Valerie Bosselman Put up your Umbrella Sun, 24 May 2015 09:51:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Died From Not Forwarding That Email Sun, 24 May 2015 09:51:45 +0000 I just read on the internet that opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck on ALL the people in the building.  What?  That’s not what I was taught.  I was told that misfortune would rain on me. No one mentioned that I would also bring a life of hellish misery upon an entire building full of people.  Sorry, world, if my obsession with umbrella mechanisms ruined your life forever.

My superstitious portfolio knows the drill:  always pick up a penny on the ground, say “God Bless You” when someone sneezes, and bad luck comes in threes.  Friday the 13th is probably the event that still give me a little of the heebie-jeebies, as it’s that fateful day in the third grade when I broke my arm.  My mom, always the realist, had a different spin on the story.  She said I broke my arm because I shoved a boy twice my size and it had nothing to do with the number 13.  Doug had bullied me long enough.  That day I did have my magic shield to protect me, so shoving the giant was not unreasonable.  My ‘magic shield’ was the round melamine plate on which cupcakes were served to the class-by-day and but transformed into a Spartan Warrior shield-by-afternoon.  But as luck would have it, my mom was firmly planted in our front yard watching me come home from school and witnessed her 5′ tall middle child push a 200 lb. 6′ fourth grader.  The sheer power of my Superwoman shove did cause Doug to shift from foot to foot, but then he sent me flying, palms down, into the neighbor’s yard.  Oh, the sound of breaking bones.

By the time I got to the front yard, Mom was livid.    Girls don’t push boys.  And girls don’t push boys twice their size. I’m sure “Act like a lady” spewed into the conversation…well, not really a conversation when Mom is doing all the talking.

Sweet Jesus…not such a lucky day for me.

I’m not the only one that shudders a little at 13.  The blog “Itty Bitty Witty” informs us that Mayo Clinic, In Rochester, Minnesota has no 13th floor.  Blog author Dan writes:

This is not unique to the Mayo Clinic.  Right you are, and therein lies one of the most ridiculous things one could ever imagine.  Because some of us humans are just gullible enough to believe in superstitions, NONE of us gets a 13th floor in the building.

Fast forward to 2004.  My daughter was diagnosed with adrenal cancer, the chances of which are one-in-a-million.  That’s like the “Hunger Games” of cancer where Megan’s number was drawn as Tribute and we all watched her fight for her life on the big screen.  We needed the odds ‘ever in our favor.’

And then the emails would roll in.

If you forward this to 10 people in 6 minutes, your prayers will be answered tomorrow.

In fleeting seconds I would think,

What if this would work?  Do I have 10 friends I can bombard?  I’d try anything to save my girl.  I only get six minutes to respond to receive the blessing?  But I need to go with Megan down to radiology, and I won’t be back for 30 minutes…so I should have read that email 10 minutes sooner.

And then I would stop myself, realizing that these messages played into my deepest fears.  Regarding superstition, Web MD writes:

Wanting more control or certainty is the driving force behind most superstitions. We tend to look for some kind of a rule, or an explanation for why things happen.

When your loved one has cancer, more than anything you want an explanation, a rule, or a law that will automatically fix it.  To date, I don’t believe chain-mail has cured cancer.  My broken wrist was not at the hands of Friday the 13th, nor was Megan’s future in the hands of Yahoo’s email forwarding capabilities.  If you have a friend that is pressed on every side, remember chain-mail eats up valuable caregiver time.  “Let’s grab something to eat” and one-to-one human contact may be the real miracle their day needs.

Key Notes:

  • Megan’s food was provided by the hospital.  Mine was not.  When my friends said, “What can we do to help?” I should have said, “Can we grab lunch in the cafeteria?”  I ate alone too often.
  • Most chain letters put responsibility on the recipient.  “If you send,” “If you forward,” then this will happen.  I didn’t need to be told one more thing to do.
  • By forwarding emails, you risk exposing email IDs of your friends and relatives to third parties.

On A Lighter Note:

  • Your odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 175 million.
  • Leave the superstition to Stevie Wonder.









An umbrella, according to popular superstition, should never be open indoors or you will bring bad luck on all the people residing in the building. It is thought that this superstition originates back when the purpose of the umbrella was to act as a sunshade. If opened indoors the action may be construed as a direct insult to the sun, which was revered in many societies.

Umbrellas also have other superstitions attached to them, most often those that bring bad luck.

  • It is bad luck to give an umbrella as a gift.
  • If you drop an umbrella, do not pick it up. Instead, have someone else do it for you, or you will be the recipient of bad luck.
  • If a single woman drops an umbrella, she will never marry.
  • If an umbrella is opened outside when it is not needed, rain, and other bad weather, will follow.

Another variation on the superstition is that if rain is predicted on a given day, take an umbrella with you and it will not rain.  And if you leave the umbrella behind, it will definitely rain.

On a lighter note

I pick up a penny when I see it.  “See a pin, pick it up/ and all day long you’ll have good luck/ See a pin, let it lay/ and your luck will pass away.”

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An Open Letter to Dr. Gary D. Hammer Wed, 20 May 2015 13:19:53 +0000 Three years after my daughter’s death, I had the great privilege of speaking with world-renowned Dr. Gary Hammer on dying with adrenal cancer.  Dr. Hammer referred to Megan’s last days as ‘death present,’ which can be the scariest of places until you find peace with your own mortality.  For close to 90 minutes, the physician and research scientist who is on the cutting edge of treatment for adrenal cancer, pulled up a metaphorical chair to help this grieving mom re-evaluate the balance of reality and hope and begin to understand hope as more than a cure;  “Hope is the bolster to fight and the permission to surrender.”  Full of hope, Megan found peace in the surrender.

Widow Tanja Santiago’s open letter to Dr. Hammer strikes a deep chord in my heart, and she has asked me to post it.  May its simple truth echo around the world.


Dear Dr. Hammer,

Here is something I meant to share with you (and maybe a couple other oncologists)… every year my kids and I attend the ACC (Adrenal Cortical Cancer) CURE walk, I have flash backs to when my husband Ken and I first met you in your clinic. I remember the emotions and the wish to have a fighting chance to battle this cancer. And I remember the harder we fought, the less likely his chances of survival were. Looking back, chemo was not worth the time we put into it, but he got his fighting chance.

When we arrived at UPenn, every time we sat with Dr. Keefe, he ended the conversation with suggesting Hospice Care as an alternative. Not a week went by that he did not offer it;  even when Ken was on chemo TORISEL, fighting for his life. And every week we declined because it was absurd to consider dying. Then came a point about a month before he died, where I thought that Ken continuing to live in pain and agony would be the cruelest thing that could happen to him.

However, I continued to support his wish for treatments, and he received it until a week before he died. Then finally, three days before he passed, he requested Hospice Care. I had heard of patients fighting to live until they passed away. Thankfully, he finally realized that certain things were inevitable, and that death was not the worst thing that could happen to him. We had time to make peace…it was only for a couple of days, but the fighting that cancer brought into our lives made ‘peace’ impossible….and parting in peace was the most valuable lesson I have learned so far.

Certain areas in my life do not have peace but the peace and the grace I felt then is unlike any other. Even today, when I visit patients on Hospice Care, it is the overwhelming amount of peace and grace that are almost always present. I know no one wants to hear that sometimes death is here for us….and the challenge to have peace within those last x amount of days/ months or years is enormous….but if that can be achieved, the time after ‘losing’ someone will not be as difficult as most people perceive it to be.

Anyway, I know this is a chunk here, and I don’t know how you feel about loosing 99% of your patients to adrenal cancer, but I wanted you to know that even though it was a horrible and challenging time, it was the best of our ten years together. It was not a waste. It brought us closer together and we had peace in the end. I will have this until the day I die. Therefore, I must say thank you to Adrenal Cancer, as odd as that might sound. And thank you, Dr. Hammer, for all you do for your patients and what you did for us.

Tanja Santiago

Key Notes:

  • Tanja Santiago is the widow of Ken Santiago, who lost his courageous battle to Adrenal Cancer on May 16, 2012.  He was diagnosed on June 19, 2011, his 40th birthday, and fought with great valor for 11 months.  She is the mother of Tea and Max, and devotes her life as a volunteer with Hospice Care.
  • Gary D. Hammer, M.D., Ph.D. serves as the director of the Endocrine Oncology Program in the Comprehensive Cancer Center. The program is uniquely recognized as an international center of excellence for the treatment of adrenal cancer. Research conducted in Dr. Hammer’s laboratory has led to the development of new national and international therapeutic trials with biological-based therapies for adrenal cancer that target the molecular defects in cancer stem cells while sparing normal tissue.


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Seven Years of Grief Mon, 23 Mar 2015 04:28:09 +0000 Dear Megan,

You waited for me.

In the last days of your life, I told you I wanted to be with you when you died…the Hospice workers explained how you would have some control over that. They told me amazing stories of individuals that held on against all odds as they waited for a family member to arrive from half way around the world.  On the flip side, there was the story of that matriarchal grandmother.  Her room was packed to capacity as the family watched and waited for her imminent death.  Three days and nights into the vigil the family said, “She’s not going anywhere.  We should all go eat in the cafeteria togeth