Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Finding Inspiration

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

Words that will lift your spirits.

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2017
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller

A beautiful, encouraging note from a former student got me thinking about my medical situation, and what I could do to meet the many challenges Kitch and I are facing with dignity and class.

This was part of my response to that beautiful note:

Thanks for your note of March 26.

I will treasure your kind words until the end of my journey here.

As a result of the thoughts you shared, I decided start a new project. It will give me something positive to think about and look forward to. I am going to design an encouragement garden in Windsor Park.

Attached is one of the graphics that will be placed in encouragement garden.

This was his response:

“Love it!! Great inspiring idea!! Doc, thanks for sharing!”

As we approach the most hopeful day on the Christian calendar, Kitch and I would like to give you a preview of some of the material that will be in the Encouragement Garden.

Calvin Coolidge

In 1923, Calvin Coolidge was the Vice President of the United States. Upon the death of Warren G. Harding, Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States during The Roaring Twenties.

Coolidge was known as “a quiet and serious man…Coolidge served as a sort of father figure. The quiet, respectable and frugal president provided a comforting symbol of old-fashioned responsibility and virtue.”

William Allen White titled his biography of Coolidge, “A Puritan in Babylon.”
His left an indelible mark with this inspirational quote:

Press on-Nothing can take the place of persistence. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is celebrated novelist, screenwriter and film producer. She is known around the word as the person who created the Harry Potter books.

In 2011, Cristina Hartmann who worked at the Federal Communications Commission told us that Harry Potter exemplifies a seamless blend of world-building, storytelling, and timeless themes. Among those themes are:

Good versus Evil;


Meaning of Friendship;

Political Intrigue.

J.K. Rowling has the gift of words and images as demonstrated in the transformational words:

Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.

John V. Maxwell

John V. Maxwell is a well respected, author, speaker and pastor. Dr. Maxwell is an expert on leadership.

According to an article I read on, Maxwell has sold over 19 million books, and he has trained 5 million leaders around the world.
Maxwell has written three books which have each sold more than one million copies:

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership;

Developing the Leader Within You;

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. (

One of his most insightful observations is contained in these 13 words:

A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr. is the author of Life’s Little Instruction Book. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 158 weeks.

He has captivated audiences with short, inspirational sayings:

Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye;

Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking;

Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.

One of his most instructive sayings is this thought about preparation:

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr.

When I was a child, the legendary Babe Ruth was one of my heroes.

He was known as “The Great Bambino,” “The Sultan of Swat.”

Whenever my dad talked about baseball, he talked about Babe Ruth’s accomplishments.

According to my father, Babe Ruth set the standard for hitting home runs. In his 22 years in the game, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, a record that stood for 39 years. In 1927, he hit 60 home runs, a record that stood for 34 years.

Some in the know, my father was one them, consider Babe Ruth to be greatest baseball player of all time.

According to Babe Ruth, It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.

Anne Frank

As a teenager, Anne Frank saw the face of evil. It forced her and her family to go into hiding. Eventually, she and her relatives were captured, and they were deported to the Nazi concentration camps.

She was fifteen years old when she died of typhus at then Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.

Anne Frank’s Diary is a statement about hope. That hope is reflected in these entries:
“… ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered … yet in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”

My favorite Anne Frank truism contains just nine words:

Everyone has inside them a piece of good news.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is an animal rights activist and scientist. She is a genuine pioneer.

For more than 50 years she has been studying the behavior of chimpanzees.

According to an article written by David Quammen and published in National Geographic, “…she set a new standard, a very high standard, for behavioral study of apes in the wild, focusing on individual characteristics as well as collective patterns.”

She shares what she has learned in books and public speeches.

Thinking about her life, she offered this pearl of wisdom:

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

Hope is described in this famous Japanese proverb:

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

We will end the blog with an insight from Charles D. Peebler, Jr.

Mr. Peebler served as a member of the Board of Directors of Cure PSP (Foundation for PSP | CBD and Related Brain Diseases.)

“Hope, I’ve come to believe, is as vital to our lives as the very oxygen we breathe. If I were to believe that I couldn’t exert any level of control over my circumstances, I would have already lost the game!”

This article is dedicated to my friends at the John Heinz Institute of Rehabilitation in Wilkes-Barre, PA. They live the twin messages of hope and encouragement every day. Thank You Joanne, Flo, Nicole, Mark and Theresa.

Thank You Brian Carey for writing the beautiful note that got me thinking about encouragement.

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Messages of Hope During Difficult Times

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Thoughts About Hope That Will Lift Your Spirits

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2016
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD  

We have to remain hopeful. Dr. Judith Gardner

What is Hope?

As we approach the end of this tumultuous year, we need messengers with messages of hope.hope-3-aspects-hope

The authors of the Merriam-Webster dictionary tell us there are four aspects of hope:

It’s a feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen … a feeling that something good will happen or be true;

It’s the chance that something good will happen;

It’s someone or something that may be able to provide help … someone or something that gives you a reason for hoping.

This is our humble attempt to identify a few of the symbols and words of hope.

Symbols of Hope

The Peace Dove

Wednesday, July 13, was a very difficult day for Kitch and me. We traveled tohope-quote-6-a-fc-color CMC in Scranton for my cardiac catheterization. The results of the test were not good. The cardiologist discovered two blocked arteries in my heart. To make matters worse, in order to fix them, they would have to go through the original graphs from my open heart surgery. The cardiologist told us it was too dangerous to do that. He would try to treat the blockages with medications.

After eight hours in the hospital, we made our way home. Shortly after we arrived, I noticed a beautiful peace dove perched on the railing outside the room where I work. The peace dove is universally recognized as a symbol of hope. The peace dove represents life, hope, renewal and peace.

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote these insightful words about peace:

If there is to be peace in the world,peace-dove-sm
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

The peace dove reminds us there can be no peace without hope.

The Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch butterfly is called the "Symbol of Hope.” It also represents change, endurance and life.
On Saturday, July 16, Kitch and I saw the first Monarch butterfly of the season. Ironically, it was fluttering around a recently planted butterfly bush in the Garden of Life. I was mesmerized by this scene.

The words of Maya Angelou and an Irish blessing came to mind:

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.

There can be no luck, happiness and success without hope.

During the difficult moments of change, inconvenience and failure, hope provides a pathway to success.

The Innocence of a Child

On a beautiful August afternoon Kitch and I received a telephone call fromimg_0066-rachel our neighbor Marge Janosik. Her granddaughter was visiting and she wanted to come to the garden to feed the fish. What a pleasant surprise. We obliged, and Rachel’s visit turned out to be one the most memorable moments in the garden.

Rachel is full of life. She has a very pleasant disposition, and she is a good conversationalist. She fed the fish in the Angel Garden, and then she walked along the path to the Garden of Life. Her grandmother joined us, and we took some pictures.

Little did I realize when I snapped this shot of Rachel, the fish in the pond are symbols of hope in the Christian tradition.

Rachel is also a symbol of hope of what our future can be. Eric Hoffer said it another way:

Children are the keys of paradise.

Walt Disney amplified that thought:

Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.

The Beauty of a Rose

While walking in the garden in October, I saw the proverbial last rose ofrose_6149_sm summer. You may be asking yourself how this applies to the symbolism for hope.

The answer is simple and direct.

According to Avia Venefica, in Tarot, the rose is considered a symbol of balance. The beauty of this flower expresses promise, hope, and new beginnings. It is contrasted by thorns symbolizing defense, loss, and thoughtlessness.

When I look at a rose, I am reminded of G. K. Chesterton’s famous observation:

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.

Another famous thought about hope comes to mind:

Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope. Alexandre Dumas

A Classic Example of Hope

Shorty before the end of October, we received a very special gift form our deardenise-with-grandson friend Denise Williams. It was a picture of Denise with her grandson Ryder. The picture lifted our spirits and gave us hope. It reminded me of something the author, psychologist and family counselor Eda J. LeShan wrote:

A new baby is like the beginning of all things wonder, hope a dream of possibilities.

It also reminded me of Cicero’s famous five-word sentence:
While there’s life, there’s hope.

This incredible symbol of hope, a grandmother with her new born grandson in her arms, reaffirms this adaptation of the ancient Persian saying:

Children are the bridge to heaven, because they give us hope and happiness.

A Classic Comment about Hope

Some things leave a lasting impression on your mind and in your heart. They become the fibrous tissue that gets you through the most difficult experiences in life.

During one of our visits to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, we came upon one of those unforgettable images. It was a simple sketch drawn by a student on a ceramic tile. It had two puffy clouds, a golden cross and five priceless words:sganksville-aphorism_0103

Hope is stronger than death.

These words came straight from a child’s heart. They were designed to ease the pain of everyone who visited the temporary memorial to the heroes of Flight 93.

During the years that followed this discovery, this profound aphorism encouraged us during medical emergencies like cancer and heart disease, failures, disappointments and many other bumps on the road of life.

This saying gives testimony to healing power of hope.

A Final Thought

On Tuesday, November 8, Kitch and I stood in a long line at our polling place the Fellowship Church. For almost two years, Americans had been waiting for this day.hope-romans_color

Although we had to wait in line for more than an hour, it was a very pleasant experience. We had conversations with neighbors, friends and former students.

On the way into the polling place, I saw a mural that captured my attention. It summarized hope in a very special way. It reminded me that whatever the outcome of the election, this was the perfect thought for this day and every day that followed:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.

Saint Mother Teresa amplified this thought from Romans with her humble and insightful words:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

Let us all walk forward into the uncharted waters of the future with hope, love, respect and an understanding that we belong to each other.

God bless you for taking the time to read this article, and God bless America.

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America at its Best: Weldon Long

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013


America at its Best: Weldon Long, Hope and Redemption

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD, 2013
All Rights Reserved

You can’t have everything in life. There’s always a price to pay.  Weldon Long

The road to the Medal of Honor Convention in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was long and filled with many opportunities toMogGraphic_sm_8282 learn about the things that really matter in life.  During the journey, I was fortunate to meet a classic Face of America on its best day, Weldon Long.

As some of you know, I research, write and produce America at its Best commentaries for Marty Wolff’s Business Builders Show. In August, while Kitch and I were dealing with a number of challenges relating to the preparation for the production in Gettysburg, I had the good fortune to produce a commentary about Weldon Long. This is an excerpt from that commentary:

Weldon Long looks like a happy person. He talks with the confidence of a successful businessman, and he speaks with the energy and enthusiasm of an evangelist.

Strange as it may seem, the roots of Long’s achievements can be found in the dark caverns of his criminal past.

His 18 year journey into degradation began when he started drinking at 14. Nine years later he was convicted and imprisoned for his first felony.

Weldon Long sm

By his own admission, he was really good at wasting his life.  His downward spiral ended in a jailhouse library when he found a copy of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Today his compelling story of change and business success inspires thousands of people who read his books and listen to his lectures.

His message:

We become what we think about.

Those six words resonated with me, and they provided a subtext for everything I did during our location shoot at the Medal of Honor Convention and after.

It was not surprising to learn from the recipients of the golden pentagram that they thought about saving the lives of their “brothers.” They made choices because they were properly trained. They controlled their fear, and they did not permit their anxieties or the danger and inconvenience of the moment get in the way of doing the right thing.

They celebrated their comrades in battle, and they frequentlyTown Hall made reference to unsung, everyday heroes who are not in the military.

In my opinion, Weldon Long is one of those heroes.

Here are but a few things I learned about life and values from Weldon during a recent conversation:

1. We have to put our kids in a situation where they have to make a choice and we must give them the stark reality of their choices;

2. The path of least resistance is rarely the right path;

3. Follow Stephen Covey’s dictum, “Pick up both ends of the stick.” Realize there is a choice on one end and a consequence on the other;”

4. Most of the time, (99 percent) our fear is the anxiety of something that exists in our heads and in our thoughts;

5. If you can find a purpose in your suffering, then you can tolerate the suffering;

6. As we get older, we begin to see that some of the worst things in our life turned out not to be all that bad;

7. What I do to increase the possibility that I will not do something stupid is a quiet time ritual, a daily review of all the priorities in my life;

8. America is about freedom to choose, self reliance and personal responsibility;

9. Lowering the standards is a short-sighted plan;

10. If my father were alive today, I would say to him, “You don’t have to be ashamed of me anymore.”

Weldon Long is a good man with a good message and a very good heart. He respects the values the Medal of Honor represents.  

Like the Medal of Honor recipients he admires, he is a hero without the blue ribbon. He is changing lives with his message of hope, hard work, humility and personal responsibility.

His story of redemption, success, and gratitude gives hope to parents all over America who know the emptiness, disappointment and sadness of his father’s experience.

His is a classic example of America at its Best, and his face is a brilliant portrait in the mosaic of the Face of America on its best day.

Thank you Weldon for giving us hope.

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Shanksville: Where Hope Is Stronger Than Death

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Shanksville, PA: A Place Where Hope Is Stronger Than Death

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

Our worth is always determined by our deeds, not by our good intentions, however noble. Og Mandino

An Anniversary Like No Other

When Kitch and I made our first visit to Shanksville, our lives were changed forever.

The genuineness of the People’s Memorial to the Heroes of Flight 93, the welcoming way of the ambassadors we met, the natural beauty of the setting, the poignant reminders of the courage and determination of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 and the heartfelt tributes left by thousands of visitors made an indelible mark on our souls.

This week I opened the door to my memory room.  Once inside, I spent a good deal of time thinking about what I learned during our visits to the People’s Memorial and the annual screenings of our Changed Forever series in Shanksville. Thousands of images flashed through my mind. The rush of emotions accompanying this kaleidoscope was humbling.

These are some of the images that spoke to my heart.

Memorable Quotes

The seven words written on a guard rail, “The peace you find here is eternal,” reminded me that most of the things we think are important don’t give us peace of mind.

The handcrafted note from a child named Shelly, “Thank you for what you did even though you were scared.”  Embedded in these words is the powerful and healing virtue of gratitude. As one of the ancients said, “It is the queen of all virtues.”

The inscription on a tile that read, “A hero is one who keeps trying.” In this world of bigness, most of us feel a sense of overwhelming smallness, yet the child who wrote this note reminds us that perseverance and perspective will help us make it through the distractions and the nights of darkness into the light of understanding.   

The seven words written on the wall of tributes in 2002 by one of our students Chuck Moran: “A piece of us all stays here.”

Those words set the tone for all of our visits that followed.

Another member of our group, Jeff Soles wrote this note: “One nation under God indivisible thanks.”

Jeff Soles was one of the most impressive and courageous people I have ever met. He was battling cancer when he visited the site. He lost his battle shortly after he wrote this note.  His words had special meaning then, and even more meaning today.

Images of Horror and Hope

The black mushroom cloud hovering over the red barn in Val McClatchy’s picture is the classic image of what happened in Shanksville on September 11, 2001.

In another respect, that black cloud is symbolic of the darkness of animosity, hatred and violence that darkens our world to this day.
Val has paid a very heavy price personally and professionally because of her picture. Yet she remained true to her mission. She wanted to share it with the world no matter what her critics said. Today Val’s picture is one of the icons of that place and that day.

For 10 years, the 40 Angels of Freedom watched over the huge debris field as they paid a personal and poignant tribute to the men and women who fought the first battle in the war against terror. These slate angels created by Eric Pierson and his wife Tammy gave the site a quality of comfort and warmth that is difficult to describe.

Chuck Wagner’s captivating picture of the site at sunset may very well be one of the most beautiful pictures of the symbolism of this sacred place.

Chuck is a thoughtful man.  In his world, faith and family set the agenda. He and his wife Jayne have spent countless hours working at the site as Flight 93 Ambassadors.  Chuck has taken more pictures of the site than anyone I know. This picture records the beauty and majesty of this place of hope and heroes.  

This picture of the MacMillans entering the site records a special moment in the life of a family whose friendship and love for Todd Beamer and his family brought them here to celebrate his life. It speaks to the joy of community. It represents friendship, loyalty and love. For Kitch and me all of these things are embedded deep in the soil in Shanksville.

Everything about the People’s Memorial told visitors they were not alone.  They were a part of the Shanksville family, and, in another respect, they were an essential part of the American family.

Joanne Galvin presenting the National 9/11 flag to the students
from North Plainfield High School is a bridge to the next generation of Shanksville storytellers. It is a powerful reminder that we must never forget what happened to our country on September 11, 2001. It represents the fulfillment of a promise Joanne made to her late husband to continue his mission, and the hope that the next generation will keep this important national symbol flying in every state.

Kitch’s impressionistic picture of the shadows cast by the tributes on the chain link fence records the haunting feeling one gets while visiting the site. There are so many questions, and very few answers.  Why did it happen?  Why were so many innocent lives taken in New York, Washington, DC and here without cause? Why do people hate and kill in the name of God? When will we learn to resolve our differences without murdering innocents?

Questions and Answers

In 2009, Clarence Michael looked at the wall of tributes, and
he asked the quintessential question, “I wonder what I would have done?”  In my heart of hearts, I believe that most of the people who visited the site silently asked themselves this question. They know what they would have liked to do, but few are certain about what they would have done.

Chelsea Blue was a freshman at the North Plainfield High School in New Jersey when she defined heroism with these thoughtful words:

“A hero is someone who does great things and you look up to them, and you try to follow in their footsteps. A hero is not a celebrity. A hero is someone who stands up for what’s right, does what’s right, and never breaks the law or does anything bad. You never know your heroes until they are gone.”

Our chance meeting with the cheerleaders from North
PlainfieldHigh School in New Jersey in 2009 opened the door to opportunities for teaching, learning, growing and service we never thought possible. Shanksville was our second home during the past ten years. North Plainfield has become our new second home. We are deeply grateful for the friends we have made in both communities.

The Gift of Friendship

This picture of Janie Kiehl telling the Shanksville story to a group of students from our last class evokes warm and sentimental feelings of gratitude for the gift of friendship.

Janie Kiehl was the first person Kitch met in Shanksville. We did not know it then, but she would become the person who made all of our screenings happen.

On the day we literally bumped into one another, Janie was the Flight 93 Ambassador on duty at the site. Today, Janie is an admired and cherished friend. Every year she arranged the community dinner for our guests, and she secured the Methodist church for our screening. In more ways than I can describe here, she personifies what friendship is all about.

During our last interview, I asked Janie what she would want people to know about Shanksville. She thought for a moment, and then she replied, “Welcome to small town America.”

Today the People’s Memorial is only a memory of a time when citizens of goodwill joined together to remember and pay tribute to 40 heroes and heroines who defined in courageous and heroic ways what America is on its best and worst day. The design came from their hearts, their beliefs and their experiences.  The construction was the work of their hands. The atmosphere reflected their caring hearts.

The temporary memorial was open, honest, welcoming and oh, so memorable. For those of us who experienced its transformational power, it will live in our hearts forever, and it will give us hope.

As one youngster wrote, “Hope is stronger than death.”

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Finding the Ecstasy in Life After the Agony of Cancer

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Three Cups of Tea at Candy’s Place

By Kitch & Tony Mussari
Copyright 2011
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

Joy is not in things. It is in us. Richard Wagner

During our Face of America journey, Kitch and I survived a serious automobile accident in Minnesota, heat stroke in New Hampshire, road rage in Florida, a blizzard in Arizona, closed roads in Wyoming, and 3 computer meltdowns.

These are trivial events compared to what happened on December 9, 2010. On that day Kitch went for her annual mammogram. I was at home preparing for a screening of our documentary: Visiting Shanksville in the Rain. It was scheduled for December 10, in North Plainfield, New Jersey.

The telephone rang. The voice at the other end of the line cracked with emotion. I heard words that I never expected to hear. Kitch could not finish the call. That was done by the compassionate and competent voice of Dr. Dan Kopen.

Within minutes, I was in his office holding Kitch’s hand while Dr. Kopen explained the results of the mammogram and the need for a biopsy. In less than a week, we met with Dr. Kopen again.  This time he spoke three words that seared an indelible mark on my soul: “invasive ductal carcinoma.”

For the next 11 months, virtually all of our time, effort and energy was spent battling an adversary we could not see, hear, or feel.

Fast forward to the most beautiful Sunday of autumn, Kitch and I are making our way to the Grand Ballroom at the Woodlands Inn and Resort. We were welcomed graciously at the door by a board member and a volunteer from Candy’s Place. After a brief conversation we entered the ballroom. We were overwhelmed by what we saw.

Wherever we looked, someone dressed in something pink was smiling or laughing. People were engaged in good conversation. They were taking group pictures.  They were checking out the cornucopia of prizes donated by public spirited citizens to raise money for the one-on-one programs offered at the Center for Cancer Wellness.

Heather Gaydos, a high school student and volunteer, was selling homemade biscotti and cookies. Theresa Novak, the yoga instructor at Candy’s Place and two of her friends were carrying baskets filled with chocolate products courtesy of her store, Ah! Some Chocolates.

Penny Cunningham, the founder of Candy’s Place, was busy meeting and greeting people, and Nicole Farber, the center cirector, was attending to last minute details for the tea.

The atmosphere was welcoming and very festive.  The mood in the room was joyful, and the setting was beautiful in every respect of the word.

The beverage and sweets served at the tea were tastefully displayed and quickly removed by the room full of cancer survivors, family members and friends who came to show their support for Candy’s Place.

One by one, eight of these women walked to the podium in the front of the room to tell their stories about diagnosis, treatment and survival.

Rebecca Barrett was 37 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She asked the question, “What has the gift of cancer given me?”

Her answer; “It made my family stronger. It made me stronger, and it made me closer to my family.”

Mary Ann Meeker is an affable woman.  She likes to talk. In 1996, she was 57 and enjoying life. She had no family history of breast cancer. These are the words she used to describe her reaction to the news that she had breast cancer. “It hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Carol Marino is a strong woman with a good sense of humor. She talked about the dark time between diagnosis, surgery and recovery. Even though she has been cancer free for 17 years, it is still an emotional experience for her. She celebrated the services provided by Candy’s Place and the friends she made there.  She offered this piece of advice to those who will be diagnosed with cancers of any kind. “You have to believe in hope. When it might seem darkest, you have to have hope.”

Stacey Casey attended the event with her husband. She admitted that she is a newcomer to the long gravel road called cancer. She thanked her husband for his loyalty and support and she made it very clear that she is learning every day that support from family and friends is vital to recovery.

Rhonda Zikowski spoke with honesty about the fear that comes with cancer, and she thanked Christine Fazzi the personal trainer at Candy’s Place for making her feel stronger. With sincerity that touched the hearts of everyone in the room she paid Chris the ultimate compliment, “You are always kind, generous and there for me.”

Jean Connelly is a decorated veteran in the war against cancer. She has successfully defeated two different forms of cancer. Jean is a woman of infectious humor and great resolve. She spoke with authority when she shared these words, “When they throw the “C” word at you, it hits home and knocked the wind out of my sails.”

Thinking out loud about what she learned from her experience, Jean offered this insight;
“I am a blessed person, because cancer taught me how to live, not to wait to be happy. It taught me to be happy today.”

For Beth Miner, 2007 was an Annus Horribilis. Her 40-year-old niece died from breast cancer.  Her neighbor died from breast cancer, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Beth had a very difficult time with chemotherapy, and she could not finish the infusion treatments, but fortunately things worked out well for her and her family.  Today she is a volunteer at Candy’s Place and a woman who has a special gift when working with other survivors.  Maybe that’s because when people walk through the door to Candy’s Place, Beth sees a mirror image of herself.

In Beth’s words, “When I meet a cancer survivor for the first time the feelings come back to me.  I don’t know why I am here, but I am standing strong.”

Mary Ann Gap was the last speaker. She is a positive and determined woman. Her story speaks to the heart and soul of Candy’s Place. When she was diagnosed at 50, she was alone.  Her family and friends lived out of state. She did not drive, and she was struggling.

Her radiation oncologist, Dr. Norman Schulman, connected her with Candy’s Place. When she made her first visit, Nicole Farber greeted her with a smile.  She arranged to have Denise Fried make a weekly call to Mary Ann. This call gave Mary Ann the gift of connection, and it helped her make a successful recovery.

Listening to these women and thinking about Kitch’s experience in her one-on-one yoga classes with Theresa Novak, makes it very clear to me that cancer is a vicious disease that can be beaten if detected early. But it takes a family to overcome the fears and the scars that come with the treatment and cure.

In my opinion, if you’re looking for love, go to Candy’s Place. If you’re looking for compassion, go to Candy’s Place, if you’re looking for understanding, go to Candy’s Place. At Candy’s Place you are family.

It was inspiring to be in the presence of a room full of heroines. No matter where you looked in the Grand Ballroom, you saw a heartwarming, thought provoking scene.  The words of Emily Dickinson took on new meaning for me, because these women had found ecstasy in life. For them, the mere sense of living was joy enough.

In a way, Kitch and I were having our third cup of tea at Candy’s Place. We were no longer strangers, or casual friends. Like everyone in the room, we were family, and it felt wonderful.

The moment Penny Cunningham won the door prize added to our delight. What a fitting and serendipitous end to a memorable afternoon.

It doesn’t get any better than an afternoon of pink tea at Candy’s Place.

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