Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Brave Little Bunny That Could

 “Ma’am, you’re walking kind of different. Are you in a lot of pain?”

Did he just say “different”? I stared at him, knowing he’d simply tried to be kind, but I still didn’t know what to say.

“Do you need anything?” he pried again.

“No, I’m good. I just got out of the hospital.”

“No sh*t! What’s wrong?” There are two kinds of people in this world, those who are nosy and those who aren’t.

“Well...complications with cancer. Stage four.”

“You don’t look like you have cancer! I just thought you hurt your leg,” he explained. This man could’ve been a lead biker in a huge gang. His long beard hung well over his chest, and he must’ve been almost a foot taller than me! “I am so sorry.” Then he looked at me like I’m this innocent woodland creature who is about to die. “Are you driving yourself home?“

“Yep—to Idaho!” I beamed.

“All alone?”

Would this “Hulk” man stop interrogating me? I laughed and slammed my sparkle gummy worms and pink energy drink on the counter. The thing is that: YES, I have cancer, and ya, I might’ve seemed like a damsel in distress, BUT I’m stronger than strangers expect.

“Listen,” I said to the man with a massive beard who works at Maverik. “If Columbus traveled all the way to America, and then pioneers could travel in covered  crap wagons—all the way to the western areas—then I figure I can drive myself home from the hospital.”

His eyes went wide, and then he broke out laughing—like a little bunny had just told him off. 

“I guess you’re right. You’re one tough woman!”

“Thanks!” Then I paid for my stuff and left. 

It’s so nice to be home now. And it felt good driving home. I rolled the window down and loved feeling the wind on my skin. I imagined being a little bunny, capably steering a huge ship through a terrifying storm.

I guess the point is that sometimes we limit ourselves. If we’re capable of doing things, then we should keep striving until we can’t anymore. What’s the point otherwise? 

So, I’m finally out of the hospital—I figure I got out on good behavior.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Choose Joy

 When I stepped into the hospital elevator the other day, the poor couple with me, well, they looked grim.

“How are you?” the elderly man asked in a monotone.

“The sun is shining! It’s a beautiful day.” Forget that on that day I found out my liver started failing, and I’d need to be admitted as soon as they had a hospital bed. “I’m just fighting the good fight, staying strong, trying to beat cancer. ‘Cause what else did I have to do with my time? Nothing! I’d get bored if I wasn’t so damn busy trying to stay strong. Am I right????”

The couple just stared at me—like a genuine lunatic had joined them in that tiny, locked, moving box.

Bing! The doors opened.

“That’s my stop.” I waved and got off, positive that I’d just scared the crap out of the poor, sad couple.

Just before the elevator door closed, the woman stuck her hand out and stepped into the hallway. “Miss?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“We... Well, we really like your positive attitude. Don’t lose it. If you lose it, it’s hard to find again.”

I nodded. “I hope the two of you will have the most wonderful day. I have a feeling I’ll be thinking about you—and sending you good vibes—for most of it!”

She went back into the elevator, and I headed off, hoping that whatever situation they’re in, that it’ll somehow get better.

I also hope I’ll never lose my optimism. Some days are hard—and I’ve cried out of fear, pain, or just grief because of my changed health and life. But that’s the thing I’ve realized about joy. It’s not like happiness. Happiness comes and goes. Joy stays—it’s a way of being. When people persevere, they see a wall and keep trying to knock it down, get over it, overcome it EVEN when they know they will fail. Having joy is the same. I CHOOSE to be joyful despite hardship and even failure. Always, I have to choose joy. 

So, what am I doing today? I’m fighting the good fight, trying to kick cancer’s butt. I even started writing a new book during this hospital stay—and I’ve written three chapters! Like I said before, what was I gonna do with my time anyway? 

No matter what you’re going through today, I hope you’ll find a way to choose joy as well. It’s actually quite liberating.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

My Melanoma Doppelgänger

I stand by the comment, “Give me a bed and a bucket, and I’m good.” But things have gotten harder. And even though a friend warned me, I had no concept of how tough immunotherapy would be. It sounds a lot nicer than chemotherapy, but unfortunately it’s not.

Strange to think that the tumors in my brain are gone, yet I’m sicker than I’ve been this whole time (nausea, weakness, fatigue). They doubled my doses AND doubled the frequency that the immunotherapy is administered—so no wonder. On the flip side, this is what might help me beat this thing!

Anyway, I had a fever all night and dreamed that Mike and I were floating in a freezing ocean where all we had was each other and the occasional flip of a nefarious tail. I called in sick to work, which totally sucks! Before this cancer business, I hadn’t called in sick since 2014. I slept most of the day. Honestly, unable to do much else.

After I finally woke up, I tried to find someone else online who’s been through exactly the same situation. It took a while, but I found a man from 2018 who had melanoma tumors in his brain that went away after numerous immunotherapy treatments. But he had some other stubborn tumors that wouldn’t leave—and they just happen to be in the same places as mine (spine, neck, etc.).

So in 2018 he responded to a thread about melanoma, saying how terrible the side effects of immunotherapy were. He got massive rashes everywhere that itched like crazy. He couldn’t hold anything down, until he only weighed 120 pounds. The doctors eventually made him take breaks on his treatments for fear that he’d lose too much—and there was a comment saying how the side effects from immunotherapy almost killed him. 

I read this entire story with complete interest—until it just stopped! I had no idea if the man lived or died. What a terrible feeling to not know....

But I did have his name and his wife’s name. So I immediately looked them up on Facebook. To my dismay, his wife had been put in an assisted living home in 2019. And the man himself, well, the trail went cold on his Facebook page, and I worried that maybe he hadn’t made it after all.

It might sound crazy, but I started scrolling through his stories, wanting to know more about this man who suffered from the same thing as me. It was odd because he’s also a writer. And I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I understood this person because of everything we’ve both gone through. I saw a book giveaway he’d held, some posts about cancer, and other things.

After a while, I decided to send him a message. It wasn’t a very hopeful message. And I waited most of the evening, to no avail.

Early the next day I grabbed yet another bottle of water to drink. Seems lately the main thing I can keep down is clear liquid—which totally sucks because I could really go for a hot dog with green peppers and onions right now.

More time passed, and I really started to lose hope not only for this man but somehow for myself. This type of suffering, it’s just hard to put into words. And just when I had completely given up, my phone binged. 

“Yes, I am still here, “ he responded.

I know these stories might sound silly, but when something as small as this propels us through each day, well, it’s actually something quite big. I’m so grateful for miracles. 

It was fun to talk with that man. Like so many other people I’ve spoken with, he gave me hope. And you know what, I just might buy one of his books.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

How to Sneak Out of Church

I bring my kids to church every Sunday that I can—even though I’m not religious. Today went differently, I got so sick that I couldn’t stay. I told my daughter we’d use a trick my mom taught me: wait for the next prayer, then exit discreetly. One problem remained, that my son sat somewhere else with his friend!

So, we waited, but ruining expectations, they didn’t pray for-e-v-e-r! I gathered my stuff and tried to hold my keys (like bloody knuckles) so they wouldn’t jangle.

“Bow your heads while we pray,” they finally said.

“Now!” I whispered to Indy like we were on a SWAT team. “Go. Go! Go!” After almost tripping on someone’s purse handle, we made it to where Trey, my son, sat, and I just knew the deacon would soon wrap up the world’s shortest prayer. Everyone’s eyes would see me—trying to get my son to leave. It would be the most awkward thing ever especially since the church was completely full!

“Trey,” I whispered, but the kid was intently praying—for once. “Trey! TREY!”

Then he turned with his eyes still closed and shushed me. “They’re praying!”

“And I’m sick!” 

He opened his eyes. “Oh! Sorry, Mom.”

“In Jesus name,” the deacon’s voice slowed just as we opened the back door to freedom. “Amen.”

If I hadn’t been so sick, I would’ve felt like Indiana Jones after leaving that cave in his first movie! Because IT WAS sort of awesome! We left church early and got away with it. Sometimes being an adult does have its perks.

Anyway, after we left I immediately went to bed, but before I could fall asleep I heard my kids talking. “That’s the first time I’ve actually wanted to be in church!”

“Yeah, me too,” my daughter said. “I was really excited to hear the sermon.”

“Yeah!” Trey said more emphatically.

I’ve decided I can’t win, but there are just some days when we have to think about ourselves. Plus, I’ve never puked in a church because that’s God’s house. Disaster averted!

I’ll try going next Sunday—better luck next time? Plus, it is kind of fun imagining people’s faces when they realized we’d just vanished during the prayer. After the docs told me my brain tumors are gone, I’ve decided some miraculous things can happen when we pray.

I just hope we can get rid of these other tumors too. It’s so hard enduring some of these treatments. It would just be nice to have an end in sight. I guess that’s the problem with cancer though. It’s like having a flu that never ends. And we just don’t know when it will.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Cleansing Waters and Wildcards

 The MRI machine whirred around me once again. This time to take numerous pictures of my brain. When I saw the radiation oncologist about this previously, the cancerous tumor in my brain had gotten smaller, but the cancer wasn’t dying like we’d hoped. Consequently, the tumor board worried it could grow at any time. Best case scenario the cancer would begin dying and hopefully be gone after a year. Worst case, it would grow, and I would die before ever turning 40.

So, I worried about all of this as the machine tha-whumped and buzzed. Nausea overcame me for a minute—which I’d honestly worried about. For almost two months I’ve thrown up nearly every day. In fact, although I’ve understood mental suffering (when my son died) I’ve never understood what physical suffering was truly like...until now. And I could just imagine the horror of throwing up with my mask on—in the MRI machine.

The music in the room suddenly grew louder. And the words—about when the water finally cleanses you—surprisingly settled everything inside of me. I listened to the ‘60s/‘70s singer and imagined those cleansing waters. What would that even feel like to take a swim and be totally cleansed?

After the techs removed my IV and slid me from the machine, my mother-in-law and I went to the cafeteria.

We quickly ate and ended up pulling out a deck of cards. “Rummy?” I asked, and she nodded.

It quickly became apparent that since our last trip to the hospital my mother-in-law has become a card shark! I began desperately wishing for a wild card. Why doesn’t regular rummy have wilds? I could just pull that one special card from the deck and finally have a chance of winning! I actually looked up wild cards the other day. It meant a lot more than I realized. It can also be someone who is picked to win a contest by unusual means or for something extraordinary. This reminded me of cancer. I so wish God would pick me to be a wildcard. I didn’t just need to draw one. Things are so desperate, I need to BE the wildcard.

We went to my appointment after that—to review the results of the MRI. First the nurse practitioner came in and helped us. Then a random doctor I’ve never seen came in. He reviewed the scans over and over. I didn’t know until later that he’s a radiologist. He was very cryptic as he continued zooming in on the scans. “I think it’s showing some improvement. I’m gonna go get your regular doctor....”

So, my mother-in-law and I waited. I kicked my legs just a little bit. It’s so hard being patient, waiting for scans to be taken, then waiting to hear good or bad news. Like someone said, I really am living scan to scan right now.

My regular radiation oncologist finally came in, reviewed the scans, sat back, and viewed the scans again. My mind wandered. Why had the first doctor left the room like that? Maybe it was bad news. I suddenly became too scared to ask about the cancerous tumor. “Do you see the second tumor?” I asked. “The one that isn’t cancer?”

“I don’t see a second tumor at all. And it wouldn’t have just disappeared. That means you’ve never had a second tumor....”

But I’d had multiple doctors (while I was staying as an inpatient in 2020) tell me there was a second tumor.

“In fact I don’t...”

“What do you see?” I asked.

“Well, here’s your brain from November.” She pointed little things out that are specific to me. “And here’s your brain today. There’s no cancer, Elisa. Your cancer free.”

She said some other things about how I still have cancer in my back, neck, and hip. But I really wasn’t listening anymore, because I was so stunned. “But tumors in the brain can be stubborn—especially melanoma,” she said. “This is really, really good news.”

I couldn’t help it. I stood up and hugged my mother-in-law. She looked so happy, hearing the news and beaming. Then I turned to the doctor—AND I hugged her too (mask and all)!

My appointment ended, and I went and told all of the nurses right outside of the room. Then, at the front desk, I told all the receptionists! I ended up telling several other people on the way out. I wanted to shout from the rooftops: “My brain is cancer free!” 

It seemed like some unattainable miracle. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I’m so grateful to everyone who prayed for me. And I’m so grateful to God.

I still have such a long journey ahead of me. The immunotherapy is really hard to endure. It’s unreal what it’s doing to my body. But the fact that both radiation and immunotherapy have helped eradicate the cancer from my brain, gives me hope that it can work in the rest of my body.

I’ve had so many doctors tell me I only had two years to live from November 2020. But yesterday, two doctors gave me a completely different prognosis. They gave me hope.

I’m crying as I write this because I can’t believe how fortunate I am. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know it holds a longer life than I previously anticipated. I got home and told my family, and my little girl cried and hugged me. As I saw the joy in their faces, that was worth more to me than anything. This does feel like a miracle—I think it kind of is. I kept wondering why God would allow this to happen. Maybe it’s so I could realize how much He loves each and every one of us—and so I could share that with everyone I know.

I am the luckiest. 

So, I’m continuing these grueling treatments, but I’ll get more scans in three months. Maybe God did pick me to be a wildcard. I sure hope so.

Catching a Perfect Memory

 I’m a preteen. My sister and her new husband are coming over to visit, and we’re all so excited. I can hear my mom singing in the kitchen. My dad is in the backyard, listening to oldies, and grilling steaks. He’s a construction superintendent who loves being outside in the sun with his shirt off while he’s hanging out with our giant Lab. 

My brother is on the couch reading a fantasy novel to me. And I was listening before getting so distracted—thinking about how perfect the moment is. Everyone is just so happy. I can feel their joy all around me. In fact, I wish I could take a snapshot of the moment, to carry it with me...always, so it can help me through if I ever have hard times in the future.

“Are you even listening?” my brother says.

I had closed my eyes when I started thinking about how perfect life was. And I’m not sure why but when he asked if I was listening, I felt like I should start fake snoring.

“Oh. My! Gosh! Are you serious?!” My brother walks over to me. He’s in his early 20s—and he’s my absolute hero. I’m still not sure why, but during those years he spent so much time with me (playing music, soccer, teaching me to love to write—anything really) even though he had all the friends in the world.

As he comes over to see if I’m really sleeping, I suddenly burst out laughing so hard. I can hardly control myself because I think it’s so hilarious that I tricked him. “Elisa!!! I knew it!”

He lightly smacks me with the book and chuckles. After that we go help my mom cut veggies in the kitchen. I go say hi to my dad and smile. He’s still outside just flipping those steaks, drinking beer, and dancing to oldies.

It’s just such a perfect moment. And since then I’ve had to capture those perfect moments throughout my life. They don’t happen very often—and they can be hard to catch—but if you can find one, commit it to memory because they’re truly precious. I’m still so glad I was able to catch this one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021


 I’m sure this post will offend some people, and I’m truly sorry if it does. But I’m not writing this to make friends; I’m writing to help people who are experiencing trials, so they’ll know they’re not alone.

Maybe I should’ve never announced that I don’t believe that Jesus is the son of God. That was like saying, “Hey, I’m the weak one in the herd! Come after me!” I knew I’d get backlash, but the hundreds of religious messages I received blew me away. I got correspondence from people of religions I’d never even heard of. People said that in order to find God I should send a letter to some monks, become a Jehovah’s Witness, join the LDS church, ask Jesus to be my lord and savior, meditate three times a day, find a spirit guide, go on a root cleanse and find spirits of higher vibrations. The list goes on and on.... What they all forgot to take into account is that maybe I’ve already found God.

In fact, I think I’ve felt Him since I had a prayer box as a little girl. And then, when I learned to play the violin, I felt Him even more. As if a musical string connected me directly to God, I could feel His love pouring in me and through me as I played just like I knew He could feel my love going right back to Him.

But according to some of these people, if I’d just done what they’d said—if I just had more faith—I’d already be healed.

I felt like I’d been sitting on a peaceful beach and these messages/phone calls/emails were like waves suddenly crashing against me. I even had someone send strangers to my house to convert me. I spent 30 minutes trying to tell them “no” when I’d just finished work, my kids were in school, and I should’ve been resting.

And instead of converting me, these people have helped me have an even stronger faith in God’s love. He doesn’t need to be tied to stupid manmade rules. He found me despite what all of these people believe.

Even after my son died—even THEN—God still stayed. He gave me peace and hope to get through that. I feel like I’ll be all right.

So...I don’t know what the future holds, but I figure an omnipotent God sure does. If He saw fit to create me, then I trust Him to judge me too—after all, He’s God.

Anyway, if you know someone who has cancer or who’s going through a hard time, if they say they’ve heard enough, please consider respecting their wishes. Sometimes the best thing you can do is show them love—instead of unending judgement.

If you’ve sent me a barrage of emails about religion, please don’t be offended, but just try to show empathy. 

For now, I’ll continue envisioning myself in the hand of God. That’s the place I find peace when I’m having hard days. I could be wrong about this, just like everyone else could be wrong, but at least I’ve found some peace in putting my faith in God and playing my violin for Him.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Finding the Good Despite Hardship

“My brother had cancer when he was a teenager,” the man said. And I could tell how difficult the situation must have been for his whole family. That’s the thing with cancer—it affects everyone, not just the person plagued with it.

He went on to explain that his brother got better with time but still had lasting problems that will follow him for a lifetime. “If I could win the lottery, the first thing I’d do is try to help my brother.”

Thick emotion laced his voice, and I realized he’d done so much to help me because he personally knows how horrendous cancer is.

“How did you get into this profession anyway?” I asked. Then I heard such an intriguing story. 

He’d become a CNA first—doing everything to make elderly people feel important and valued. “There are just such amazing people out there.” He even took care of details, helping residents look exceptional, so when they went to breakfast they could proudly look other people in the eyes and feel their best. “After that, I worked with people...right before they’d pass away.”

It must have been devastating, yet through the whole conversation I felt this man’s love and compassion that obviously rooted from what he’d experienced with his brother years before.

“You know, it sounds kind of strange, but I think when someone passes you can still feel them in the room. Once a man passed—and it seemed like he stayed there, watching.”

I’ve seen someone pass away too—my son. That peculiar lingering feeling, well, it’s something you never forget. And although I didn’t tell this man, I also thought my son stayed in the room long after he died....

Then Mike explained how he got into massage therapy so that instead of focusing on palliative care, he could help people get better. 

(That’s how I met him, because he often works with doctors to help patients heal through massage. Someone—a saint who would like to remain anonymous—made it possible for me to get a free massage.)

Anyway, as I talked with Mike, I felt an overwhelming calm. He thinks the afterlife must be such a wonderful place. “I can’t wait to hug my dog,” he said. “Just to feel her jump into my arms.”

I pictured the whole perfect scene. But then I suddenly remembered how worried I’ve been about eventually dying someday, the afterlife, and so many other things. I mostly stress about my husband and kids. To be suffering this hardship alongside's got to be tough. Despite that, a simple truth remains: We all have trials—it’s how we grow from them that matters. Look at Mike! Because his brother had cancer, he has positively impacted so many lives. Out of hardship...came something tremendously good. Maybe my battle with cancer will inspire my children to help other people who they wouldn’t have empathized with before. Maybe....

So, I’m grateful to the person who let me get a free massage, but I’m equally grateful to the masseuse who shared his time and talent. He spoke humbly and really knew exactly what I needed to hear. It’s mind boggling how certain conversations and people can come into our lives at the right time. That’s what it was like talking with Mike Johnson, the insightful masseuse at Absolute Massage Therapy. Thank you for helping me find the good.

Friday, May 14, 2021

An Otter and Some Validation

 I’m an otter. It’s not something I hide. Basically, my brother said he’s always thought of me as an otter. Imagine my surprise when I found a Native American zodiac—and discovered that I actually AM an otter. I would’ve picked something different for myself—like...a ferocious lion—but it wasn’t in the cards.

Anyway, I had a rough week. I’m in the stage of this sickness where I’ve started reevaluating things I’ve already reevaluated. I have a list of shoulda coulda wouldas that stretches to the moon and back. I’ve worried that maybe I should’ve read to the kids longer each day or taught them how to play the piano. (Mother’s Day always brings this out too.) I should’ve never gone fake baking (‘cause stage 4 melanoma). I should’ve gone to church more—or even less. I should’ve eaten better and been more resolute with many things. And most of all, I should NOT have been such a silly, fun-loving otter.

I cooked with my youngest daughter last night. And suddenly it came to me that I should talk in a British accent and pretend she was a contestant on my cooking show. I’m still not sure how, but as she showed her culinary prowess, we cut up waaaay too many carrots.

“We better not burn these!” I said, all hoity-toity. “To win or not to win. THAT—my little friend—IS the question.”

She sneaked off after we popped everything in the oven, and I sat at the table, smiling. I could still hear my little girl’s giggles as we chopped and mixed. That was when I started thinking about how maybe—just maybe—it’s okay that I’m so silly. There’s a time and place for everything and a need for all kinds of people in this world, right? And just when I was finally coming to terms with who I am, that’s when I got a message from my 19-year-old.

“I got a tattoo today!”


“Yay! I love you. Now I have you tattooed on me!”

And then—the same gorgeous kid who actually shaved her head when I lost my hair...that same sparkling light who’s been there every second since I got cancer. That same precious kid who made me a mother...sent me the most surprising picture. On her arm, right in plain sight, is a beautiful otter.

You see, sometimes it takes the acceptance of the people we love most, for us to see the beauty and value in ourselves. I was starting to get there on my own, but it sure felt nice for my daughter to simply love me for me—the same way I love her for exactly who she is. I’m so proud of that kid. She gives me peace and the courage to let go of the past. I’ve done the best I can, and at least for her, that’s been good enough.

I’m thinking about making a list of people I want to call—to tell them how much they mean to me. What my daughter did for me, well...I’d like to do that for others too. Ruby, you are such an example of kindness and goodness in my life. I love you sooo much!

So, if you’re reading this—and curious—I attached the chart. What’s your animal?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

I Met the Phantom

 During the course of running the Morning News from 2018-2020, before it was bought out by a larger conglomerate, I met “The Phantom.” 

The mayor of Blackfoot told me that if I really wanted to meet some interesting people I should attend a certain cafe at 8 a.m. on a Friday. So I did, wearing my most beautiful business dress. It was hilarious to just pull up a chair and sit down by a bunch of men in their 80s and 90s.

“Well, what are you doing—and who are you?” an especially old man asked.

“I’m ordering a coffee. What the hell are you doin’?”

They all laughed, and what I didn’t know is how much one of those men would change my life. Fast-forward almost three years.... The Phantom and I have become phenomenal friends. He’s just so brilliant, well versed, and witty. I know he took the news hard when he discovered that I have cancer. “But you’re so young,” he said, because although I feel ancient, in his mind, 38 is practically an infant. “Ya know, Elisa. I hate to say it, but I’m losing my spark for life. I guess that’s what happens as we age. I’m just getting tired of it all.”

My heart felt the immense weight of those words. Even with all my sickness—and profound suffering lately—I still have a spark. It seems that what he faces is even worse than my struggle to survive cancer.

Yesterday he drove up to my house in a fancy hot-rod and visited with my family. “You always talk about playing the violin, but I’ve never heard you play,” he said out of no where.

“Do YOU play an instrument?” The question just came to me, and I could hardly believe I’d never asked.

“I play around with the piano, but I’m not very good.”

“Well, why don’t we jam?”

So, after I grabbed my violin, he sat at my piano and absolutely shocked me. I didn’t know the melody, but it wasn’t too hard to pick up on. As he played a couple of refrains, I jumped in and the music just flowed. We crescendoed and quickened at the same times. The music vibrated through both of us as if we were immersed in a rushing river. And the moment was truly...beautiful. 

When he finished playing that song from the 1940s, I looked at him and smiled. Big tears glistened in his eyes—and when the tears were gone I realized he’d gotten his spark back.

“I could play when I was four. I just always knew how. It was during the Great Depression, and I’d go play at neighbors’ houses for pennies. I’d come home with a whole jar filled with coins. That was a big deal back in those days.”

Before leaving he stepped from his fancy sports car and said, “Hey, Elisa. You’ve got to get better because when you do I’ll let you drive me around town in my car!”

I could hardly contain my laughter. “Oh, really?! Incentive!”

It’s amazing how a stranger from three years ago has become such a dear friend. I loved seeing that spark come back into his eyes, in fact it might have helped set mine ablaze even more.

So I’m still mindbogglingly sick, but the memories I’m making are some of the best I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to jam with The Phantom again, and I’m so grateful for the time I had running a little newspaper in Blackfoot. The people I met there have absolutely changed my life.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Tiny in a Massive Universe

 The infusion chair feels huge around my small frame. I've lost 15 lbs. now, which is a significant amount considering I was "underweight" before. Yet, despite the fact that I've been sicker than ever , I've felt quite hopeful.

Maybe this is simply a stage a grief. Maybe I'm stuck in denial even though it's at the beginning of the list, and I'm already six months into this debilitating process. mind is so excited for summer. And even though I'm sick, there is soooo much I want to do: hike, paint, eat out on restaurant patios....

The other day, Mike, the kids, and I painted in our backyard. I had to take frequent breaks, but at the end, my eyes sparkled with excitement over what we'd done. We each painted a universe complete with planets, stars, and open space. Just seeing how happy the kids were over some spray paint and cheap poster boards, well, that made it all worth it.

Mike had to practically carry me back into the house because I was so weak afterward. I didn't let the kids see that. In fact, we took selfies and smiled broadly. It wasn't until they were preparing for bed that Mike helped me put myself back together.

The next day, I held my picture of the universe up and thought, "This puts life in perspective. We're all so minuscule. Even smaller than these specks I painted as stars."  When you start thinking about how massive our world is and how immense the galaxies are--even stage 4 melanoma doesn't seem like such a big deal. I'm like an ant...with cancer. Pretty sure it's not really THAT big of a deal.

So, I thought about all of that again as I sat in the massive infusion chair--about how small I am and how small my problems are. And when things were truly in perspective, all of the fear vanished, and instead, only hope remained. I'm so excited for the future, excited to still be alive. I can hardly wait to see what the future will hold--whatever it is, I've got this!

In three more weeks I'll get scans to see if the new therapy is working. But today my blood counts were the best they’ve been since October! I think we’re about to get some good news. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Touch of the Master’s Hand

 I’m talking with my father-in-law. It’s a deep conversation, reminiscent of three weeks ago when I told him I had a strange peace come over me along with the thought that I’ll be in remission...someday. 

Today is a follow-up to that. “Oh, that reminds me,” he says. “I have something for you to read and something for you to keep.” So he leaves the table and comes back with a faded envelope that says “June 2007.”

“You’re only the second person to read this,” he says, then slides the envelope across the table.

So, I hold it gingerly—sacredly—since I know this is important to a man I respect so much. After all my dad and my father-in-law got me through my last rounds of radiation because I kept thinking about how they both had cancer and were brave enough to continue fighting so they could survive. That means I better do the same.

I open the letter and find it hard to breathe. It’s the story of how a strange peace came to him, of how during his darkest hour HE somehow knew that one day he’d be okay. It’s amazing really, a true testament of faith.

I hand the envelope back. 

“And this is for you to keep,” he says. 

That softhearted Italian smiles as my eyes light with wonder. “I carved it for you,” he says. 

I’m soon discovering every detail of the violin now in front of me, tears fill my eyes—and a memory fills my heart.

I was 16. The group had asked for a violinist to help them with a play. “We’ll tell the story,” the woman said, “of a battered violin an auctioneer tries selling. But no one wants it. And when the auctioneer is about to just give it away, someone steps from the audience and plays the violin to show its true worth.”  

They picked me to play the violin during this story. After I played, the auctioneer would get so many bids that the worn violin would sell for thousands upon thousands of dollars. It was such a beautifully touching event, and the people in attendance really did seem enchanted as I played the violin and walked among them before actors “placed their bids.”

I think of this as I study the little violin my father-in-law made for me. And just when I think I’ve seen everything, I notice a laminated note hanging from the bow. “What is this?” I ask, and then my breath catches because it’s the story from the play I’d been in: The Touch of the Master’s Hand.


We’ve been given so much by so many people. I don’t even know how to begin thanking everyone. But just know that it’s this kindness and strength that are buoying me forward. And through it all, I’m seeing how awesome life is when—even through the heartache—we have the courage to see that God has a plan. I feel like He’s leaving breadcrumbs, little signs to let me know that things will be okay. I’m so grateful for these signs. Despite illness and trials, I am the luckiest. I’m so grateful for everything, and for the amazing people who are in my life.