Sunday, October 30, 2022

Proving Those Doctors Wrong

It’s been exactly two years since doctors told me I only had two years to live. Since I’m still alive—and because “blondes have more fun”—I decided to celebrate by lightening my hair. 

#1 I am so grateful to still be alive. Wow!

#2 I’m glad to no longer be bald. (Hair is awesome.)

#3 This year is about to get good.


To proving those doctors wrong,



Monday, October 24, 2022

The Toe Reader — Yes, you read that right. She reads toes!

Idaho has some pretty unique places. Island Park is known for its amazing residents and beautiful scenery—especially since it’s so close to Yellowstone. Sun Valley is known as a celebrity haunt. Boise is now known for its flood of Californians. Atomic City is…well, Atomic City. And Pocatello is a bit peculiar.

Care to disagree about Pocatello? Let me point out a few things. 

One of the main elementary schools is located on “666” Cheyenne Ave. The police station is on “911” N. Prominent people in town have striking or ironic names like Black or Craven; an OBGYN (who should’ve been a urologist) is named Dr. Cox and there IS a urologist named Peter. There’s a slew of other hilarious names that almost sound fictitious, but I’ll stop there.

Plus, those aren’t the strangest things. Pocatello High is internationally famous as a haunted building—and paranormal investigators travel thousands of miles to visit the place. On top of that, the funeral home (Downard) across the street from PHS got shut down for some pretty horrific things. (Just look them up!) What kind of town is this?!

Downtown Pocatello has other oddities and peculiarities many people find intriguing, and when I heard that it boasts—not a palm reader but—a toe reader, I wanted to check her out. 

“This is your intuition toe,” she said, explaining how the length signifies my intuition with myself and others. She went on to talk about trust and hardships, among other things. “See this crease? You endured something really terrible in the middle of your life so far.”

My eyes widened. That’s when my first son died. But I didn’t want to tell her anything personal, so I kept my mouth shut. This was getting strange.

“Do you mind if I touch your feet?” she asked.

“Go ahead,” I said. I’d gone to see her more out of curiosity than anything because I’d never heard of a toe reader. I totally believe in pressure points in our feet and things like that, but I didn’t expect her to talk about hardships. Then she said something I haven’t forgotten for months …

I thought about all of this the other day, after my friend died from cancer. I’d just been so sad, facing her fate and what will probably be my own.

My parents had asked me and my oldest daughter to breakfast. I didn’t tell them about my poor friend who died, but I thought about her as we drove to breakfast. We passed the 666 elementary school, the haunted high school, and the 911 police station. That’s when I finally piped up. “It was really strange,” I said. “I went to a toe reader, and she said something I’ll never forget.”

“A toe reader?” my dad asked.

My parents are so sweet. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about my latest art obsession, a recipe I just tried, or a toe reader, they always seem genuinely interested. “What did she say?” my mom asked.

“She said she could tell I haven’t been doing well for about two years. And I hadn’t told her anything about cancer! Not a word.”

“Really?” Ruby said. “I’d like to go see her sometime.”

“You should!”

“Well, what else did she say?” my mom asked.

“She asked if I feel like I’m paying off some type of debt by being sick.”

I thought about the conversation from months ago. I’d probably gaped at the woman, shocked. “No. I don’t feel like I’m paying off a debt. But I am sick—and you’re right … It has been for almost two years. I have—what doctors call—terminal cancer.”

“Are you sure you don’t feel like you’re paying off a debt?” she said almost gently. “Are you being honest with yourself?” And then I’d started crying. Because I have felt—somewhere inside myself—that if I’m sick long enough, God will see my suffering, His heart will be softened, and He’ll forgive me … for everything.

“It sounds so silly. But deep down. Way deep down, that is how I’ve felt, this entire time. I made some HUGE mistake before my diagnosis. And I keep thinking God will forgive me if I endure enough …” Forgiveness would be even better than being physical healthy.

She explained to me how I can be so strong because I embrace life—even the bad things—but I need to realize that it’s okay to have good things happen too. “I want you to repeat after me,” she’d said. “I am worthy of receiving goodness. I am worthy of being healthy. I am worthy.”

I’d repeated the words, even if it sounded so silly. There I sat, crying, getting my toes read, saying that I felt like my terminal illness could forgive my sins. 

I told my family all of this on our way to breakfast. “I honestly don’t know why I’m telling you this story,” I said as we pulled into the diner’s parking lot. “I just felt like I should.” 

My mom looked at me. “I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this, Elisa. It breaks my heart.”

We got out of the car and my dad hugged me. I know he doesn’t always understand me and my eccentricities, but he loves me anyway.

“I am worthy of receiving,” I thought to myself as we waited to be seated. What a strange thing to say.

“Pocatello is such a weird little town,” I told Ruby as we walked to the table. That specific diner slips customers their bills in classic novels. Patrons never know which book their bill might come in. Last time I got “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Hilarious, since the diner isn’t too far from Hyde Street!

“It kind of is a different place.” Ruby nodded.

“Almost like a Halloween town.”

Anyway, after we sat down, the waitress took our drink orders, and I kept thinking how easy it is to embrace the bad because at least I won’t get hurt from being let down. But maybe the toe reader was right. My friend just died, and I need to hope for health, embrace the good, and realize the obvious—that I’m not paying off some stupid debt. It’s okay for me to hope. Hope that I’ll get better. Even though the odds are against me, I guess it’s okay to be vulnerable. Even if what I have to lose … is my life.

That’s when the waitress set down all of our coffee cups. Everyone got a different cup with unique colors, but words shone on mine alone. I turned it around, so excited to read what it said, and my breath caught in my throat. “I am worthy of receiving…” The words sprawled under a bright rainbow. I showed Ruby and my parents, completely dumbfounded RIGHT after telling them that story. “It’s what the toe reader told me!”

“THAT is weird,” Ruby said. 

“It really is,” my mom agreed.

And so, after breakfast, I left the diner reaffirming that Pocatello is such a strange place—and that the oddest things happen here. 

Regardless of how bizarre this whole series of events might seem, I did find a bit more peace this week. 

I guess I am worthy of receiving something good. We all are. But sometimes it’s nice to remember even if it is in the most unexpected ways.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The Penitent Man Will Pass

I love Indian Jones so much that I named my youngest daughter, Indiana. But today I can’t shake one of the scenes from my head. Do you remember when Indy crosses that “invisible” bridge? He takes his first step of faith simply talking about how “the penitent man will pass.”

I’ve seen several people “ring the bell.” This means  people are done with cancer treatments. I always thought it meant their cancer was gone, and at first this could feel conflicting. After all, this isn’t some contest where everyone gets a consolation prize. This is life…and everyone knows it’s not fair.

I never thought I’d get to ring the bell. But then I learned that people ring the bell for other reasons too. It might signify that they’ve decided to stop treatments because it’s too much and they’re ready to meet death’s embrace. Or they could stop after doctors have discovered that the medicine is too much for them to withstand. (I came close to that point last year.)

Anyway, today I find myself in a very weird middle ground: cancer purgatory. 

Some of the cancer in my body remains, but it’s what the doctors call “stable,” meaning it’s stayed the same size for a very “long” time. (Maybe an easier way to describe that is: “dormant.”) “We never say that people with stage four melanoma are in remission,” an oncologist told me. “Unless you have a freak accident, you still know how you’ll probably die, but we have bought you time. And we’ll be watching you closely so if—and when—it starts growing, we can try other options.”

“Like a clinical trial?”

“Yes.” She nodded.

So, my friend (Kara), Mike and I left that office and trekked to the infusion clinic where I’d have my final treatments. “It’s crazy to think I’ve almost had treatments for two years,” I said somberly. Two long years—the most doctors said my body can take. “We just have to hope and pray that the ‘stable cancer’ won’t keep growing.” Then I paused and glanced at Mike. “I would’ve written my life differently,” I told him. I don’t mean to be irreverent, but I am an author, and this plot line could be skewed as a tragedy. I want to be in an adventure…at the Temple of Doom…with Short Round.

“That’s not the point, Elisa,” Mike said, and I wondered what he meant.

“Elisa…,” Kara interjected, always trying to make things better. “You’re such a good friend. I just wanted you to know.”

We continued on, finally reaching infusions. “No way. You are a way better friend than I am.” Then the emotions of the day overcame me, and I needed to tell her how much her friendship has meant to me. “Remember my wedding day?”

She nodded.

“What you did for me was unreal. You fixed my hair so it stayed in place. You made sure my makeup never smudged. You took shots of Kahlua with me in that barn so I wouldn’t be too scared to walk down the aisle. And you single-handedly made sure I could my vows. It’s just an example of the kind of friend you are. You’re amazing and loyal. You made me feel beautiful…like I was worthwhile.”

She broke out laughing. “I don’t remember doing anything extraordinary,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s funny what sticks out to people…. You know what sticks out about you?”

I shook my head. 

“Your positivity. I never told you this, but last year after I went to treatments with you one time, I realized how negative I’d become at work. I watched you, fighting so much pain…. But you still asked how the nurses were and worried about everyone else. You stayed so damn positive. And I thought, ‘If Elisa can be this positive—with everything she’s going through—I can try too.’”

I bit my lip. “That means so much to me, Kara.” From the corner of my eye, I saw Mike smiling with what might’ve been his I-told-you-so face.

“I started a positivity board at work because of you,” Kara continued.


“Every day I add something to it for everyone to see. It’s gotten pretty big—and I haven’t taken a recent picture, but here’s one from a few months ago. And it all started with me going to that one treatment with you.”

I could hardly believe it. Kara is a big deal, pretty high up at an elite company. It felt hard to comprehend that anything I’d done had impacted her.

“That’s what I meant earlier,” Mike said. “That’s the point of your story. It’s not about how to get better. Or how to not get sick or how to beat cancer. It’s about appreciating what you have, right now.”

So, although I wish I could write that I got to ring the bell because I’m cancer free, that would apparently be too easy. 

I’ve decided that Mike “might” be right. (*giggling* because he’ll love reading that line.) The point of my life right now isn’t to show people how to be happy after overcoming hardships. Its not about how much better life is after beating cancer. It’s about finding joy DURING the hard times. It’s about perseverance and remaining happy regardless of what your situation might be. I’ve honestly found so much happiness after getting a terminal diagnosis. I’ve seen love and embraced the good around me. 

So…despite living with a ticking time bomb, I can be extremely happy today because I got to ring the bell. I wore my best dress from Goodwill, and I think I might’ve been the most fashionably dressed person to ring the bell this year. 2022 fashion alert! There’s that.

Can you believe I made it through two years of treatments, and I’m still here to tell the tale? Life is a wild ride. I can hardly wait to see what chapter God has written next. Spoiler: He’s one heck of a writer. I’m just hoping for a twist ending. Let’s do this thing!

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

We’re Going to Italy!!!

“It’s kind of like Make-A-Wish, and you’ve been selected.”

I paused, a bit dumbfounded. I’ve been nominated for a few things since my cancer diagnosis, but this is the first time I’d actually “been selected.”

“Think of something you want to do with your family, something really big.”

My first thought went to Italy. My biggest bucket list item has always been to visit Italy— especially where my mom‘s family is from in Calabria. Going there with Mike and the kids, well…that would be a dream come true. But I didn’t want to ask for something so huge, and instead I said, “Maybe they could pay for us to go to Lava Hot Springs. The tickets are under $20 a person, and we absolutely love going there.” I figured, this was something fun but not extravagant.

“Are you kidding?” the woman said on the phone. “That’s not nearly big enough. You need to think of something big.”

So…I thought about it for the next couple of days, and when I called her back I had thought of something enormous. It was beyond going to Lava Hot Springs. Beyond going to Italy. Beyond landing on the moon. “I want to meet Oprah,” I said.

She broke out laughing and then tried to calm herself. “We can’t help you meet Oprah, Elisa,” she said. 

And I immediately felt my skin heat to the temperature of total embarrassment.

“Go look at our website and see what we can do. Go look at what other people have asked for.”

So I went and saw that they built ramps to go into people’s houses. They’ve paid for big vacations to different states. They’ve bought people cars.

But I still felt mortified, so I called one of my best friends. “I feel utterly stupid.”

My friend laughed and laughed. “You have to admit. It IS a little funny.”

This friend is an absolutely incredible person. They’re quite well off, but it hasn’t ruined them—they’re so down to earth and kind to everyone. I remember talking with them about wealth once. “It won’t bring the people we love back,” my friend said. They’ve had some family members who died of cancer. And maybe that’s one of the reasons we’ve gotten closer in the past two years. I guess they just really understand what I’m going through.

“So what are you gonna do now?”my friend asked.

“Well, I’ve decided to call the lady so I can tell her to give the money to someone else—maybe a kid or something. I just think there’s someone else who could use it more than I can.”

Months passed, and I didn’t hear from that organization again. I hoped the representative found someone who could think of an appropriate wish, something that would really change their lives. “I wonder what THEY picked,” I told my friend one day, and they said it was interesting I brought that up because they had a surprise for me.

“It’s not just me,” they explained. “I’ve gotten together with a few other people about this. Don’t get too excited because we’re just covering the plane tickets. BUT…”

I held my breath.

“We’re buying you and your family tickets to go to Italy.”

I nearly dropped my phone. “What?! I stared ahead blankly. “You can’t do that. That is so much money. And plus, the doctor said I might be getting better. Some of the cancer in my body is starting to die.”

Silence. Then finally, “Elisa, I just read your book. You remember the man you met—the one who said he got better for a few years, but the cancer came back? He said his advice to you would be to live to the fullest if you ever had the chance because you never know when it might come back.”

“I remember,” I said.

“I have so many family members who died of cancer. They didn’t get to live out their dreams. But you…YOU have the chance. And I want to help give you and your family that opportunity.”

I cried and cried—becoming a totally blubbering mess, and I wondered how I would ever pay this person (and the other contributors) back.

“Just promise me,” they said, “I want to remain anonymous and so do the other people who pitched in. Just have a great time and promise you’ll write about it. All of us read your stuff.”

This happened several months ago, but I’ve honestly thought about it every single day. Especially today.

Today, this Wednesday, is a huge day for me. I’m getting scans to see if the last bit of cancer is still in my spine. Tomorrow will be the last time I can get immunotherapy (even though they will continue infusions for my bones for another year and a half). But the max they can do for immunotherapy is two years because any more can cause organ failure and other complications. If I still have cancer today, we will have to try a clinical trial. And doctors have told me over and over that at that point, the game will be set for failure. No more chances. But—by some odd twist of fate, modern medicine, and answered prayers—some of the cancer has started dying in my body. And despite what doctors predicted, I actually have a chance.

On Oct. 30, it will be exactly two years since doctors only gave me two years to live. It’s odd to think that so many miracles have happened since then. Plus, I’ve really begun to live.

I’ve experienced so many amazing things with my family over the last two years. I got to sing the national anthem for a semi-pro baseball game. My memoir got published by a real publisher and became a bestseller. I went skinny-dipping with Mike—even though he seemed a bit worried that I’d get swept away in the current. And now we’re going to Italy this winter, and I might finally be feeling up to the occasion. We have a wheelchair now because cancer ruined my back and part of right leg. Plus my stamina is still so low, and doctors say it always will be since cancer treatments wiped out all the cortisol in my body. But if that’s the price…to live and see my kids grow up, I’m willing to pay it.

So, I will never meet Oprah—which is actually hilarious. But I will get to see Italy if I can just stay the course. 

I’m so excited to find out what my scans will show today. I feel like a new day is dawning, and I have a renewed lease on life. Yes, the cancer might still be there. Yes, even if it’s gone there is an 80% chance that it will come back. BUT right now I simply don’t care. I am too busy being happy and loving the moment.

Someday I’m going to Italy. And today I’ll embrace whatever beautiful things cross my path. 

Life. Now. The present. Well, it’s beautiful.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Huntsman Cancer Patient with Stage Four Melanoma Goes Sky Diving

 East Idaho News did such a fantastic job on this interview Wow 💓

To read the full article, please go here: Author Makes the Most After Terminal Diagnosis

#melanomaawareness #melanoma #stagefourcancer #cancerwarrior 

Friday, October 7, 2022

How Negativity Can Dim Your Perspective

 I’ve always had strange dreams—for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I didn’t understand them. But by the time I hit middle school, I knew they were something special. “If there’s one thing I hate,” my best friend said at lunch one day, “it’s hearing about people’s dreams. Booo-ring!”

How could anyone say that? Even as a teenager, I felt dreams showed a path to the soul. I could go to sleep contemplating problems, and the answer would come in a dream. One time I stressed about what to sew for a contest and even dreamed up an incredible pattern. Our subconsciousness can be such a gift! 

Anyway, now that I have cancer, my problems have changed. Instead of wondering what to sew for a contest or how to tie up loose plot lines for a novel, I’m asking humanity’s oldest questions: What’s the point of life? What’s the point of MY life? What happens after I die? Where did it all begin? And what gives a life meaning? 

Surprisingly, I’ve gone to sleep asking these questions and actually gotten answers. Yes, it’s mostly allegorical and a bit confusing. Several of the dreams have someone who claims to be God right before they reveal an amazing truth. Now, do I really think God is coming to me in dreams? Probably not. But at least I’m feeling peace about a lot of issues as I’ve mulled mortality, sickness, and the meaning of life.

Right before my surgery last week, I thought about all of this. “What is the point—and why am I still here?” I thought. Oncologists are starting to say I actually might beat this. Yet, other patients—my friends who had much better diagnoses—have died while I’m still here. Maybe I’m having survivor’s remorse. I want to live, but I feel so badly for the people who have died. 

Anyway, I went to sleep and had one of the most powerful dreams I’ve ever had. I won’t go into full detail except to say this: In my dream every person started life with a brilliant light burning inside of them. When they were positive, the light would burn even brighter. But when they were negative, the light would lessen. 

“Many people have forgotten their God-given spark,” a woman said in the dream. “We each have it, but it’s so easy to be negative. And sometimes people’s lights go out. If you say or do something negative, you must balance it AT LEAST with the equal amount of positive. But people forget to nurture their light. Your purpose, Elisa, is quite simple. You must remind people that it’s not worth being negative because it leads to darkness. Simply share your perspective and help people keep their flames burning.”

I knew the dream would change my life. And several days after my surgery, I kept thinking about it—especially on one specific occasion. Mike brought me to a store, but the pain in my leg from muscle atrophy and severed nerves, made it nearly unbearable to walk. So—practically being a saint—Mike pushed me in a wheelchair. 

At one point, he left me to look in one aisle as he went to another, and an eccentric woman came up to me. “Why in the world are you in a wheelchair?” she asked.

I’d done my hair up, fixed my makeup, and I wore a beautiful low-cut dress that framed my bust. I’m sure I looked “the vision of health.” Despite this—and her intrusive questions that I didn’t NEED to answer—I told her about stage four cancer, previous and recent surgeries, and extreme fatigue from ongoing treatments.

“I never would’ve guessed. You don’t look like you have cancer. You’re too young. I feel so bad for you.” Then she went on and on.

Not long after, when Mike brought me to the car, tears filled my eyes. “What’s wrong?” Mike asked.

And as I told him how much I hate being pitied—and about the nosy woman in aisle seven—I felt my inner light getting dimmer and dimmer.

“What is wrong with people?” Mike asked.

“Wait,” I said. “You remember my dream about everyone having a light inside them?”

Mike nodded.

“I feel mine dimming. It’s metaphorical, but you know what I mean. All of the negative things I just felt and said, I need to counteract it.” So I started thinking of positive things. “I must seem very approachable,” I said slowly. “The woman felt at home enough that she could even ask me what’s wrong. AND she said she’ll never forget me or my story because she’d been focusing on unimportant things.” And the more Mike and I said—both agreeing to only be positive—the more I felt my inner light turning from a dim flicker to a blaze. 

Several days have passed, and I’ve remembered that flame and how I don’t want to be negative and jeopardize dimming my light over petty things. And I can say, this mindset has completely transformed how I feel inside.

A few people have thought my dreams are “odd” or “the product of stress.” But I’ve found the lessons in them to be quite profound. Whatever someone might think, I do hope this is my purpose: to help people see the best in themselves and to realize God’s put something special in all of us—a divine spark. If my dreams have taught me anything, it is that life is far too short to spend time dimming our lights with negativity. Why not dwell on the positive and let joy light the way?