Friday, March 27, 2015

Inside Bainbridge Posts an Article

Inside Bainbridge, a local publication, posted a lovely article about Katie, Hannah and Hannah's Hopeful Hearts yesterday. You can read it HERE.*

Huge THANKS go out to Sarah Lane for her compassionate, sensitive and detailed coverage of the event, and the stories behind it.
*Correction: Katie was 12 and a half years old when she passed away, not 11.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Meet Dr. Michael Jensen and His Colleagues

Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research Profile from ben towne foundation on Vimeo.

If you have wondered, "Who is Dr. Michael Jensen?" and "What is the Ben Towne Center?," the answer is right here. It will take five and a half minutes of your time, and will leave you inspired with HOPE.

At Hannah's Hopeful Hearts on April 10th, you will have another opportunity to hear from this brilliant, compassionate doctor - and from another, brilliant, compassionate doctor, Jim Olson. The intellect, love, devotion and progressive spirit which these two men bring to their mission has never before been shared on the same stage. Please join us, and give yourself the gift of an evening of music, good food and drink, and - most importantly - good news about how these gifted researchers are arresting the #1 cause of death (by disease) of children.
Curing pediatric cancer will also lead to cures for adults.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Video Like This Changed My Life

Ben Towne Center T Cells Interacting with Neuroblastoma Cells from ben towne foundation on Vimeo.

A video like this one changed my life.

I will always remember the moment; we were attending a summer party in a beautiful condominium in Seattle. We had been invited to meet a newly-arrived researcher; he had been in town for all of five days.

We knew just a couple of the other guests, two of whom were Carin and Jeff Towne, Ben's parents.

We mingled, we admired the view, ate and drank, and then we gathered in the living room to hear the doctor - who had just joined Seattle Children's Research Institute - talk about his work.

He showed a video like the one above, except that the cancer being destroyed was a brain tumor. I leaned against a wall in stunned silence, watching this solid tumor disappear, and felt the tears welling up. I turned to Carin and choked out a whispered, This is it - this is what we've been praying for!

I saw my prayers being answered in that video.

Yes, it happened too late to save Ben and Katie. Yes, we didn't see those prayers answered in their lifetime; but we have the privilege to see them answered in OUR lifetime - and that fact has changed my life for the better. You see, we are able to contribute to, and witness, this life-saving, non-toxic treatment keeping other families from going through what we endured - what Katie, Hannah, Ben, Jenny, Hayden and countless others have endured - the horrors of poisonous chemotherapy, invasive surgery and (in some cases) radiation, only to die from the disease.

We are here to see the day when cancer treatment does not cause secondary disease and debilitating side effects. That IS answered prayer, and for that, I thank God.

I'm going to be thanking God for this again on April 10th at 7:00 P.M., as I introduce Dr. Michael Jensen to the crowd at Grace Church on Bainbridge Island. I hope you'll be there to hear what he and Dr. Jim Olson have to tell us about this breakthrough, and others which are in the works. You'll have the opportunity to be encouraged with HOPE, and to contribute to a CURE, and I hope that will change your life, as well. We'll also have excellent food, drink and music to share - it's going to be a celebration!

Please tell your friends, and visit
 to reserve your space!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dr. Jim Olson & TEDx Talk

Jim Olson, M.D., is one of the two brilliant cancer researchers who will be on stage at Hannah's Hopeful Hearts at 7:00 P.M. on April 10, 2015 at Grace Church on Bainbridge Island. You can find out why we are so excited to have him speak to us by watching his TEDx talk:
Another way to get to know Jim is by listening to (or reading the transcript of) his interview with NPR. You can find that interview HERE.

Jim was one of Katie's attending physicians. Although his specialty is brain tumors, and he is a gifted researcher, one of his greatest gifts is his bedside manner. We appreciated his tender care when he attended Katie. Our friend, Kathleen Strum, whose younger son, Hayden, was one of Jim's patients in the 1990s had first told us about Jim; he also attended Hannah Hunt, for whom Hannah's Hopeful Hearts is named.
Jim's Tumor Paint and his other inventions through Project Violet have the potential to revolutionize and improve cancer care. Please join us by ordering your tickets and/or donating to this work at

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bloedel Reserve's Stroll for Well-Being

You have likely read here about the Stroll for Well-Being at the Bloedel Reserve - how much I enjoyed the pilot program in 2014, how it inspired me to photograph, write and draw from nature, and the peace and healing which I experienced as a result.

Part of the reason I loved this program is expressed by Mark Nepo in his Book of Awakening, in the passage for March 12th (titled "In the Likeness of Everything"):
In truth, we each carry within our own innate makeup, like chromosomes, the minute aspects of everything that forms the Universe. And so, the art of freedom becomes the necessary adventure of grasping the secrets that are everywhere in the open and stirring their aspects within us, in such a way that we come alive: learning from the fish how to surface and dive, from the flower how to open and accept, from the stone how to crack and let the light in, and from the birds that wings are more useful at times than brains.
I'm thrilled to report that I have been invited to be a facilitator of the program, starting next month. The founder of the Stroll for Well-Being at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is Dr. Ruth G. McCaffrey (a professor at Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University). Dr. McCaffrey facilitated the pilot program for us last year, and it will be a privilege to work alongside her and to learn from all of her experiences.

If you live in the area and are interested in joining the program, please contact Erin Jennings at - we'd love to welcome you!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"If a Schmuck Like Me Can Do It..."

Book cover
In the early seventies a friend kept telling me, “Whatever you do, don’t try to make those feelings go away.” His advice went on: “Anything you can learn about working with your sense of discouragement or your sense of fear or your sense of bewilderment or your sense of feeling inferior or your sense of resentment—anything you can do to work with those things—do it, please, because it will be such an inspiration to other people.” 

That was really good advice. So when I would start to become depressed, I would remember, “Now wait a minute. Maybe I just have to figure out how to rouse myself genuinely, because there are a lot of people suffering like this, and if I can do it, they can do it.” I felt a sense of interconnectedness. “If a schmuck like me can do it, anybody can do it.” That’s what I used to say, that if a miserable person like me—who’s completely caught up in anger and depression and betrayal—if I can do it, then anyone can do it, so I’m going to try.  - The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chödrön (pages 100–101)
I'm grateful that Pema Chodron persevered in this. Her writings have inspired me.

Have you ever thought of your own journey in this way? Has it occurred to you that what you have been through - whatever it is that has been an occasion for your perseverance - might give others hope in their own times of trial or darkness?

A number of bloggers and other writers have provided this kind of inspiration for me. Many of them are featured on my blog's sidebar; some of them have written books which I've shared here. Some have served as a kind of "lifeline" for me in the depths of my grief, or during times of betrayal, or losing sight of the next step in the way forward.

If you are enduring a dark time, I hope you will consider that honoring your own inner journey might just be the way through to the light for you. Write down your feelings, draw them, dance, or walk, or paint, plant a garden, write music - whatever comes to you creatively - do it. You needn't share publicly unless you are moved to do so, but do honor your feelings; don't bury or ignore them. Your journey matters, your life matters, and the fact that you find your way through the darkness to the light (and how you do it) may someday instill hope in someone who has lost sight of how to find their way. Remember Pema's words, "If a schmuck like me can do it, anyone can do it."
My mom sent me this glass dish with butterflies in it in honor of Katie's 20th birthday. I filled it with treasures found on the beach on that day. Do you see the "angel's wing" shell on top?
Isn't that a "heavenly" gift?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reiki and Other Blessings

Sunrise on March 8th, 2015
Thank you for your kind thoughts and words around Katie's 20th birthday. We had a lovely day - which is in itself a kind of miracle, considering the circumstances - including a beach walk, delicious brunch at Alchemy Bistro and Wine Bar in Port Townsend, and a movie, with popcorn for dinner. A truly "Katie" kind of day.
Toasting Katie at brunch
Last week, I had the pleasure of accompanying our friend Charlotte on a tour of Building Hope at Seattle Children's Hospital. You may recall that David and I had a brief tour of the building in November for the purpose of a photo shoot, featuring Katie's Comforters Guild in the Guild News.
A patient receiving her blanket from Katie's Comforters Guild, represented by yours truly
On Thursday, Charlotte and I toured the Emergency Department, Cancer Ward and the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. This new building is a great advancement upon what was available to us during Katie's treatment eight years ago. It is absolutely state-of-the-art, in every way.

There were wonderful surprises for me on this day, as we were met by several staff members who had taken care of Katie at her most fragile: during chemotherapy, and after her 18-hour surgery. It was a pleasure to be able to introduce these gifted caregivers to our friend, and to have them explain to her what they do, and how the facilities in this new building make it possible to make patients and families even more comfortable during the most stressful time in their lives.
We ran into one of Katie's dear oncology nurses
I am grateful to Drs. Baden, Brogan, Jeffries and Mazur for their generosity with their time on Thursday. I'm also thankful for all that they and their colleagues have done (and are doing) to save children's lives, as well as to the nurses and technicians who support their work - and to the donors who made this building possible! It truly is a team effort.

Since taking first-degree (Shoden) Reiki in November, I have been practicing daily, and looking forward to taking the next class (Okuden, or second-degree). I was able to do this a couple of weekends ago through Emerald City Reiki in Seattle.
My certificate of completion, with gratitude to Reiki Master Claire O'Shea.

Reiki brings peace, balance, calmness and relief from physical problems such as pain, digestive upset, stress, insomnia and much more. The potential for healing seems unlimited. The more I read about it, the more I enjoy learning from its practice, for Reiki isn't something that one learns from reading; practice is the most important way to learn. I find it has given me a new way to pray for myself, and others; it has restored a language of prayer which I had lost, and enhanced it, by keeping it free from "dogma." This freedom leads to pure joy and love when practicing Reiki. I think of it as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, or healing power of God. [If you have questions about it, one of the best books I've read is called "Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide" by Pamela Miles.]

Update on Grandma:  we now have a routine in place for supporting Gregg's parents. We all take turns bringing Grandpa Ed to see Grandma Elaine, sit beside her bed with him until he gets tired, and then take him back to his home in assisted living (we are still waiting for a bed to open for Elaine in the same facility where she and Ed have been living). Gregg visits his mother nearly every day after work.

I am thoroughly enjoying serving on the board of the Bainbridge Public Library. What an interesting and generous group of people! At each meeting, I learn new things, and am grateful for the kindness and sense of community spirit among the members. Last Friday was my first time helping to host an artist's exhibit during the "First Friday" Art Walk. We host a different artist in the Community Room of the library each month. This month, I'll take a class to qualify for a certificate which will allow me to serve wine at these events.
Field's End (a committee of the Bainbridge Public Library) continues to offer opportunities for growth and stimulation for writers in our community. This week, we're hosting a Story Slam at Treehouse Cafe on Bainbridge Island, and on March 20th, there will be an Open Mic at the Poulsbo branch of Kitsap Regional Library. A Travel Writing Workshop will be taught by Perry Garfinkel in May through Field's End. If any of these events sound like fun to you, please visit for more information.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hannah's Hopeful Hearts - Join Us April 10th!

Please join us!
Mark your calendar,
and go to
to reserve your tickets! Space is limited; don't miss this special event!
Gregg and I are delighted to invite you to join us at Hannah’s Hopeful Hearts on Friday, April 10th, 2015, 7:00 pm at Grace Church on Bainbridge Island.  This event is in memory of Hannah Hunt and our daughter Katie, two vibrant, beloved girls who passed away from pediatric cancer.

The first Hannah’s Hopeful Hearts event in March, 2010 was an enormous success, raising funds for brain tumor research which were critical in the development of Dr. Jim Olson’s Tumor Paint, which is now in clinical trials.  Tumor Paint aids in surgery by illuminating only cancerous cells, improving outcomes by leaving healthy brain cells untouched. Further innovative research is being pursued by Jim and his colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center under the name of Project Violet. They are creating a new class of nature-derived compounds that treat cancer (and other diseases) while leaving healthy cells untouched.

The Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research supports the Jensen Lab at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research (BTCCCR). The Jensen Lab is named for Dr. Michael Jensen, a Bainbridge Island resident and the director of the BTCCCR at Seattle Children's Research Institute. Under Mike’s leadership, the BTCCR has achieved great success with its T-Cell (immunotherapy) research, targeting the most common childhood cancers - leukemia, neuroblastoma, brain tumors and sarcomas.  Currently, 11 children (and counting) who have been treated through the BTCCR’s clinical trials are in remission! A new clinical trial treating relapsed neuroblastoma has been launched, and there is hopeful progress for curing brain tumors with T-Cell therapy, as well. 

At the Hannah’s Hopeful Hearts event on April 10th, you will hear presentations by, and a moderated discussion with, Dr. Olson and Dr. Jensen – two leading lights in cancer research who have never before shared a stage.  Hannah’s mother, Reba Ferguson, and I will speak briefly on behalf of families supporting Jim’s and Mike’s work. Wine and beer, light hors d’oeuvres and a simple dessert buffet will be provided; the evening will conclude with a lively concert by the band St. Paul de Vence.  This band is featured on The Violet Sessions CD, a creative project which supports the Olson Lab. If you’d like to hear a sample of their music, go to .

Please reserve your spot now at,
and join us and the Hunt-Ferguson family for an inspirational evening, furthering the work of these two brilliant doctors in their mutual goal of finding less toxic, more effective treatments for pediatric cancer. If you are unable to join us on April 10th, you may make a donation via the same link (perhaps your employer will match your gift).

With hope and gratitude,
Karen and Gregg Gerstenberger

 Special thanks to our Title Sponsor, Windermere Real Estate of Bainbridge Island, WA

Hannah’s Hopeful Hearts 2015 benefits:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy Birthday, My Sweet

 Today is Katie's 20th birthday.
Her light and her love first came into our lives 
on this day in 1995
and for that,
we are grateful beyond words.

I can imagine her at the age of 20.

She has been showing signs of her ongoing presence 
in tender ways this week,
for which I'm thankful.

She taught us important lessons in her own unique style,
and her precious life continues to teach us.
We love you, Sweetheart! Happy Birthday!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Precious Days

My mom and I had the pleasure and privilege of traveling once again to Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico for a week of wellness, spending lots of time together, as well as following our favorite individual pursuits. It was the perfect blend of time to reflect, exercise, learn new things, deepen practices, refresh our bodies from the inside (with organic foods and balanced nutrition) to the outside (with fresh air, walking, hiking, yoga and meditation, among other classes).

We serendipitously met (and reunited with) fabulous, fascinating people, finding our second time to be more sociable than our first - perhaps that was due to our greater familiarity with the place. We shared the same lovely casita as we did last year, lighting fires in the evenings and talking, resting and reading in our little "home away from home." I enjoyed self-treating with Reiki every day, before heading out to hike at 6:10 A.M. I could so easily imagine settling there...

We both thrived at the Rancho, and are already looking forward to returning next year (if possible, by the grace of God). Gregg spent the days golfing, playing tennis, watching polo and lounging with my father in California.
We flew down via San Diego so that we could meet KBL2ORD2SAN and her belovED. Mom and I met her at the airport last year, but this year, our husbands got to join us. What a thrill, after being blogging buddies for so many years, to finally be all together "in real life!" We had a long, leisurely lunch, and left still bursting with things to talk about. Until next time...
Driving from San Diego to the Coachella Valley was a beautiful experience to share with Gregg. As we crested the top of the last hill on Highway 74, the valley unfolded before us at sunset.
Unfortunately, while we were away, my dear mother-in-law, Elaine, suffered a stroke. Elaine is 93 years old - in fact, the stroke occurred at her birthday party - and has for several years suffered from memory loss. She has been telling us for the past couple of years that she doesn't know why she is still here - she says it matter-of-factly, without self-pity or complaint.
Elaine and Ed Gerstenberger, "back in the day"
When the stroke occurred, she became paralyzed on her left side and was unable to swallow. Hospice was called, and she was moved to a nursing home with a dismal prognosis. But her miraculous body has recovered enough for her to swallow soft foods. She is sleeping a lot, but can recognize us and speak a few words at a time. We are hoping that she will be able to move back to the assisted living facility where she and Grandpa Ed normally reside, into a nursing-care unit. As for now, it is day-by-day, with lots of family in attendance, sitting by her bedside and driving Grandpa back and forth to see her. Fortunately, they raised four wonderful kids (now adults, with families of their own) who love her deeply, and are all doing their best to care for her and Grandpa.

These are precious days, indeed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cancer Cure

Did you happen to see this article in Seattle Business magazine's December issue?
If you missed it, please check it out - it is worth a read for information, and intilling HOPE. Cures are coming, and some of them are coming through Seattle.
Cancer Cure, Inc.

Monday, February 2, 2015

If - by Rudyard Kipling

This poem speaks of life's disappointments, setbacks, betrayals, heartbreak, slander - and some of the virtues which can help us to survive them with our hearts intact, moment by moment.

If— By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
...with thanks to Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll and the entire Seattle Seahawks team for an inspiring season.