Thinking Aloud Blog

With my vibrant blue headscarf covering my bald head, I joined a small group of nurses and assistants as we walked out of the Mary Dow Center of the Ellsworth Hospital. These dedicated hard-working women surrounded me in a circle as I rung a loud, joyful bell, acknowledging that my months-long cancer chemo treatment was finally over.

Relief danced through my weak body, like bubbles being busted. I was embraced in a big hug. So needed and desired. Then they hugged Bernice, my devoted and committed spouse, who lived through this with me, her tears of relief visible.

For five months I had chemo treatments. I’d sit in a big, green-cushioned chair in a private room waiting for an hour or more after blood draw to find out whether my body that day could handle the chemo. Sometimes yes. Sometimes, no. Often, no. Up and down days. Gratefully, I rarely suffered adverse side effects, perhaps because my body couldn’t take too much chemo at one time.

The worst of my days were the CAT and PET scans, as well as the MRI. Laying still in one position is far from easy for me; I pictured myself floating in the water on the lake at Craig Brook Fish Hatchery, where I had enjoyed swimming.  I’m now in remission but will continue getting blood work every couple of months, as there is the possibility the remission isn’t permanent.

The chemo room I was in each time had the name “JoAnn Palumbo” on the wall. Bernice and I had donated the green chair about fifteen years earlier, when Bernice’s sister died of cancer in New Jersey. At times I felt JoAnn’s presence with me, my bald head reminding me of hers. Bernice had shaved my head when my hair started falling out. An adjustment to my psyche, but an interesting look to get used to.

After each treatment, Bernice and I went out to eat, mainly to our favorite Chinese restaurant not far from the hospital. We followed that up with delicious local homemade ice cream.  We needed to feel normal. Thankfully I could eat without throwing up.  I had heard many stories about chemo effects. I was lucky.

My first published book, Everything Special, Living Joy, written at a silent meditation retreat, was about how we look at life: like a glass half empty or half full. Cancer had handed me a challenge. My mother died of cancer. My father had cancer when he died in my home in Maine. Many relatives died of cancer. So had some friends and many of my law clients.

My memoir, Framing a Life: Building the Space to be Me, was published in July 2023, and I physically couldn’t celebrate or do book readings. I was able to do podcast interviews from home. Not the excitement and joy I had looked forward to, but gratifying to do the interviews, which are available here at

Who am I now? Am I defined by cancer? Or not? My body is weak, particularly my legs. I look forward to rebuilding my strength and taking long walks with Ruby, our sweet rescue dog, who also had cancer shortly after we got her. In a way, she lived through what I had. Soon we’ll run together again. I exercise by dancing in the house; dancing is a component of my meditation.

What have I learned from this life “experience?” Acceptance and appreciation of life. That I’m still the person I was and want to be. I cried, was fearful of the unknown, but maintained a sense of self. I didn’t challenge or fight what I was going through; I lived the fear. Not easy of course. I missed doing the things I had looked forward to – especially traveling and taking vacations with Bernice, Hopefully travel will return in the future.

I so appreciated all the cards, emails, calls and flowers from friends, relatives and past co-workers. My relatives are spread out from California to New York City. So sweet to reconnect with them. Some visited me in Maine. I hope to travel and see others.

Right now, my job is to take care of myself. To pay attention to my health more diligently, especially eating. I have researched, read and learned a lot, especially about diet and nutrition. I’ve changed to the Mediterranean Diet. Not easy, especially with my sweet tooth. Now, very dark chocolate and nuts instead of my traditional sweets.

Much gratitude to all my friends, family and health providers who have been so supportive of me. Thank you for reading.

Following are a few interviews I did from my home as I couldn’t travel:



Written interview: