Sunday, July 24, 2022

A Repurposed Steampunk Violin

We finished the violin! I just had to share that info here 🤗

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:


Friday, July 22, 2022

Bloom Where You’re Planted

 Mike planted several different kinds of flowers in our front yard. I’d seen them at the store where they looked beautiful, with bright futures. I bet some hoped to be planted in a botanical garden while others longed to be in a nature preserve. Yet, the poor ones we purchased, ended up in our pathetic flowerbed. We do our best, but most things we plant out front…die.

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

Big News: I’m Turning a Corner


I honestly didn’t think I’d get better. Instead, I reconciled to just enjoy each day and rest in the hope that God would take me when it’s my time.

But now…I’ve turned a corner, and my doctor said if things continue this way, I can possibly stop treatments in October and go on “observation.” This won’t mean I’m in remission, but it’s the next best thing. It means they’ll try to keep me “stable” for as long as they can—which could be a long time (way longer than two years anyway!). THIS is a miracle! Thank you for all of your kindness and ALL of your prayers.

I told my family and some of them cried, but the message that floored me came from my 12-year-old. She messaged back, “Mama is going to be okay.”

Those words made me cry because I’m so glad for the greatest gift of all: more time with the people I love.


My parents went to my treatments today. We all took a nap, and at one point I woke up and cried a little bit. I’m so incredibly happy to be turning a corner, but I wish all of us could get better at the infusion unit. Maybe I have to remember my first thoughts: It’s important to rest in the hope that God will take everyone when it’s their time. I thought all of this as the music therapist started singing during my infusion: “Don’t Stop Believing” and the words “some will win; some will lose.” I think all of us have won something in that place because we’ve grown through the journey. Some appreciate life more then ever before. Some have started finally pursuing their dreams after years of achieving what others wanted for them (instead of what they wanted for themselves). And people, like me, have grown closer to their families. I want everyone to “win” and get better though. I guess I just want them to feel as good as I do today. In this exact moment.

For now, I’ll continue writing about my journey, but I am so excited for good, life-changing news.

Like I keep saying, I am the luckiest. THIS is amazing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A Beacon in the Darkness

 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

COVID-19 Vaccine Perspective From a Cancer Patient

 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. 

Peace out!

Monday, July 11, 2022

Right Place Right Time

 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

My Cancer Isn’t in Remission, But my Sh*tty Attitude Sure Is!

 “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: