Survivors Getting Stronger participants share
These are excerpts from writings by participants in our April 13 workshop, Survivors Getting Stronger, led by Laura Parker Castoro.
Three hard or easy things
- The surprisingly good things I’ve learned since cancer gave me 20/20 vision:
“There are real friends, even ones that last a lifetime, be it yours or theirs, either way the giving keeps on.”
- What I hope my family knows about me by now:
“I’m not the excuse. Even if I could help the family with that, I don’t want to contribute even to enlightening you all. I will instead let you grow as I have by reaching out, and seeking your own answers.”
- Life after the diagnosis, “the new normal.”
“There are limits, you’re not abnormal if you have them. I can’t do it anymore. I do not have to do it if I can’t for everyone, and it doesn’t mean I’m abnormal.”
— Anita Alpe
My favorite season
Spring brings light and brightness to the dark overcast shadow of winter. Spring ushers in a fresh growing season for plants and the human spirit if we allow the sunshine into our soul.
Trees bud, grass returns to green and flowers bloom. The new growth coming from what appears to be dead gives me hope. I am alive even when I feel unsure of how many more springs I will see. I am alive even though I have cancer.
Don’t count me out. Spring is here and I am about to blossom.
— Patricia Brown
My favorite season
Summer sits down.
Spring was so in a rush, bursting buds and such.
And then the hot descends, keeping green going without much effort.
Water splashing takes me back.
Mint tea carries me right to Aunt Sophie’s.
Ice cream ever welcome after every one of my brother’s baseball games.
Treehouses and anthills—it’s all home
— Lucilla Garrett
Something that people do not know about you
I used to say I was putting on my gladiator armor, simply to face the day.
With the exception of the two days after surgeries, I got up and got dressed. When everything is chaos, one bargains with orderly.
How one battles cancer varies. But my weapon is makeup. I think it makes me look better. I know it makes me feel better. And, one needs better.
— Lucilla Garrett
Sisters of the Skillet
Once you have cancer and survive, you belong to a group of special people and if you are a breast cancer survivor you are part of a sisterhood that I call, “Sisters of the Skillet.” The name came from one of the sisterhood. She said her mother had used that term and my friend Margaret said she never understood what her mother meant until she was a breast cancer survivor. Margaret was an early female minister and retired widow living on the campus of a multi-level retirement center at the time. We attended the same church. I took her to pick out a bra and to fax the bill for payment. She was someone I had always admired and I was proud to have her in the “skillet” with me.
Before that I found sisters in both likely and unlikely places. After my first surgery I went to a support group at a large hospital and when another church friend became a sister we drove together. Her niece who I had baby-sat as a teenager and lived several states away became a sister.
Prior to my cancer, my flesh and blood sister died less than two years after a diagnosis of breast cancer. I had a preschooler and didn’t work. Every week I spent one weekend afternoon and one weekday afternoon with her. Once while hospitalized and under pain not always controlled, she asked me to tell her some stories and fell asleep as I told one from church camp days. The nurse whispered to me, “You’re a good sister.” Joyce or Joy as we called her was eleven-and-a-half years older. When our mother died she continued to be a second mother to me and came to stay with me when our son was born. She became like a grandmother to him and was our free sitter. How could I not try to be a good sister to her? I sat by while she sizzled in the skillet. Her cancer caused my doctor to start scheduling mammograms for me and to refer me to a specialist who reviewed my family history of cancer.
Our son was 5 when she died. He was 15-and-a-half when I had my first breast cancer. When I was allergic to one of the 3 drugs in my chemo “cocktail” and was hospitalized 3 times before the cause was discovered, I took six months of short-term disability and was at home. I had a wig that I wore when I went out. A teenage boy doesn’t want people to see his mother without hair. When he had company, the wig went on. When he had pain from his new braces and I was having a tough day, we really understood what it meant to “share someone else’s pain.” Because of my hospitalizations, tiredness and not being able to work, there was a day when the painful question came: “Will you ever be like you were?” I had no answer. He had support. His best friend’s mother brought some homemade bread. Friends from church wrote some notes that the minister brought for him to have while I was having that first surgery. My being “in the skillet” affected him as well.
It also affected my husband. He tried to tease me which was his way of handling his stress and sometimes I did not take it well. Two actors from the television series, “L. A. Law,” came to our city to discuss the effect breast cancer has on the husband and the marriage. We went. A serious illness puts a strain on a marriage. The television couple learned to meditate. Prayers − our own and those of friends and family − helped to sustain us.
It isn’t surprising that families are affected. Often when bacon is in the skillet, grease splatters on those nearby.
My first breast was removed in October. October is “Breast Cancer” month. An article in the Sunday paper told about a man who had lost his wife and a group that had supported her. They were “Reach to Recovery” volunteers. A few calls and I had a visit from one of these women who “have been there” and trained to help others new to the journey. In time, I became one of them. Through that program I have tried to bring hope and concern to other “sisters.”
With the numbers of breast cancer patients reaching 1 in 7, new “sisters” are everywhere. Most never have a trained volunteer. Many are informally paired with someone with the same diagnosis by friends or family. It is comforting that someone who has felt the heat of discovery, diagnosis and treatment and merged as a changed survivor is willing to be there when needed.
Recently the Writer’s Colony hosted “Survivors Getting Stronger.” A goal was to teach techniques to deal with the dreaded “C” word with emphasis on healing by sharing your story through the written word. It was a “gift” to get to know these new “sisters,” listen to their stories and share coping skills. When you have sizzled in the skillet, whatever your diagnosis, it’s comforting to give and receive support from those who have also felt the “heat.”
− Joan Hirnisey
Bad Hair Day
I got up out of bed and headed for the shower. I had another full day of treatments. I was in the shower washing my hair, when I realized that my hair was starting to come out in my hands. My heart sank and I felt the tears begin to stream down my cheeks. There was so much hair falling out. I couldn't stop myself from running my hands through my hair over and over again. I thought to myself “I'm going to be bald if I don't stop.” I knew this day was coming so I was surprised at my emotional reaction. To my surprise, when I got out of the shower and looked in the mirror, I wasn't bald. I couldn't even tell that my hair was coming out by looking, but I could sure feel it. My scalp hurt. It felt like I had my hair up in a super tight ponytail all day and had just let it down, only a hundred times worse. I finished up in the bathroom and headed to the bedroom to get dressed. I was sitting on the bed trying to muster up the energy to get my clothes on; taking a shower had sucked up what little energy I had started the day with. My mom got there to pick me up. She came in to my bedroom and began helping me dress. I reached up and touched my hair. As I pulled my hand away from head, the hair came with it. My mom just looked at me and assured me that it would be OK. She was so positive and encouraging. A few days later, we were once again heading to treatment. I had a radiation treatment at 9 in the morning. Since we lived an hour-and-a-half away, we would leave about 7:30. It was late summer, so the mornings were humid but mild. We had the windows rolled down enjoying the morning breeze. I caught a glimpse of something from the corner of my eye in the window. I turned to see what it was. I started yelling for my mom to stop the car as I frantically tried to get the window rolled up. The car came to a stop and my mom was repeating what's wrong are you OK? I calmed myself long enough to say, My hair is blowing out the window! We just looked at each other for a moment and then we started to laugh. We laughed and laughed until we were crying. That evening my mom shaved my head.
− Christy Scarrow
What cancer has taught me
One of the surprising good things I've learned since cancer has given me 20/20 vision is that I am not afraid to die. Cancer makes you face the possibility of really dying. It makes you want to bargain with God and promise to “straighten out your life” just so you can live a few more years. It makes you really look at your belief system. Once you really look at death, realize that it is not the end, just part of the whole circle, then it becomes easier to accept. It's a process. It makes me thankful for each day I have. It makes me appreciate how wonderful life is and that I am responsible for my own happiness. Each person must decide how they will see life, as a problem or an opportunity. For me I choose an opportunity to be happy, to smile, to say something nice to someone, to support my family and friends and help when I can. That's my choice. We all have to choose how we live our life. Cancer helped me to choose to be happy while I am here and for that I am thankful.
− Alice McNeal
Kim O'Donnell makes Washington Post "Best of" list!
Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow alum Kim O'Donnel's "The Meat Lover's Meatless Celebrations" - which was written in part at the Colony - made the Washington Post's year-end "Best of" cookbook round-up! Her recipes are frequently used by Colony chef Jana Jones, much to our residents' delight. Congratulations, Kim!
|Top cookbooks of 2012
Identifying a central theme among this year’s cookbooks was easier than picking a ripe banana. The b...
Fearless in the Ozarks
Crescent Dragonwagon held her Fearless Writing workshop last weekend at the Writers' Colony. A total of 15 writers attended, with some proclaiming the event as life-changing. Colony chef Jana Jones made sure everyone was well-fed while Crescent challenged and inspired them.
Halloween at the Colony!
Writers Pat Laster, (from left), Dorothy Johnson, Talya Boerner and Tom Sweeney decked out for dinner, which included kabobs with grilled fingers (ham with a pepper nail) and chocolate mousse with moldy bones (meringue with green sugar sprinkles) for dessert.
A flexitarian's dream
Chef and writer Kim O'Donnel wowed everyone at Caribe Wednesday night with dishes from her newest cookbook, "The Meat Lovers' Meatless Celebrations." The repast included Lentil Pate, Sweet Potato Hummus, Stromboli, Fresh Kale Salad, hush puppies made with coconut milk and cornmeal - accompanied by KJ Zumwalt's mango habanero salsa - and unforgetable brownies. Kim's cuisine is created to satisfy meat eaters who may want to eat a little less meat - flexitarians - and her recipes also appeal to vegetarians, vegans and those who cannot eat gluten.
A literary dinner
A great time was had last Thursday at the Colony with guests Cherry Weiner, a New Jersey literary agent, and Susan Swartout, an English professor and publisher at University Press at Southeast Missouri State University. Other guests included writers-in-residence Jen Nipps, from left, Marcia Gaye, Alison Taylor Brown, Swartout's husband Jonathan Budil, Swartout, writers Tom Sweeney, Lonnie Fitzgerald, Moondancer fellow Elizabeth Mack, Weiner, and Gwen O'Brien.
Saturday night was special!
The Saturday night preview of 505 drew people from all around the area curious about the restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright "Usonian" house. Besides restoring it to its 1950s heyday, renovations added five new writers' suites, a conference room and a kitchen. Tours were conducted and visitors got to sample foods from the past, including rumaki (chicken livers wrapped with bacon), potato chips (which were new in the 50s) and dip made with Lipton Onion Soup and sour cream, and pigs in a blanket (Vienna sausages wrapped in pastry). Tunes from the 50s serenaded party-goers and there wasn’t a frown in the house. Zeek Taylor and Valerie Damon (pictured above) joined Colony board members, staff and members of the community in the celebration. Elise Roenigk (below right) checks out the railing built using block walls she donated. Elise and her late husband Marty donated 505 to the Colony. Board members Peggy Kroesch and Laura Parker-Castoro (below left) share a laugh at the preview, and are joined by board member Garbo Hearne (bottom right).
Honoring those who inspire us
An appreciative crowd turned out for the reception honoring those who inspire us June 26 at the Colony. The collaboration between the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts resulted in the great room of the Colony’s main house being adorned with original works by more than a dozen talented artists and teachers from the school. Visitors enjoyed wine and snacks as they chatted with the artists and writers in residence, and everyone enjoyed perusing the various works on display. Writer-in-residence Lisa Tom visited with artist Valerie Damon (left) while a young visitor showed off his juggling skills (lower right). Peggy Kjelgaard, Executive Director of ESSA, shares a moment with artist Mary Springer (below left).
Alumni's book receives accolades
Thought I would share . . . In the April 1, 2012, Sunday St. Louis Post-Dispatch , Arts and Entertainment section, my novel Geese to a Poor Market was reviewed by respected reviewer, Harry Levins. Now, the lyrics to "On the Cover of the Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show may stop playing in my head. Last November it won the Ozark Writers' League Best Book of the Year Award. Much of Geese was written in the Tulip Room of the old Farmhouse. Here's a link to the Post review:
Also, I received my contributor's copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Boost Your Brain Power. Publication date is May 22, 2012. My story is about learning to play the banjo as a memory booster--it's funny, so I'm surprised the took it.
Please check out my web site. www.geesetoapoormarket.com. Be sure and look at the 2012 photos to see the "Longhorn Chicken."
ESSA & The Writers' Colony teamed up
to celebrate ideas and images
The Writers Colony joined with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (ESSA) for a reception to honor those who inspire us on Tuesday, June 26.
Artists whose work adorned the walls of the great room in the Colony's main house were on hand to discuss their works and visit with the dozens of people who dropped in. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful, sometimes startling and thought-provoking works, the food prepared by Colony cook Jana Jones, and the chance to see old friends and meet new ones.
Writers share Colony experiences
Film producer and WCDH board member, Jill Slane, interviews Joe Cangelosi, (left), writer-in-residence, for a new WCDH video. Cherie Jones (below) also contributed to the video, along with writers Jen Nipps and Sarah Gray Panesi (not pictured).
Author, self-made renovation expert to share insights
"From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story" author visiting Eureka Springs June 17
Against his better judgment and in large part to appease his girlfriend, Ron Tanner bought a Victorian row house in midtown Baltimore that had been more-or-less destroyed by a fraternity. At the time, neither Tanner nor his girlfriend Jill knew anything about restoring houses, but both realized it would take years of hard work and a fair amount of money to make the 4,500-square-foot, condemned three-storey house livable again.
The year was 2000 and the couple had only been dating for six months. They not only survived the renovation, they got married in the house in 2003, and Tanner wrote a book about their experiences, which was released in February 2012.
Tanner hit the road in February on a 66-city book tour, and he’s agreed to make a detour from Fayetteville to visit the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow on Sunday, June 17, at 2 p.m. to share some of his experiences.
Above are photos of the library after, left, and what they started with, right. Below are photos of the back yard, before and after.
Here’s a link to a video about his book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx2nt7SRg58
Books in Bloom joined authors, readers
in celebrating the written word
Ann Hood was joined at Books in Bloom by Arkansas authors Kevin Brockmeier, Radine Trees Nering, Janet Carson, Kate Cooper, Ernie Dumas, Tim Ernst, Lanny and Derlyne Gibson, Chip Ford, Edward C. Robison III, Vivienne Schiffer, Steve Weems and June Westphal. Coming from further afield were C.J. Box, Phillip Margolin, Diane Ott Whealy, Shin Yu Pai, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Kristin Kaufman, and Crescent Dragonwagon, one of the founders of the Writers' Colony.
Held at the Crescent Hotel on May 20 - a beautiful, sunny day with balmy temperatures - it was a day packed with fascinating readings and conversations with some of our favorite authors and a chance to get books signed.
Ann Hood (top left) delighted listeners with her presentation at Books in Bloom. Hood chatted with Writers' Colony board member Elise Roenigk (left) who also owns the Crescent Hotel, where the event was held.
Hood signed books for fans, (above) including Crow Johnson Evans, Colony board member. Under the Colony tent (left) were Alison Taylor-Brown, Linda Caldwell, Colony Director, and author Beverly Litzinger. Crescent Dragonwason, (above), Colony founder, was kept busy by lines of people wanting her autograph on one of her many cookbooks.
It was a Special Bean Shindig with Crescent at the Colony
On Sunday, March 25, it was both a homecoming and a celebration when Crescent Dragonwagon, author and colony founder, visited Eureka Springs and shared the release of her newest book, Bean by Bean: A Cookbook: Over 200 bean recipes! She entertained us at the Colony with stories of the original Dairy Hollow, which was home to several dairies in the 1970s when she first discovered Eureka Springs. Then we were all treated to samples of the tasty recipes in her newest book.
This was followed by a book signing, and visitors and fans also had the opportunity to buy some of her other cookbooks.
WCDH's Exclusive event with Charlaine Harris was a SMASH HIT!
Wow, what a party! New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Charlaine Harris made an exclusive appearance and book signing October 1, 2011, in Eureka Springs and Bentonville to help raise funds for The Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow. This was the first time Ms. Harris has ever appeared in Northwest Arkansas. She loved us. We loved her. The events were a smashing success!
A native of Magnolia, AR., Charlaine Harris is best known for her "Sookie Stackhouse" urban vampire fantasy series, and HBO's super hit "True Blood" based on the Sookie series. There are more than 20 million copies of her 10-book series in print. She is currently on tour for her new book "Dead Reckoning". Last year Charlaine entered the world of iPlay Games with "Dying for Daylight", where she invites you to be Dahlia -" the vampire with a devastating sense of fashion and a razor-sharp wit, on an epic hunt to find a legendary sun potion". For more information on Miss Harris, visit her website: www.charlaineharris.com
BONUS: Charlaine has donated two autographed books and a large poster for us to auction for donations to the Writers Colony. We're taking bidders now!
WELCOME HOME, CRESCENT WAS A BLAST FROM THE PAST (and Present!)
It was long overdue, but well worth the wait! On November 10th, WCDH co-founder Crescent Dragonwagon treated over 125 friends, alumni and new friends during a special homecoming PoetLuck. Crescent stirred up the kitchen with some fabulous soups, cornbread and her delightful humor. During PoetLuck, Crescent reminded (taught us) about the history of the Colony - how it was conceived and how proud she is that it has thrived and survived. Her enthusiasm for the Colony and our future has never waivered. Crescent will back in the spring in between her new book tour, and she'll be back as part of the 2012 Books in Bloom on May 20th. C'mon by and say hi.
BONUS: Crescent also brought us a box of her best selling cookbook, and our namesake, "The Dairy Hollow House Cookbook". We stll have a couple left so if you don't have one and want one - here's your chance. (they are out of print). Just send an email to email@example.com and let us know you want one for a donation to the Colony of $15.00.