Monday, October 1, 2007



Faith, Hope, and Joy: The Unexpected Side Effects of Cancer
BY: Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles


Here is an exciting opportunity for you to be published in a new book by bestselling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel, in a story collection entitled Faith, Hope, and Joy: The Unexpected Side Effects of Cancer. The book will be published early in 2009, and will consist of stories from cancer patients, their family, and friends. Bernie will follow-up the stories with his own thoughts and professional observations on the topic and the stories themselves.

We are looking for INSPIRATIONAL, TRUE first-person stories that will fit in with the themes of faith, hope, and joy as positive side effects of a battle with cancer. Each story should be at least 1,000 words but no more than 2,500 words in length. Please send double-spaced versions only, in 12 point font Times New Roman, and send them as a WORD attachment.

Should your story be selected by the editors, you will receive a $50 permission fee and a copy of the hardcover book. Your name will appear at the end of your story, and a one paragraph contributor bio will be included in the back of the book.

We are accepting submissions for Faith, Hope, and Joy until December 31, 2007. Please INCLUDE YOUR NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER, AND EMAIL ADDRESS AND submit stories to:


Sunday, September 9, 2007

SAMPLE STORY: The Art of Living

I slashed with wild abandon, the crimson stain spread – but not far enough. I drove my knife to its pristine white target, again and again. So this is what my life's come to, I thought. At 55, I've become a killer painter. I've hung my work in galleries and restaurants all over Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as in Sacramento, California's capital and my adopted hometown of some 30 years. But it's been a long journey to get to the place where I can allow myself to pursue a career in art. To use a weird old expression, art has always been the elephant in the roomfor me -- seen but not talked about. I've always loved seeing it, touching it, appreciating it, even coveting it. But it's taken me nearly six decades to realize that of the many careers I've enjoyed – from journalism to arts management, TV news to public relations -- being an artist is the most fulfilling, joyful and truly me. It's been more of a mid-life epiphany than a crisis: discovering that the ability to succeed and make moneydoing something is not the same as loving to do that thing. Although my love for art was born in the great American Midwest -- as was I in 1950 -- it took my migrating West to free my spirit and hands to begin to actually make some. I had started my journey in college, when I escaped my tiny hometown of LaSalle, Illinois (population 10,000), lamming out for the gallery and museum action of Chicago. There, I was able to explore "real" art as I pursued a bachelors degree in journalism, then a career in arts management. When I moved to California in 1976 the initial goal was to try my hand at television news. I spent two years as a reporter/anchor at the local NBC outlet in Sacramento, doing what I'd imagined would be my "dream job." But I soon met (and married) the man of my dreams, and left the self-absorbed world of television, mainly so our work and home schedules would match. But it wasn't until I turned 35 that I began to realize my real calling, when I sat in on a Life Painting course at Sacramento State University. As I leaned my seven-months-pregnant belly in the general proximity of a three-by-three-foot piece of gessoed craft paper on the floor -- my brush going as fast as it could since I knew the model would change her position in only five minutes -- I heard the teacher, a renowned painter himself, tear my previous work to shreds. His comments weren't unkind, simply indicative of someone who thought I needed to "learn to see like an artist." I guess by the end of the class, I was seeing 20/20. After my husband, Ed, urged me to frame 25 of those quickly rendered figure paintings, a local restaurant asked to display them. It was my first solo show -- and to my astonishment, it sold out. It was an auspicious beginning. But if I'd thought moving West was a journey, I hadn't seen nothin' yet. I'd always prided myself on making my own way, from working Saturdays during high school and part-time all through college to earn my tuition, to vying back and forth with Ed over which one of us was earning more money that year. The money I began to make selling my paintings was hardly enough to live on. My output wasn't huge either, since the only time I painted was during our baby's naps. It was Ed's turn to make more that year and for the next several years, while I stayed home with our new daughter. But the more time I spent with Jessica, the more whimsical my art subjects became and the less I needed to have something in front of me to create anintriguing composition. One piece, called "Grandma Babysits," came straight from my own childhood memories, by way of the Twilight Zone. Against a background of perfectly rounded blue trees, a garden of skulls and two houses (one with flames consuming a clock on the mantel and another with a devil peeking out the window), a woman stood screaming, her hands raised as she looked anxiously toward the figure of a young girl stretched out on a couch,floating in the sky. My own grandmother did babysit for me one New Year's Eve. As I cried my good-byes, my mother called cheerily, "We¹ll see you next year!" leaving me to spend the night on Grandma's scratchy mohair couch as an antique clock dinged each hour. I was awake until my parents picked me up in the morning -- far sooner than the one-year wait that I'd imagined. Meanwhile, my Uncle Rudy, who lived between Grandma's home and ours, used to dress up as a devil every Halloween and run around and around our house to scare my sister and me. And Grandma Spelich did work a large garden until she brokea hip at age 91. All of this combined in my brain and came out on the canvas -- how, I'llnever know. But a winery owner and art collector from San Francisco loved "Grandma Babysits" as much as I did (and the judges at the State Fair, who gave it top honors) and bought the piece. That same year, Jessica entered kindergarten and I hit the Big 4-0. I was somehow moved to make a greater contribution to our family bottom line, even though Ed offered to be the solo breadwinner and encouraged me to make art full time. I went to work for the local utility district, hated that, then joined him in his growing public relations firm, contenting myself to being a weekend painter at most. Then in 1998, all hell broke loose. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a particularly virulent form that required one breast to be removed and involved one lymph node. I suspected I was in for a long haul. Lacking the energy for full-time employment, I began painting in earnest during my recovery. Faced with the harsh reality that my future was far from guaranteed, I began to appreciate the value of stopping to smell -- and paint – the flowers. Since it's difficult to contemplate nature without becoming happier, I felt that these flowers had the power to comfort those who viewed them. I began a series called "Power Flowers" that debuted at a local gallery and quickly became the subject of local magazine and newspaper coverage. The idea that these paintings were a critical step to healing resonated with many women, and my art was featured in a PBS special about breast cancer. The power of flowers was everywhere! I’d like to tell you that cancer is behind me, but it isn’t true. The cancer has recurred just about every year -- in the liver, the uterus, the brain, the bones, the other breast, the abdomen, the brain again -- each time requiring another dose of chemotherapy and/or radiation, each time turning our lives upside down as we dealt with side effects and endless doctor and hospital visits. When our daughter Jessica left for her first year of college it was as devastating as all my sage women friends had predicted. Even though she hadn't been home that manyevenings during her junior and senior years of high school -- thanks to a burgeoning acting career -- we'd brushed our teeth and washed our faces together and she'd sleptin her own bed every night. Being alone during the day wasn't new for me, but it wasdifferent knowing Jessica wouldn't be bursting in the door any minute, her beautiful face flushed with the excitement of teenage life. Again, I took solace in making art. Now, as I wait for her daily phone calls from college instead of her wake-up cries on the baby monitor, I am able to paint for many more hours each day. Ed, who’s already been simply the best husband and caretaker anyone could wish for, reminds me daily that my life is mine to live, however I see fit. He’s kept his business going at an even stronger pace -- and I¹ve been able to at last pursue my dream of a full-time career making art. I still haven't gotten used to the fact that Jessica is away at school, but my days are different now -- in a good way, just as hers are. I get up every morning happy to greet the day. It doesn't matter if I feel nauseous and a bit too tired to lift my head off the pillow. I throw off the quilt, jump (OK, crawl fast) out of bed and smile as I pass my studio/office on the way downstairs for breakfast. Though I know it can be interrupted at any timeby medical trials and tribulations, I find myself welcoming each day knowing that I will fill it doing exactly what I want to do. I now think of myself as an artist and businesswoman, not some housewife whooccasionally makes art. I'm introduced to people who recognize my name and are familiar with my work. I'm not just Mrs. Ed. It’s all happened gradually, accompanied by tough challenges. But I've come to think of the cancer as a chronic disease that needs maintenance, like diabetes or heart disease -- and to think of painting as some of the bestmedicine. I now get together with a handful of other women artists every Wednesday evening for a few hours of making sculpture from porcelain clay that's then fired and either glazed or painted with oils. My first piece in this class, led by the wise and talented Miriam Davis, was of a semi-nude woman (OK, she wears a thong) seated, fondling her long, curly hair. It's called "Hair Peace" and captures what I feel each time my hair comes back after another session of chemotherapy. I don’t really want to be a poster child for breast cancer and don’t make it a habit to link my art to my illness. Not only have I branched out into landscapes, but I find myself drawn to whimsical subjects again. I just finished a trio of clay mouse-head masks for a group show and then let loose with a sculpture I call "Pillocchio." It's a clay bust of everyone's favorite Disney puppet, complete with jaunty feathered cap and cute little collared shirt. His nose, grown two feet long thanks to his lying, is made of prescription pill bottles I've collected from my pharmacy over the last eight years. I've realized there's no separating art from illness, it's who I am and what I'm going through that translates into my art. As mature women, we take who we are and go from there. I'm not afraid to let my feelings show in terms of what I create. A killer painter, on the most wanted list at last. ~Jane Goldman

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SAMPLE STORY: Amazing Final Days

My brother, Tom, was a passionate person, a learner. He threw himself into everything that he did. My brother’s list of achievements was impressive – wine maker, hotelier, businessman, community leader, artist. I believe he achieved what he did, not so much because of his ability but because of his passionate approach to life. Tom’s passionate nature served him well when he got sick. He studied cancer treatments and found the one that held the most promise. He fervently held hope for a cure.

Although raised in a strict Catholic family, Tom was a spiritual man so involved living life he had not spent much time worrying about life beyond this world. He didn’t go to church often as an adult, but he led a good life, and was good to the people around him. He felt that if he treated others well, was kind and honest, he had little to worry about. But when Tom got sick, his focus changed. He passionately began to consider all things spiritual. And he, once again, had amazing results. I’d like to share with you an experience he had when I was with him towards the end, for I believe you will take great comfort from it too.

It was Thursday of Holy Week, ten days before Tom died. He had come home from the hospital the day before. He honestly was very low, almost silent, sleeping fitfully most of the afternoon. I joined him in his ocean-side room, a small and cozy place he had designed himself. Through the large glass windows the view was stunning, and we’d raised the bed so that he could still see the waves. Sitting by him, I asked, “Would you like to pray with me?”

Shaking his head, he answered, “I am.” So I prayed silently next to my brother who dozed and prayed silently.

Later that afternoon my husband John and I were standing by his bed when Tom awoke suddenly. He lifted his head from the pillow and stared straight ahead, his eyes bulging, locked on the far wall. I looked at the wall too, wondering what he saw. It was just a plain wall, adorned with pictures of his children. Was that what he was focusing on? After about 30 seconds, he flopped his head back on the pillow and said, “It was fantastic! Fantastic!”

At that very moment, his wife, Noreen, came in with the phone. It was the family priest, Father Spitzer, calling to share the news that Gonzaga University had given Tom their highest award for all that he had done as an alum. Everyone in the family gathered round his bed to hear the news. It felt good to see Tom so happy! After things had settled down a bit, I asked, “Tom, what was so fantastic? What were you looking at before? ” With tears in his eyes, my brother looked at John and me, “I saw heaven, Annie. I saw God!” He put his head back on the pillow, exhausted, and slept soundly for many hours.

When my brother awoke again, he was somehow different. Now don’t misunderstand me, he was still incredibly sick, close to death, honestly. But for the next few days, until Easter Sunday, Tom had amazing moments of energy, leaving his bed for the first time in days. Off and on his pain seemed almost to disappear. He thanked the people who were gathered in his house. He told them that he loved them. He told jokes. He offered each of us bits of advice. He said words that each of us will remember always.
On Good Friday, John and I needed to head home. Tom rushed out to say goodbye to John and me. Standing there, he hugged me, then slapped my check lightly, and with a twinkle in his eye, he said laughingly, "I'm going to beat you there!" It took me a moment to realize where he meant he was going, and to know how to respond. Heaven, he was saying he planned to beat me to heaven. But finally I looked him right in the eye, shook his hand and said, "Well, I'm going to meet you there." Shaking my hand, he sealed our agreement, saying, “Alright then." Ever the honest businessman, I am quite certain Tom has already met his end of the deal.

Tom died just a few days later. I know that fine care he received in his home surrounded by loved ones is a partial explanation for his energy. But I believe Tom’s experience gave him the grace to be able to live his last days in the way that he had lived his life. Confident of what lay ahead, Tom was truly able to be present there with us. Though I will miss my brother always, I will ever be grateful for having been a part of his amazing moments of grace.

~Ann Martin Bowler
Granite Bay, California