Off to Worthington, MN with gratitude…

WORTHINGTON — In March of 2003, Ruth Bachman was a left-handed wife and mother facing an incomprehensible cancer diagnosis. Today, she describes herself as “a right-handed woman, wife, mother and grandmother in apparent good health.”

Bachman will share the lessons learned from that transformation during two church services and a workshop, “Negotiating Change: Don’t Stick Your Head in the Sand” Sunday at Worthington’s American Lutheran Church.

Bachman’s appearance in Worthington is in conjunction with the annual Thankoffering service coordinated by the American Lutheran Church Women. Each year, the women of the church plan and conduct the Sunday services and often bring in a guest speaker. The Rev. Bruce Carlson, currently interim pastor at ALC, suggested they consider Bachman for the task.

“In decades previous, we were pastor and parishioner,” he explained about how he knows Bachman. “It goes back to my second parish — Richfield Lutheran in South Minneapolis. It was an interesting beginning, because Ruth married Dale Bachman, and a week later joined me on a youth trip out west to the Cascade Mountains. She had been married one week and spent the next 10 days of her life with a group of 45 high school kids.”

When Carlson moved on to another parish, he lost touch with Bachman, but through mutual friends, he heard about her cancer diagnosis and the effect it had on her life.

A Minnesota native, Bachman lives in Eden Prairie with her husband of 37 years, Dale. They have two children and two grandchildren. With a degree in elementary education, she has been a kindergarten teacher, a childbirth educator, an aerobics instructor, a children’s choir director, a travel guide, a volunteer coordinator and has spoken on behalf of a number of organizations, including the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

When Bachman developed a soft lump in her wrist — what she initially thought was the result of a fall while trying out new ice skates — she ignored it for seven weeks, hoping it would go away. But an MRI showed a six-inch mass beginning in her hand and extending into her forearm. A biopsy determined it was a high-grade malignant fibrous histiosytoma — a very uncommon form of cancer.

She had been referred to Denis Clohisy, M.D., a professor or orthopaedic surgery at the University of Minnesota and Masonic Cancer Center researcher, who recommended a course of treatment that included chemotherapy and then amputation of her left hand and part of her forearm.

“I told my doctor that I would not accept amputation,” she recalls on her website, “He encouraged me to accept — to choose — life without my left hand. … I began occupational therapy for one-handedness and right-hand coordination. I asked how I would accomplish everyday tasks like putting on jewelry, my bra and pantyhose; slicing, chopping and cooking; handwriting; managing zippers, buttons and tying shoes; just to mention a few.”

In June 2003, the amputation was performed.

A year later, Bachman recalls that she “felt fortunate to be alive. I was strong, independent, determined and successfully negotiating my life. I was cooking, practicing yoga, traveling independently to Italy, doing strength training with a prosthetic device that I had designed. My penmanship was at about the seventh-grade level, and I had become a grandmother.”

Because of the high level of care she’d received from Clohisy and the Masonic Cancer Center, Bachman sought a way to give back and joined the center’s Community Advisory Board, putting her speaking skills to use. She named her fundraising effort the Hourglass Fund, because she likes the imagery.

“The sand represents us, and the narrow spot in the hourglass represents the tough times we go through,” she described. “Look at the sand going through an hourglass. It’s the same sand on the bottom as it was on the top, but it’s arranged differently. That’s us after we go through a tough situation — and it doesn’t have to be cancer; it can be any sort of difficult time, from losing your job to having to bury a parent. We’re the same person we were before. But we have to discover what the new arrangement of the sand is and what it means, that’s the challenge.”

The Hourglass Fund is directed toward integrative research efforts conducted by the Masonic Cancer Center University of Minnesota and the Center for Spirituality and Healing.

“I am a woman of fact, but I’m also a woman of faith,” said Bachman. “I have found a great source of strength in knowing that God is always with me.”

Bachman has set a fundraising goal of $1 million, but she also wants to leave a positive message along the way.

“My goal in telling my story is to encourage and inspire others to live life — every day — experiencing all of life’s moments as they contribute to the authenticity we all long for,” Bachman writes in her blog. “Life is full of issues and challenges not of our choosing. What we get to choose is our attitude and how we respond to our moments. That is where bravery shines.”

Ruth Bachman will speak during the 8 and 10:15 a.m. services Sunday at American Lutheran Church, 915 Winifred St., Worthington. She will also present a workshop, “Negotiating Change: Don’t Stick Your Head in the Sand” from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the church. The interactive workshop is intended for anyone facing ordinary or extraordinary challenges, as well as their partners, families and friends. Participants will “gain new perspective on how to manage response to change; learn tools to harness the power of choosing to embrace rather than resist it; and leave empowered to choose your attitude as well as your actions in response to whatever happens to you.” A free-will offering will be taken.

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