Letting Go of Fear

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes scary.

My family and I usually attend Relay for Life at the University of Georgia with my son, a brain cancer survivor, Relay volunteer and UGA student. One year, greeters gave us purple and white balloons and markers, and asked us to write on them something that we wanted to let go of.

After months of worry and anxiety about lots of post-treatment MRIs – all of which were “clean” – I knew exactly what to write on my balloon:


Later, after the event’s kickoff, we were all asked to let them go:

photo copy

At our first UGA Relay event, my son had been cancer-free for only six months. As the final leg of the actual relay to kick off the event, he ran in the torch:


In a few days, we will attend this year’s Relay for Life at UGA. My son got involved with Relay in the fall of 2010, weeks after he recovered from brain surgery at Duke and finished radiation therapy at Emory. He has told his story numerous times and helped raise funds for cancer research, serving on the executive board this year to help with corporate donations.

Just three years ago, I had no idea what was in store for my son and for our family. I’m a worrier by nature, a trait that sometimes went into overdrive while I was raising my children. I worried about things that might happen to them…but I never feared that any of them would get cancer.

Then one day, one of them did.

Before it happened, I began writing my novel, MAKE THAT DEUX. The protagonist, Jenny Miles, is 19 years old, the same age that my son was when he was diagnosed; he learned he had a brain tumor on his 19th birthday in May 2010.

After two surgeries, setbacks, despair, pain, suffering, and recovery, he started back to school as a sophomore at the University of Georgia in August 2010. In October of that year, he learned that he was cancer-free.

I know that at times, he was afraid. But he didn’t let fear overtake him. He lived through his illness with courage, strength and hope, and through his journey, he inspired me to let go of fear.

One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. Here’ a quote from his novel David Copperfield:

“We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live misfortune down, Trot!”

photo copy 3My son’s gold survivor handprint and my purple caregiver one at UGA Relay for Life 2012

“The Funny,” part deux (two)

I’ve never lived in New York, and I’ve never been a nanny – though I had a friend at UNC who was an au pair in France the summer after we both spent our junior year of college there.

But I did raise four children of my own, sans nanny or day care. So when the book THE NANNY DIARIES by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus came out 10 years ago, I loved it, not because it was about bringing up someone else’s a child, but because it’s hilarious!



I love to read anything that makes me laugh, and I don’t know why others wouldn’t. I call it “the funny;” it’s a necessary ingredient in some types of fiction and non-fiction. (But not all: the book I’m currently writing is a Thriller, sans badinage, mais c’est une autre histoire…)

Some people have a different sense of humor than mine, and some don’t have one at all. C’est dommage (that’s a shame), à mon avis. For me, being able to laugh with others has been essential, especially during life’s trials.

In my novel MAKE THAT DEUX, Jenny (the protagonist) is 19 turning 20, just a few years younger than Nanny, the au pair in TND.  Like Nanny, she’s dealing with a world very different from the one she’s known: une culture étrangère. Jenny does the best she can, under the circumstances, and (I hope) with a sense of humor. Her story is quite different from Nanny’s, but in a way, Nanny’s story influenced the way I tried to tell Jenny’s: through the eyes of a 20-something young woman who tries to keep her sense of humor while dealing with stress.

Stress isn’t easy, and we all face it now and then, or maybe, continually. Il vaut mieux en rire – it’s better to laugh about it than cry – even if we don’t feel like laughing. But I’ve found that a little levity helps, even in the worst of times.

One of my sons is a brain cancer survivor. He was diagnosed almost 3 years ago, on his 19th birthday. The next 6 months was the most difficult period in our family’s life – and we’ve been through some other serious trials. He underwent two surgeries, one them incredibly scary, and five weeks of radiation therapy. His first “clear” MRI was done that fall, two days before his grandfather, my dad, passed away peacefully at the age of 83.

My son has been cancer-free since then, and when he and I look back at that time, we don’t just remember the shock and fear that we both felt, the tears that we shed. We also recall – and still talk about – the funny things that happened in the midst of it. We thank God – and the talented doctors at Duke – that he survived, and we remember being afraid that he wouldn’t, that he might lose his young life. We weren’t looking for “the funny” then, but somehow we recognized it when we saw it: some of the things that happened made us laugh – out loud. And they still do, today.

Life is precious. Laughter is necessary. My father made me realize that when I was young. His quirky sense of humor was terrific, and he was a great joke-teller.

And he could always find “the funny.”

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