Savage Inspirations, a new business in Annawan, is the result of Diane Savage’s journey with cancer.

Savage Inspirations, a new business in Annawan, is the result of Diane Savage’s journey with cancer.

After teaching junior high language arts for 25 years in Annawan, Savage retired, and she and her husband, Berk, opened Savage Inspirations, which she believes “is a dream come true.”

The shop, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, mixes the old with the new by re-purposing old furniture, building new furniture from barn wood, making signs and many different crafts. The couple also offers new home accessories and does custom orders.

“My cancer journey began in April of 2012 when I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and within a matter of days was in the surgery room having a mastectomy,” Savage said.

That surgery confirmed the cancer was in Savage’s lymph nodes which meant rounds of chemotherapy. After nine rounds, the tumors had shrunk, but the cancer had found its way to her thyroid.

“Back to surgery I went for a thyroidectomy,” she said. “I was then allowed to get on with my 42 rounds of radiation.”

Savage said when she felt things were “under control something else came up.”

“I remember feeling pretty defeated, then the school where I taught sent a photo to my home to let me know they had my back. The entire district, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and staff, was all dressed in ‘Think pink for Diane’ shirts and the photo showed all of them forming the breast cancer ribbon to let me know that I was not in this fight alone.”

About that same time Savage realized she was not in control of anything, “God was,” she said. “Once I accepted that, I found things started to improve. I surrendered this journey to Him and asked for Him to show the way.”

Shortly after surgery in 2013, she was hospitalized again due to an infection.

“I spent the summer healing to return to what I loved — teaching,” she said. “My sixth through eighth graders were ready for my return as much as I was.”

The journey was difficult, meshing the cancer world with the work world.

Her seventh-grade class was interested in her journey and asked questions which prompted her to write about the process in a journal.

“This not only helped my students understand, but also helped me put into words what I was going through,” she said.

In the summer of 2016, Savage was scheduled for a hysterectomy, but before surgery, a CT scan determined the cancer had advanced into her bones.

“I had spots in my hips sternum, ribs, and spine,” she said. “It had become Stage IV Metastatic which means it can’t be cured, but treated and hopefully maintained. The goal is to be able to stay on a drug that will keep the cancer under control.”

At this point in her life, Savage decided to “live for me.”

“I decided I wanted to stop worrying about making a living and make a life of what ever life I have left. The hardest decision was to retire from teaching at the end of the 2017 school year to pursue some of my dreams.”

Savage’s seventh graders knew she also had another dream. She was an athlete and had been a coach much of her adult life.

“The one goal I was never able to accomplish was going to the state championship and play or coach in Red Bird Arena (Illinois State),” she said. “Last year, the junior class of girls who were seventh graders a few years ago won the Super Sectional basketball game. Unfortunately, that was a game I was unable to attend due to illness. I received a message that the team wanted to FaceTime me. I was so excited that all I wanted to do was scream and yell with them, but to my surprise they had something better up their sleeves. They asked if I would come to Bloomington with them as an honorary coach to live the state experience. I couldn’t talk, all I could do was cry. Needless to say, it was everything I had hoped for and more.

“At halftime of the championship game, they were dead tired, but the spark was still twinkling in their eyes. I stood up and told the girls how proud I was of them and the fight was not over because we are ‘Bravette Strong!’ The only thing I had left to offer was for them to rub my bald head because I had so much radiation in this body it would provide them that final push. We came back and won a game that I believe God had a hand in.”

At the present time in her life, Savage chooses to be happy.

“Cancer can consume you and it is very debilitating and if you continue to focus on all the negative you become negative, so I fight to stay happy and it begins with a smile on my face. Sometimes God has to throw a brick at us to get our attention and having cancer is my brick. I am not sure when my journey will be over, whether it is a month from now or six years from now, but what I do know is that there is a reason that I am still here and I want to use whatever time I have left to help others.”

Savage has written a book, “Brave Strong,” about living her life with cancer. The book is available at Amazon and at Savage Inspirations in Annawan.