by Debra Dean-Ciriani
Age 64, West Hartford, CT
As a young girl growing up in St. Cloud, MN, I had a wonderful childhood living along the Mississippi River like Tom Sawyer, and in the security of a warm and supportive middle class family, including extended family.
All the male figures in my life had served in either World War II or the Korean War, and we all were staunch Republicans, Methodists or Presbyterians, living by the tenets of the Protestant ethic ‘survival of the fittest’. My father started with nothing and lived the American Dream. Yes, my mother was killed in a car accident when I was 11, but there was my incredible father and a host of other family members who jumped in with love and support in every way.I have been extremely blessed in every way.
Throughout my adult life I have often reflected on how fortunate I have been, and wondered how I could help others to experience the joy and deep love I have had the privilege of bathing in. After college and grad school, a 30 year career as an opera singer living for 16 years in New York City, three years living in Germany, getting married at 38 to the right guy, and giving birth to a brilliant and delightful daughter, and living in Italy for eight years teaching English, I found myself in W.Hartford, CT with my husband and daughter wondering what was next for me at age 57.
I have Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in my bones. It’s terminal, but no one knows just when my time will be up.
Well, I returned to school and received a degree as a marriage and family therapist, and that decision has changed my life and given me more satisfaction than any other work I’ve ever done. Again, very blessed!
During my graduate studies I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and went through the challenges of chemo and radiation. I never lost a beat with school, graduated, and cut my teeth as a therapist at a terrific job with The Bridge Family Center in W. Hartford, where I worked until starting a private practice just two months ago.
In 2013 my cancer returned, and I have Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in my bones. It’s terminal, but no one knows just when my time will be up. I’ve moving forward optimistically and, like Oliver Sachs (‘On the Move’ is my next read. His recent article in the NY Times was so inspirational!), I am embracing life, people and my work as if I will live forever.
Each day is a tremendous gift, and I find so many more reasons to be grateful. My family, friends and clients are my greatest source of strength, and I am grateful to them all. I’m still living in the present with eyes to the future
Each day is a tremendous gift, and I find so many more reasons to be grateful. My family, friends and clients are my greatest source of strength, and I am grateful to them all. I’m still living in the present with eyes to the future, and my purpose is to give all the love, knowledge, support and friendship to this marvelous world, and then leave it feeling I gave it my best shot. Blessings,blessings, blessings everywhere!