January 6, 2011

My New Year’s Resolution

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Friendships, Good people, Health, Hobbies, Quilting, Women tagged , , , , , at 8:02 am by Liliana

The healing quilt

The healing quilt

I was never one for New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like to make a promise (to myself or to others) that I pretty much know that I won’t keep.

But this year, I have made a resolution. I want to finish a large, king size quilt that I started for my friend Nancy three years ago.

When Nancy’s husband Ken died, Nancy didn’t want to part with his clothes. I volunteered to make a quilt out of Ken’s shirts, ties and pants. To make the quilt representative of their life together, I took a few of Nancy’s colorful blouses and added them to the mix.

I made a simple design, something that would work for a disparate collection of colors, tones and materials. Then I bought creamy and burgundy floral fabrics to tie everything together. And when I started quilting, I chose different colors of thread – neutral beige, deep burgundy, emerald green and burnt orange.

This quilt has been an evolutionary enterprise. I started with a vague concept in mind, but the project has evolved into something with a life of its own.

I have done all the sewing and quilting by hand. From the beginning I felt, but didn’t understand clearly, that the idea was not to finish the quilt quickly, but to go through the process of  slow, meditative healing. I couldn’t rush this project.

Ken and I were suffering from cancer at the same time. He had incurable esophageal cancer, I was sick with breast cancer. The last time we saw each other was at our children’s piano recital. He was at the end of his treatments, I was in the middle of mine. We made a sad sight – both of us gray and weary, with no hair and our eyes hollow from nausea and fear.

We said nothing but looked at each other with compassion and understanding. We embraced and cried.

So, when I work on this quilt for Ken and Nancy, every stitch is a gift of tenderness and love. And gratitude that they have given me the opportunity to spend hours slowly pulling silky thread through fabrics that they have marked with their presence. They have given me a chance to mend and heal.

This winter I feel that the time has come to complete the quilt. It feels right. Every evening I work on it for hours.

When the longer days of spring arrive, I will be ready to hand it over to Nancy for safekeeping.


October 13, 2010

Rescuing Chilean Miners

Posted in Good people, Work tagged , , , , , at 2:17 pm by Liliana

Rescuing Chilean Miners - October 2010

Rescuing Chilean Miners - October 2010

Sometimes, the whole world stops, comes together and agrees.

Life is precious.

September 17, 2010


Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Children, Family, Food, Good people, Health, Home, Weather, Women tagged , , , , , at 6:59 am by Liliana

Liliana, Nana, Branka and our father

Liliana, Nana, Branka and our father- June 2010

In early January of 2005, I was undergoing intense chemo therapy for breast cancer.

It was a bitterly cold and snowy winter. The days were heavy, dark, gloomy and depressing. My physical and emotional state reflected the weather perfectly.

In a few short weeks, I had lost close to twenty pounds. I had no appetite and felt nauseous all the time. I was weak and dizzy. I could not sleep. I developed a blood clot in my arm and then one in my leg. I had no energy. I could not take care of myself, much less my husband and children.

My sister, Branka, tried bravely to take care of our two households. She ran between her work, her children’s schools, her house  and my house. I worried that she too would get sick. We needed help.

Our father had remarried a few years earlier and lived in Florida. We were friendly with our stepmother (Nana), but didn’t know her well. She offered to come to cold, frozen Michigan and take care of us all. We said yes.

Nana came and took over the running of the house.

Mornings were my worst time of the day. After chemo had been working its magic all night long, I felt sick, exhausted and unable to eat. I had trouble getting out of bed. Nana would bring me a cup of tea and hot oatmeal with honey, then leave as I struggled to swallow a few teaspoons at a time.

Mike was already away at college, but Nena and Sam were at home. Jeff had a responsible and difficult job. They were all disoriented and frightened. Nana made them breakfast every morning – fancy stuff like pancakes, bacon, eggs. It made me happy to know, sitting in my bedroom and trying to swallow oatmeal, that Nana took care of them.

After everyone had left for work or school, I slowly gathered my courage and stumbled downstairs. Nana and I sat for hours – she talking and crocheting; I trying to survive another day.

Hours spread before us like decades.

Branka came every day, and the two of them tried to think of ways to cheer me up and get me to eat. It was essential that I not lose any more weight as my oncologist threatened to stop chemo treatments; but I had trouble swallowing and had no appetite. Nana and Branka would go into my kitchen and start concocting high calorie delicacies limited only by their imaginations. I never knew what combination and surprises I would find camouflaged inside my smoothies – boiled chicken with chocolate milk, roasted vegetables with honey, etc. etc. I lived in fear of the next offering.

Evenings were merciless in a different way. Nana and Branka made wonderful dinners and the entire family (mine and Branka’s) would gather around our dining room table. Everyone except for me. I sat on a sofa nearby, and tried not to smell the aroma of food or think about food. Our usually rowdy dinner conversations were no more; everyone ate quietly.

We all waited for the day to end.

Nana stayed with us for six weeks, through the worst part of my chemo treatments. She talked to me about things that no one else had the courage to talk about. She was honest and made no light of my situation. I didn’t have to pretend to be brave. But this tenacious, determined woman exuded strength like a rock – strength I could touch with my hand and hold on to tightly.

She cajoled me to eat, to find courage in simple things and not give up. She advised me to take it one minute, one hour, one day at the time. When I could not walk myself, she pushed me forward.

By the time Nana left for Florida, winter was winding down. Snow was still laying deep on the ground, but the first whiffs of spring were in the air. I was done with the first chemo regiment, and starting the second round. I responded to this one much better, and my appetite showed those first early signs of life. I started going for walks outside. My strength came back slowly.

Now, when I think of those cold, dark, despondent days, I think with pride of my family’s ability to endure and survive. And I think of Nana’s strength and love that, like a beacon, pointed the way towards better days. On day at the time.


September 15, 2010

Avery Update

Posted in Cancer, Children, Family, Good people, Health tagged , , , , , at 8:25 am by Liliana

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Avery is doing well.

Her diagnosis last year with non-
rhabdomyosarcoma, deeply touched everyone who knows her story.

This rare form of cancer has the characteristics of three different types of cancer, all in one. By the time Avery was diagnosed in October, it had already spread to her lungs and was ranked Stage 4. After four rounds of intense chemotherapy, followed by surgery, her cancer had shrunk and there are now no traces of lesions in her lungs.

Avery is going back to the hospital in October for a follow-up scan. If all goes well, her port will be removed.

Avery is feeling great, eating well, growing and learning all kinds of new things. Her hair has come back, as well as her eyebrows and eyelashes. With her sweet smile and good nature she charms everyone who meets her.

Avery had a little accident during the summer. She ended up with a small fracture in her leg. Her bones have been weakened by chemo, so she had to wear a cast on her leg for a few weeks.

Now the cast is off, and Avery can go swimming and running around.

I bet she’ll be playing soccer with her brothers very soon!


August 25, 2010


Posted in Children, Friendships, Good people, Home, Organization, Travel tagged , , , at 6:51 am by Liliana

William enjoying hamburgers

William enjoying hamburgers

My friend Ann invited us over for dinner the other night. Her family is hosting an exchange student from Kenya and she wanted us to meet him. William is seventeen years old and a high school senior. This is his first trip ever outside his country.

I went with my youngest son, Sam, niece Nicole, and Joe, my brother-in-law. Sam and Nicky are William’s age so we were eager to introduce them.

Ann made a delicious dinner – salmon, chicken, salad, good bread. Most of us ate fish, but not William. He has lived his whole life far away from water and fish is not something he is used to. But he seems open to trying things that he is unaccustomed to, and much of what he sees in his new environment – he has never seen before.

William belongs to the Masai tribe and lives near the Masai Mara National Park in south-western Kenya. His parents are farmers and he is the tenth of eleven children. An excellent student who speaks English beautifully, he has worked hard for everything he has achieved.

This is a trip of many firsts for William. This is the first time William has flown in an airplane. William is not used to western food, or living in a large house. His family lives in small communal huts. William is not used to technology, but has already started a facebook page, made a PowerPoint presentation about his homeland, and will be getting a cell phone soon.

What struck me most about this young man is his poise and sense of calm faith in himself. William showed us pictures of his family and schoolmates and spoke about his culture with great pride, but also unclouded honesty. Things are what they are, and he has the fortitude to see them as such. He told us that many Masai boys have to make a decision whether to become Masai warriors or receive a western style education. Becoming a warrior is a complicated ten year long indoctrination process, so many boys are opting for the less rigorous western schooling.

William hit it off with Sam and Nicky right away. The kids wanted to introduce him to their friends, take him to the movies, and have him join their teams.

Later in the evening, Sam and William went outside to play soccer. They talked and kicked the ball around for a long time. When they came back in tired and laughing, all we grownups could see was two boys – having fun. Same the world over.


July 16, 2010

Back to School

Posted in Books, Career, Children, Family, Good people, Home tagged , , , , , at 6:47 am by Liliana

Joe and Sasha (at Sasha's graduation)

Joe and Sasha (at Sasha's graduation)

At forty nine, my brother-in-law Joe is back in graduate school. This summer has been very intense for him. Classes every day, from morning until late afternoon. Tons of reading. Several papers a week.

It’s funny (and a bit alarming) to see him acquiring the behaviors of a typical college student. He is full of energy, ideas and new information. He doesn’t have time in the evenings for much besides studying. He stays up late almost every night.

I woke up around 1 AM last night and noticed that the light in the study was still on. When I opened the door, Joe blinked at me sleepily. In the midst of writing a long research paper, he was lost in thought and educational theories.

“Almost done?” I asked.

“Three pages to go on this one. And then I need to write another one.” He answered.

Well, I went back to sleep, but Joe staid up and wrote and wrote.

The kids, worried about him, checked on Joe several times. Mike, Sam and Nicky repeatedly came to see if there was something they could do to help. There wasn’t.

Still, in one way, Joe is totally unlike a typical college student. When I came down this morning at 6:30 am, to get ready for work, he was up already. Joe was writing in his journal, having a cup of coffee, and about to take Kaya on their early morning walk.

“How many hours of sleep did you get?”

“Maybe three, “ Joe answered. He was tired, but in a good mood. He didn’t even think of disappointing his dog. But as the two of them left for their walk, he got back into the mode of a student again.

He left his paper for me to read and edit. It was excellent!


July 11, 2010

I Think I Might Be Winning!!!!!

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Good people, Health, Holidays, Women tagged , , , , , at 7:35 am by Liliana

Cheers to Bridget!

Cheers to Bridget!

It seems like we have been hearing a lot of bad news this year, so I thought it would cheer everyone up to hear some undeniably excellent news.

I wrote recently about a young lady whose spirit and resilience have moved me deeply. Her name is Bridget Spence. She writes a wonderful blog that I recommend you visit often: My Big Girl Pants.

This was her latest post:

“I Think I Might Be Winning!!!!!

I wanted to start everyone’s holiday weekend off on the right foot. Get the champagne out, people. Put away the Big Girl Pants and put on your prettiest pair of Party Pants because I am winning this battle.

That’s right, you heard me. After months of set backs and pain and side effects and trying oh-so-very-hard to keep a smile, I finally got one piece of good news!

Yesterday, my scans showed that the cancer in my liver had SHRUNK!!!!!!!!!

This TDM1 really might be that silver bullet I had hoped for. Now, it isn’t a cure, but it is clearly working.

For the past four years, one liver spot had been there, lurking. It hadn’t changed size or shape in four years. It hadn’t grown, but it certainly hadn’t shrunk. Then, a few months ago, a second little bugger in my liver showed up. The scans yesterday showed that, after only two rounds of TDM1, both tumors had shrunk visibly. One went from 2.8mm to 1.3mm. The other had shrunk from 1.6mm to .8mm.

My Doctor was gleeful and I take my cues from her. I’m not planning for dozens of little pants babies quite yet, but I could have the year of quiet that I had hoped and prayed for. I might even have a couple years of normalcy and quiet. The goal is that these suckers keep shrinking and that the side effects remain manageable. My heart function dropped slightly, but it was still above the 50% mark, so we are not going to worry about that today. I am going to exercise and try to keep the ol’ tinker in Lance Armstrong-style shape so that this drug can continue working its magic.

My cancer had been humming along in my body for the past four years and now it’s been hit with a new drug and it doesn’t know what hit it! Here’s hoping my little silver bullet keeps killing and keeps shrinking. But let’s not hope for too much.

Today, I am going to take this news and stick it in my back pocket. I am going to enjoy a fabulous Fourth of July weekend. Big Man and I are going to let our hair down and let our breath come out in a big sigh of relief. We are going to start planning our futures as all 26 and 30 year olds should do. The world is our oyster today, and I must say, we earned it.


Cheers, dear Bridget! I drank a glass of wine in your honor. I wish you all the best in this world.


May 24, 2010

Relay for Life of Canton, 2010

Posted in appliance parts, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Good people, Health, Money, Organization, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Liliana

Relay for Life of Canton, 2010

Relay for Life of Canton, 2010

Last weekend, RepairClinic.com participated in the Relay for Life fundraiser in Canton, Michigan. This is an inspiring event that celebrates the lives of people who have battled cancer, remembers loved ones lost, and fights back against the disease by raising money for research. All the money is donated to the American Cancer Society.

At the Canton Relay, teams of people camp out at our local park and take turns walking or running around a path surrounding a small pond. This is the second year that RepairClinic has participated in this event and we all find it very moving and inspiring. The event starts with the survivor’s walk. Participants stand on the sidelines and cheer those who have battled the disease. I always cry when I look around me and see young children, mothers with babies, middle aged people, senior citizens. No one is immune to this disease. Still, as hard as it is, there is healing and comfort in the support and cheers from other people, in their love and encouragement.

This year’s Relay was a huge success. These are the official numbers:

The Relay For Life of Canton celebrated 347 survivors, had 1,283 participants, honored the battle of over 3,630 loved ones with luminaria and raised $248,062 for the fight against cancer! We exceeded the community’s fund-raising goal by $8,062!

RepairClinic thanks all of you for your help.


May 5, 2010

RepairClinic.com Raising Money for Cancer Research

Posted in appliance parts, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Good people, Health, Money, Organization, RepairClinic.com, Work tagged , , , at 9:13 am by Liliana

RepairClinic.com Outreach Committee

RepairClinic.com Outreach Committee

RepairClinic’s Health and Wellness committee held a fundraiser luncheon for all our employees yesterday. They were helping our Outreach committee raise money for Relay For Life®.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life® is a fund-raising event that gives people around the world a chance to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors and people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. Relay For Life® raises much-needed funds and awareness to help the American Cancer Society save lives from cancer.

At RepairClinic.com, our Outreach team has been collecting money for Relay For Life® for a number of months now. We held three fund-raising luncheons. RepairClinic donated a large number of items for a popular employee bargain sale (we raised $896 there). Different individuals in our group have been doing their part to inform their families and friends and raise money that way. Our goal is $2000. We are slowly getting there.

For yesterday’s luncheon, we had a healthy spread – a lovely salad bar with lots of toppings. This was on the menu:

  • Fresh, crisp lettuce
  • Baby spinach
  • Several kinds of rolls
  • Meats: turkey, ham, salami
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Vegetables: onions, cucumbers, tomatoes
  • Beans: garbanzo, black and sunflowers seeds

For dessert we had brownies, lemon bars, a number of delicious cookies.

Our lunch was a success and we raised over $345.00 towards our goal.

Relay for Life is taking place Saturday, May 15th and Sunday May 16th. Our team will be there the entire weekend. Please help us with your donation!


February 28, 2010

Earthquake in Chile

Posted in Earthquakes, Good people, Money, News tagged , , at 8:59 am by Liliana

Earthquake in Chile

Earthquake in Chile

Terrible things have been happening around the world. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; earthquakes in Haiti and Chile; tsunami warnings down the entire Pacific coast; and many other natural and man-made disasters. It is hard not to be afraid, anxious and stressed. What does one do?

My way of dealing with things that I am afraid of is not to turn away. I think that apathy and indifference help no one; compassion and everyday acts of kindness make this world a better place.

We can all do our part. Whether cleaning our neighbor’s snowy sidewalk, saying a kind word to a child, or sending a check to Chile, we all have great power to do good things.

If you are able to help the people of Haiti, Chile or those in our own country who are in need, please consider:

American Red Cross -http://www.redcross.org/

Every little bit helps!


Next page