Wednesday, May 9, 2018

5/9/18 Malt balls? Chocolate Malt? No, Malta!

Dear Friends and Family,

I remember the days before cancer when life seemed as if it would go on forever.  I needn’t rush to plan trips, game nights, or other experiences with family and friends for I knew there would be plenty of time for that later.  Now, however, I am continually conscious of a mental “tick, tick, tick,” reminding me that my time on this earth is finite—perhaps more finite than yours.  And thus, there is absolutely no time to waste. 

With that in mind, consider the last two weeks of my life.  Immediately following two walks, two lunches, and two dinners with friends, I flew to California with Renée, Riley, Daniel, and Jericho for a four-day trip, celebrating Jericho’s upcoming 4th birthday, to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park!  Steve graciously stayed home and worked for somebody has to pay the bills, and that somebody is no longer me.  A wonderful time was had by all, and never before have I witnessed four adults so utterly exhausted by chasing after one almost 4-year-old!

Picture me arriving home from the airport Monday evening, plopping into bed, then arising Tuesday morning for chemo day.  Wednesday, my calendar was blocked out as it always is the day after chemo, with a big slash and the word SICK.  Then at 8 AM Thursday, Steve and I jumped in our car and drove to Ashland, Oregon for a four-day trip with my sister, Marti, and brother-in-law, Merle.  Did you know that Ashland is right next door to CALIFORNIA?!  My backside does!!!  We shopped, ate, walked through Lithia Springs Park, saw two plays, then hopped back in our cars and drove to central Oregon, where the most beautiful home, graciously loaned to us, by our cousins, Rob and Becky, awaited us.  There, we hiked three days in a row along the banks of the stunningly beautiful Metolius River, shopped some more in nearby Sisters, Oregon, read books, and grilled kabobs on the deck overlooking a creek with a 180 degree view of glorious nature.  We topped off our days by playing canasta and sharing five different flavors of fudge.

I arrived home from that trip Monday night and Tuesday, Daniel and I went to the Chihuly Glass Museum (don’t miss it!), to happy hour at the Metropolitan Grill downtown, then picked up Renée at work to drive her home and see her new couch.  After chatting with Renée and Riley for a bit, we swung by Fred Meyer to pick up organic kale for the bunnies and the May issue of Seattle Met Magazine (in which Daniel is prominently featured for his role in helping the UW investigate a new male birth control drug; he will be in Time Magazine in June, in Glamour Magazine this summer, and in a one-hour TV special produced by the BBC in August!).  On our way home from Freddie’s, we made one final stop at Menchie’s for some pineapple dole whip sorbet.  Today I am in a private room with a bed (!) for chemo, which will be topped off by a shot in my stomach to grow blood cells and the drip, drip, drip, of two, big, red, life-giving units of blood.  Like a vampire, I vant to, I need to, I must have some blood!  And speaking of blood—congrats to my sweet Renée on reaching a milestone in April for donating 100 pints of platelets for people like me who need them! 

Are you just a teensy, weensy, tiny bit tired reading these last four paragraphs?  I sure am!!!  I know it is important for cancer patients and anyone battling illness to rest.  And believe me, every time I see a couch, reclining chair, or even a fluffy-looking carpet, I lie down for some blessed minutes of relaxation in the midst of so much excitement.  But as Steve and I have always said to one another, we would rather burn out than rust out.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  J

I just finished studying the Biblical book of Acts in my Monday Bible study group.  In the 27th chapter, the apostle Paul boards a ship with his jailers and sails for Rome, where he is to go on trial in front of Caesar on a variety of trumped up charges.  During the journey a terrible storm arises.  The boat faces winds of hurricane force, and as the ship tosses and turns and threatens to break apart or go aground on a sandbar at sea, the men fear, rightly so, for their lives.  Verse 20 highlights their despair, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” 

But then an amazing thing happened.  After yet another terrifying evening aboard, they awoke to daylight and the sight of a bay with a sandy beach.  They swam and floated on planks from the broken ship to get to shore and everyone reached land safely.  And in chapter 28, we read of the beautiful island nation God had brought them to--Malta.  The islanders showed them unusual kindness, building a fire to warm them, feeding and entertaining them, honoring them in many ways, and when they were ready to leave, the travelers were provided with a ship and the supplies they needed to continue their journey.

There are so many days in my cancer journey when I believe the hurricane force winds of chemo, climbing tumor markers, and frightening scans will surely sink me.  The storms rage in and around me, in my body, and in my mind, heart, and soul.  I am filled with fear, and very nearly give up hope.  But then Malta comes along.  For me, Malta is the smile on Jericho’s face as he spins circles in a giant red teacup and gets hugged by the “real” Mickey Mouse.  Malta is a play in Ashland that makes me laugh so hard that I forget how sick my stomach feels.  Malta is hiking in the sunshine along a sparkling, crystal clear river, with so many colors of blue in the various depths of the water that my soul is just completely filled up.  And Malta is seeing magnificent glass creations, eating the best-ever happy hour burger, and lying exhausted on Renée and Riley’s brand new couch while three of the people I love the most in the world are on the opposite couch, chatting with me about anything and everything.

For the next two days I will be sick, with a capital S.  No hyperbole here.  But I will tell myself to hang in there, for while I’m sick, the God who loves me will be planning my next Malta.  And one day, arriving in Heaven will be the Malta to end all Maltas.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Hebrews 6:19



P.S.  My tumor marker dropped another 57 points last week!  Praise God, and thank you for praying!

Jericho loved this John Wayne statue at the Orange County Airport!

Standing by the Metolius River.
Jericho playing on the slides at the home we rented.

The Disneyland Crew!

A Bug's World at Disneyland.

Happy riders!

Daniel and Riley had to ride the teacups with Jericho for Renée and I get too sick with all the spinning!

Pretend vehicles are so much fun!

A restful moment by a fountain.

Starstruck meeting Mickey!!

Strolling the clean and happy streets of Disneyland.

Learning to spin the wheel to go in circles during the ride.

Daniel and I are dripping wet after going on a whitewater rafting ride.  Then we posed with this characters, having no clue who they are!

The little, first-time flyer waiting for the plane to load.

Having gotten soaked in a water park feature, Jericho enjoys his pizza with no shirt on!

This is the water feature he got soaked in!

Marti and me in Ashland.

Sitting on the deck at our cousin's home in Camp Sherman, Oregon.

By the banks of the Metolius river.

By the river again.

Sunny, enjoying outside play time.

Mickey Mouse pancakes by Daniel.  The perfect Disneyland breakfast!

The one, the "only," Mickey Mouse!

Steve by the old fashioned gas pumps at the Camp Sherman store.

Steve, Gaby, Marti, and Merle by the gorgeous Metolius River!

Look at the different colors of the river water.

Raging river.

Favorite hiking buddy.

Standing in the 45 degree river water!  Brrrr!

Steve driving WWII jeep known as Free Willy!

Fudge plate, anyone?

Love the Mickey Mouse in flowers that greets you at the front of Disneyland!

Chihuly Glass Museum.  Kind of looks like Daniel is wearing a wild wig!

Strolling through the glass garden.