S: PARTNERS IN HOPE by Donna M. Johnson
BC: ISBN 978-0-9884510-2-5
FC: PARTNERS IN HOPE in the Fight Against Breast Cancer Poems of Encouragement The Bridge of Hope and The Garden of Hope by Donna M. Johnson
1: Dedication This book is dedicated to my fellow "Partners In Hope": Donna Benjamin, Jane Burslem, Andrea Davis, and Janet Leary-Prowse. It is also dedicated in honor of the following ladies who walked beside me on my journey and/or have inspired me with their own breast cancer journeys: Kim Billingham, Ginger Christensen, Sandy Dixon, Sam Fitzwater, Marilyn Giorgianni, Linda Gohlinghoist, Cathy Holloway, Dorothy Johnson, Sue Rachiele, Joyce Steele, Leslie Walker, and Lisa Wiegand. A Special "Thank You" also goes out to my awesome friend and photographer, Susan Stinnett. Thanks for your love, support, and inspiration, ladies! You are indeed my beacons of hope in winning the battle against breast cancer! | Copyright 2012. ISBN 978-0-9884510-2-5. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author/publisher. Inspirational Sunsets Creative Writings by Donna M. Johnson, P.O. Box 1036, Rising Sun, MD 21911. www.donnasinspirations.com firstname.lastname@example.org; 410-658-4965 Ribbons of Time Photography by Susan Stinnett, 44 Crabbe Ct. Conowingo, MD 21918. www.ribbonsoftime.com email@example.com; 410-378-8805 | Acknowledgment: A special thank you to Longwood Gardens as many of the photographs were taken on their lovely grounds.
2: Introduction Little did I know on that fateful day in February 2008 that I was about to embark on a journey that I had hoped I would never take in my lifetime. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be diagnosed with breast cancer, but thanks to a routine mammogram that detected my cancer in its earliest stages, I am alive, well, and here to tell the tale today. Thanks to that routine screening, my cancer was caught when it was very treatable and curable, and I have no doubt that routine mammogram saved my life! Four years down the road, I am still cancer-free and have a new lease on life! When I look back on my breast cancer journey now, it seems like a small blip on the radar screen just | Indeed, early detection is the key in defeating breast cancer so please urge all the women you know and love to go for their routine mammograms! There is no substitute for early detection since it often brings with it a good prognosis and possibly more treatment options. Yet, there is renewed hope on the horizon for all who are diagnosed with breast cancer since there are new treatments on the forefront everyday. | as my friend, Leslie Walker, said it would be. At the time, though, it certainly rocked my world! In the blink of an eye, my normal life was changed into one filled with doctor's appointments, more medical tests and surgeries, and decisions to be made about treatments. It was a mind-boggling experience to say the least!
3: As I learned through my experience, every cloud has a silver lining, although sometimes we really have to search for it. One of mine is my new friend and mentor from the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Jane Burslem. In fact, Jane is one of my awesome "Partners In Hope" featured in this book. In our first conversation, Jane let me know that she was sorry that I had received this diagnosis, but she also let me know that I could rejoice in the fact that I was not alone. Indeed, I had now become a member of a sisterhood of women who would walk beside me on this journey. No truer words were ever spoken! Now it is my turn to "pay it forward" and be there for others who are battling this disease. None of us should ever have to walk this road alone, and it is my hope that this book will be a beacon of hope to others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are now embarking on their own journeys. | Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned on my journey is summed up well in this quote: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain!" I was so blessed to have found my cancer in its earliest stages, but I was even more blessed by all of | the support I received. From my top-notch medical team to my awesome family and friends, I knew I was not in this fight alone! I even made a few new friends along the way, and I am now part of a proud sisterhood of breast cancer survivors who are willing to walk beside you on your journey too. It is my hope that this book will also inspire you to learn how to dance in the rain as you make your way through your journey so always remember to keep the faith and never give up hope! Indeed, I look forward to hearing your story about how you crossed "The Bridge of Hope" into "The Garden of Hope" so you could proudly stand side by side with your fellow survivors in victory over breast cancer! I hope to see you in "The Garden" SOON! ---Donna M. Johnson
4: PARTNERS IN HOPE
5: Donna M. Johnson is an avid cat and nature lover who enjoys kayaking, bicycling, and hiking. She also has a passion for writing poetry and is often inspired to do so after spending time outside enjoying God's beautiful creation! She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and just celebrated her fourth anniversary of being cancer-free! She would like to thank her awesome friends, family, and God for helping her learn how to dance through this storm in her life! There really is a silver lining to every storm cloud in life, although we often have to look for it! Janet Leary-Prowse grew up on a dairy farm in Maine. These days she herds Maine Coon cats and cheers her sons at their various sporting events. Since being diagnosed with Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) in May 2012, she has been blessed with the support of family and friends on a journey she never thought she would be taking. Andrea Davis feels incredibly blessed and happy to be a part of this wonderful project. As an advocate in the fight against cancer, she has been a hospice volunteer since 2005. Andrea is currently in her final year of seminary and is excited about starting a chaplaincy course after ordination with the goal of becoming a hospice chaplain. Andrea was diagnosed with LCIS in March 2012. A subsequent biopsy was fortunately negative for cancer. It is Andrea's hope that technological advances will continue in breast cancer research and prevention that soon this disease may be eradicated. Jane R. Burslem’s breast cancer was diagnosed during a routine annual mammogram in October of 2007. “I was so fortunate. Because it was caught early, it was small enough I only needed a lumpectomy. There was no lymph node involvement and thanks to the skill of my surgeon they got clean margins so I didn’t require chemotherapy. And I was able to have what was then a relatively new procedure, a directed, internal radiation treatment called Mammosite.” Knowing that a cancer diagnosis can often result in depression, Jane immediately bought a new tennis racket to keep her going throughout her ordeal. “A little retail therapy is always a good thing. And I figured if my tennis game didn’t improve with the new racket I could always blame it on my breast cancer!” Donna Benjamin is an avid kayaker, bicyclist, and photography enthusiast. Although she prefers to be behind the camera, Donna agreed to participate as a “Partner in Hope,” representing our friends and family members who give us the courage, hope, and strength to keep going!
7: The Bridge of Hope "You have cancer", the doctor said to me, And time seemed to stand still. I knew there had to be some mistake For this certainly couldn't be God's will. Indeed, my mind seemed to shut down all at once, And I tried to tell myself that the diagnosis wasn't true. "I'm too young to die", I wanted to scream, "And I have so much left I need to do!" The rest of that appointment was a blur to me As the doctor talked about more surgery, treatments, and tests. "This started out with just a routine screening", I thought, "So how did my life end up in such a mess?" Still, I know how fortunate I was to find out about my cancer So that my enemy now had a face, And I was determined to do whatever it took To be the ultimate winner in this race!
8: Indeed, I was blessed to discover my cancer in its early stages Giving me additional treatment options and great hope for a cure. Still, my life had taken a very unexpected turn And I was now heading into a storm I doubted I could endure. Yet, I am blessed to have wonderful people in my life Who were willing to help me every step of the way; Whether it meant taking me to surgery or taking notes at appointments They always stepped up to help save the day! In fact, one of the greatest blessings I received on this journey Was learning that I would not have to face it alone, For many survivors had walked this frightening path before me And were willing to take me in as one of their own. | Whether it meant giving me advice or just a shoulder to cry on Or perhaps listening to me vent, My fellow cancer victors were there to inspire me And their courageous spirits were with me wherever I went.
9: Still, I knew the journey ahead of me would not be an easy one Yet, my loved ones and fellow cancer victors continued to help cheer me on, So here I stand today to tell my own tale of survivorship With the hope of helping others to remain strong. So don't be afraid to go for those routine screenings For they have been developed to help save your life, But if one day you hear those three dreaded words yourself Remember that many survivors are here to help you through the strife. You see, we are a unique sisterhood brought together by cancer, And we absolutely refuse to give up without a fight! So we will be here to help you through every step of your journey Even through the darkest nights. | For one of the greatest lessons my role models taught me early on Is that breast cancer isn't the death sentence it used to be. Indeed, early detection and many new treatment options Have built "The Bridge of Hope" where despair once ran free!
10: Indeed, you must take a vow to never give up fighting For it's always darkest before the dawn, And never be afraid to reach out for support So your fellow survivors can give you the hope you need to hang on. So please join us now in our fight against cancer As we continue to build "The Bridge of Hope". While prevention and early detection are our best strategies now We also need to keep developing new treatments to help us cope. Yet, the ultimate goal of every one of us Is to live in a world that is cancer-free; Where our loved ones celebrate birthdays year after year And live to enjoy the milestones they long to see! For we have only just begun to fight, my friends, And you can definitely rest assured That we do not plan to lose this battle And will never stop believing that someday we will find a cure! ----DMJ
11: This poem is dedicated in honor of all of my fellow breast cancer survivors and their wonderful caregivers and support systems! Indeed, no one should have to walk this road alone! It is also dedicated in memory of all of those who so valiantly fought the good fight against breast cancer but have now passed on. Your memories will live on in our hearts forever!
12: The Garden of Hope C-A-N-C-E-R: Just the mention of that dreaded word echoes in your mind, And once you or a loved one receives such a diagnosis Your life soon loses all its rhythm and rhyme. You see, I have been down that road several times, my friends, And know how easy it is to give in to fear and despair. Yet, you can rejoice in knowing that you are never alone on this journey But are surrounded by countless others who really do care. For one of the greatest lessons I have learned in dealing with cancer Is that it isn't always the death sentence it used to be. Indeed, early detection and many new treatment options Have built "The Bridge of Hope" where despair once ran free. Yet, crossing that bridge can often seem like a long, hard journey As you get bombarded by decisions to be made, treatments, and tests. In fact, it is often too much for you to bear alone So it may seem easier to just give up on your cancer-free quest.
15: However, the most wonderful aspect of "The Bridge of Hope" Is that it does not lead to a dead end. Instead, the most awesome blessings lie ahead on this journey And are just waiting for you around the next bend. Indeed, there you will find the most awesome and beautiful place I like to call "The Garden of Hope". For it is here that the seeds of faith, courage, and inspiration Bloom through cancer survivors who have learned how to cope! Yes, here you will find those who have been in the trenches themselves But who have now returned to good health, And the lessons they are willing to share with you on your journey Cannot even begin to be measured in terms of monetary wealth. You see, here exists a special brotherhood and sisterhood of hope Who have experienced the fear and anxiety you are going through, And they are willing to reach out to you with love and support To encourage and inspire you through all you must do.
16: Indeed, they share a special bond of unity that can never be broken And their ultimate wish is for you to join them in the garden someday. Then you as a survivor can be a light shining brightly for others Who find themselves lost on this seemingly hopeless way. For no one should ever have to walk this road alone So don't forget to lean on your family and friends too. Indeed, this journey is also a difficult one for them And they may often be at a loss as to what to do. Last but not least, don't forget your four-legged friends Who provide you with unconditional love. The comfort they can give you when life is not kind Is also a special gift sent straight from above. Then one day you, too, will be able to look back And see a silver lining to this awful cloud. As you take your rightful place in "The Garden of Hope" with your fellow survivors You will join them in sending a message that is clear and loud:
18: "Yes, you tried to break our bodies and spirits, cancer, But we weren't going down without a fight, And we will never give up our love and support for one another As we continue to fight against you with all of our might!" | For the ultimate goal of each and every one of us Is to live in a world that is cancer-free; Where our loved ones celebrate birthdays year after year And live to enjoy the milestones they long to see. In the meantime, we will celebrate as our "Garden of Hope" grows While we also fondly remember those we have lost, But rest assured that we are not done battling cancer by any means And will continue to fight back no matter what the cost. For we have only just begun to fight, my friends, And you can definitely rest assured That we do not plan to lose this battle And will never stop believing that someday we will fund a cure! ----DMJ
19: This poem is dedicated in loving memory of my Mom and Dad, Betty and Russell Johnson, who fought their own valiant battles against cancer. How I love and miss you, Mom and Dad! It is also dedicated to Lisa Wiegand, Jane Burslem, and Linda Gohlinghoist, three friends and fellow breast cancer survivors who have a very special place in my heart and in "The Garden of Hope!" Thanks for all of your encouragement, support, love, and the inspiration you provided for this poem, ladies!