Monday, March 14, 2022

Always More and Radiation

The mock tattoo

@RubyHirsch drew on me.

 Radiation… The last time I had it, they stuffed the lower half of my body (ribcage down) into a bag that they vacuum sealed. I nearly hyperventilated as the bag merged my arms against my body so tightly for 45 minutes that my wedding ring bit into my thigh and left a bruise. This “therapy” is so strong it literally kills cells. No wonder brain  radiation caused the worst headaches ever, and back radiation created stomach issues and nausea that brought me down to a frail size one.

Although I knew about the most recent tumor, I didn’t think about it or the implications yesterday. Instead I experienced one of the best days ever with Mike and my oldest daughter. Thank God I could hold onto that before receiving daunting news today.

Let me explain…

Shortly after signing the book deal, the publisher emailed me. He suggested using a picture of me (in a hospital gown and possibly with my violin) for the book’s cover. That surprised me, and I didn’t know what to think about it, until I messaged my editor. I’d had a fantastic idea. “Remember the chapter about the woman with the ‘always more’ tattoo?”

He immediately caught on because that man is a genius! “Too bad you don’t know a tattoo artist!” he wrote back.

I broke out laughing because we both know my daughter works in a tattoo parlor! She has become such a successful artist that she does multiple tattoos a day and is still booked out a couple of months! 

So, I contacted Ruby (the best artist in the world). “Could you do a mock tattoo? Maybe a rainbow feather with the words ‘always more’?”

Ruby is so selfless and supportive—in fact, she is “always more” than I could’ve hoped for. She immediately jumped on board and got some ideas. Then, yesterday—her only day off—Ruby crafted a tattoo on my arm so it could be seen while I play the violin and Mike took pictures. I felt so fancy getting worked on in the same chair where Ruby tattoos her clients. She made the experience extra-classy. And when Mike took my pictures, I felt beautiful despite the hospital gown or the scarf that hid my short hair.

It’s amazing how things work out. Thank God I got that fake, long-lasting tattoo yesterday because I traced the beautiful design as the orthopedic oncologist called and gave me terrible news today. “We’ve discussed the possible need for surgery…to strengthen your femur so it won’t break where the new tumor is.”

I gasped despite my normal guarded reactions. “Surgery?! Really?”

“Well, luckily you don’t need surgery…yet. And if you opt for radiation, you might get away from surgery altogether. It could shrink the tumor. But…if you don’t get radiation, as I’m told you’d prefer, there’s a big chance this new tumor will grow and you could even break your leg.”

I paused, took a breath, and looked at the fake tattoo my oldest daughter had drawn with so much love. The feather shone brightly, and the words “always more” practically glowed as I studied them. It means there’s always more to people’s stories than you might guess. There’s always more to your future—some surprise to make your lives shine even brighter. There’s something positive to focus on, even when things appear dim. God brings in the night, but He always ignites the morning! If you dig deep enough you’ll find more strength, more courage, more hope. There really is ALWAYS MORE….if you just look for it!

“Are you okay? Elisa…” the doctor’s voice pulled me from my thoughts 

I brought myself back to the moment. “Yes. I was just thinking how grateful I am that I don’t need surgery. I swore I’d never get radiation again. But you did a great job of putting that in perspective. Not getting surgery, well, that’s suddenly like Christmas in March.”

He laughed. “I guess that’s one way to look at it. The radiology team will be calling you shortly. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“You already helped me reframe this. I’ll be okay.”

And just before I could hang up, he said, “Hey, Elisa?”


“It was really nice to talk with you. Cancer can be so hard, but the patients…well, you have such a great way of looking at life.”

I subdued a sob that had suddenly formed in my throat. “Thank you! That means a lot. Really.”

I hung up, looked at the proposed book cover pictures from yesterday, and smiled. I’m so glad life can be awesome despite hardships. That being said, I better buckle up for more rounds of radiation. If the good moments really do outweigh the bad, then the opposite of femur radiation ought to be pretty d*mn amazing!