‘This is my second chance …’


Angie kids at sunsest
“We go near sunset, when it rains, when it snows… We try to take in God’s amazing canvas. We can leave behind all of the life challenges, stressors, any illness/cancer, and just slow down for a moment to reconnect with one another.”  —  Angie Hartley
angie & co @ concert
Summer concerts and festivals are high priority for, from left, Abbie, Cade and Angie Hartley, here in 2017.

The new Angie Hartley doesn’t wait to do things.
Cancer has taught her she can’t: Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us

“The cancer does’t have the hold on me it used to, but it’s still part of my life in terms of influence.”

* When the magic of the beach calls, she and her kids go;

* She celebrates their “half-birthdays” at the 6-month mark;

“There are times when I feel guilty that my son doesn’t have the old me who could run and lift; but he’s getting the better parts of me that were hidden by the business of life.”

8 years and a lifetime ago

When Angie and I met eight years ago, the then 37-year-old single mother was dealing with a rare form of invasive breast cancer that accounts for less than 1 percent of breast cancers.

She had endured multiple surgeries, including a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. She faced more surgery and treatment. She was thinking about making a will.

Angie & kids B&W
Strength to the power of 3

“If I’m going to have cancer, I’m blessed to have this type I do,” she said when I wrote about her then.  “My cancer is not affecting a body part I can’t have removed and don’t need.” For the full interview visit:


Those treatments over, she is being treated for osteoporosis and was diagnosed with skin cancer last year, for which she did topical chemo.

“There was so much fear of the unknown in the past … and there still is,” she says reflectively.

She focuses on the present, but when the sense of loss or fear is overwhelming, she’s learned to go  directly at it, then get on with living.

Hit rough times head-on but avoid The Pit

“Back when I was sick, and I still do, you need your moments to mourn the old you in a burst, then get back to business.

“Any longer, and it’s like a pit: I don’t want to play there,” she says, referencing lyrics from “Pit of Despair. ”

A woman of strong faith who sees the divine in her second chance, Angie wants to help  others through what she calls a ministry focused on food: for mind and body.

Diet is hugely important in her life, and she has just finished a certificate program in plant-based nutrition though eCornell University. She talks of using it  “to help encourage those battling cancer and chronic illness with a healthier diet to support further healing.

“My goal is to speak hope and life to others.”

She and her two children have been on the giving and receiving ends of the support that is Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.

“I was at Gilda’s grand opening (Feb. 15, 2001), and I ended up teaching a class there.”

When she was diagnosed with cancer, she gravitated back.

Gilda’s garden magic

“When I did not feel well, I would go to Gilda’s and walk the gardens, my kids would play outside and walk or run the labyrinth. We’d meet in the middle and lay down on the grass and look at the sky.”

Both children forged long-term connections with Gilda’s Camp Sparkle. The Club’s summer program invites kids to connect with other kids affected by cancer or grief. http://www.gildasclubgr.org/camp-sparkle/

“My kids love it. This camp is a safe place.”

Son Cade, 9, is a five-time camper; daughter Abbie, 14, was first a camper then worked as a volunteer for two years.

As someone who struggled with the aftermath of a parent’s cancer, Abbie was able to connect with kids and help them in a way an adult couldn’t, Angie said.

Make memories: Take pictures

Angie still takes tons of photos, even though she no longer works as a photographer.

“My kids say I take too many pictures, but I can take a picture and it’s like I’m filing that moment in my brain. Otherwise I don’t remember it.”

Making memories starts with a decision on how to spent a precious resource.

Angie is very intentional with how she spends her time.

“We all need to slow down and cherish the time we do have. Make the time you have count.”




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