making a difference,
one step at a time

“Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.”   ~ Alice Walker

These days, many of us are profoundly aware that the rent is going up. And, out of our deep love for our lives, our world, and each other, we respond in countless ways — with our voices, our dollars, our time, our conversations, even our bodies, as we dig deep and work together to make things better for all.

As every long-time reader here knows, one constant for me over the last seven years has been an annual commitment to help improve the odds for women diagnosed with reproductive cancers.

It has been seven years since my dear friend Diane died at age 55, after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. I think often of all she’s missed — a daughter’s marriage, a son’s graduation from business school, seven Christmases, seven family vacations in Maine, the list is endless.

But I also recall the powerful ways in which her courage and grace continue to inspire those she left behind.  Her example galvanized the rest of us — to be braver and more generous ourselves, and to do our part to make a difference in the lives of others, one step at a time.

Raising money and walking the Jimmy Fund Marathon route with Team Diane is my way of upholding the legacy of my own beautiful friend who died way too young. But it’s also a way to ensure that we — those of us who walk, and every single person who donates to this cause — are making the odds better for each of the 22,000 women who will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year.

A month from tomorrow, I’ll be out there, walking 26.2 miles to raise funds for Dr. Ursula Matulonis’s cutting-edge team of researchers at Dana Farber.  Dr. Matulonis was Diane’s doctor and, in the years since, she has become both a friend to our group and an inspiration to all of us who continue to support her work with the funds we raise. Thanks to the clarity of Diane’s final wishes, every dollar donated goes directly to Dr. Matulonis. In the last seven years, much progress has been made.

This year, I’m especially looking forward to Sept. 24 because Team Diane will welcome Diane’s older daughter and her new husband to our ranks. Also, my own “soul” daughter Lauren will fly up from Atlanta to walk with us.

Our team began with loved ones, but the circle has grown to include many who didn’t know Diane but who have been touched by her story or by cancer in their own lives. This cause, and our annual contributions, have far exceeded anything we could have imagined when we first set out to support a fund in our friend’s memory. I’m pretty sure she would be delighted to know how far the ripples have reached.

Many of us feel stretched thin right now, as we look for ways to promote healing in our world. That said, I’d be enormously grateful for your support, in any amount. And please know, I will be thinking of you and your loved ones as I walk on September 24.

(One thing I’ve learned over these last months? Paying rent actually feels pretty good – much better than the alternative!)

Click here to learn more and to support my walk: http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2017/KatrinaDiane

Gratefully,

Katrina

Support my walk, leave a comment, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win two books.

It’s become something of a tradition for me to take this opportunity to give away a book or two, just to say an additional “thanks” to you — for reading, for being here, and for all you do.

If you choose to donate, be sure to leave a comment below. I’ll enter your name to win a copy of Mary Oliver’s “A Thousand Mornings” (because Diane and I shared a love of Mary Oliver’s poetry) and a signed copy of my own “Moments of Seeing” (because some of our long friendship is captured in those pages, and well, just because).

And if you want to meet Diane and see our team in action, take a few moments to watch this video Lauren created for us. It’s a great reminder of exactly why we do what we do!

Donating is one-click easy, here.  And I’ll choose a book winner at random on Sept. 25.  Needless to say, my heartfelt thank you’s will come to each and every one of you.

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A friend, a cause, and a special thanks for you

D & K

Three years ago this week, my friend Diane and I took a walk around her neighborhood.  I remember we went slowly, taking our time, enjoying the sunshine and each other.  Although we talked and laughed as we always had, my heart was heavy. I knew it would probably be our last walk together.

But what I couldn’t have known on that August morning was that although Diane’s own four-year journey with ovarian cancer was coming to an end, my walking partner’s legacy would live on.

As I set out just after dawn today for a long, solitary walk on a quiet country road, I found myself thinking of my friend.  Not a day goes by when I don’t miss her. I miss our long walks, our trips to the farmers’ market, our overnight get-aways, fast rides in her little chocolate brown sports car.  I miss her e-mails (which always seemed to contain the words I most needed to hear), the sound of her voice, her perfect, light-as-air scones, her pleasure in a glass of good champagne, her no-nonsense advice about kids and recipes and neighborhood dilemmas.  I miss hearing her views on politics and tv shows and books and which jeans looked best on me.  [continue…]

In memory of a friend, in hope for a better future.

I can see it vividly: an August morning, just exactly a year ago. My friend Diane and I were taking a walk, as we had done together countless times over the last eighteen years. As we made our way slowly down the hill near her home, the summer sun warm on our backs, we watched our two elongated shadows, side by side, moving companionably along in front of us. A pair of women walking, a pair of shadows dancing to our rhythm: a small, ordinary moment, but one I will remember always. I knew even then — I think we both did — that this was yet another “last” for us, that in the future my shadow and I would walk alone. Less than three months later, I lost my beloved friend to ovarian cancer at age 55.

We met when we were both pregnant with our youngest children, our bellies nearly touching as we joyously discovered that we were backyard neighbors with much more than a shared bit of fence and autumn due dates in common. Over the years, as our children grew up and we grew older, traditions were born — fireworks on town day, harvest dinners in October, annual overnights in Maine (where this photo was taken), champagne toasts, raspberry picking and birthday scones, to name just a few. The memories accumulated as our friendship deepened.

When she was diagnosed in the fall of 2006, Diane’s disease was already quite advanced, as is often the case with ovarian cancer. Under the care of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, she lived a full and active life for four more years. While undergoing treatment, she continued to care for her family and friends, to work in her community, to engage in politics, to cook, laugh, ski, read, walk, and love — to be Diane.

Anyone who knew Diane Brewster saw firsthand how tirelessly she worked to advance the principles and causes she believed in. In the last years of her life, that list was topped by her commitment to ovarian cancer research. It was her great hope that more effective treatments and earlier detection might make other women’s prognoses better than her own. Shortly before her death, she made a decision: she asked that those who wished to honor her memory make donations to Dana Farber’s Ovarian Cancer Research fund.

On September 18, I will participate in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, along with fifteen of Diane’s dear friends, to carry forward her commitment and her hope. Dana Farber researchers are on the cutting edge of progress against this disease which claims the lives of more than 15,000 women in the U.S. every year. Diane’s oncologist, Dr. Ursula Matulonis, and her colleagues are currently studying six promising new agents against recurrent ovarian cancer in clinical trials, work that Diane furthered through her own participation for as long as she was able.

Amazingly, Diane was able to complete three Jimmy Fund walks in the years following her diagnosis, testament to both her unflagging courage and her commitment. I will walk those 26.2 miles next month knowing that nothing would please Diane more than the sight of her friends supporting the cause she believed in so strongly. Dr. Matulonis, who came to consider Diane a friend as well as a patient, will be walking, too. At the end of her life, Diane was very clear: she wanted to make a difference for those who came after her. She did, and she continues to. It is part of her remarkable legacy that she has inspired so many of us to lace up our sneakers, reach out to our friends and loved ones for support, and join the cause she believed in so passionately.

Diane envisioned a day, perhaps not so far off, when ovarian cancer would be a chronic, manageable illness rather than the statistically terrifying diagnosis it is for most women today. As I walk the roads and trails near my home in New Hampshire, trying to increase my distance, build my endurance, and prepare my feet for the greatest physical challenge I’ve ever undertaken, I remind myself that, with every mile walked and every dollar raised, we move a little closer to realizing Diane’s vision. I see just one shadow before me these days, but I know I’m not walking alone after all. I feel my friend’s presence with every step.

When Diane died last fall, I wrote here about the loss of my friend. And then, in the weeks that followed, I was overwhelmed by my readers’ compassion and kindness. So many of you took time to write me, to comment in this space, and to share your own stories of grief and loss and healing. And so I extend an invitation here to anyone who might wish to contribute to my walk. Every one of your dollars will go directly to Dr. Matulonis and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. And you will help me reach my personal fund-raising goal for Team Diane.

It’s easy to contribute. You may give in one of two ways:
• Visit my fundraising page at the Walk web site and follow the instructions to make a gift online.
• Write a check payable to “Jimmy Fund Walk.” On the memo line, write: “Dana Farber Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.” Send it directly to me at: Katrina Kenison Lewers, 101 Middle Hancock Rd, Peterborough, NH 03458.

And, as my thanks to you, a book give-away.

Among the many things Diane and I shared was a love of cooking and a delight in exchanging recipes. The last birthday gift she gave me was Anna Thomas’s wonderful cookbook, Love Soup, which became an immediate go-to in my kitchen. I’ve just bought 5 copies of this lovely book, to pair with signed copies of my own The Gift of an Ordinary Day. If you choose to contribute to my walk, and you let me know with a comment here, you’ll be eligible to win one of five pairs of these books. I will draw 5 names at random from the Comments section (using the tool at www.random.org) to receive the books. Deadline: midnight, Monday, August 15.