Italy Highlights

I spent my 49th summer in fear. For three months, I was sidelined from pretty much everything normal and routine. Stomach pain was always present and food was my enemy.

After eight weeks of doctor visits and tests by nearly as many specialists, I was told the most likely cause of my illness was pancreatic cancer. As I awaited the test results that would confirm or deny that diagnosis, I did what I’m sure anyone in that situation would do: I became very contemplative. I thought about my relationships, about how much I loved my family and friends. I searched my heart and my mind for ways I could live a more meaningful and happy life if I was given the chance.

Regrets? Yes, I had a few, but the one that kept rising to the surface surprised me. When the test results proved negative and I finally found my way through that pain and illness to the other side, I knew I had to see Italy.

I spent the next year studying the country’s regions and developing the itinerary of my dreams. Working with a travel agent in Venice, we booked all our arrangements, including private tours in Siena, Florence, Venice and Rome. In September 2007, our three-week adventure began. It was the trip of a lifetime and one I’ll cherish forever.

Even more importantly, as that year of preparation went by, I not only got to feeling better, but also became more clear-minded and focused. I became more willing to see the positive and to overlook the small interruptions and slights that accompany daily life. I chose to be more deliberate, more present to enjoy the people and the moments that bring me joy.

It is fair to say that in the things that matter most, my 49th summer became my first.


This photo book contains my 25 favorite shots of the more than 2,000 I took while in Italy. I designed the pages and adhered them within a photo album I bought while in Florence.

This slide show is set to music so to enjoy it fully, please ensure your speakers are on before hitting the play button. To view the slide show in full-screen format, click on the four small arrows at the right bottom corner, just above the credits. To exit full-screen mode, hit Escape.

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