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  • Martha Rasche

Chemotherapy with A Side of Life Stories

In February, a woman from a neighboring town learned about my Life Stories classes and immediately expressed a strong interest in taking my next class. I was in the middle of two eight-week sessions at the time and didn’t know when I’d offer the next one.

Sometime over the summer that woman — I’ll call her Lou — called to let me know she definitely wanted to take my class and didn’t want to fall through the cracks. “Writing my life story is on my bucket list,” she said.

I already had checked my “I’m interested, contact me when you offer your next class” list, and found no one else from her community on it. I asked her if she knew anyone else who might like to take a class, because I’d offer one in her town if I had at least three attendees.

A month or so later, an area library where I had been trying to offer a class for several years contacted me. The librarian and I decided I would give a free public presentation about Life Stories and then, if there was interest, I’d follow up with a class this fall.

Lou drove 20 miles to attend that presentation. I was impressed with her determination and decided on the way home from the library to offer a class in her community — and work like heck to find a couple more people to enroll.

Our class of three started the Monday after Labor Day. The following Monday, Lou told me she had been diagnosed with cancer. By the following week she knew it was non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the same cancer I had three years ago. She already had told her medical team that she was writing her life stories and hoped to continue with the class. It would be part of her therapy, she told me.

Week Four, she shared a beautiful story she had written about going for a ride in a hot-air balloon in Sedona, Arizona. She and a friend, both widows, were planning a vacation and decided they would go where they could be close to their late husbands — UP! Her story conveyed not only her love for her husband but also her sense of adventure and her fun-loving relationship with her friend.

She missed our next class due to tests. She sent an email to let me know that she would miss this week also, as her chemotherapy treatment would start that day.

We talked on the phone a few nights ago. “I have been writing every day,” she said, noting that she was particularly trying to incorporate funny memories into her writing — like the time her husband took the kids to church and inadvertently left one there.

“You sit here and you laugh when you think of some of this dumb stuff,” she said. “You have no idea how happy this makes me.”

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