And this is my sweet Roberta 💓
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Repurposed Steampunk Decorative Size 3/4 Violin Bow By EC Stilson and Michael Magagna.
EC Stilson and Michael Magagna repurposed this old size 3/4 violin and bow using acrylic paint, buttons, fabric, zippers, metal handles, hooks, keys, and various other mixed-media materials.
EC Stilson is currently battling stage four cancer, and all proceeds will go to help her pay medical bills and expenses related to her ongoing cancer treatments.
If you’re interested, you can find that listing here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/155090480017?mkevt=1&mkcid=16&mkrid=711-127632-2357-0
Friday, July 22, 2022
So, last year I studied the perennials and thought, “If doctors are right, these flowers and I have something in common; none of us will see next year.”
At that moment a truck pulled up. Braydon stepped out with his dad. Braydon is one of the coolest, nicest kids in the whole d*mn world. He feels like an adopted son, and all of us adore him because he’s such a great person.
He actually lived with us for a bit in 2019 and 2020. It’s funny that we originally just wanted to help him, but what he did was help us. In fact, he came into our lives when we needed him most.
Anyway, I had never met Braydon’s dad, Shane, before that day. And I could hardly wait to shake his hand and tell him what an amazing son he has!
After I introduced myself and gave Braydon a huge hug, Shane whispered, “I hear you’re fighting cancer…” You can tell he’s a really conscientious guy who didn’t want to bring up the topic if I didn’t want to talk about it.
I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “It’s been rough. Last year, doctors gave me two years to live. So I’ve already spent up half of my time.”
“Well, I…” he paused, “I brought you something.” And he dug into his pocket and handed me a coin.
I raised a brow.
“This might not seem like something special, but it’s lucky. I’ve won thousands of dollars when I’ve had it on me. It’s kept me safe when I could’ve gotten hurt. And now, I want you to keep it—just until you get better.”
“But what if I don’t get better?” I said reluctantly. “Shane, I can’t take this.”
“Hey, now, you are gonna get better! Because you need to give this back to me.”
I broke out laughing and so did Braydon.
“It might seem strange, but I felt like I should give it to you—and it’s the best thing I have to offer because I know it’ll help.”
I glanced over to the flowers Mike had just planted and that saying came to mind: Bloom where you’re planted.
I held the coin tightly. Blooming where you’re planted means to always do your best—no matter where you’re at in life. This kind man wanted to do something for me despite my circumstances, and he offered me this amazing gift—a token he carried all the time. I had to take the coin.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll give this back…when I get better.”
Time passed. And when I’ve been at my lowest or thought I might never be cancer-free, I’ve held the coin in my hand and thought, “I need to get better. I made a promise to give this coin back.”
It might sound silly, but it’s been a reminder to wipe my tears, stand strong, and buck up!
Anyway, today I got home from my 3-day marathon of doctors visits this week. It’s been crazy adjusting to hope and the fact that I might actually beat this. After all, if things continue this way, the rest of the cancer could die, and I might be able to stop treatments in October!
I thought about this as I pulled into my driveway and realized the perennials Mike planted last year had come back to life and bloomed! Not just that, but instead of looking pathetic and dead, parts of our yard actually seem like a beautiful garden.
Bloom where you’re planted.
I thought about how I’ve had to do that, making the best of what time I have left, blindly having faith that God has put me where I’m supposed to be. I didn’t choose to have cancer, become disabled from surgeries and treatments, or begin a fight for my life. But just like Shane did last year, I’ve tried to use what I can to give my best to the people around me. We can find the good in our circumstances, and right now, I’m happy for hope.
I’m so excited for October so I can call Braydon and Shane to tell them it’s time to give the coin back.
I guess the point is that you never know how your situation might be used to help someone else. I never knew what a huge blessing Braydon would be in our lives or how his dad would give me a coin that could help me muster strength throughout my battle with cancer.
I’m gonna bloom right where I’m at. Sure, life didn’t go exactly how I expected, but I’ve become a better person because of the soil and conditions God chose to plant me in.
Thank goodness life doesn’t always go according to plan. I am still the luckiest: I have God, good doctors, AND this coin!
P.S. I tried to take pictures of the flowers, but our cat, Nova, stole the show. I give up 🤣
Here’s the lucky coin Shane gave me in 2021.
Thursday, July 21, 2022
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
I’ve honestly had points during this journey when I thought I would never get used to things, my life would never be “okay” again—and I would never survive this terminal diagnosis.
In fact, I’ve had numerous dreams about floating in a rowboat during a harrowing storm. I’m crying out to God, not asking Him why, but simply asking for Him to either end the storm or to stop the suffering. In a couple of these dreams, the storm finally does abate only for me to end up on the river Styx, constantly paddling away from the ferryman and smacking away bony hands that try to climb into my boat from the river of the dead. Of course, I look into my hand and there’s no coin for passage, because I’ll be “damned” if I won’t make my own way even up until the end.
I thought about all of this over a week and a half ago. Two of my favorite people in the whole world brought me to see a lighthouse. I’ve never seen an actual lighthouse in person, and it completely transfixed me.
“It’s saved a multitude of ships during storms,” I heard an old man say as he passed us on the walkway.
I scoffed and stared at the unimpressive building again. It didn’t look newsworthy, but that’s what—I decided—made it so amazing. A layman could deem it an old, irrelevant building. Instead, it tells a story…of life.
You see, there have been so many storms I’ve experienced throughout my battle with cancer. My initial diagnosis came in 2018, but it didn’t turn to stage four until 2020. Yet, I have seen the strangest beacons at the most fortuitous times. These things have carried me through the storms these last four years.
The next day, before we flew out from Seattle, Mike decided to surprise me. “We’re driving somewhere before we leave!” And that giver actually brought me to see another lighthouse. I still can’t walk very far because of the extreme pain and fatigue, but I was able to traverse a small portion of beautifully lush forest before we reached a different lighthouse from days before.
I gingerly sat on a piece of driftwood, and then just rested, facing the wind. It rippled through my hair and forced me to take out my barrettes. It was the most beautifully, freeing feeling, just being next to that lighthouse on the windy beach.
“Mike,” I said, “something’s really bothering me.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I’ve gotten a few strange messages from people lately. They say I’m proof that God doesn’t exist. Because why would God do something like this to me.” My voice faltered. “I’m not religious, but I do love God with all of my heart. Why would my journey bring people further away from God? Even if I do die, death is a part of life. When will people stop getting mad at God for something that was part of the deal anyway? I have peace that there’s a plan. When I’m supposed to die, it’ll be my time.”
Mike thought really hard and stared out at the ocean. He doesn’t believe in God per se, but he’s awfully supportive of people believing what makes sense to them. “Elisa, if they stopped believing after hearing your story…well, it isn’t about you. They’re placing their doubt on you. That’s a burden you don’t need to carry.”
I closed my eyes and faced the wind again. I pretended that lighthouse was shining right into me, guiding me in the storm. In my imagination the light went through me, leading me to be the person I’m meant to be without regrets, burdens, or even sadness over cancer and doubt.
I heard some people approaching because they started screaming excitedly. Mike and I followed their gazes to see a whole pod of orcas jumping and dancing in the waves right in front of us. “Orcas!” I squealed. “They’re REAL orcas. This is the best. Day. Ever.”
I hugged Mike so hard, and he looked down at me instead of the magnificent fish in the ocean. “You are so darling,” he said.
“But the orcas are my beacon for today!” I no longer thought about the messages I received from people who supposedly lost faith because of my journey. I didn’t worry anymore about how I have to take 18 pills every single day because of everything cancer and treatments have done to me. In that moment, all of this seemed incredibly doable. Whether I’m magically healed someday or have to keep fighting until my real journey on the Styx, I guess I’ll just keep looking for little beacons every day.
It’s like God’s lighthouse, keeping me strong, and always leading me home. Those are the miracles that make life shine.
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
I might lose a lot of followers for this post—and frankly, I’m a little scared. I posted something similar on my fan page and immediately lost two followers. But I just wanted to offer some perspective—from a cancer patient—even though I have MANY friends and family members who disagree with me on this topic. But the problem is, they don’t truly understand where I’m coming from.
(Please read on. I’m using an analogy, and this might not be what you expect!)
Everyone has heard this: If you use a condom, you have a lower chance of getting an STD from someone you sleep with. This isn’t 100% guaranteed, but it’s better than not using a condom at all. Having unprotected sex (with STD rates being what they currently are) is like begging the universe, “Hey, hey, just try giving me an STD!” The problem remains that you might be hyper-vigilant—you could use protection every time and then falter once. And then you end up being exposed to everyone and every STD the other person has slept with.
Let’s back up:
I’m in my 30s, and I have the world’s worst immune system right now. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but who doesn’t love the theater?
Someone sneezes a mile away from me, and I practically catch their cold. Someone could cough in another state and although I don’t hear them, my immune system does. And if (seriously) I get a vaccine, it does not take. Maybe that’s because my body is literally trying to destroy itself. Maybe that’s because my cells are dividing and eating each other in unhealthy ways. Maybe that’s because I still have cancerous tumors that want to kill me. Nothing like getting eaten from the inside out. (Don’t try this at home.)
So, if someone comes around me and is sick, chances are, I’ll get sick too. But not only me, all of my friends who I unwittingly carry the virus to before I have symptoms. Some of these people won’t be as lucky as I’ve been; they’ll simply die.
I’ve tried to explain this to people, most recently a friend who came up to see me from Utah. She—like so many of my family members and friends—refuse to get the COVID vaccination. “It’s like a condom,” I said. “You’re upping your chances of getting sick. Then you came to see me. Now you’re upping my chances of getting sick.” Sure, I had COVID in January and this was four months after my most recent experience with it, but doctors said I could get this over and over—despite monoclonal antibodies.
“It’s a hoax,” my friend said.
“Well, the only people who got it in my group in January were people who hadn’t been vaccinated. My mom got it pretty bad, too—I was so worried.” I’d honestly been really scared for my mom. She didn’t sound well for over two weeks, and it was a bit terrifying. She’s one of the sweetest people on earth—and, man, can she play the drums. Plus, she’s tough, and she never gets sick. But that COVID thing really shook me.
My friend went on to say that she’d been recently exposed, and she still came up to see me. My mouth nearly fell to the floor. I. Am. A. Cancer. Patient. With her being exposed, that’s the equivalent of not wearing a condom. She upped her chances of getting it significantly, and then came straight to me. “Flames. Flames. On the side of my face. Burning. Itching.”
I’ve known exactly two people who have died after having cancer then getting COVID. I haven’t seen this on the news, or heard some third-hand story. I have known them personally. They were lovely people who had their lives cut even shorter than necessary.
It’s devastating thinking how long these people fought cancer only to have their fight cut short by an exposure to COVID. For example, my first diagnosis came in 2018. I’ve been fighting HARD since 2020. I’m finally seeing hope. To die from COVID, like my friends did at this same point, would be nothing short of tragic.
Yes, I have COVID now. Yes, I just went through two huge airports without a mask (and that’s probably how I caught this). Yes, I feel like a carefree idiot. But…maybe some good can come out of this. I want people to realize how serious this is for those with comorbidities, poor immune systems, and—well—for people like me. If you’re reading this, it isn’t a plea coming from some stranger or from some governmental agency. It’s coming from me; someone you actually know who could be in real, scary danger if I get this even one more time. And yet, I could contract it over and over because vaccines don’t often work for cancer patients. I’m trusting every person I come into contact with. Their chances of contracting the virus up my chances even more.
I decided to write this because on Sunday night I struggled to breathe. I ended up getting a scary-high fever and seeing a doctor. I don’t know where I got this—probably from being an idiot at the airport—and my bout with COVID it is not over. Hopefully, it’s just a reminder of how serious this can be. Sunday was just as terrifying as liver failure and sepsis (one of which I almost died from). I guess that makes sense, because breathing is pretty great.
If you won’t wear a condom/AKA get vaccinated for a stranger, do it for people like me—or at least think about it.
I’m not asking you to change your mind about any of this, I’m just asking for you to think about this from my perspective.
Thanks for your time,
An Outspoken Cancer Patient Who Loves to Breathe
If this is something you can relate to, please feel free to share this post.
Monday, July 11, 2022
I honestly thought I could keep walking, but my leg started shaking and then began giving out on me. Every time I took a step, my right leg grew weaker and weaker until it started giving way. “I need a wheelchair,” I told Mike, defeated at the airport. And when he walked away, my eyes grew misty before I did one of the worst things ever: I started feeling bad for myself. Mike bounded away, embodying every bit of the golden Lab that should be his spirit animal. I thought of how he should be with a woman who can run and hike, someone who can walk more than a short distance without getting tired…. Someone who has more energy than the Energizer Bunny.
Mike showed up with the wheelchair, and I soon sat down and set my violin on my lap. After my emotions finally calmed, I really looked around the airport and realized how unhappy so many of the people looked. Sure, maybe all of them aren’t battling a terminal illness like I am, but they each had their challenges: some easier and some much worse.
“I want to do something fun,” I told Mike. “Are you in?”
This was a silly question because Mike is ALWAYS in. So I handed him my phone and asked if he could push me and videotape us while I played my violin until we got to our terminal. “What will you play?” he asked.
“‘Orange Blossom Special.’” I beamed. “It’s supposed to sound like a train!”
So I played that as we chugged toward our terminal. And as I looked out at everyone’s faces, they transformed from boredom to excitement, from confusion to wonderment, and from sadness to joy.
After we “parked” with my wheelchair at our gate, Mike and I chuckled about our shenanigans, and I thought I might laugh so hard that soda would come out of my nose. At that moment, a man with a peg leg came and sat right next to me despite so many others seats.
We talked about exactly what had been bothering me—as if he’d read my thoughts. “If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can’t take life too seriously.” He lost his leg in an auto accident decades before, and despite looking like a Viking straight from an adventure novel, he said things Mike and I needed to hear with so much kindness and tenderness.
“Here,” I said, digging through my carryon. “Here, I’ve been waiting to give this to someone for four days! You’re the person. This is for you.”
He looked at the book “Two More Years” a bit puzzled.
“She wrote it,” Mike said, smiling.
The man grinned and put it into his bag. “Thank you. Really.”
So, yesterday I remembered once more the magic of meeting people at the right time and the right place—and I also saw first-hand the power of finding the good and bringing it to others no matter what we might be going through ourselves.
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
“Although my cancer isn’t in remission, my sh*tty attitude sure is.”
They￼ told me I wouldn’t live past two years. They said the brain tumor would never go away. They said I would suffer from depression because that’s what “facing death” does. They said I’d look disfigured and never have the same quality of life.
People will tell you all the terrible possibilities. At some point you either accept what they say or you decide to listen to the positive people in your life, pray for hope, and SHOW the nay-sayers what you can do. And even if there’s a small chance, maybe you should prove them wrong!
I’m still fighting cancer. That and chronic pain are something I face every day after numerous surgeries, treatments, and radiation therapies. BUT, my story isn’t over.
I’ve almost surpassed the two-year life-expectancy mark. The cancerous tumor in my brain died. I work every day to choose joy and hold onto the good moments that fill each day. My quality of life is different, but so is my perspective—and I’m grateful for the insight. In fact, although my cancer isn’t in remission, my sh*tty attitude sure is.
The point is that if I can come back from ALL of that. If I can still see the good after losing a child, fighting death each day, and striving to find hope, then you can too. It’s a choice. Continuing to find the good—despite trials and hardships—IS a choice. Holding onto joy and letting go of negativity is a choice. So, what choices have you made today?
Note: I decided to write this after reading an amazing review. It just brought tears to my eyes and made me so grateful again for everything I have. Fighting stage four cancer has been almost unbearably hard at times, but the blessings I’ve experienced throughout this journey are priceless.￼
Feathered Quill review here:
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
“Would you like to sing the national anthem at a semi-pro baseball game?” she asked, and it felt as if the woman had reached into my soul and found one of my deepest desires. Since doctors only gave me two years to live (although now they’re saying I have much longer) I’ve been thinking about my bucket list. The three biggest items have been singing the national anthem at a baseball game, bagging an actual deer during a hunting trip, and going to Italy.
I’ve wanted this since I can remember. At the age of five, I sang the lyrics to the national anthem so many times my mom actually woke up singing them one morning. “Wow,” she said, “I must be hearing this a lot.” And we both laughed.
But my stamina isn’t what it used to be, and I honestly worried, wondering if I could actually do this. So, I dressed up like a pinup girl because if anything says America it’s: apple pie, 1950s cars, baseball, and pinup girls. My kids were so excited to support me and so many friends showed up at the ball park.
I’ll never forget standing under the stadium lights on “home.” Thank God I brought my cane because it felt like my sole friend out there, so trusty and reliable. But then, as I heard other songs playing on the speakers, I actually forgot the melody to the “Star-Spangled Banner”! To make it worse, I couldn’t even remember the key I needed to sing in—a cappella.
I started shaking and felt like I could fall over. Then the announcer walked up and handed me the microphone. It was my turn. I felt so weak—and dizzy…. But somehow I miraculously remembered the key AND the melody. But after the first verse, I completely forgot the words.
I stared out at everyone: friends, family, throngs of strangers…. My breath caught in my throat. It was such a metaphor for my life—that very moment. It just seems that I try with all my heart, but always have an Anne-of-Green-Gables moment. Things always have a bit of flavor, they’re always memorable, and they are never perfect.
I apologized into the microphone: “Sorry.” I looked out and people cheered, hoping I would have the gumption to continue.
And then somehow, like it always does with life, the melody came back to me. I instantly thought of ice skaters and how when they fall they better pull off a triple axle at the end. That’s when I decided to go for the high note. My family had told me not to try it, but what could I lose at this point? So I sang with everything in me. I still shook a little and held onto my cane even tighter for support, but I actually pulled off the high note—and then an octave above it!
Afterward a well-known local photographer took pictures of me, and a reporter even did a story on me and my will to persevere despite hardship.
I met the owner of the baseball team and got to see so many friends who I haven’t visited with in years! But I have to admit that I cried pretty hard because of my mistake. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized it was a good thing.
“You cried?” my kids asked, shocked.
“But, Mama, you don’t cry about stuff like this. What people will remember is your strong voice and that you actually got out and did this even though you have cancer,” Indy said.
“Yeah, most people wouldn’t even try,” Trey said.
Sky, my 17-year-old, gave me the biggest hug. “Mom, I’m really proud of you.” THAT meant the world to me. So many tears filled my eyes. Just to hear this from my kids had more import than I can describe. We’ve gone through so much since my diagnosis, but it’s really bonded all of us together. No matter how hard things have been, we have all of these memories now to look back on. It’s not the terrible things we’ve gone through that really matter, it’s how we handle them!
Trey cleared his throat. He’s 14, but so serious when he’s been thinking hard about something. “It’s like with everything else,” he said, pausing, “if you have a hard time you just keep going, Mom. You showed everybody out there what you’re really like. Life can be hard…but you don’t let that stop you. None of us should.”
So I sang the national anthem; I paused for what I told the reporter later was “to build intrigue.” “I stopped, looked out at the crowd, and can you believe they actually wanted me to keep going?” But I think this was a great reminder that it is good to keep going. I will always remember this wonderful night. But most of all I’ll remember the amazing things my kids said to me, to cheer me on after the game.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
She stood on the northwest corner of Yellowstone and Alameda. I spotted her several days ago, and my heart ached for her plight. The girl seemed so young—close to my own daughters’ ages, and no one appeared to stop and help her.
“You know how they are,” I heard a man say moments after I entered a nearby grocery store. “Homeless people just buy drugs with the money.”
I had to turn away as tears filled my eyes. It’s not my place to judge why people are on the street. BUT if I have something to offer them—something that will help, no matter how small—it IS my place to give help when I’m capable of it.
Today I saw the girl again. “Mike, I can’t stop thinking about her. We HAVE to do something.” So we went into Winco, bought a chocolate rose and a small unicorn charm, and pulled out $20.
“A unicorn?” Mike asked, and I simply nodded. It just felt “right.”
After we had everything arranged, we pulled into a parking lot, and even though the girl had been over 15 feet away moments before, she turned as if expecting us.
“We bought you something!” I wanted to hop out of the car—I was so excited to meet someone new and hear her story! But I ended up moving slowly. Sometimes I forget how much my body has changed because of the cancer. The doctor said even if I do get over this…someday, my bones are like Swiss cheese with holes from where the cancer has eaten through them.
“We got you a chocolate rose, water, this…” I handed her the money, “AND a unicorn charm!”
Up close, the girl was honestly so beautiful with the most wonder-filled eyes. Dirt graced the left side of her face, and her clothes looked tired and worn. But despite that, I felt she had the soul of Peter Pan!
“A unicorn?” She exhaled with disbelief.
“Yes!” I said. “You know what unicorns stand for?”
She shook her head.
“They’re rare and special. They’re unique and wonderful. They’re…just. Like. You.”
“I could just cry,” she said, her voice breaking. “This means so much to me.” Then she told me and Mike all about her battles: how she’s fought disease and sickness since she was 10 months old. Now—despite overcoming so much—she’s gone through even more as a young adult.
I thought of the man in the store from days before, the man who judges homeless people. He had no idea what this girl had gone through—none of us really do except her. After all, we’re each fighting battles that no one else truly understands the way that we do. What’s the point of trying to pull each other down when we can lift one another up?
After she finished her story, I told her about my fight for life. “Doctors told me I had two years to live. But it’s almost been two years, and I might be getting better.”
Her eyes widened. “But you look so healthy.”
“Life can be surprising, right?!” I said. “But the point is that if I can get through what I’m going through—against all odds—then you can too!”
She clutched the charm really tightly and then gave me the biggest hug. “You’re gonna be okay,” I said, then followed with, “I just know it. I’m Elisa, it’s so nice to meet you.”
“I’m Makayla,” she said. “It’s just like Kayla with an ‘m’ and an ‘a’ at the front.”
Before we could go, I looked over at her. Makayla seemed somehow different from moments before. She glowed, practically looking like a princess, a mythological unicorn that everyone hopes to someday meet at least once in their lifetime. I felt so honored!
“You know what,” she said, “I’m gonna wear this unicorn! And every time I hold it, I’ll think ‘Elisa is blessed!’ You’re gonna get better. You just have to.”
She faced so much—a lot more than what I’m going through. And yet she had the kindness…the strength…the fortitude to think about me and my struggles. “I will be praying for you every day, Kayla with an ‘m’ and ‘a’ in front of it.” I waved, smiling.
“Sometimes life can feel hopeless,” Mike said,” but pretty soon you find the light…just around the corner.”
We got into our car and drove off. “Are you okay, sweetheart?” Mike asked.
“Yeah, I just feel so bad for all of the hardships in our world.”
As Mike drove, I turned on my phone and saw a post someone had written, “irate” about a celebrity breakup. I shut off my phone and looked at the clouds through the windshield. Life…can be so complex, so beautiful yet strange.
Friday, June 24, 2022
He rang the bell and everyone clapped—so happy—but the patient looked tired, and then he cried.
My journeys to the infusion unit started in 2020, and I’ve seen several people ring the bell. Some look ecstatic…others deflated.
“What does it mean?” I asked a nurse the first time I witnessed this.
“They’ve finished treatments. They’re done.”
At first I thought this meant they were in remission, but after almost two years, I’ve come to realize otherwise. It doesn’t always mean they’ve beat cancer; sometimes it simply means they’ve ended this leg of their journey. While some head to a happier cancer-free life, others—like the man I saw yesterday—are wheeled away to palliative care.
This journey has been excruciatingly hard, and since 2020 I’ve desperately wanted to ring that damn bell.
By the way, they call it “a bell,” but it’s actually a Zildjan gong. You can’t put something like that in front of a musician and expect them not to touch it! But it’s harder to reach than a treasure in “Indian Jones”! So many nurses swarm around it, and their queen—the charge nurse—hardly ever leaves its side.
That’s why yesterday seemed so surreal. I went to leave the infusion room, and my path to the “bell” was free and clear. I sneaked up to it—probably looking like Gollum (after my back surgery), then I swiftly lifted the mallet… Just when I was about to finally hit that coveted thing, a nurse saw me!
“Excuse me, ma’am,” she said right as my daughter snagged a couple of pictures. “Is today your last treatment?”
“Well … No,” I said to the gong police. “But a girl can dream, can’t she?”
She broke out laughing. “You’ll get to ring it someday! And it’ll be wonderful.”
So I set the mallet down, veeeery slowly, and left.
Later that day a medical specialist said my labs looked almost better than they have since I started this journey. “You actually might beat this, Elisa. We’re still worried about the cancer in your lower back, BUT the cancer is still gone in your upper spine! We’re getting more scans of your lower back in July. It seemed impossible before, but now I honestly think you have a chance. You could beat this!”
This is something new. I’ve heard they could lengthen my life, help keep the cancer stable longer, give me a few more years... But to “beat this”? My heart soared!
So, I didn’t actually hit the gong, but I did hold the mallet in my hand—and it felt AWESOME. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I’m starting to feel so excited.
Despite hurting and being exhausted from my latest cancer treatment and infusion for my bones, I am so happy right now. Hope…well, it’s a powerful thing.
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Honestly, maybe you’ll think I’m crazy. Maybe it’s just science?
Let me explain.
Me (10 hours ago): I want to do a random act of kindness for someone.
Indy: Well, you could do something for me.
Me: Ug! That’s not how it works.
But I have talked about teaching her how to sew—and we shouldn’t break promises. So, I brought out fabric a dear friend wanted me to have after she died a few years ago.
Anyway, Indy made the cutest apron with the vintage quilt squares. The whole time I thought about Norma, Nolan’s mom. We had the same birthday (Groundhog Day), and she left me fabric along with a typewriter that I wrote about in “Two More Years.” I read that chapter recently and remembered how amazing that woman was—I even thought about that as we sewed today.
Then, when Indy modeled the apron she made—this rainbow kept appearing! 😮
Is this incredible or what?! I’m stunned. I kind of think Norma knew how much I remembered her today. Maybe this was her last gift to us?
Monday, June 20, 2022
I sat by the store’s garbage can, right outside the entrance. Luckily, Indy had no idea that I’d begun feeling so nauseous on this shopping trip. She’d waited days and days for the outing, and I didn’t want it getting ruined—especially because of cancer. Cancer has taken enough from us. “Mike, you’ll help her get some stuff?” I whispered. “Make it fun?”
He nodded. “You go rest in the car. I’ve got this. She’ll have an awesome time.”
Indy seemed happy to shop with Mike—and that made a huge difference for me. But after I stepped outside, a wave of fatigue hit so strong that I couldn’t take another step. In fact, I could’ve cried as I placed my hand against the exterior brick wall and then slumped to sit by the garbage can at the store’s entrance.
So many people passed. One fancy woman studied my pale face and stick legs, then tipped her nose in the air and walked on. This continued until I willed Mike and Indy to burst from the store. I couldn’t stand people’s judgement anymore, but I needed help getting back up.
I finally stared, hoping to see my family, and that’s when one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen came out of the store. I went to look away, but she gazed down at me with so much kindness. “How’s your day going?” she asked, stopping momentarily with her friend.
“It’s good.” I smiled. “I’m so grateful for the nice weather.”
After they left, my load felt somehow lighter. It seemed as if an actual angel had stopped to check on me. But then my thoughts changed. I thought about how easy it is to be nice when things are good. It’s a lot harder when you’re dealing with sickness, suffering, and eventually death. “I bet she’s never experienced hardship,” I thought. “Things must be so easy for her. She exudes so much joy. I remember those days.”
I’d been having those thoughts, rationalizing her kindness, when that same woman and her friend—the exact lady who could’ve been a Disney princess—came back to talk with me! “I’m sorry,” the supermodel said, “but I felt like God told me to come back and ask if there’s anything you need prayer for.”
I blinked, completely shocked. “I have stage four cancer,” I said, and her eyes grew wide.
“So…do I,” she said.
Tears filled my eyes as we both relayed that we never would’ve expected for the other to have cancer. I couldn’t believe how much we had in common or how she suddenly felt like such a kindred spirit. “How old are you?” I asked.
“33,” she said. “You?”
“I’ll be new to the area soon. I’m actually moving here. Do you recommend a place for cancer treatments?”
After we finished exchanging information, Mike came out and helped me walk to the car.
“That was the strangest thing,” I told Mike and Indy. “I’d just been thinking how she probably didn’t have a care in the world, and then she came back and ended up telling me that she has cancer!”
“Wow, that’s crazy, Mom. It goes to show we don’t always know what other people are going through. Looks like you have another story to write about!”
“You’re right! Thank God I went to sit outside when I did.” I was supposed to meet that woman, but without the bout of fatigue and pain I never would have. “Life is so ironic.” I sighed. “It’s been a pretty good day…after all.”
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Today I tried to pick a favorite memory with my dad, and I realized just how many we have. From watching “The Grey” at a movie theater and laughing that we paid to see such a scary movie to deep-sea fishing in Mexico (catching more tuna than the boat could hold and spotting humpback whales to the side of the boat) we’ve had some pretty amazing times. But the one that stands out the most for me today is one of our hunting trips.
He woke me up even earlier than farmers rise and handed me a thermos that held shepherds’ coffee. I quickly realized the value of drinking that stuff slowly—to avoid a gut full of grounds!
We four-wheeled over to a ridge my dad had scoped out with my Uncle Wayne the day before. But before we could traverse to our lookout spot, my dad relayed the importance of silence. “We’re trying to blend in,” he whispered, then placed a finger to his lips.
We combat crawled to the edge of a cliff before just waiting for a long, long time….
It was slow at first, but I started to feel the pure energy—the heartbeat—of the earth. The wind played the most beautiful melodies I’ve ever heard, and, as if calling them to life, oranges and yellows streaked across the sky—playing a symphony for those lucky enough to see it.
I felt the earth’s skin aching to shake off the cold and darkness as a tumble weed popped from the ground and rolled along, fighting his way through this world, just like the rest of us.
And then it happened. The sun burst from a mountain range and started highlighting the tips of everything. The trees ignited with life. The ground heated with excitement and the joy only brought by a new day. My strawberry-blonde hair whipped in front of my face and turned to fire! And my dad, well, he grinned in a way I’ve never seen. He looked every bit a majestic mountain lion, wild and free. He looked so…alive.
Not long after the sun rose, we spotted two does resting under a massive tree across the valley. My dad and I worked all day to get within shooting distance, but when we were almost there, the does simply stood up and bounded—as fast as lightning—to the exact spot we’d started from…across the valley!
After that we gave up the charade and talked freely. I relayed how surreal it’d been feeling the earth wake up like that, and my dad imparted the value of always finding beauty in life (which to him is always finding the good).
That night we ate fancy potatoes that my Uncle Wayne and Aunt Judy made. I heard hilarious stories that shocked me, and I remember feeling the warmth of the campfire as I looked from my parents to my epic aunt and uncle. The four of them have always been true legends in my eyes; heck, just being by my dad and Uncle Wayne is like meeting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!
Over a decade later my dad had a stroke. I couldn’t get a plane ticket fast enough, so I hopped in a car with my oldest daughter and sped through two states just to be by my dad’s side. “This means so much to me—to us,” my mom said. “I can’t believe how fast you got here.”
“That’s what you do for the people you love!” I said. And as I squeezed my dad’s hand and told him I loved him, I just knew he’d make a full recovery—like he did.
I honestly never lost faith that he’d get better because I’d seen him on that ridge so many years ago. I’d seen his fighting spirit and the beauty of his soul. And I think that’s one of the greatest things he’s passed on to me: the courage to fight even when all of the odds are against us. Plus, he’s shown me again and again that there’s power in having an unshakable will to ALWAYS find the good.
I’ll be forever grateful for the lessons he and my mom have taught me; they’ve buoyed me through every hardship life has thrown my way and helped me truly cherish the good times.
Love you so much, Dad. Thank you…for everything. I hope you know how very much I love you. Happy Father’s Day.
This is a picture of my dad (right), Sky (middle), and me in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Saturday, June 18, 2022
“He didn’t have enough cash on him,” the cashier said to everyone in line at the Wendy’s near our home. “He’ll be right back—thanks for your patience.”
Thursday, June 16, 2022
“That’s why I believe there’s something after this. I mean, we go someplace after we die,” Trey said.
There’s something quite exceptional about Trey. He’s almost otherworldly. Even as a tiny child he would say extraordinary large words and understand things he shouldn’t. If reincarnation were real, he lived previously as a philosopher. If parallel universes exist, he is the best version of himself. And if anyone is truly innately good, it’s him.
“Trey’s special because he’s the only son you had after Zeke—your first son—died,” a friend once told me. “God gave him to you.”
I remember smiling. “All of my kids are exceptional,” I said.
Trey brought me back to the moment. “Even though you have cancer, and all of these bad things have happened to you, you’ll always believe in the afterlife, huh? Because of what happened to us.”
“You’re talking about Adam?” I asked and he nodded.
Adam. Now there was someone too innocent for this world. I never expected it when we dated at the age of 15, but when he reached his 30s, I began to realize. The man had faced more hardships than Marilyn Monroe, and yet he refused to don armor. I cried hearing about some of the things he’d experienced. My stomach twisted in knots because the hardships were one thing, but the way he stayed resolutely unchanged mystified me. Instead of getting angry with someone who almost killed him…instead of getting bitter with his bride who got pregnant with someone else’s child…instead of letting the world destroy him, he fiercely loved everyone. And then…
We always stayed in touch, but grew a closer friendship after my divorce. It felt devastating when I realized he’d gotten back into drugs.
“I can’t have that around my kids,” I said. “We’ll talk again when you’re sober.”
But we never talked again. And several months later I received a message from a mutual friend. “Did you hear about Adam?”
“What? No. What happened?”
“Elisa. Adam…is dead.”
We all took it hard, especially Trey who’d called him “Uncle Adam.”
Months and months passed. We didn’t talk about Adam much. I didn’t want to upset the kids. Then, one day I walked into my bedroom and felt like Adam waited there. I honestly thought I was losing it. And even when I sat at the edge of the bed, it somehow seemed like Adam sat next to me. You know how you feel around different people: the smell of their perfume or cologne, how they make you feel about yourself, the feeling you get about them?
I sat there for a minute, then walked out of my room and into the hallway. Trey stepped from the bathroom at that moment. He was only 5 or 6 at the time; a tiny guy with a very serious attitude. “Mama,” he said, “something weird just happened.”
“Oh, yeah?” I asked, thinking of my own strange experience from moments before.
“Yeah,” Trey said. “Uncle Adam came and said ‘goodbye.’ He told me he was sorry he had to leave early. I guess he just wanted me to know.”
I stood in shock. Dumbfounded….
It’s been so many years since this happened, but every once in a while Trey still talks about it.
“So that’s why you believe in an afterlife?” I asked Trey.
“Yeah, and with you being sick, it’s helped me a lot. It’s nice to have that memory to hold on to.”
“For me too,” I said. And whether it was coincidence, String Theory at its finest, or something divine, I figure it doesn’t matter. That moment still gives my son peace. And for me, it keeps my sense of wonder well and alive.
Happy “late” birthday, Adam. You became like a brother to me, and I’ll always miss you. Hey, if you get a chance can you tell Zeke hello for me?
It’s kind of nice thinking Uncle Adam is looking out for him in the Great Beyond.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Two weeks ago felt unbearable. I cried so hard it seemed that I’d completely spent all of the water in my body. I qualified for permanent disability—which everyone says is wonderful—but I guess that’s just not what I planned for my life. I’m in my 30s, I’ve been declared permanently physically disabled—which is the price I paid for more time with my children—and, I guess, everything about my situation just hit me.
BUT this isn’t a sob story. I actually wanted to tell you how I came to terms with it.
Indy and Trey happened to walk into the room during this moment of desperation. Despite how honest I’ve been throughout this “ordeal,” they never see me cry. So, I rushed into the laundry room and shut the door. They know I’m fighting for my life, but they don’t hear about the crippling pain or how truly terrifying this can be for me. I’m not scared of death or suffering. (The doctors still say that unless some freak accident happens, and even if they bought me another decade, melanoma will be what kills me…eventually.) What I fear most now is not seeing my children grow up. Not holding Mike’s wrinkled hand as we hobble along for our 50th wedding anniversary. Not being remembered well. Not making a positive impact on the people who matter the most to me. Not showing my children that cancer, sickness, and even death will never rob me of who I am. And if they see me cry or watch my pain, well, I think that’s placing MY burden on them. Life is hard enough; the least I can do is shield them from my grief about this.
Anyway, in that moment, I listened through the laundry room door. All of my kids are hilarious, but my two youngest are always teasing each other and pulling pranks. It started young too. Trey would give Indy candy if she’d open child-proof drawers for him so he could access all of my Tupperware! And now that they’re older, their schemes have just grown more sophisticated. One distracts me while the other cooks insane concoctions. One watches a romance with me while the other hangs up heavy metal posters—that have swear words—on the wall! And even though I act dumbfounded, I secretly love all of their antics, and they normally keep my sadness about cancer at bay. But two weeks ago, that particular day felt hopeless.
Mike burst into the laundry room. “What can I do?” He looked desperate. The family isn’t used to me falling apart quite like that. “I don’t know what to do!” Tears filled his eyes. “I hate this so much.”
“A bunch of things feel off,” I said. “I know the cancer in my upper spine is gone, but my lower back is still bad. I can only get three more infusions. They said there’s a chance they might be able to keep the cancer stable. I could have years and years. But I’ll always be…disabled. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but this feels like a Herculean task.”
Tears flooded my eyes. Mike is so young and full of energy. I just felt like a lead weight around his neck. How must he feel dealing with this? He’s only 35.
“You could be with anyone,” I said.
“And I want you.”
Looking into his kind face tore me apart. Sure, I can’t be exactly who I want, but at least I can do better than being a bawl baby! After I’d stuffed a bunch of towels into the washer, I grabbed a piece of paper and told myself to “get it together.” Then I made a list of everything that’s bothering me. I wrote about how I rarely do my makeup and hair because I get tired so fast. I wrote about wishing that I could do things with Mike and the kids like we used to: fish, hike, kayak, and camp. I also wrote about how I want to go to the zoo and visit Italy some day. I read it at the end and realized that every sentence started with “I can’t.”
Mike left for work, and Trey and Indy confessed that they knew I wasn’t “okay.”
“Mama, what’s going on?” Indy asked.
“I just wish I could do more things. I can only walk a quarter of a mile. I want to bring you hiking and on epic fishing trips again.”
“But there’s so much you can do! We can go fishing to places that are close to the car. And you can hike to the bridge up Gibson Jack!” And later that day, Trey and Indy helped me make a new list of things they want to do each week this summer. And you wouldn’t believe it, but every sentence started with “I can.” Those sweethearts thought of things “I can” do with them. Fish at Edson Fichter. Hike a quarter mile in to the bridge where we can eat Lunchables. Float the river where it doesn’t require much rowing and Mike can help me. Visit Bear World. And the last crazy thing in our list? Go to Italy.
We started our adventures already. My brother and nephew came up last weekend. My brother is like the best possible version of me and he reminds me of how I want to be. My sister and her husband came up after that. My sister is amazing, everything I wish I could be but am not. She reminds me of how I need to strive to learn and grow outside of myself. I got to speak with Dee, Scott and Colleen Hancock, and my mother-in-law (Maureen)—who always make me laugh. And then my parents (Philip and Ruby) came up and brought me to the zoo. They didn’t care how slow I had to walk or how much I needed to stop. They helped me and the kids check off one of our items, and after we got home I realized again how truly lucky I am.
Anyway, I know it sounds obvious, but it really is astounding switching a mentality from “can’t” to “can.” I’m so excited for this summer, and I think the kids are too. This will be awfully wonderful. They helped me realize that there so many possibilities. The world awaits—and maybe someday so does Italy.
Monday, June 6, 2022
This brought me to tears.
I’ve been with Newsletter Pro for two years, and I’m continually amazed with how kind everyone there has been to me throughout my journey with cancer. They held a fundraiser to help me pay bills during the beginning of my diagnosis in 2020, have been flexible on hours, and have gone above and beyond to help me get through this. But just a few days ago, they did something that completely stunned me. Shaun, the owner, sent out the following email to his mailing list this weekend, and I feel touched beyond words.
EVERYONE there is phenomenal, but today I keep thinking about Shaun and his altruistic nature as well as Karli who has really gone out of her way to make me feel valued during even the hardest days when I’ve been sick after treatments.
Isn’t it strange how God has the right things happen at the right time? I started working at Newsletter Pro months before my diagnosis, and I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through this so far without them. I have a job I love, and I get to work from home. Plus, Newsletter Pro has helped a numerous amount of companies and people with their marketing, so I feel like I’m making a difference. My role as an editor in some way helps companies succeed—and now that I’m fighting sickness and death, that seems even more important than ever before. I want to feel like my work and my life mattered. I WANT to feel like I’m making a difference. And this company has given me that…. What. A. Gift.
Please read the attachement if you have a minute. It says much more about the owner than it does about me. What a great guy!
Check out NLP here: www.newsletterpro.com.