Cancer Warriors Wednesday – Michael In the Sekond Grade

I have to share this with you because it’s just so cute. As I walked into the Survivor’s Symposium I attended a few weeks ago, a Girl Scout volunteer handed me a gauze bag. Inside, I found a beautiful hand-painted Heart of Hope from by my favorite grief support organization, Interregnum, Inc.The heart is beautiful, as I am sure you will agree. But, it was the message that accompanied it that melted my heart. Michael in the ‘sekond grade” wrote me a little letter of love and encouragement.

Michael’s “favirote sport team is Giants,” and “favirote food is french frise.” He closed strong, “Believe in yourself! Follow your dreams! Think positive!”

In the bag, I also found the following: Your heart was painted by an elementary school student from Verona, NJ. The children were inspired to participate in this program by their art teacher, Mrs. J, who is a breast cancer survivor. She received a “Heart of Hope” during her treatment at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, and is now actively serving as a volunteer in an effort to help others. 

I learned something last week, which Michael’s little heart and message amplify today. When you live your gratitude, you may think all you are doing is paying it back. But, and this is so pivotal, you’re also paying it forward, because gratitude expressed doesn’t stop short there.

Oh no. Instead it keeps traveling out in concentric circles like a ripple on a pond. When wrote the email I blogged about on Monday, I thought I was just saying “thank you.” But I accomplished so much more. I accomplished having a positive impact on someone’s career. And now she can resume having the same positive impact on other patients and their healing that she had on me.

That’s what Mrs. J is doing, by inspiring elementary school children to reach out to cancer survivors and touch their hearts with hope and encouragement. By volunteering with Hearts of Hope, she isn’t just saying thank you for the heart she received. She is pushing her gratitude out into the world, concentric circle by concentric circle. And people she has never met are benefited.

A heartfelt “thank you” is a form of giving back. Think of it as magical currency, which pays the recipient back and then exponentially expands outward with limitless possibility.

I like the idea of paying it back and forward at the same time. I’m definitely going to do more of it. Are you?

Survival > Existence,





Barbara Bair's picture

gratitude – paying it forward

When I am at Overlook Hospital as a “Bling Angel” and present cancer patients with their gifts, jewelry from Operation Bling, I always wear my own bling jewelry and tell them that I, too, was a patient there and was so grateful to receive gift from my bling angel that, as a survivor, I now want to make others happy. My hope is that my presence there gives others hope and encouragement.


Debbie's picture

You Are Definitely Paying It Forward!


Everyone likes to get a gift, and “bling” is especially nice, but your message of hope is the real gift you give others. I am absolutely certain that your survivor’s story gives others hope and encouragement that they too can get through their cancer ordeal. You’re definitely paying it forward!

Survival > Existence,



Bari Adelman's picture

Thank you Debbie

You understand the meaning behind our program so perfectly. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping to spread the word!


Debbie's picture

My Pleasure!


It’s my pleasure to spread the word! I know you know how much it means to all of us who have been touched by the good work of Interregnum and Hearts of Hope.

Survival > Existence,



Joni Jasterzbski's picture

Thank you!

Hi Debbie,
My name is Joni Jasterzbski but I am much better known as Mrs. J. to all my little art students in Verona ‘s F.N Brown and Brookdale Ave. schools. I love your beautiful letter and only saw it because ! of my former students from 7 years ago( another Michael) who has donated countless hours to hearts of hope saw it and passed it on to me. I have had a particularly rough 2 weeks and felt so blessed to receive this wonderful response. I will pass it on to Michael tomorrow. What town do you live in? How long ago were you diagnosed. Would love to show you our heart wall at school and have you meet Michael if you live in this area. Would be such a full circle moment! Let me know what you think. So happy you were affected in the same way that I was. It is easy to make hearts or paint hearts or pkg. them if you ever want to. Also a group of woman and I in the Verona area created a wonderful support group called WINGS(woman inspiring,nurturing and giving strength) We offer free relaxation sessions which have included art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, reiki, natural eating and cooking classes ,yoga and many more. If you are interested or know any woman who want to meet other woman who have been through or are going through any type of cancer we meet once a month for 2 hours at the Verona Community center from 7pm to 9 pm. Hope to hear from you.Thank you for making my day! Sincerely, Joni J.


Debbie's picture

So Wonderful to Hear from You!!


Thank you so much for contacting me!  Michael’s heart is so beautiful; you obviously inspire your little art students to do great work. I’d love to see the heart wall and will contact you to make arrangements. Please tell Michael when you see him today that his heart, and his inspiring words, really made my day.

Survival > Existence,



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