
    Yvette and Michael

  4. Margaret
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Kerri, I am so happy that you had a ’round trip’ ticket. I feel fortunate to have gotten to know you as the wonderful person you are, and your children, and husband, through your blog. You are such an inspiration and touched the lives of others. My friend, Nathan, has finished his treatments, and he is doing really well. Thank you, for meeting with him, while you were going through your trials. And, I am so sorry to hear about Janet’s death. Please send my thoughts to your dad and family. I am looking forward to hear of you next adventures in life. Hugs and love.

  5. Anna C
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Oh Kerri,
    I got goosebumps and then my eyes got all wet reading your final post. I will miss reading about how you are doing but am so happy for the reason this blog is ending. And I am happy to have rediscovered our friendship. Love, Anna

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