The Rule

Kathleen M. Spurrier, RNC, OCN
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Gynecologic Oncol
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

My cousin Mary is a funny 49 year old busy woman, wife, mother, and engineer. She never has a moment to spare. So, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured several surgeries and complications, including a TRAM flap reconstruction, her life was turned upside down. She became dependent and very sad. Her husband Joe decided that he could not sit back and let this happen. So, he decided to issue a new challenge to Mary everyday.

Each day, he dared her to walk a certain distance measured by their neighbors' houses. Mary met each challenge with her usual courage and spirit. But it seemed as though her funny bone was gone--Or was it?

After a while Joe issued what he thought would be the ultimate challenge: to walk out of their development to the bridge over a nearby creek. This route was quite lovely and included several hilly stretches. Mary met the challenge. She proudly told Joe of her conquest that evening. Instead of a pat on the back, Joe asked, "Did you spit in the creek?" Mary looked at him in astonishment and replied, "No!"

Joe responded, "Well, it doesn't count if you don't spit in the creek. That's 'the rule'!"

Mary, never one to pass up an adventure, set off to prove herself with this "new rule" in mind. When she got to the creek, she tried to spit. But Mary was a properly brought up young lady and she was unable to spit. She knew she could do it. So, she kept trying. She was laughing so hard imagining people seeing her trying to spit, but she was persistent. Finally she did it! Now she does it every time she crosses the creek.

Several months later Jane, a young mother from around the corner, came to visit Mary. Jane had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and she had hear that Jane had fought the same problem. Jane had her four year old daughter Jill with her. Mary suspected that Jane might be in need of a challenge. The three of them set out across the bridge. When they arrived at the creek, Mary explained "the rule" to all three of them. This task proved very difficult. They were all laughing so hard. But they were all successful!

Later, Jane called Mary and told her how much she and Jill enjoyed the outing. Now Jane's biggest problem was explaining to her mother-in-law about why Jill needed to follow "the rule!"

Some folks think spitting is for men. But laughter is the best medicine. So, if in your travels, you happen to see a group of very well-bred young ladies standing on a bridge, trying to spit--just wave and laugh along with them--remember they know "the rule."


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