Saturday, May 25, 2013


In the last few weeks, I’ve learned something incredible—how much I could care about someone that I barely know. That someone is Ashley Drew. This post, while about me and my family, is also about her and her family.  

* * *

All of our neighbors know that my husband loves his lawn (he says our lawn, but I say his lawn). In the non-winter months, he spends countless hours caring for it; he built a shed to house the many tools and machines involved in its maintenance; and he battles a pretty constant case of poison ivy in order to make sure that the surrounding brush is just right. I admit, when he’s out there with his green thumb, I never really know what he’s doing (except for the mowing…I get that), but I can always see for sure that he has a calculated plan.

I sometimes wonder why Brian loves keeping up the lawn so much. As the parent of two young kids, he may just cherish the quiet escape. But even when given other (rare) chances to escape, he often chooses to work on the lawn. So I think it’s something deeper—perhaps that as a city boy, Brian loves the relatively big piece of land that we are blessed to call our own. He's proud of it, and it looks proud in return.

As much as Brian likes to care for the lawn all by himself, he has also done enough research to discover that TruGreen can come out and do something to the lawn (I have no idea what) for less money that it would take him to do it. So every non-winter month, TruGreen visits and leaves behind a receipt telling Brian to “keep up the good work,” and a little yellow sign of stick people and a dog crossed out by the "No" circle warning people to keep off the grass.

Ever since we moved to our house almost four years ago, Teddy has loved to help Brian mow the lawn with his own little plastic lawnmower. Just like Brian, he puts on ear phones and scoots around behind his Dad.  Sometimes Annabel helps too but she hates loud noises so usually she's just complaining, “Daddy yawn mower too loud!!”

Summer 2012
I have to say, our lawn looks beautiful and that age-old saying about “the grass is always greener” does not apply to me. I love my husband so much that I always think our grass is the greenest, even though I’ve never compared it to anyone else’s.

* * *

This past Wednesday, my Dad picked me up before anyone else in the house was even awake and we drove into Dana-Farber together. We followed my Mom, who still loyally attends every one of my treatments and medical appointments.

It was my Dad’s first time at Dana-Farber’s Yawkey building and I realized how much I have come to love that place by the feeling of pride I had for it as we showed him around. I can't remember the last time that I got a few hours alone with both of my parents and it was wonderful; not even tainted by the focus on my cancer.

Danielle, Dr. Bunnell’s superb P.A., met with us promptly after my vitals were taken. She answered several of my questions that had built up over time. In fact, I had been wrestling with a few of those questions for several months but I had never had the courage to ask them until now. 

It was Ashley and her family who gave me the courage to finally speak up. Recently Ashley’s mother, Joy, wrote about discussions they faced with Ashley's doctors regarding the most horrific of choices. Guided by Joy and Ashley's strength and courage, I decided that it was time for me to set my questions free from the cage of mounting anxiety that they have been living in for far too long. 

After some quality time with Danielle, Dr. Bunnell came in. I was so happy for my Dad to meet the captain of my treatment boat and we all had some good conversation about a wide range of cancer-related topics—body scans, sugar, deodorant, clinical trials. And lawn care. As with most of my questions, these ones were mostly focused on what I can do—or not do—to lower my chances of a recurrence. 

The lawn care part was interesting, especially given that those little yellow stick people signs had been bothering me a lot lately. I asked Dr. Bunnell if we should reconsider the chemicals we put on our lawn. This question lead Dr. Bunnell to an entertaining story about his own lawn care experience (or inexperience), but ultimately, Dr. Bunnell’s message was not that we had to end all chemical use on our lawn. He said that as long as I don’t eat the grass (I don’t), he wouldn’t worry about it. 

When our appointment was over, I texted Brian to tell him that the appointment had gone really well. My husband and my mutual man crush on Dr. Bunnell provides just the humor we need after one of those appointments and so we enjoyed some funny texts about that.

After my infusion and my therapy lady appointment, my Dad and I headed over to the Brigham so I could visit with Joy and Ashley. I spent only about 15 minutes with them in the thoracic ICU, but I will cherish those 15 minutes as long as I live.

Later that day, I told Brian about seeing Ashley and Joy and meeting Ashley’s father. I told him everything that Dr. Bunnell had told me, including the part about the lawn care. He was quiet, like he usually is when I blab on, but I knew that he was listening. 

On Thursday, Ashley underwent her open heart surgery and I headed back to work. After lunch, I had a meeting with Wendy and as I walked over to our meeting place, I checked my Facebook app for the 500th time for news about Ashley. There wasn't anything new, but just then, an email dinged in my Inbox. It was from Brian. All he wrote was this: 

TruGreen Out... Natural Lawn in. Spoke to guy for a while on the phone. All natural, organic treatment of lawns. 

I started crying but pulled myself together by the time I reached Wendy. 

*  *  *

Since that day, I've heard from several people who have tried the organic lawn care that their lawn never looked the same again. None of them meant that in a good way. I relayed this news to Brian because I know how much his green lawn means to him. I warned him that his four years of hard work may be erased in the name of "all-natural." He didn't seem to care in the slightest. 

I don't know if it's cancer or writing or Effexor or what, but sometimes, I have moments of clarity like I have never had before; moments where one single thing makes so much sense that somehow, for that moment, the whole world seems to make sense, too. Brian's Natural Lawn email somehow gave me one of those moments of clarity and ever since then, I've thought about why. I've come up with this. 

Those who are truly blessed are not people who successfully avoid pain. As I wrote earlier this week, no one can do that. Of course, there will be varying degrees of pain that different people must endure, but no one can escape it completely. Those who are truly blessed are not the rich or the beautiful or the ones who live to be 97. 

Those who are truly blessed are surrounded by people who love them with a true, deep, and devoted type of love. They are surrounded by people who would sacrifice for them -- whether that be their green lawn or their son's wedding, or a million big and small things in between. They are surrounded by people who say (or even, just think), I will do anything to make you better, and then go ahead and do it. 

I have been blessed with those people. So has Ashley.

*  *  *

On Wednesday, I also received a huge package in the mail from my cousin, Kirsten. She sent me all-natural house cleaning products. As I said, blessed.

Brian and Teddy, a few hours after I originally published this post. 


  1. Thank you for your blogs. I stumbled upon your page while researching if there can be allergies to chemotherapy. my co-worker just had her first tx on 7/2 and had a bad reaction, which landed her in the hospital so I have been trying to look up everything I can for her as I have been for all the info that has been given. she had a right radical masectomy with all lymph nodes taken so retaining fluid was a problem. now the chemo caused severe plummet in wbc, bp, amongst other things. she is getting Adriamycin, cytoxan, and taxol in one setting battling er-, pr-, and hers/2- (triple negative). Anyway, your blog was a breath of fresh air and helped give some answers to ask the doc regarding how to combat the sensitivity to treatment as she felt the same. she is limited in what will work so does not want to get off course. take care

    1. Thank you so much for your message. I am so sorry that your co-worker has been going through so much. It sounds like you are a wonderful friend to her. I'm glad my writing has helped somehow. Best of luck to you and your friend.