Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some people make New Year's resolutions. The media jumps on it. Advertising for gyms, lean cuisines, and nicotine patches rise promoting a "better you" if you stick to your goals. It's a genius marketing tool for these companies. I wonder how many gym memberships are paid for and not used after March, and then renewed again with the same ever-failing goal in mind? But still, so many people enter the month of January with a "THIS is the year" attitude. It seems kind of cliché to me.

I turned 30 last week. Admittedly, in the weeks leading up to this birthday I was a bit nostalgic about my twenties. I'm not exactly sure why - yes, the twenties seemed fun while they were happening, but let's be honest, it's a stressful decade. I finished college while trying to enhance my career by working full-time as a retail manager. I went on countless awful dates with immature males. I spent two years in a relationship that was destined to fail. I spent my free time in smoky bars drinking Bud Light. Now, don't get me wrong, a lot of great things happened in my twenties too. I established a career with a smart company who has helped me become quite business savvy. I purchased my first home. I began to appreciate gourmet food and wine. I moved to Nashville after a promotion. I obtained a college degree. My closet is filled with a beautiful collection of designer bags and shoes. I learned to cook. I became a proud puppy mommy. I traveled to six European countries and the U.K. Most importantly, I learned to really value my relationships with my friends and family. I suppose as the end of anything approaches reflection on the past encourages evolution.

Liz, Jennifer, and me at the Vineyards.

I spent the weekend of the 30th anniversary of my birth enjoying cocktails in upscale bars and sipping wines at the local vineyard with a variety of great friends. I'm not exaggerating when I say great friends. I'm very lucky. The picture on the upper right is the picnic Liz brought to the vineyards for everyone, complete with fresh flowers. I think at least ten people complimented us on our pretty table. The food was delicious. Jennifer drove in from Memphis just for the day to celebrate with us. Nicole cut her trip short so she wouldn't miss the gathering. Natalie, Meredith, Danielle, and Page all enjoyed the weekend's festivities too. It was a lovely entrance to a new decade of life.

A blurry memory of my 20th birthday surfaced - the worst birthday on record (and I'm leaving it at that). In fact my entire 20th year on earth was terrible. Awful. Worst year of my life. My 30th birthday was perfect, perhaps the birthday with the most fond memories of my adult life. I think this year is going to perfect too - a perfect beginning to what I think will be the BEST year of my life. I'm making a 30th year resolution, several of them actually. I will be passionately involved in supporting at least one charitable organization by volunteering and donating. I will cook something new at least once per week. I will update this blog regularly (and not let writer's block get in my way). I won't be negative. Ever. I will read more. I will stop being cynical. I will start a wine club with my friends. I will embrace and cherish every day of my thirties and all of it's grown-up adventures. I will begin these achieving these goals and resolutions by living with my new best-year-ever belief.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Four years ago Uncle Ed died. "Not Ed," I heard Mom choke. "Anyone but Ed." I head those phrases often in the few weeks before he passed away. I heard them often because Uncle Ed was truly a wonderful man, a devoted father, husband, brother, and oncologist.

I remember vividly Christmas at his rather large home. Every year was a huge party complete with all five Miller siblings, dozens of cousins, beautiful decorations, and Santa Claus. Yes, every year Santa came to entertain the kids. Festive is an understatement for these gatherings - I still feel warm inside when I think about them. There were a lot of memories in that home, the third floor playroom complete with real arcade games, the family golden retriever, Abby, and the secret toy room my brother and I could never actually find.

As we got older the celebrations got smaller and the memories got bigger. I learned about late night White Castle runs, even on Christmas Eve. I observed the length of time it takes two brothers to make risotto. I sipped the best wines I've probably ever had before I could even appreciate them. I watched my Dad's face light up every time Uncle Ed smiled. I endured blasting Beatles and Frank Sinatra late at night. I learned that there was never actually a secret toy room in the old house. I saw a dedicated doctor wake up early on Christmas morning to visit his patients at the hospital.

In August of 2006 I called my Dad. I began talking about something unimportant and as I heard the tone of his voice I stopped. "Is everything okay?" He told me the news. Uncle Ed had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. "It doesn't look good," he told me.

Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Only 6% of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years. This is the LOWEST survival rate for all cancers. This year 43,140 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 36,800 will pass away from the disease. There are no early detection methods, and currently there is NO CURE.

Uncle Ed passed away in early September 2006 after complications from an unsuccessful surgery, just weeks after we found out he was sick.

Pancreatic cancer is often called the "silent killer" as when the first symptoms appear it is often too late. Even an oncologist like my uncle didn't beat this cancer because he had no symptoms until he became jaundiced on his retirement cruise. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers. Although pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, only 2% of the National Cancer Institute's $5 billion annual budget is spent on researching the disease.

Please visit for further information, or to join the fight against this horrific disease. Together, we can advance research and create hope.