Category Archive: Gratitude Tour…

Bhutan — November, 2018

Bhutan is beautiful. All buildings conform to traditional architecture and design. Their attention to beauty is meticulous. There is very little plastic or metal, all design aspects are intricately carved from wood and painted. The airport in Paro is the most beautiful I’ve seen.



The king, his family, and the Buddha are much revered, their images everywhere.

We are met by Namgay, our guide for our ten-day exploration of Bhutan. His company is Illuminating Tours and we heartily recommend them. 



The four ‘partners in crime’ unite at lunch to begin our basking in Bhutanese beauty. We begin our love affair with Bhutanese cuisine, specifically, Ema Datshi, a soupy condiment made from chilis and cheese that is present at every meal. Like much local cuisine, it is very spicy and not for the faint of heart.

Paro, located on the traditional Tibetan-Bhutanese trade route, is home to the National Museum and a large dzong, built in 1645.








Dzongs were traditionally built as fortresses and now have split uses for government administration and for Buddhist monastic practice.











Very large, in scale, dzong architecture reflects the detailed, carved and painted elements (built without nails) that will soon become so familiar to us.













Namgay regales us with Bhutanese Buddhist parables depicted in the omnipresent religious murals, not the least of which is the story of the “4 friends.” These harmonious characters… an elephant, a monkey, a hare and a bird… embody the spirit of cooperation as well as symbolize four terrestrial habitats… ground, trees, underground, and sky. The bird seeds the tree, the hare protects and nurtures the roots, the elephant provides might and height, and the monkey provides agility to reach the fruit.







Of course, prayer wheels are present everywhere.









We drive to Thimpu, the capital. Images of the beloved royal family are everywhere, as are polite admonishments to take pride in country and heritage. As Buddhists, Bhutanese honor all sentient beings and their home with respect and compassion. There is no litter anywhere. 

















Lots and lots of new construction in Thimpu and Paro. Even the large blocks of condominiums have traditional design elements.

We had a lovely hike through the forest up to the Cheri Goempa monastery (under restoration)…

… and an even lovelier lunch (we earned it) by the river when we got back down.

Bhutan is 72% virgin forest and the king has decreed that it can never fall below 60%.


Fertility is sacred, the penis is revered, and shows up in the darnedest places.








Traffic is sometimes interesting.


We visited the National Art Institute where the government sponsors the training of skilled artisans in carving, sculpture, painting, and textiles. This method of painting holy ‘Thangkas’ dates to ancient Tibet.

















We then visited the textile museum which is almost as beautiful as the textiles themselves. Bhutanese weaving and beadwork is exquisite.




The truly awesome Golden Buddha (a stunning 177 ft high) is perched above Thimpu and houses an even more extraordinary temple beneath and inside it.  Unfortunately, photos are forbidden inside most temples. Trust me, if you go to Bhutan, you do not want to miss this. 


JJ casually mentioned  someone her daughter had grown up with was living in Thimpu with his wife.  Namgay took us to dinner at his sister’s restaurant with his wife and children and had arranged for a surprise reunion with JJ’s friend (coincidentally, he is a teacher at Namgay’s sons’ school.) This devotion to our enjoyment is one of the many reasons we love Namgay and feel his company ( is the best to use if you want to make this trip of a lifetime. How can you not love this family?

To visit Bhutan, you need to obtain a visa and make all arrangements through an official tour company, who provides all lodging, meals, entrance fees, and transportation, including the services of a guide and a driver. All this for the price of $250/day. Considering the quality of what is provided (at least with Namgay’s company), the extent of what is provided, and the way the government spends its 30% share of the proceeds, it is worth every penny! I’ve visited over 50 countries and Bhutan is the most amazing and delightful of them all.


Before leaving Thimpu, we visited the Takin preserve. Takins are  a native mammal that seems like a cross between a buffalo and a goat.  The Takins were elusive but we got to see Goral antelope up close.


One of our trip’s highlights was a visit to a paper factory where we saw every step to the process of
making exquisitely beautiful hand-crafted paper products from local vegetation.















Traveling further east, we pass through the clouds of Doche La Pass, where the queen mother built 108 stupas to commemorate the heroic and bloodless exploits of her husband in routing terrorists. The south was infiltrated by Indian terrorists from Assam that would go and attack in India then seek refuge in Bhutan. King #4 asked them to leave and they refused. So he personally led the army there, surprised them during dinner, minimizing casualties, and flushed them out and back to India. For his personal integrity and bravery, his wife, the queen mother, erected the stupas.










Part of what makes Bhutan so extraordinary is the well-deserved and absolute adoration of the royal family. King #3 initiated land reform in the 1950s. His son,  King #4, the one who coined the phrase”gross national happiness” as a way to measure his success as a king, voluntarily converted the absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy with the establishment of a democratically-elected Parliament to give his beloved people more of a say in their governing. At the same time, he abdicated his throne to his son (#5, the current king) so that he could serve as an advisor to his rule. #5 has made it a priority to continue the land reform of started by his grandfather and has conducted a survey of land ownership, redistributing government –owned land to villages that don’t have their proportionate share of privately owned land. They are much beloved and wander neighborhoods freely (no “secret service” required) to mingle with the people. 


The people are consistently and uniquely the nicest civilization I’ve ever come across.

The countryside is plastered with what we would consider propaganda signs but they are friendly and positive, urging people to do the right thing, clean up around them, and take care of the environment. In stark contrast to Nepal, there is no litter anywhere. I accidentally dropped a piece of paper and a Bhutanese was immediately there to whisk it to the trash bin.


Their anti-drug messages, rather than taking a totalitarian tone, urge people to take care of and pride in themselves and provide support to people who need help. Although the standard is for multi-generational families to live together and take care of each other, the current queen started a beautiful nursing home where those without family can age in dignity with a high quality of care, on the government’s dime. No one is homeless or goes hungry. Never mind Tibet (especially since the Chinese occupation), I am convinced Bhutan is ShangriLa.




While in transit, we either stop for lunch at

beautiful roadside restaurants or sometimes

are treated to lunch, or tea by the side of the road. 










In Punakha, we visited the dzong, built 1637 and located at the confluence of the male and female rivers) and stayed the night in yet another lovely hotel. 


We visited the temple of the Divine Madman, Lam Drukpa Kuenley, a colorful historical monk who came from Tibet and spread Buddhism throughout the population and is known for using imagery of the phallus to subdue demons and bless the people of Bhutan.













So, once again, penises and puppies everywhere as we wandered through villages and rice paddies.



Off to Pojibkha, the nesting grounds of the endangered migratory black-necked cranes.




















Another mountain pass yielded spectacular views  and we participated in a peaceful perambulation through Pojibkha valley.

















































We stayed at our most basic accommodation yet…     no internet and the rooms were heated at night by woodstoves… and it was positively charming. 










The next day was one of my favorites because Namgay took us to Tshangkha, the beautiful village he grew up in, and filled our fancy with tales from his childhood. 








There are 25 households and they are all involved in farming. They cultivate a variety of crops including rice, potatoes, cabbage, grains, and maize. They sell cheese, butter, potatoes, and other vegetables. Electricity arrived here only recently. (TV came to Bhutan in general in 1998, and cell phones and internet arrived in 2002.)

Some villagers still practice the Bon religion, which is similar to animism and pre-dates Buddhism as the main religion. They assume big mountains, trees, river, cliffs, and lakes to be the places where the deities reside. He grew up outside the village and would go play with his friends in the village until dark. He’d have to run home and would be so scared the demons would get him. His mom, knowing that, would come out on the deck to greet him. Rather than admonish him, she would call out the mantra to scare the evil spirits away and protect him. “Om mani padni hom…” “Louder, please,” he’d cry as he raced by the shadows into her waiting arms. 



I had brought toys to give the children, including little keyring flashlights. These were the favorites here as I explained they could use them to keep the demons away while they walked home in the dark. Hahahaa, their eyes got huge… they loved it! The children, being the compassionate Buddhists they are, were worried when their friend, a beautiful boy taking care of his little brother, showed up and I was all out of gifts. I could see them suffering because they loved their little flashlights but they were so concerned that he didn’t get one. Luckily, I remembered that I had my own little flashlight attached to my purse so I gave him the best one and everyone was happy.

We once again had a delightful tea on the side of the road. Namgay is pictured here with Supee, our driver, who was another beloved component of our magical adventure.



















In Trongsa, we visited the museum and the Trongsa dzong, where the first two kings ruled from.



Monks practiced dances for the next day’s holy festival.













Yakkity yaks don’t talk back.







We stayed at yet another lovely hotel.















We made our way to the weaving region of Bumthang, driving over the Black mountains’ Yotong La pass into the Bumthang valley.














Lunch in a farm house was super special as we were welcomed into the home of a farmer’s family and served in their living room.










We walked across a river to Kurjey Lhakhang temple, which houses the sacred imprint of Guru Rinpoche meditating.










   Encountered wild cannabis and bees.

More beautiful temples and the ubiquitous dogs.  When I landed in Bhutan, I visited a grocery store, bought a bag of dog food, and kept my pockets filled. So, wherever, I went, there were many that loved me. : )








Children sitting in a field taking exams. 










The next day brought something we had been anxiously anticipating… a small local religious festival. Bhutan has many and they are worth scheduling your trip around.









In addition to sacred costumes and dances, we were treated to gambling (I won!), archery (the national sport), darts, and traditional carnival food.















Participation was a wonderful window into local culture.  What can I say? I’m a sucker for the children, old people, and monks.








Although the sight of a young monk “loading” his toy gun threw me off a bit, as did the monk walking down the road chatting on his cell phone. 




I had also brought reading glasses as gifts for older people. They were a big hit… I will bet that this lovely character sleeps in his, he loved them so much.









Another roadside picnic lunch, shopping, and walking the ‘hood rounded out our day.  Even condos and semis are cool.

The next day, we visited Ogyencholing Palace, a historic “manor” that operated under the feudal system, which was abolished by the third king as part of his land reform. It has been preserved as a museum and it was a fascinating glimpse of preserved history.

Stamps for making prayer flags


We then visited a nunnery and more temples.


We flew back to Paro, where we began our journey, having traveled east by land. Now to gear up for the cherry on this dessert… hiking to Tiger’s Nest monastery.






As a child, I had seen a photo of this iconic monastery, perched on a sheer cliffside, and had vowed that I would visit someday. That dream was sidelined when, in 2012, I lost the use of my legs and one arm, was told I wouldn’t walk again, and that I would be dead within weeks. Hah! I showed them! It took me 6 hours round trip, but I did it (thank goodness for my ipod shuffle and our intrepid guides who helped me… look at them… sweet AND handsome)! 

      We were all so proud of our sassy selves… Namgay captured us all taking selfies… hahahaa.












I’m going to live until I die!


Mind you, I sorely needed the hot stone bath afterwards. It is with great sadness, that we bid Bhutan bye-bye…

Gratitude Tour – Reunions

The value of a walk down Memory Lane…

A diagnosis of Stage 4 forces us to confront our mortality, ponder the meaning of life, and wonder how we ended up on this journey. While it didn’t provide any answers, my summer sojourn down memory lane gave me a long-view perspective of my life to date. I am so very grateful to have reconnected with so many who played important roles in my life. The beginning, the middle, the end… is love.


40th High School Reunion (wherein I experience the shocking realization that I am old)

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My first stop was southern Idaho for my first 40-year high school reunion. I didn’t graduate from this high school but I grew up with these kids from age 10-16. Those are pretty formative years and I have a lot of fond memories and affection for this crowd. Facebook had already reunited many of us and I am so grateful for the love and support I received while I fought the cancer demon down.


Boise (wherein I act the hobbit and have two breakfasts)

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One of my dear friends has a relative who has virtually the same diagnosis as I (Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer). I had the pleasure of meeting this mighty warrior queen with her loving mother-in-law for breakfast. I wanted to give her lots of support and any info she might want but she is doing all the right things and seems to be handling it all so well. Join me in praying for and supporting Amy as she walks this difficult road we know so well. Then, I got to take my beloved surrogate parents out for breakfast. They are aging as gracefully as we all can hope to. I am so very grateful to them for all the love they have given me throughout my life.


McCall (wherein I bask in the beauty of a mountain lake with my bestie)


So many things this woman has taught me… from the early age of 12. Look at her surf… she’s my age! She taught me how to love unabashedly and to suck as much joy out of every moment that one can. I am so grateful to have her and her sister and husband in my life.


Missoula (wherein I pretend I am in my twenties again)




First I get to take my darling niece out for cocktails. Then I get to raft the river with my nephew and his adorable girlfriend and friends. Then we all get to enjoy the String Cheese Incident in concert. Nothing like hanging with the young to feel young. I love these people and am so grateful to be able to enjoy these things!

Live until you die, am I right?! Can I get an Amen?



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Coeur d’Alene (wherein I reunite with 4 generations of cousins in a stunning historic lakefront manor)


I have to start with these two photos because they showcase 4 generations of beauty and grace as well as a grandpa who is completely besotted with his great-granddaughter. For the most part, I hadn’t seen most of these people in 40 years and just met the others. Why, oh why, did I wait so long? I feel such gratitude for the opportunity to reunite with long-lost loved ones and meet the new additions.



All these people are cousins… two first cousins, two first cousins once removed, two first cousins twice removed, and one first cousin thrice removed! Oh, and then their partners joined us… 18 for dinner!

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This lovely family compound was built over 100 years ago! So much love and history within these walls

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There’s life in the old girl yet! I’m talking about me paddle boarding, but I really am saluting cousin Bette, all 4’9″ of her. She is a two-time cancer survivor herself, in her 80s, is a hospice volunteer to give back for her survival, and has been my biggest cheerleader from the sidelines throughout my ordeal. I hadn’t seen her since I was a kid but we developed a fond penpal bond and she hopped in her car and drove a day’s drive when she heard I was going to be in town. She is my hero. Love that woman! I think she secretly sports a “Live until you die” tattoo.











My 2nd 40th year high school reunion (wherein the posse rides again!)

I went to two high schools, so I was blessed with two reunions, a week and 600 miles apart. Going to both of them was the impetus for this trip which turned into so much more. 4 of the 5 girls who hung out regularly got together for the first time in 40 years! We aren’t getting older, we’re getting better and I’m oh, so grateful for that!










Seattle, (wherein I see my family who nursed me back to health)

No Gratitude Tour is complete without visiting my sister and my son who cared for me when I couldn’t care for myself. I will forever be grateful to all these people. Counting my blessings…









Gratitude Tour – Island Style

Kailua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

 Far from shore, the swell rises.
A lone surfer leaps to catch the long, languorous ride.
The wave breaks with a pounding crash, prostrating itself at my feet and
kissing my toes where foam meets sand.
That kiss electrifies me with the
epiphany of all that is beautiful
and sacred in this world…




I grew up in Hawaii, and after I survived my first dire prognosis of imminent death and regained my ability to walk, I wintered there. Alas, it was in Hawaii that they found 9 leptomeningeal brain tumors and delivered another dire prognosis of just weeks to live. How I defeated them is covered in My Brain Metastases, but that’s not the subject of this post.




The point is that every day, I soaked in the bay I grew up in and prayed to the kahunas to heal me so that I could return. That opportunity came in the form of my son’s 24th birthday… a day I was so grateful to celebrate. His darling and impish girlfriend and I conspired to kidnap him and surprise him. The second surprise is that I joined them on the second leg of their flight and we got to spend a wonderful week together, celebrating his birthday and my 2nd anniversary of NED. All in the comforting embrace of my childhood home…. and the kahunas.

Kaiulani Facciani Gratitude Tour - Island Styleskydiving kaiulani faccianiWe have been long-time scuba enthusiasts and it was a joy to welcome his girlfriend into the club. He had always wanted to sky-dive and that was her present to him. Thank God I didn’t have to go : ). I’m gonna live until I die but, given that I’m walking around with a broken hip, glued together by dead tumors and scar tissue, I’d rather not tempt the fates by landing wrong.




It was a lovely time that taught me once again that the beginning, the middle, the end… is love. So, once again, I am grateful… for the time I’ve been given, for the love I’ve received, for the life that I’ve lived.

And I am full of hope… for me… and for you.






Gratitude Tour West – back to basics


Beautiful oasis


I’ll be honest. I haven’t been posting much content lately, not just because I’ve been traveling so much, but because I have been feeling like a hypocrite. It is so hard to stick to my dietary regimen when I am traveling. IMG_3859 And after you bend a rule, it’s just a matter of time before they all go out the window. There’s a physiological reason for that… when you start feeding Candida and it takes over the microbiome in your intestines, it starts dictating your tastes and cravings to you… feed me more junk! Then there’s the holidays. I’ve gained 15 pounds… yecchh! And I feel like a walking bag of toxins. It is time to detox and cleanse again and adhere again to my regimen. I’m not going to stay NED (no evidence of disease) if I don’t follow my principles of creating a bioterrain that is hostile to cancer and supportive of my body’s own healing powers:


IMG_3858 • Stop putting toxins in
• Get the toxins out
• Rectify nutritional imbalances
• Boost my immune system
• Kill cancer
• Balance stress and support emotional wellness








So my Gratitude tour heads west… to Palm Desert… to spend a week with my lovely niece making our own do-it-yourself detox spa. She’s too shy for photos but she visited so much love on me when I needed it, that I am very grateful.




Beautiful hikes, organ cleanses, full-body detoxes, meditation, and a strict diet. Happy New Year! I feel better already.





Gratitude Tour Travels North


The Gratitude Tour continued,  appropriately, through Thanksgiving. IMG_1079 This time I travelled north to Seattle, where it all went down, as I fought the cancer demon down three years ago. If it weren’t for my sister, who took me in and cared for me when I couldn’t use my legs, let alone care for myself, who took me to my daily treatments of chemo and radiation…

If it weren’t for my lovely son, who gave me the overarching reason to live… If it weren’t for all my friends, who gave me so much love and believed in me to defy all odds, even when my own belief in myself wavered from the doctors dire prognostications of imminent death… I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t still be here.




So, my son needed sinus surgery and he IMG_3687could take a week off from work for surgery or for Thanksgiving but not both. So we decided to do both at once. We had a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend on the beach and in the forests of the incomparable Olympic peninsula. It was perfect, we took a ferry, stayed in a motel on the beach, and adventured as he was able. What a beautiful place to recover!


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Much love and gratitude to all…

U.S. Road trip – 2015

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Gratitude Tour: Road Trip U.S.A.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month

I decided to attend the Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference in Boston and thought it would be a great opportunity to see friends and family that supported me during my time of need, to thank them and show them how well I’m doing now. I’ve lived past my expiration date…twice… and currently enjoy the unattainable miracle of NED… No Evidence of Disease. For now, like everyone else with metastatic breast cancer, I live scan to scan. So I put together this monster road trip… 7000 miles, 22 stops, over 5 weeks. Thing is, there were a few long stretches where I didn’t know anyone. People started asking me to stop and say hi to friends of theirs that were struggling and so I put it out there to my breast cancer friends that I could stop by and give them a hug if they wanted…

“I have this searing memory of being hooked up to Carbo and Taxol, enduring radiation to three parts of my body at once, and thinking… if this is living, then I don’t want to live. And some other part of me (I’ll call her Hope), grabbed me by the lapels, shook me, and said… “Others have done it, you can do it.” And it got me through a crucial day. Sometimes that’s all we need… to know there can be a future that isn’t as bleak as the present moment.

I’m setting out tomorrow from Colorado on a 7000-mile road trip that will take me through the midwest to the conference in Boston and down the eastern seaboard, in to Asheville, and south to Florida, through New Orleans, Austin, and home. I will be stopping and staying with friends and family who have stood by me from afar and visiting some people who are currently struggling. It occurred to me to put it out there to my lovely new Facebook friends that if they or someone they know, that is on my loop, needs a hug and a shot of encouragement, I could stop by for a brief visit.”

I got dozens of responses! I think this might possibly be the best idea I have ever had! My tour of gratitude has turned into a way that I can give back for the miracle that I am living and to celebrate those that are currently entrenched in their struggle.

First stop – Boulder, Coloradojune fb
Visiting my first healing angel in Boulder… June visited me when I was going through hell in Seattle, has placed her loving, healing hands on me, and always sent so much love and light from afar.

Stop two on my Tour of Gratitude… these lovely angels were with me at Burning Man when I lost the use of my legs and didn’t know what was wrong with me… that I was full of tumors that had split my sacroiliac joint apart. They packed me up and shipped me out of the grueling desert and came to see me when I was struggling for my life in Seattle. They constantly sent me healing love and light. The little one was then a bun in the oven and a reason for me to fight… I had to meet him! And what a precious soul he is!!!Marsha



My first stop leaving Minneapolis… Marsha ministers at her church and she made a beautiful present of a prayer shawl to me that the women in her church knit and infuse with love and prayers. I feel blessed!


So, I think this road trip and the idea to meet with some of the amazing women also dealing with cancer is possibly the best idea I’ve ever had. It was so great to meet Pam and her sister Val who is lovingly caring for her. Rock on, Winona babes!

“Best idea ever, thanks for stopping on your way through. Wonderful meeting Kaiulani oPamWinonan her Gratitude tour. I’m refueled and encouraged to share a hug with a brilliant shining soul sister ♡ Check out her blogs if any of you want to know her amazing story. I had never met Kai before until today, she is a giver and a liver. She posted she was taking a road trip, the Gratitude tour, and if anyone was on her route she would love to stop by and meet friends and give a hug. I was happy when she messaged me yesterday that she’d be passing through Winona today. Blessings and love to you Kai as you make your way east. Safe travels and love and light to you and all you meet on this journey. ♡ THANK YOU” – Pam


I’m so impressed by the cancer survivors I meet. Through it all, they remain positive. Pam and Tamara hadn’t known each other before, but when they both wanted to meet up with me as I passed through Chicago, we found a place in the middle and had a wonderful dinner. It was lovely meeting you both. Thank you.                                         “I can’t tell you how wonderful and inspiring it was to meet up with you and also Tamara. Your positivity, and loving spirit is so encouraging and brings hope. ♡♡♡” – Pam
“Thank you! for making a stop in Chicago and for spending the evening sharing your insights and energy. It was so good to meet you.. and to meet Pam too! Safe travels — may the wind be always at your back.” – Tamara


I was honored to celebrate Cheryl’s last chemo with her and her loving hubby. Thank you, Jana, for introducing us! Cheryl

“Kai, I thought you would like to know that this story is touching so many lives!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for stopping in to share your love and story with me and my hubby too… Facebook brings people together in so many ways. I met Kai on FB through a mutual friend. Jana thought we would connect well. Kai is a true cancer warrior. 3 years clean, she had stage IV cancer thought her body including 9, yep 9, brain tumors. She is traveling across the nation, over 7,000 miles on a Gratitude road trip. And was going to be in Michigan. She came and brought love and light to me at my last chemo treatment today. And a story of HOPE. Thank you my new friend. What an experience!. There are no coincidences in life. Our God amazes me, every dayhe is the true meaning of the word AWESOME!!” – Cheryl

“This is one the LARGEST most BEAUTIFULLY happy blessings in my life to date! That my dear soul sister of many moons who I hold so dear to my heart Kaiulani Facciani,, has now held my dear soul sister warrior Essante gal friend Cheryl close during her struggle with cancer and was with her at the close of her chemo treatment… I love both of these beautiful women! I cannot hold back my emotion in tears of joy…to share and see that this magic is in our day to day of what can be life… I am lost for more words.  ♡♡♡ Love you both.” – Jana


I love the midwest! Elizabeth and Uncle Larry know how to take a licking and keep on ticking!

Kai, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for stopping by on your tour to share your story & love with us. I pray one day we get to meet again. Safe travels, my friend, you are amazing. – Elizabeth







Kathleen is fighting her cancer naturopathically… and winning! Fascinating story. I so enjoyed dinner with her and Tom, her amazing support system.

“What a treat meeting with this sweet woman last night… Kaiulani a wellness consultant, a survivor, and a wonderful person.” – Kathleen








New York

And this lovely Kathleen is a mets sister who is so confident in her ability to heal, she is starting a retreat to nurture fellow metastatic BC battlers in her lovely new farmhouse in rural New York… what a huge heart this woman has.

“Kaiulani and I… a random visit from CO via everywhere. I feel as though my life has changed. I’ve realized that from cancer I’ve lost some friends, but the ones that turned up and came instead of turned around and left are in my life for a very important reason. You all know who you are.” – Kathleen


1 - 1Cape Cod
Coco is a two-time breast cancer survivor. I provided support for her from afar after being introduced by a mutual friend. When it hit the fan for me, she was there for me as one of my most ardent cheerleaders. I am so grateful to meet her in person after all these years of on-line friendship and support.

“Kai you are an AMAZING woman for helping so many other women with breast or metastatic breast cancer! I’m HONORED for your visit last week and for your loving support throughout my cancer ordeal ! Thank you SO much for sharing your process and strength with us all! Much love to you.” – Coco


Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference – DanaFarber Institute – Boston, MA

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Can I just say how amazing women with metastatic breast cancer are? And how soothing it is to spend time with people who face the same death sentence as me every day with such joy and hope and bravery. When you are in the same room with hundreds of them, the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts. I am in awe of the indomitable spirit!

Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer is a terminal diagnosis. Some of us prefer to think of it as a chronic illness. Either way it’s no fun. But there’s always lemonade to be made…



The Snarling Wolf…

You don’t “beat” stage IV breast cancer. The most you can do is grab the snarling wolf by the throat and hold it at arm’s length, trying not to be intimidated by the fangs and the spittle and the intensity of its desire to rip you to pieces.

If you’re lucky, you temporarily tame it or it may tire itself out for awhile but you are always on your guard, knowing it will eventually awaken and attack again.

Right now, he is snoring softly at my feet. Be vewy, vewy qui-yet.


1 - 1 (2)Manchester

Cindy is an old friend who has lost many loved ones to cancer. She is the eye of the hurricane… always a center of calm love and support amidst the chaos that sometimes surrounds her. When I was going through treatment, she sent me so much love and support as well as the comfiest, most beautiful blanket to cuddle in. A walk in the woods and on the beach with her has been so wonderful. Frosting on the very beautiful cake that is my life.



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the Hamptons, New York

My dear friend Emma is a breast cancer survivor who started the Emma Jacobs Foundation (Taking Initiative to Survive) and helps scores of women who face the challenges that a breast cancer diagnosis poses. When I was first  diagnosed in 2007, she took me under her wing. She and Patrick, hosted me and supported me through my many visits to Houston and the roller coaster ride I endured. Now, they have a lovely home in the Hamptons and it was so great to experience their new life with them on my Gratitude Tour.


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1 - 1 (4)Manhattan

Four museums in one day! The Guggenheim, the Met, Natural History, and MOMA. Going to the Whitney tomorrow. Two Broadway shows. Oh, Manhattan you’ve made me deliciously exhausted! I’ve eaten Korean, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Italian, and Greek.

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It is impossible to not fall in love with mankind while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Throughout the millennia, all over our world, artists have wrested such beauty from such pain… battles waged, lives torn, love lost. I am dwarfed 1 - 1 (7)by the grandeur and scope of their collective consciousness.

And it is impossible to not fall in love with our universe, our planet, and its non-human inhabitants while visiting the Museum of Natural History. I can only hope our burning desire to create overcomes our innate propensity to destroy.

Museums and Creativity

Visiting museums and looking at bodies of work by various artists always brings me back to times in my life when I was young and creative. My life lay before me as an infinite pattern of branches of potentiality. I was so excited at the fact that i could be anything i wanted to be and looking at others art always generated so many ideas for art of my own.

But life happened, as it does, and most, if not all, of those ideas remain unrequited. As I coast down the hill of middle age, the branches have thinned significantly and I am filled with a sweet sadness, ruing all that i did not achieve. As I consider my terminal diagnosis and the branches become downright sparse, it is tempting to wallow in defeatism. 


But I abhor negative, self-fulfilling prophecies and so I am grateful that my game has gone into overtime and I force myself to envision capillary-like branches filling in the map of my life ahead. Although my hand is partially paralyzed now, I am excited about a new project I have envisioned. It may never see the light of day, but just thinking of its potential makes me feel young and alive. In some way, I am becoming who I wanted to be when I grew up.



Margate, New Jersey

TannehillsAndrea is one of my oldest and dearest friends. I have so much gratitude for her unwavering, indefatigable support from afar. I am also so grateful to have been able to spend time with her lovely, loving little family. Like all of us they have weathered challenging times and they have emerged so strong and bound together by so much love. I’m pretending to have bottled it and am taking it with me to sip from when I need a shot…

“Look who came for a visit… So grateful to to see my dear friend Kai on her “gratitude tour”!” – Andrea


The circle of life…

Sunrise on ferry, full moon still on watch.
Foggy wisps suspend over dappled Delaware fields.
Drying and dying, preparing for winters sleep.
Thermodynamics are busy at play…
Entropy dictates descent into decay. 
While life endures and cycles persist
to create order from chaos.
And every sunrise is a brand new day.


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Doris Ann is my shero. She taught me how to fight mets… with everything you’ve got! And don’t forget the lipstick, great hats, and a smile always on your face. It’s nearly 10 years since she was diagnosed Stage 4 and she’s back at the battle once again with a vengeance. Remember that prayer shawl that Marsha gave me in Minneapolis that the lovely women in her church knit and imbued with prayers? I was honored to present one to Doris Ann that they gave me for her. Isn’t she beautiful in it? So grateful that we’ve both made two circles around the sun since we met… in spite of the odds. Rock on, sister warrior queen!



Kai, if I am your shero, then surely you must be my ultimate protégé! Smart, inquisitive women like you keep an open mind to new ideas…then research which ones may be worthy of consideration and run with them! I am grateful that you are not only such a woman, but also that you have far outrun whatever influence I may have had on you initially when we first met. Now you have (rightfully ) earned your own place as a force to be reckoned with, respected, and admired as an uber example and mentor to so many devoted followers. 
Rock on, Rapper Kai! And thanks again for stopping to visit this afternoon (and presenting me with the beautiful prayer shawl from the ladies in Edina, Minnesota)! 
As you continue your journey back home to Colorado, give my regards to one of my favorite NC destinations (Asheville). — and keep on adding new branches each day to your Tree of Life! Mmmmwaa!” – Doris Ann


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Asheville, North Carolina
Sariya Jade and I first met on the beach in Puerta Vallarta in a magical moment of synchronicity that also brought me June Turnbull (remember the first stop on the Gratitude Tour in Boulder?). The three of us were attending an energetic healing conference and I have been grateful for their healing energies ever since.

I finally got to see Sariya again after 7 years! And what a cool place Asheville is. So here we are… Tan and young in Puerto Vallarta, older and whiter in Asheville, and with two new marvelous cancer sister survivor friends. Both Cynthia and MaryAnne are taking an integrative holistic approach to maintaining wellness. I am honored again in the presence of such strength.


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Tybee Island, Georgia

Walking the beach this morning, I marveled at the seabirds serenely sunning themselves. I struggled with the temptation to run screaming into their midst to feel the frantic flurry of their fright-filled flight swirl around me. Instead, I stood nearby absorbing the contentment of their full bellies and the fellowship of feathered family. I marveled at the sage and savvy woman I had become. And then silly and sassy emerged, the little girl took over my being, and all hell broke loose. Da woman may never come back. Hahahaa….



Vera Paas, Seattle Vera

My dear friend and fellow sister warrior, Vera Paas, is transitioning to her next assignment in these days. Please send a kiss on the wind to tickle her with love as she moves on. I love you, Vera.

Update: She’s gone… ; (

I stand alone, surrounded by shadowy figures. Like clay soldiers from an ancient Chinese army, they are silent symbols of fallen warriors. Every time I turn around, there are more. Diagnosed after me with prognoses better than mine, they have left me behind. I fight back tears and try not to give in to suffocating feelings of doom and despair. May they find as much joy and love in their next assignment as they brought to this one. Because every one of them deserves, perhaps more than I, to be breathing here beside me, and they are not… Because of the brave battles that they waged… Because I don’t truly understand why I’m still standing… I will battle on. For them… And for all of my sweet fellow warriors who know exactly what I am feeling. As I sit here listening to Robert Earl Keen, I am reminded that the road goes on forever, and the party never ends. Party on, Vera…


Nancy n me


Florida Panhandle
Like seemingly everyone, Nancy and Warren have loved ones battling cancer. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Nancy actively cheered me on from afar. Visiting them in their new home near the beach, I finally got to take a dip in the ocean. It was so…. invigorating!! And nothing beats a day on the boat! I am grateful for so much. : )


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The Big Easy

I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to meet up with my three breast cancer sisters from New Orleans but I did manage to have me some fun… Zydeco two-stepping to Chubby Carrier at the Rock-n-bowl was a highlight. I asked him if he’d play our street dance next spring and he said yeah! So let’s see if we can make it happen. : )




Austin, Texas
I love it when people I love meet and end up loving each other! The Gratitude Tour is winding down with a bang in Austin, where so many different friends from different chapters in my life currently live. They all sent me so much love  that Austin became it’s own shining light through my dark nights. Cindy worked with me in the computer business 25 years ago, Lindsey is my daughter from another mother, and the Siegele family is a constant love generator. I am truly blessed.

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Hiked to the top with old friends and a new one. Considering I was told not to expect to walk again (let alone live this long), I consider this a huge victory. I am so very grateful. It is very beautiful up there. What a great last stop before heading home and finishing my 7500-mile loop! I’m the horse heading for the barn now. : )

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home snow



After 7500 miles… Home! I drove all night to miss the storm and woke up to this. Hard to believe I was bodysurfing in the ocean last week. 😜 What an amazing trip, this Gratitude Tour…full of so much love! People say that there is nothing about cancer that can be considered a gift and I see their point. But the way I look at it is that it brought all of you into my life and as for those that knew and loved me before… It made me realize just how much. And for that, I am truly grateful! Love and light and strength to all!


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