How it all began


It had never occurred to me that I’d be ecstatic to be turning fifty. After all, it was just another round number, mid life point, beginning of ‘over the hill.’ As it happened, when the day of my 50th birthday arrived, I was laughing and dancing until I was breathless. My biggest, boldest wish had just been fulfilled. I was alive.

The story begins five years before that birthday. Life was kind to me; more than that—it was great. I was on top of my game: in perfect health, bursting with energy, juggling three kids, husband, friends, lots of international travel, and a busy career as a healthcare executive across four time zones.

Then one day, I received the shocking news: Stage IV metastatic GI cancer and six months to live. Six months to live? I had three young kids. I had so many plans. I was only 45. For the next five years, I mostly lived in hospital operating rooms, radiation suites and on the chemo chair. I fought seven relapses until, against all odds, I was declared cancer free shortly before my 50th birthday.

How does one celebrate the second, fifth, eighth chance in life? Go to a spa? Take a Caribbean cruise? I decided to complete 50 Deeds for others as a gesture of gratitude to all who helped me along the journey.

I had no idea what to expect when I ventured into 50 Deeds project: Will people treat it seriously? Will they think I’m trying to be Mother Theresa? Will they ask me to do something way outside of my league?

Dan's graduation. Amazingly, I was there.

I need not have worried. Once I announced that I was in the market for Deeds, requests started coming in from friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers, in the US, in Europe, and even in Asia. The Deeds have been as varied as they have been many:

  • Could I find clinical trials for someone running out of treatment options?
  • Work through career decisions with a college graduate finding his way?
  • Take care of a horde of felines while their ‘mama’ was ill?
  • Find out who owned the copyright for a book long out of print?
  • Sing madrigals with a group of friends in London, United Kingdom?

Within twelve months, I completed 49 Deeds. I laughed, I worried, I cheered and I cried. I was inspired and humbled, surprised and amused. My oldest son, Daniel, reserved the last Deed for himself, but didn't tell me what it was at first. 

"What's the 50th Deed?" I finally asked. "I want you to write about the 50 Deeds experience."

Write about it? Now that was light years outside of my comfort zone.

What was I to do? I promised him I would. 

Here it is. The 50th Deed: Stories of Courage and Hard-Earned Gratitude.

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