So grateful!

Today marks 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. I know it seems like we all know someone who has had breast cancer (and thankfully, so many survivors!), but to a 34-year old woman who just found felt a scary, horrible feeling lump in her breast, hearing that the lump is malignant is a huge blow. Reading about great survival statistics doesn’t mean as much when the “breast cancer friends” you’ve made become crippled and suffer incredible pain before leaving this world and their small children behind.

So I am GRATEFUL! I’m grateful first, to Kathy Westerlund, for letting me join her 3-day team back in 2007. I did not know that I had a very personal reason to be walking for a cure for breast cancer (a personal reason growing inside of me, and 3 personal reasons waiting for me back home while I trained)…but walking that year, and seeing that sea of pink, made finding that lump THAT much easier. I was not afraid to go get it checked out…and I had some pink friends instantly waiting to help me once I was diagnosed. I will always be thanking God and my guardian angel for helping me find a lump, by myself that was still a Stage I lump.

I’m grateful for that sea of pink warriors that winds through our cities every year…grateful for the ones who walked before me (leading to better treatments, better awareness, better detection), for the ones that walked with me, for the ones who joined the ribbon in other cities (Julie and Joann), and for the ones that walk today..Wendy (thank you for all of the years, and the miles, you've spent with me in our quest to rid the world of breast cancer forever), Sherri, Kathy,Therese, Sakura, Laurie, Becky, Cindy...and so many others...training that first year through chemo is probably one thing that made my healing so successful. And on that walk, I met one of my best pink warrior buddies – Tammy. I am forever grateful to have met you on the streets of Plymouth, and grateful that you shared your story, your flag, and your spirit with me.

For my first 1.5 hour phone call with a survivor – Ellyn – I can’t even express how grateful I am for that time you gave me. I know I thought you were crazy when you said how wonderful everything was and would be…but you were so right! And for my best chemo friend ever – Missy – if only everyone had someone with whom they could laugh through chemotherapy! You bring a light wherever you go, and that plain and bland chemo room was never so bright as when you were there!

I am grateful to our friends and friends-of-friends – who with me have raised over $40,000 since 2007, and been part of teams that have raised over half a million dollars since we have started walking. Every year I wonder if we can do it…if we can still be a part of this quest – and every year you all say YES! Now with our group of dedicated supporters we are raising up a whole new generation of warriors – with your support I am able to herd a whole adorable bunch of 3-day Youth Corps through 3 days of inspiration and service.

Next…to my dearest, dearest family…I can’t even begin to tell you what you mean to me. I have the best sisters in the entire world, the greatest aunts and uncles and cousins, the sweetest nieces and nephews…many who entered this world in the midst of the craziest time for our family and brought us such joy in the middle of a bunch of turmoil (not even thinking of my breast cancer, but on all the other losses in between). I have a calm brother-in-law who read my results and went over them with me, a brother-in-law who moved across the country to raise his family closer to mine, two beautiful and loving sisters-in-laws and their families…I am blessed.

To my dear sweet children…I can’t even say how grateful I am for these 5 years with you. My silly 2nd grader – who became so serious so quickly – has morphed into a beautiful, hard-working, conscientious, confident, and yet again silly 7th grader, who can run like the wind. My spunky kindergartener – who has the very strongest emotions and gifts from all sides of the spectrum – is turning into a gorgeous and gifted 11 year old. My baby, who was just 2 years old when this all started – is now a big and strong 7 year old…just as sweet, and loving and kind as he is physical and all boy.

Most of all, I am so grateful for a husband who loved me bald, with a deformed chest, and menopausal, and who held our whole family so close that we came out the other side even better than before. Everyone should be so lucky to have a husband who stays up all night long researching, and emailing researchers, and becoming an honorary oncologist with all of his inquiries! Your mother is smiling down on you every minute of your life, my love.

No long epistle is complete without a request to take action…and again my friends, I will tell you that I AM still, in my gratefulness and hope, joining that 3-day pink ribbon. This year I will be again leading a Corps of children into 3+ days of service during the Michigan 3-day…hoping that they will be inspired to serve and to see that even if cancer touches your life, you can still spread hope and have great joy. (I will hopefully be able to bring my second daughter along this year, and show her that she can do something about the scary disease that affected her mom when she was just a kindergartener.) My husband will continue to walk and raise money in the hope that if any of his children have inherited my bum BRCA1 gene, we will have made a difference in breast cancer detection and treatment that will benefit them. As always, our gratefulness and thanks to you for standing with us for 5 straight years!


I'm moving...and you're invited

After a hiatus, I'm thinking of getting back on the saddle. You can find me here.


I'm thinking of moving

Not in real life...we are here in Bingham Farms for keeps! How can a person move when she has so many things in the ground and so many plans for herself, her husband, and her children in this one spot!

No, I'm thinking of moving to a new blog.

I love this blog. It saved my sanity at a time when I had a LOT to work out. It connected me with strangers who became my friends, it made friends out of my acquaintances, and it even brought me closer to my closer set of friends and family members. I could never have dreamed up the advantages that blogging provided me with during my chemo year (and beyond).

However, when I set up this blog as a way to talk about my breast cancer and disseminate information, I chose to have the title be my name. I couldn't think up anything snappy (still can't), but also saw the value in making it simple. If people wanted to know what was going on with our family in the middle of the cancer year, they could look it up pretty easily. Try a few variations of Pam Lucken and blogger, and you could find me! It was a great tool for me when I was sharing information that was good to share.

Happily, my life isn't really about my own breast cancer story anymore. I don't have news to share with a bunch of people at one time. Unhappily, though...I feel like I have some bigger issues than my Stage I Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (not to encourage it to come back bigger and more deadly...I'm hoping it will stay a non-issue!). I'm doing just fine...but the cancers that have affected my life that are NOT my own have been harder for me to deal with than my own was.

I'd like to keep (or more appropriately, start, again) writing. I love the format of blogging - draft, hit "publish", and never look back! I don't mind sharing my stories. However, I'm not sure that I want that person who is coming back for a quick visit, hoping to see that this breast cancer survivor is still doing well, and have that person then be immersed in my latest types of therapies. (For that person - I AM doing well! I am living...I am regular...I am cancer-free, as much as anyone knows if they are cancer-free or not.) Curiously enough, in an age when everyone is blogging, self-promoting, social media-ing - I feel like being more anonymous. I'm not sure that the stuff I will be working on next will be appropriate for light chatter in the pickup line...I don't want people to shy around me like I might be fragile (I'm not)...I want to end this blog and say:

I am doing so well...THANK YOU for being with me on my journey! I am so grateful for your company!

Who knows what is ahead...good things, I am sure. I am sure I will keep (or start, again) writing - just maybe in a place that seems more safe for me. (And I know the internet is not ever safe...so in choosing this medium I am not entirely "safe" from whatever...but I want to make a fresh start and see what kind of good work I can do next.)

And...if I am NOT lucky, (as sadly, too many breast cancer survivors are) and if I need this blog to share about issues that are impacting my health and the future of my family, then I'll come back! Let's hope I don't need it.



I ADORE my chickens. They may not be that cute, but they are totally, totally precious. Who would have ever thought that $3.50 of bird (that is how much they cost as baby chicks) would be so affectionate, so funny, have so much personality?

I don't care if the whole world thinks I am crazy or weird...everyone should have chickens. They are good for the soul! (Well, not everyone. They are a bit of work...but there are some big payoffs - like the way they snuggle and fall asleep when they are cozy in my lap! Or the way they all come waddling over to see me when they are walking around in the garden - all 8 of them! Who knew I would be such a good mama bird?)

Also, Bill is making the most outstanding chicken coop. I'm so proud of him.

Hello lonely blog; or, when it rains, it pours!

SO much for my fun Ikea job! It may go down on record as being my shortest-held job in all of my history...1 month of employment.

Surprised? Me TOO! I would never have taken the job had I known exactly how much work was in store for me (not all at Ikea, either). It took awhile between my interview, when I learned about the position and discussed it with Bill (who at the time was not superbly busy at work...as he had not been for roughly 1.5 years!), and my hiring date. In between those dates, Bill DID become superbly busy as work (yay for the Martec Group, what a sigh of relief)...so busy that he hired me to do some work for him.

Imagine my surprise when I went from being a stay-at-home mother of 3 kids, to working 40 hours a week between two jobs!

Imagine my pain when my husband was even busier than ever...making it impossible for him to always step up and be superdad if my schedule was a little full (pick up this kid from practice, come home a bit early so I can get to this appointment, etc.).

Imagine how freaked out I became when I realized we have no break in busy-ness in the imminent future - PLUS we soon add 3 nights of soccer practices, 2 days of games, girl scout meetings every 2 weeks, and soon after that, 5 nights of swim practice a week!

Add to that the fact that my very nice manager discovered that the other two people that she was training (who already work at IKEA) were not as in love with the position as I was (it was pretty busy and involved lots of running around the store, perfect for busy old me)...leaving her with lots of hours on the schedule to fill (which I never planned to be able to fill).

So Mrs. Lucken and IKEA parted ways too soon...which is actually quite fine. Nice manager set it up so that I could go back anytime that I want to work there again. I bought a few cute things. I had a nice little jumpstart and got out of the house. I realized I'd rather be a slave to The Martec Group, like my dear husband, because of course they pay better than retail.

The only sad news is that I am stuck in my house MORE...and it is DIRTIER as I am working on this stupid computer all the time! Not so good for my psyche, but oh well. It's good for the bank account, and for the self esteem. It has also forced me to not volunteer for each and every single opportunity that comes up in the kids' schools, which is kind of a bit of a good break. A person can totally sign her life's hours away to the schools, if she is generous with volunteering as I can be. I like helping, but sometimes I feel like it is now totally expected of me, instead of being something nice that I do to help out.

Next, my darling mother-in-law has decided to renovate our home as her latest project! (If you saw her house, you would know why she is not renovating her home...it is already glamorous and perfect.) SO, I am sitting at this computer while my stuff is all over the house, except in the laundry room, which is being revamped. The Lucken family without a laundry room/mud room is a very sad sight. Our garage is trashed (has a refrigerator, a laundry sink, a washer, a dryer, 8 chickens, stuff I still haven't unpacked since we moved here, and all of the random things that once lived in my laundry room, strewn about in disarray as we prepared for this project). I have to somehow paint the laundry room so that I can put the washer and dryer back in it tomorrow (soccer uniforms need to be cleaned for the weekend!). We are still in the middle of our chicken coop project, and there is wood all over the backyard like we are hillbillies. Oh yes, and I have 11 shrubs to pick up on Saturday, and 3 trees, and STILL HAVE TO MAKE SPACE TO PLANT THEM! And DIG THE HOLES! And GET THE SOIL! And the trailer (for getting the soil) needs to be returned Saturday!

Finally, I have to spend the weekend getting ready for the launch of another project with Bill's work...

oh yes, and I have three kids.

SO now, do you see what I mean by "when it rains, it pours?"

I can't believe I am actually managing all of this craziness. I think the half of a pan full of magic cookie bars is what got me through today, though.



The Easter Bunny must be very tired

The Lucken children were really amazingly spoiled this Easter! They were included in an Easter Egg hunt in my sister's neighborhood, which was unexpected and mind-blowingly fun. The Easter Bunny left them baskets (including the standard garden gloves - how thoughtful! Did the Easter Bunny hop through our yard and say, "I think that 3 budding gardeners live here!" haha) PLUS a multi-step scavenger hunt leading to a few extra presents. (Another aside - The Easter bunny is a gifted poet! Her iambic pentameter is flawless!) Grandma Sybil loaded them down with adorable presents, Aunt Julie brought over the cutest things which she sought out and purchased from multiple easter-themed collections at area stores, Aunt Perry brought them a cute little bag of treats...our house is trashed with Easter presents, candy wrappers, and plastic eggs.

Oh yes, I should mention that in my first attempt at (co) hosting Easter (my sister cooked almost everything, because she is amazing), we had two Easter Egg hunts. One for big kids and one for small kids. Total number of hidden eggs = 160

Today, I definitely feel like I overdid Easter, but I think that is understandable. It was our first Easter without my Dad and his annual beloved Easter Egg hunt, and also our first Easter with Julie in town, so we thought it would be a good idea to change a little (or a lot). Added to the crazy Easter festivities was Katie's family birthday party on Friday night, which was also pretty big (23 people) and fun, and I am tired! I went all out for my little family - I can't imagine how the Easter Bunny must feel!


In the same vein, the Easter vein, I really want to remember the other things that I did this Easter that were maybe more meaningful and memorable.

For the first time, I was able to take my children to Church on Easter Sunday! (The Easter Egg hunt and brunch were always early at my Dad's house, as Dad and Nancy liked to go to the cottage afterwards). I felt so nostalgic, seeing my 3 nicely-dressed children at Mass - more than anything, that reminded me of my childhood (well, that plus the fun scavenger hunt and presents - I had enough time to do that this year and that really reminded me of my thoughful mom who loved holidays). There was something about doing these two things from my childhood that made me feel like my parents were right there with me, celebrating Easter with my family. We may not see them, but they were right there in Mass with us - my Dad singing the songs, dressed in a tie, with my Mom, probabaly tired from the shopping and the scavenger hunt planning, happy that her three children are happy, making sure they are dressed properly and understanding the true meaning of Easter (I had even read the Stations of the Cross to my children and we observed some solemn hours on Good Friday). I was sure I felt them in our traditions which I was carrying on with my children.

In case I needed a little confirmation that I was doing the right thing, Mass started with an opening hymn that popped into my head when we were looking at our Easter baskets (and then it was in all of the Lucken heads, as I was singing it over and over for fun)! They all looked at me like I was magic when they heard it in church. And THEN, the offertory hymn was "Morning Has Broken" - the hymn I chose as the opening hymn for my Dad's funeral. Emma was sad, but I explained that it's meaning was perfect for my Dad then, the way it was perfect for Jesus now - the suffering was over, it was a new and beautiful day.

I looked at my little family, and the tears rolled down my face as I whispered to them - "I am sad your grandparents are missing this [being with my kids as they grow up], but I am so happy because I feel like they are HERE."


A very good life

I'm reflecting on something my husband said yesterday...something that is so TRUE. He said that we are doing everything we can to surround ourselves with LIFE - we have a totally insane and very alive Red Dog; we have an enormously fluffy and playful Black Kitten-Cat (fat like a cat, aged like a kitten still); we have 8 baby-adolescent chicks. I'm growing about 100 plants in my house because it is too cold to put any of them out in the garden. Everywhere we look, it is life, Life, LIFE!

All of that life and liveliness starts to get to a person, and you just can't help feel the enthusiasm. Hope romps around the yard for hours like that old, unwanted green toy of Dagny's is the best thing she's ever seen (though she's just about used every last bit of it to pieces). Nixie New writhes with affection and coziness like she never believed she could be so happy! And the chicks - they are always stretching their little necks to see "what's that? where are we? what is the giant unfeathered mother hen bringing us now?" The plants stretch themselves out like there will never be anything to stop them from reaching the sky.

And THEN...the kids! How fun it is to do geometry with Emma...we are finally doing some problem solving and teaching at home that doesn't put a mommy to sleep. She got a bigger girl bike, and now she looks little again (she was looking so gigantic on her first big girl bike). Katie turns 8 on Friday! and we are starting a new adventure together as a Brownie and her Brownie Troop Leader Mommy which I expect to be so fun for us. And, Nathan! He skipped learning how to ride a two-wheeler on his bike (the one that has training wheels we could have removed) and in about 1 day, learned how to ride Emma's now-outgrown bike. I didn't even have time to teach him, to get sore running around the neighborhood hunched over and holding a bike, time to cajole him into trying again...after a few tries with Bill, I "helped" him and I couldn't even keep up (and I know how to run, too!) He was going around the circle into the driveway, off into the street, riding like he was born doing it.

I will admit, that if I mention my pets or my gardening obsession to plenty of moms at the kids' schools I get "that" look - like I am crazy, maybe dirty, and certainly strange. Let's face it, not too many people in this area run out to get 8 chickens or consider it a terrific evening (not to mention it an accomplishment) if she pulls up 700 small buckthorn plants and has a wonderful bonfire.

However, let me just say that if you are in my situation in other ways, it is very liberating to do whatever you need to do to surround yourself with life, love, and your hobbies (life - chickens, love - being around and with my kids so much, and by staying at home, being around my husband so much too, and hobbies - 700 buckthorn in one night means I can plant so many things this spring and summer)! I'm glad I'm beyond worrying about what people think about me! It's so non-traditional, but what a very good life.