Before Cancer-1

May, 1990
On my honeymoon in Maui

To view two videos about my life, please click here

Poet

I wrote a lot of poetry when I was a teenager… what teenager doesn’t? Most of it rhymed, of course.

As I got older and wiser, I sort of gave up poetry. Until I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. Down in Angels Camp, California–after our 18-hour drive–my husband tried to get me to  snap out of my shock by gently prompting me to “journal about this trying time.” I told him to shut up and that I was going to continue to pretend that I did not just find out I was doomed to die an early death. After he went to go check on the kids in the pool downstairs, I got out a piece of paper and penned the poem, empty, in ten minutes flat.

Songwriter

I started piano lessons when I was about nine. First, there was Mrs. Pederson (she died of old age), then Mr. Rylarsdam (he moved), and finally, Mr. VanderMey (he made me cry every week… I was 14). I quit taking piano lessons, got out a piece of paper, drew some lines on it with a ruler–I had never heard of manuscript paper–and began to make up my own music. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, only that I really wanted to do it.

Throughout the years, I kept composing, sappy songs with words, straight piano music, and a choral work with a flute/violin descant which frustratingly took me several years to write because I was still using pencil and paper and had to start over every time I made a change. This song was performed at a local concert, after which listeners approached the director asking where they could “get a copy of that choral piece.” Maybe I did know what I was doing after all. It was hard for me to accept any compliments, what with strict Mr. VanderMey yelling in my head, “You must count! One and here’s count two and here’s count three…no, no, this way…”

Wife & MotherBefore Cancer-3

I met my husband, Ken, in Stanwood, Washington; he was there visiting from Toronto, Ontario. We were both attending a youth camp. I thought he was engaged to another girl, having heard the previous year that there was some “tall, cute guy that was already promised to someone.” When I found out he wasn’t, I dared to talk to him. He asked me to write and every three months, I found myself either on a plane to Toronto, or going to SeaTac Airport to pick him up.

Twenty-five years later, we have three children, Adriana, Michael, and Jonathan and a dog named Daisy; we live in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. Yes, it rains here all the time.

Writer

I knew another Mr. VanderMey (we live in Dutch country here). He was also strict, but I adored him as my fifth-grade teacher, mostly because he would read to us every day: Star Eye, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, The Light In The Forest. I dreamed of writing my own books one day. Lo and behold, I was suddenly forty with nothing to show for myself in the writing department. I was too busy cleaning toilets and carting kids to and from school.

Before Cancer-1 I decided I had waited long enough. Every night, after everyone had gone to bed, I snuck to the family computer and made a pact with myself that I was going to… write a novel. I typed away at the keyboard, muttering to myself that I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t go to college. I wasn’t smart. Peck, peck, peck. A few short months after my rough draft of The Lighthouse Never Dims was complete, I found myself sitting in a college classroom. I eagerly listened as the instructor advised “How To Get Published.”

Then, God had other plans for my life: I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. Cancer Is A Funny Thing: A Humorous Look At The Bright Side Of Cancer… And There Is One is the story of how I dealt with my out-of-left-field death sentence.