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Renewed Appreciation for Family

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

Karen Shirer
On Wednesday, April 8, I will see many of you at the annual Qualey-Skjervold Professional Development Conference at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. After six months of medical leave to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I returned to work on February 25.

The memories and emotions of my journey to complete remission are beginning to fade, but several positive outcomes remain fixed in my heart. My husband and two daughters plus their spouses were rock stars of support and care. It was not always easy for them, especially during the six hospital stays for chemotherapy, as well as the recovery from a broken leg caused by the cancer (another separate hospital stay of six days).

Karen Shirer with Green Bay blanket
Wrapped in family love.
In addition to my own family, my six brothers and their spouses plus children in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Wyoming were very much there for me. They all visited at least once during my treatments and their frequent phone calls and text messages kept up my spirits. Just before Thanksgiving, I received a new fleece blanket in my beloved Green Bay Packer colors in the mail. My brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews all signed it on the backside with a sharpie and a personal message. I absolutely love that blanket and feel like I am wrapped in love when I use it.

You will note a theme here — family. Given my profession, I thought that I understood the importance of family, but little did I know how important family is when facing a major health crisis. In my return to work, I’ve renewed my commitment to strengthening, promoting, and healing families. We do such important work through our Health and Nutrition and Family Resiliency programs. I hope to share some of my enthusiasm during the conference.

The last positive outcome I want to share is my renewed appreciation for all of my co-workers and the support they bring during difficult times. We often try to keep work and family separate, but as many of us know, we really can’t. Work provides meaningful purpose and support in our lives. I am grateful for experiencing this once again in my work.

Travel safely to the conference and come rested for a full two days.
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