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December 5, 2005

My husband Daniel Shurman and I live in Cambridge, MA. Daniel is a designer by background and is working here on an information systems product. We sold our house in Palo Alto, CA and moved to Cambridge so that I can be a student at the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS). Daniel will be the author of much of what you read here, though the story begins mostly with me.

I came to EDS after two rewarding careers: I was a university professor of public speaking and interpersonal/organizational communication for almost two decades and then another two decades as a visionary/strategic planner in brand name corporate and consulting settings; my specialty was articulating consumer attitudes about technology and its use.

We are the proud parents of three wonderful people and the enthusiastic grandmother of three amazing children. We renewed our wedding vows on our fifteenth anniversary in November of 2003.

This website is intended to be a travel documentary of our adventures as we confront the intersection of highly advanced medical science and deep spiritual practice in the course of pursuing treatment for my Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

In June of 2002 I was diagnosed with an advanced case of leukemia. It did not take much reading about the nature of my disease before I realized that I had very few months to live. My doctors urged me to undergo severe chemotherapy, though they admitted that toxic drugs and a month of confinement to Stanford Hospital could do little more than extend my life a few months.

On July 31, 2002 just prior to my entering the hospital, I learned of Ignatius’ 30-day Spiritual Exercises at the midweek chapel service of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. I had wanted to do a spiritual retreat, but could never seem to find time in my busy work schedule. Now, the timing seemed miraculously perfect: the doctors had told me that I would be in the hospital 30 days, that I would have little pain, that patients complained most about the boredom, and that in any case my life expectancy was short. (They were not so blunt, of course.) As I committed to devote my hospital time to doing the spiritual exercises, I experienced a sensation, assuring me that my life was safe in God’s hands. I found consolation in my decision when I read Ignatius’ “Principle and Foundation”; it seemed that Ignatius was speaking directly to me. My healing would come from overcoming the disorder of my life--biologically and spiritually.

My medical adventures turned out to be much worse than anyone expected as the result of a kidney failure that led to heart failure and more complications. Yet my spiritual adventures were full of wonder. At the very worst point of my stay, our rector Margaret Irwin stayed in my room through the night, sleeping on the floor and keeping me in her prayer. During the last four weeks in the hospital I had considerable nausea which prevented me from eating. Eucharist was brought to me frequently; I had sensations which I have subsequently learned were like those of medieval nuns. Being fed exclusively by the Spirit and the Host produced deeply religious experiences for me.

Although the bone marrow biopsy done just prior to my leaving the hospital (after a two month stay) showed that my leukemia had returned, I was too sick from complications for any further treatment. The doctors were kind, but the evidence was strong that I was dying. My medical turn around came when I took myself off a large daily dose of heart medication. I regained appetite and began to get stronger. By late November my kidney function had returned enough for me to get off dialysis. My doctors agreed that I was strong enough to go to our beach house in N.C. where we stayed for four months: watching the ocean, praying, chasing our grandson, eating Daniels amazing barbeque and tangerines, and getting enough strength to remodel the kitchen. I found a miracle of healing there. A bone marrow biopsy in October of 2003, a year after I left the hospital, showed no sign of leukemia.

I first heard of the Episcopal Divinity School when my rector at All Saints' Palo Alto gave me a blue peace button. Because the button was so special to me, I looked up EDS on the Web and learned of the Certificate Program. By the summer of 2003, I was feeling healthy and began to speculate that I might be in a long term remission from leukemia. Learning about EDS seemed like yet another miracle. EDS would be the place where I could discern God’s purpose for my life and equip myself to pursue that purpose. I planned to come to EDS for one year, and if my leukemia stayed in remission through 2004, I would consider staying for a Master’s Degree. Having passed the critical point of two years of survival, I entered the M.Div program confidently in September.

On October 15, 2005, the third anniversary of my discharge from Stanford Hospital, blood tests showed that leukemia has returned to my bone marrow. These three years have been the best of my life. I am grateful for all the blessings of these years, especially for EDS and for three grandchildren who are each a miracle of life and God’s love. As I did in 2002, I now must live assuming that my life here is short and to be lived in the most God-centered way I can find. While saying this, I am confident that God has a purpose for me.

Daniel and I welcome you to join us in our travel through medical and spiritual adventures. Be prepared for a lot of grandparent bragging in these pages. Our children, Ron, Jennifer, and Debrah as well as our wonderful sons-in-law Scott and Ryan will show up from time to time. We have four grand-dogs that may make an occasional appearance here.

Welcome along, Bonnie and Daniel