18 March 2018

11 habits of successful people

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player ever to fly the planet, had this to say about success:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.




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12 March 2018

Things that take my breath away

There’s a difference between appreciating something and having something take your breath away.

I appreciate that I have a dependable vehicle. But I find myself holding my breath over certain strains of music. Or wildlife in my backyard on a snowy day.


Wildlife and wild color in my backyard (photo: Marlys)


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5 March 2018

Cancer as a gift? No, thank you.

I walked beside my husband, Gary, with late stage prostate cancer for ten courage-filled years. The experience taught us to pay attention to life and its simple pleasures and the astonishing people who surrounded us in love.

There are numerous folks dealing with cancer who have suggested it is a gift … and countless others who would never refer to it that way. “Would you re-gift it?” someone once asked sarcastically.


Photo by Natalie Collins on Unsplash


But consider this thought from one of my cancer-fighting friends …

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25 February 2018

Meet Katie, world changer

When Katie Strumpf was diagnosed with leukemia, there were no online resources or publications to offer guidance to a 10-year-old kid dealing with cancer. She endured chemo, spinal taps, and bone marrow aspirations.

While still going through treatment, Katie told her mom that someday she would write a book for children with cancer, offering encouragement and practical advice from someone who’s put up with doctors and medications and hair loss.


Katie Strumpf-Rackley


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21 February 2018

3 insights from a four-legged friend

Charlie the yellow lab has been human-sitting me this past week. In the process, she’s reminded me of a few important lessons that we humans tend to forget.


All photos: Marlys


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18 February 2018

4 ways to edit your story

There’s a chapter in Gary’s and my story, titled “The Wilderness Years,” that lasted for more than a decade. A windswept, barren, bleak, heart-throbbing trek through financial reversals, and a live-in parent sinking into dementia, and a terminal cancer diagnosis, and the death of a most beloved husband, friend, life partner.

Most of us would edit some chapters of our stories if we could.


Photo by Andrew Measham on Unsplash


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1 February 2018

Critical conversations every couple should have

A kindly palliative care physician stopped by my husband’s hospital room to help him complete a Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. “What most concerns you?” he asked my husband.

Gary pointed at me and said, “Leaving her.”


Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash


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24 January 2018

9 living-well benefits of knitting

You’ll find me with my knitting posse most Monday evenings at Barnes & Noble. Back when my husband, Gary, was fighting cancer, they were part of my cancer caregiver support network. And now in widowhood, they’ve got my back.

My fellow knitters didn’t sign up for either of these extra assignments. But by virtue of showing up every Monday and bringing their exquisite, fuzzy projects and sharing their stories and asking about my week, they’re a significant addition to my support system.



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21 January 2018

Lessons from a turtle release

Someone handed a baby turtle in a small container to me. “Give him a name,” she said. And of course what popped into my head was ‘Gary.’ As in, my husband.


Photo: Campamento Tortugueros Sayulita


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15 January 2018

Should we let disagreeable conditions defer our plans?

Back when my husband, Gary, was living well with late-stage prostate cancer, we joined a cancer-kicking hike/ snowshoe group. As a result, I have movies in living color of so many burbling, adventurous, life-affirming treks in the Cascades near our home in central Oregon.

After Gary died, the strangest thing happened: All the teams, posses, crews of people who supported us through ten years of cancer and caregiving suddenly morphed into widow support groups.

Earlier this week, I joined up with two of my cancer-kicking (widow support) friends, Mike and Bina, and snow-shoed from Mt. Bachelor out to Todd Lake. A cold and gray-shrouded trek.


Looking out across a frozen Todd Lake (Photo: Mike Gibson)


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About Me

Hello, my name is Marlys Johnson. I’m a cancer widow, author, speaker and blogger. I love getting outdoors; would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. I have a passion for repurposing old junk into cool new stuff. And an even greater passion for showing people how to navigate life’s challenges. Tenaciously. And with heart wide open.

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