Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Keeping Dignity

 I've watched exactly one person die: my son. And it was horrendous.

I've seen numerous other people moments before their deaths because I worked in a burn unit and also spent time playing my violin for palliative care patients--as well as for funerals. I've witnessed people who chose to die with medication on board and others who waived the pain pills. Unfortunately, now that I have a new tumor, these memories have surfaced and I must deal with my fears.

I don't mean to be negative. It's just reality: The glass isn't half-full or half-empty--the damn thing just has liquid in it. Basically, IF I continue to grow more tumors by this fall, doctors will look into clinical trials because my body won't be able to withstand any more immunotherapy treatments. And IF those "trials" don't work, that's the end of the line for me. It could still take a long while to die--years--and who knows what I might expect at that point. Of course, this new bone infusion they're starting tomorrow could be a game-changer. My body might finally cooperate so I won't get infections or liver failure and thus be forced to skip treatments--my literal life-line.

You might be thinking, "Don't worry about this." "Don't count chickens before they're hatched." But when someone is facing death like this, they can't help but wonder, at least sometimes. And THAT is my reality.

So, last night I had my second big panic attack since embarking on this quest. ("Quest" because it makes cancer somehow better like I might meet Frodo--screw that, Sam! Frodo's a pansy.) I skipped my nerve pain medicine yesterday. I'm down to only a few pills a day and quite proud of myself. But without this nerve medicine, it felt like someone had punched me in the thigh and back where my biggest tumors are. This became so unbearable that when Mike got home from work, I cried--like freakin' Frodo.

"Elisa, are you okay?"

"No." I sat in scalding water in the bathtub--the only thing that could momentarily ease the pain. Bubbles gleamed around me, reminiscent of Doris Day in "Pillow Talk." But she made it look far more glamorous since my face probably strained with fatigue. "It's just that I'm not scared of the cancer, I'm scared of the treatments. I'm trying to fight and stay alive for you and the kids." I sighed, thinking of how the bone infusions are supposed to hurt excruciatingly bad. "Tonight Trey and I played music. I had so much fun jamming with him. But then, I thought about how the doctors said at the most I'll have 10 years from my diagnosis in 2020. That means I'll only live to see Trey turn 21. All of the kids will be so young."

Instead of saying how they're making medical advances all the time or I could try this or that, Mike nodded. "It's okay to cry. It's good to know I'm not the only one who cries about all of this sometimes."

I reached up, and Mike held my small, soapy hand in his large, masculine one. "We don't know where any of this is going. Hell, maybe this bone infusion will be the thing to save my life! BUT I do need to know something."

"Anything. What is it?"

"If we get to the end of the line, and things are terrible, really terrible. If we know I'm about to die ..." I suddenly cried so hard that my body shook, sending little tidal waves across the bathtub's water. "I just want to die with dignity."

"You're talking about going to Oregon or something?" he said, his voice a bit shaky.


"Elisa, how would we ... would we invite our families over for one last dinner?" Mike's resolve broke. I've never seen such a brave man, so bare and vulnerable.

I blinked back tears. "I think we could. But, would that be an option? I mean, if we get to that point a long time from now?"

"Yes. Of course, Elisa. If there are no other options and you're just suffering. But we aren't there yet. We aren't even close," he said.

"No, we're not close. But you've just lifted such a huge burden off of me. That makes this less scary. Just to realize if there's no way out, I still have a choice."

So, it probably sounds morbid, and I know many people will not agree with or understand this post, but I feel better. I'm ready to go into treatments tomorrow. I'm ready to fight like hell. I'm ready to kick cancer's ass
(One of our engagement photos taken in 2014.)

. Because I STILL have a choice. And right now, I choose to fight. I want to see my kids grow up and have their adult lives, careers, and babies of their own. I want to grow old with Mike. I'm going to fight for it, until I can't anymore. But even then, at least I'll still have dignity.

It really is FAR too soon to think about this, yet it gives me peace and strength.

"You don't look quite so scared anymore," Mike said after I'd donned my PJs and gotten into bed.

"No, I'm ready to fight again. I was just smiling, thinking how my dad's side of the family has Viking blood. Cancer picked the wrong broad this time. It's stupid to mess with a Viking."

Mike laughed so hard, wrapped his arms around me, and we fell asleep with me wondering over the beauty of being married to such an amazing man. We'll get through this one way or another, and everything will be okay. God has a plan.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

What Gives a Life Value?

Several weeks ago, I shared about a battle I’ve been facing. And I’m not alone. It seems that when people hear they will most likely die from cancer—and soon—they ask themselves one question: Has my life mattered?

Currently my cancer isn’t getting better. I need to undergo radiation again, and on Thursday, my oncology team will begin a new infusion for my bones that will work in tandem with my other treatments. Although this should help in the long run, I’m expected to feel even sicker than before.

So, as I’ve thought about all of this again, I’ve wondered, “Has my life mattered?” To make this somewhat tangible for myself, I decided to find five exact moments when “I” felt of value.

For yourself, can you think of five moments when you really felt of value? 

This has not been easy for me! In fact, I’ve thought about this for weeks, bouncing back and forth. Was it the act of giving birth to my children, owning successful businesses, hitting a million views on my blog, landing the lead in a play, or running a newspaper? While nice, stacked against “value,” each and every “accomplishment” seemed hollow, maybe even rooted in pride. 

“How’s your search for value going? Have you landed on your five memories yet?” a friend asked. 

“No. I just keep thinking of standing before God, trying to brag about my bachelor’s degree or being a physician liaison, and it sounds completely inane.”

“Elisa, don’t downplay your accomplishments.”

But she clearly didn’t understand. 

That night Mike and I made a fancy dinner with the kids. We laughed and joked. We played ping-pong on the kitchen table and tried the new “Starlight” Coca-Cola. It was the most fun I’ve had in months. Then, when the kids went to bed and Mike sat reading a book about Eastern philosophy, I sneaked downstairs. 

It’s rare for me to have enough energy to get extra things done, but I knew I could do something small that night—and it would have a huge impact. 

In my sewing room, there’s a stack of clothes that need patches, buttons, and other adjustments. So, like a little elf, I fixed everything. It didn’t take a terribly long time, and as I sewed, I felt so much love pouring through my tumor-ridden body.

“What are you doing, sweetheart?” Mike whispered. “Oh, my gosh! You fixed everything!”

He picked up a pair of his pants, and I suddenly felt like I had value. I could hardly wait for the kids to see what I’d fixed. 

“You look so tired… But you seem so happy,” Mike said.

I grinned. “It sounds so cliché, but it just hit me. It’s the small things. When I stand before God, if He asks me why I think my life mattered, I’ll say it did because I tried to make a difference for the people who meant the most to me.”

That night I snuggled into my fuzzy blanket, and even though the pain in my hip has grown to much higher levels and I’m still a little scared about the new bone infusions, nothing could dampen my happiness. The kids and Mike feel how much I love them, and so do the people who are closest to me. And that’s truly what matters. That is what has given my life value. And you know what, that’s enough for me.

Friday, March 25, 2022

How to Stay Positive Despite Hardship

I am so grateful that I got invited to talk at this assembly. The kids were so respectful and kind throughout the entire talk. What an awesome experience!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

We’re all Battling

The girl stared at me in the store, and I honestly felt a bit awkward. I’m walking much better than I used to, but people can still tell there’s something “wrong” with me.

Mike and I moved to the checkout line, and the girl followed. “You feeling uncomfortable?” Mike whispered because he’d noticed the girl too.

“Yes,” I mouthed back. And as I looked up into his face, his eyes squinted with worry and his forehead wrinkled; that man wants to shield me from heartache and sickness—he wants to protect me from the world.

“Your wife is hot!” the girl finally said to Mike. It came out in a strange monotone that could’ve brought tears to my eyes.

Was this a game? I hobble around places, and although I have “personality” and funky Goodwill outfits, I’m not “hot,” and I still struggle with the physical changes I’ve experienced since my surgeries.

“What did you say?” Mike asked.

“Your wife is hot!” She finally came over to me, her baby-blue dress swaying as her beautiful brown eyes and flawlessly young skin practically glowed. “How do you stay so skinny?” she probed.


“Her whole family is skinny,” Mike blurted. “Good genes.”

“I want to be skinny like you though,” the girl said turning back to me.

I didn’t know what to say especially since the whole moment felt incredibly insincere, and I can’t abide that. “You look great…but I have cancer,” I said. “It’s hard to keep weight on when you have cancer.”

Her eyes grew wide, and I noticed at this point that a man had begun darting toward us. He studied the girl with increasing concern.

“Dave,” she yelled and spun, before spotting the man. “I can get skinny if I get cancer.”

Mike and I gawked. “Dave” looked like he might fall over from embarrassment. He glanced at us apologetically.

“You’re beautiful just the way you are,” I said. “You’re gorgeous!”

“And you don’t want cancer!” Mike said.

“Dave” came closer.

“Do people…get better from cancer?” the girl asked him. She batted her lashes and appeared like a porcelain doll.

“Umm, Soph…,” Dave said, “cancer can be hard. Some people don’t get better.” He urged her to come away with him, but she didn’t want to go. At this point, I realized the girl had a mental handicap. 

“No,” she shook her head and stayed. “Some people don’t get better,” she repeated and peered at me with new understanding. So much sadness and compassion filled those beautiful eyes. As if she didn’t want to ever look away, she asked, “Why are you sick?”

“It started with a mole.”

“It’s melanoma,” Mike said gently.

“No…but why. Why is this happening. Why do these bad things happen?”

I could’ve said God has a plan or I have peace about my situation, but this girl needed something more. She needed the absolute truth. “I don’t know,” I finally said.

She studied me. “You really think I’m beautiful?”

“Of course. Anyone can see that!”

A cashier called us to her checkout stand. “Wait,” Soph said before we could leave, “You’re strong. Very strong.”

“You’re strong too.” 

I knew she didn’t know exactly what she should say. No one REALLY knows why sickness, pain, or even handicaps exist. And I didn’t have any more answers than that sweet girl, but one fact remains: We’re all trying to get through our own struggles the best we can…. We’re each fighting a battle whether other people realize it or not.

I’ll never forget the compassion in Soph’s eyes. In that moment, ‘I’ wanted to shield ‘her’ from the world….

Thursday, March 17, 2022

A Curmudgeon in the Waiting Room

 “What are you in for?” I asked, deciding to pull my mind from things and joke with the man next to me. But I realized almost instantly that I’d picked the wrong guy.

“What am ‘I’ in for?! Cancer!” He scoffed, looking around the waiting room. “I don’t expect someone like you to understand how bad life can be.”

“George!” The woman next to him tapped his leg. “She’s at the hospital too. We don’t know why she’s here.” She stared at him through thick, pink glasses, obviously hoping to calm him down.

“Why ARE you here?” He looked at me like he could spit venom. And—if he hadn’t been so mean—I would’ve spotted his shoulder-length hair and guessed he’d played sweet love songs in the ‘60s.

“Ummm…I actually have cancer too.” I swallowed. “Stage four melanoma.”

“Oh, that’s just skin cancer.”

I sighed because I hear that a lot. “Bob Marley died of melanoma. People die from this. Doctors say ‘I’ will die from this. But to die like Bob…well, I always did like his music….” The man blinked. “Anyway, doctors initially gave me two years to live. But now I might have more.”

His eyes got big, like a dog’s rubber toy when you squeeze it REALLY hard. “Well, yours must not be as bad as mine! Otherwise you wouldn’t be so happy.” He crossed his arms. Then, even though he seemed mad at me, he told me his whole story.

I listened to him talk for a while about how he never really lived because he can’t enjoy the fortune he worked so hard to save. I felt bad for him until he said something I dislike more than anything: “I have nothing to be grateful for, and I hate God for doing this to me.”

“But we all die…. At least I have a chance to tell everyone how much I love them. Everyone dies. Why be mad at God for something that’ll happen anyway?”

“This is worse than ANYTHING. I’m suffering!!!” he said, and unfortunately I could understand that last statement—especially from when I almost died of sepsis.

A woman seated across the waiting room piped in, out of no where, “They took a survey and most Americans said if they can’t die in their sleep, they’d like to die of cancer.”

The man and I broke out laughing. THAT was hysterical. “Those people have NO IDEA what cancer is like,” he said, and the woman turned red. 

In a strange way, I’d begun to like this curmudgeon.

“I think people just don’t understand,” I said to her soothingly, then turned back to the man. “There’s always something to be grateful for though. Always.”

“Well, if you’re so d*mn smart. You tell ME, what I should be happy about?!”

“Well…you…clearly haven’t lost your ability to really get passionate about something!”

The woman right next to him let out a laugh then immediately cleared her throat.

“Is that it?! Is that all you got?” he asked.

“And…you can still walk and talk…” Then the words just flew out. “And it’s a good thing you can talk because you-sure-like-to-hear-your-own-opinions.” 

His mouth literally fell open. “Well!”

Just then a nurse called him. “George? George, we’re ready for you.”

“Come on, Judy!” he practically spat. “Let’s get out of this waiting room!”

“I’m gonna wait out here,” she said, making him roll his eyes before he walked away.

“I am sooo sorry,” I mouthed to the woman.

“Are you kidding. He’s terrible!”

“Is he your husband?”

“Yes. And don’t let him get to you. He used to be fun and happy. He was a lot like you until he got cancer a couple of years ago. It’s just worn on him—and our whole family, really.”

“He seems pretty great actually. I just hope I didn’t offend him,” I said. “But give him some slack. Cancer is so much harder than people realize. With a terrible flu or cold you know it’ll end. It’s just hard being sick and thinking it might never, ever go away. Some days you almost feel trapped in your own body.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry you’re going though this too—you’re just so young. Be brave and don’t worry about what you said to George. I can tell he got a kick out of you even if he didn’t want to admit it.”

A nurse practitioner called me back after that. “I heard you met George,” she said after she’d closed the door.

“I did.”

“Well, a couple of nurses and I heard the conversation, and we’re just worried for you.”

Oh, no! I felt like I’d been called to the principal’s office. “Did I do something wrong?“ I asked.

“No-no-no. It’s just that you’re always so happy despite what you’re going through. It might surprise you, but not all cancer patients are like that because they’re dealing with so much pain and so many emotions. We’d hate for you to lose your,” she paused as if searching for the right word, “sparkle. George used to be so happy when he first started coming here. He was so much like you.”

I fumbled with my hands; I didn’t know what to say.

“You still have tumors all over your body. It must be pretty painful,” she probed.

“It really is, and sometimes that’s harder than I want to admit, but there’s still so much to be grateful for. When I die—and as I go out—I don’t want cancer to rob me of who I am.”

“Elisa, I know….” She sighed. “I’m not too worried at this exact second, but please tell us if you are feeling sad. We had a patient last week…they…” Tears filled her eyes.

“They what?”

“I’m sorry.” She wiped her tears. “It’s just that suicide rates for cancer patients are higher than people realize. Some patients just feel trapped in pain or they don’t see an end to their sickness other than death. I just…I really care about you—and all of our patients.”

So, I left the hospital after my appointment feeling like I carried the weight of the world. My conversation with George wasn’t sobering, but the talk with the nurse practitioner sure was. 

Having cancer has completely ignited my will to live and to enjoy whatever life brings. But I know it isn’t like that for everyone, and as I type this, that makes me so unbearably sad. I wish I could change people’s outlooks because losing sight of life—before death even comes!—is waaay worse than having cancer.

Even though I can only walk a quarter of a mile and I have to use the motorized scooter at the grocery store, at least I can still enjoy the beauty of our world, speed while shopping, AND see the people of Walmart (heck, I might even BE one at this point).

I’m still trying to process all of these deep topics: sickness, death, depression, and my obsession with Bob Marley…. But what I do know is that I’ll be praying for George for the rest of my life. He may be an old grump who thinks he’s “all washed up,” but with a short conversation he changed my life anyway. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time. I hope he’ll get his sparkle back, and I vow to never lose mine.

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! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A Man for All Seasons and Dreams about Sir Thomas More

 Rambling, thoughtful post:

At the age of 15, I started having the strangest dreams about Sir Thomas More. I’d ask him the weirdest questions and he’d offer even more peculiar answers. I’d recently read “Utopia” and filmed a 5-minute home video about Henry VIII for AP history. Yet, I’m still not sure exactly why I dreamed about this man….

My dream book states that every “living” being in our dreams is simply an aspect of ourselves that we’re trying to understand. But why would I dream about a man who died for his convictions?

It’s interesting that I would remember the dreams during this time in my life. So, I’ve picked up the play “A Man for All Seasons,” and I’m really excited to see how it answers the questions: “What/who am I?” And “What is man?” I find it so important to understand exactly where I start and end (or what I’d like to be on this earth anyway). Although I think I know this answer, I’ve decided to dissect it a bit more and quit “floating through life,” working and breathing without pondering these important questions. If my time is to be shortened—and the doctors say there is no doubt—I MUST understand exactly what I can do and what I’d actually like to accomplish during my time here. 

Remember how a writing “friend” said they wished I’d done more with my life? As ridiculous as I’ve come to view this statement—because it’s a prideful thing to say—it did make me wonder: What gives my life meaning in MY eyes? 

Over the next several weeks, I plan to think of five moments when I really felt of value—and to write about them in my diary. I’m hoping this exercise will display (for me) what I think is truly important. Success—like beauty—is in the eye of the beholder. Yet, I wonder if value is the same for most; maybe it boils down to giving and receiving love? Or is value different for each person with concepts that can be sorted into different buckets?! 

If you were to think of moments when you felt of the most value, I wonder which types of experiences YOU would choose? 

Anyway, I’m done being sad about my new tumor. Now, I’m just excited to continue on this journey called life. #bringit #whatami #SirThomasMore #AManForAllSeasons

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Unfounded Anger

 It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling. I guess it’s that I’d begun to hope. And now that there’s a new tumor, I feel like the rug has been yanked out from under me. But it’s not just any rug or even a tablecloth on a heavily-laden table; it was a magic carpet, and now I’m falling, forever falling.

I keep asking myself why I’m so upset. It’s not that I’m scared to die, not anymore. Pain is far worse than death. I’m just grieving because I want more time with my children, my husband, my family and friends.

I pondered these deep issues as a 20-something cashier helped me at a gas station today. But instead of offering good customer service, she just complained because she has to work late and she’s “tired of constantly getting hit on.” 

“Yeah, sometimes life sucks,” I said kindly, but I wanted to flip out.

“You have no idea,” she said. “It sucks looking the way I do. Men just won’t leave me alone.”

Wow! Talk about having it rough. I’m trying NOT to be an a$$hole or to let this get to me. After all, she has no idea that I have cancer…or that I’m fighting what feels like a losing battle. She has no clue that “getting hit on too much” seems superficial and silly to someone who’s facing death before the age of 40…to someone who’s empathetic to the plight of so many Ukrainians…to someone who’s nearly twice her age. I shouldn’t have gotten angry, but part of me was.

When I arrived back home, in an effort to calm my completely unfounded feelings of anger toward this poor woman, I looked through pictures of my favorite memories. I thought it would be good to remember times when “I” didn’t always realize how good I had things. I smiled over tremendous milestones with my kids, my wedding (Mike looked so absolutely handsome that I felt stunned), book signings, when I held Zeke before he died, photos from my childhood, and so much more. Then my hand fell onto something fortuitous, a picture from my days running a newspaper.

A group had planned to visit the Eastern Idaho State Fair (EISF) from the veterans’ home. “One of them just adores Marilyn Monroe,” a woman had told me.

I sat at my desk, twirling my bleached blonde hair. (You can’t pay me to keep my hair the same color for longer than two months!) I remembered being upset because I worked so many hours, and I barely saw my family. I’d recently complained about having to work late and covering too many story. (If I only knew what would happen in a few short years!) Luckily, my next story would be fun. In fact, the following day, I’d interview the vets about their visit to the fair. 

“Marilyn Monroe,” I whispered and suddenly remembered a dress I’d recently found at Goodwill—it looked exactly like something Marilyn would wear. So, the day of the vets’ outing to EISF, I donned the dress and curled my hair. I looked nothing like Marilyn, but people could at least tell I’d tried. 

I’ll never forget when one of the vets saw me. “Randy” asked if he could get a picture with me to put on his wall at the assisted living home. I even sat on his lap with all of the other vets around. I’d tried to do something fun for them, but I realized they’d done something for me. They made me feel valued and special. And as I wrote the story, I remember thinking that I didn’t mind working late quite so much because I truly appreciated the moment. 

So, that’s what I need to do now, as cliche as that sounds. I know I’ll shake it off and get back to my regular happy self soon, but I’m embarrassed to say that part of me is still digesting last week’s news. 

I am grateful that I’ve led such a good life and that I have so many wonderful memories to look back on. Plus, it’s not over yet. They call this a battle for a reason. For my family, I need to keep fighting. Plus, I’ve always liked rooting for the underdog anyway.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Don’t Be a Rainbow Chaser

“Don’t be a rainbow chaser.” This might sound obvious, but after a radiologist discovered a new cancerous tumor in my body last week, I had to take a moment and cry. 

So, what makes someone a rainbow chaser? That’s simply when people see a rainbow, but they’re not satisfied with the sight in front of them—and they must get closer. But there isn’t a pot of gold at the end, and after you’ve gotten too close, you can’t see the rainbow at all! In the same way, the present should be enjoyed, each step, each moment, each joy and heartache. If someone can’t be happy with the beauty right in front of them, they’re constantly “chasing rainbows.”

“I just feel so dumb,” I told Mike. “I let myself hope. Really hope. And then I cried.”

“I cried too…at work,” he admitted. “But we can’t lose hope.” He held me then, making me feel so safe despite such uncertainty.

“I guess I just thought they’d tell me I could go into remission at some point. But now they’re worried about the effectiveness of the treatments.”

“You’ve had setbacks though, sweetheart. They had to stop treatments so your body could heal from liver failure and then sepsis. It might actually be kind of amazing that this is all that happened. You couldn’t have treatments for months.”

I nodded. “The cancer could’ve gone crazy, right?! And it’s just my femur. God gave me two of those for a reason!”

Mike smiled and smoothed my hair back. As I looked up and gazed into his blue eyes, I thought how I’m the luckiest woman in the whole world. Sure, it would be nice to possibly have more time and not constantly battle pain, nausea, and fatigue. But I would be a fool if I forgot to appreciate the beauty that’s already around me. 

“Can I show you pictures from Utah?” I asked Mike, thinking how I’m done chasing rainbows. 

“Sure,” he said.

And as I opened my phone, I felt stunned. “I brought Sky to a garden…. But, Mike…” I looked at a few pictures that Sky had taken of me, and right above my head, stretched a beautiful rainbow.

I’m crying as I type this because life is so amazing!

I set down my phone, gave Mike the biggest hug, and told him how perfect he is. Then, when I visited with each of our four kids today, I couldn’t get over how completely special they are. From their hilarious banter, hardworking attitudes, and complete moxie, I am so proud to have them fighting alongside me through all of this. They always help me find the good!

I never thought I’d be a rainbow chaser, but even in my darkest hour, God allowed a little miracle to happen—to remind me that I should always appreciate the blessings in my life. Even when we don’t realize it, He’s looking out for everyone, surrounding us in love, and sprinkling our world with so much beauty. We just have to be willing to look for it. 

I never would’ve suspected that a rainbow hovered just over my head, even as I battled devastating news and hoped God would give me some sort of sign that He’s still looking out for me. I am so fortunate.

(You can see the rainbow in this “pursuit” of happiness photo. You've gotta love typos that are literally written in stone. The Gilgal Sculpture Garden in Salt Lake is pretty neat.)

Thursday, March 3, 2022

A Tumor and Joining the Ukrainian Army

 It’s a good thing Sky is here—making this fun. Some of the scan results from yesterday are in, and unfortunately I have a new tumor in my femur. Why I’ve turned into a tumor factory is STILL a mystery to me. Plus, I’m a little tired of bad news that leads to radiation. Honestly…radiation is THE WORST.

“That’s it,” I told Sky. “I’m joining the Ukrainian army.”

She blinked, knowing that I’m half joking. “You have cancer. They won’t want you fighting for them.”

I gasped. “Sky!” Then I whispered, “I’ve heard they’re paying $3,300 a month for foreign help—any kind of foreign help.”

“Mom, if it were trench warfare you’d unload one clip and need to take a nap. You couldn’t even get out of the trench!” Then, because we have a ridiculous sense of humor, she broke out laughing like she’d never—ever—stop. 

I stared at her. “Well, it would suck to carry a gun ‘and’ walk more than a quarter of a mile. Fine. I’ll take my chances with radiation.”

A patient coordinator walked by during this conversation—which had made my infusion a little more interesting. I flagged him down. “Excuse me. We have a problem,” I said, deciding to tease Sky because of her sassiness. “My daughter is cheating at cards. Isn’t it enough that I have cancer, and now she’s cheating?”

“You want me to call security?” He winked, and I knew he smiled wide under the mask.

“Mama! You’re winning by 50 points! If I’m cheating that’s really sad!” Then she turned to the man. “And if I did cheat, no one would know because I’m so good at slight-of-hand!”

That made me giggle, especially later, since several people stopped by to razz Sky about cheating while her “poor mother” should be allowed to win.

So, today has been eventful: I got a new tumor, I won at cards, I can’t join the Ukrainian army, and I almost met the security guards at the cancer center. 

Sometimes this feels like a rollercoaster that won’t stop. I’m just glad my family makes the ride fun and that we’re enjoying every second we have.

Sky took this picture (below), right after I accused her of cheating at cards.