Be Not Afraid

Deep Calls to Deep

It’s been helpful to write on this blog, to get my feelings out.  Usually, by the time I write I’ve somehow narrowly escaped the darkness that threatens me and I’m able to see the light-the hope-that still abides.  But I’m not sure I’m there right now.  I’ve just finished my fourth cycle of chemo, and I feel like I should be happy.  Or at least have a sense of accomplishment.  At my initial diagnosis my doctor said that we would do six or eight cycles of chemo, so either way, I’m halfway done.  I feel like this is a landmark that should bring me some sort of joy, but all I feel is….nothing.  I’m not sure I even feel sadness.  It’s more of an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, like I’m underwater trying to catch a breath of fresh air but no matter how hard I push upward, the water continues to crash over my head.

In one week I’ll have another scan to tell me if the chemo is continuing to work and my tumors are still shrinking, and I’m terrified.  While I want to “think positive” it’s difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that while I feel the worst I’ve ever felt in my life, physically, it’s possible that I’m getting better.  That’s the horrifying beauty of chemo-it can only make you feel better by making you feel awful first.  Still, the fact that I felt healthier while I unknowingly had cancer than I do now while I’m fighting cancer is unnerving.

I recently found out about a girl who was diagnosed with the same cancer as me.  Chemo hasn’t worked, and she is now on palliative care.  When I think about her, I feel so much anger and sadness in my heart, I’m overcome.  And there are a million stories like this.  Why?  Though I know asking might be fruitless, I can’t help myself.  Why, God?  If You love us, why?  Why must we suffer, and why must the only hope for some be the promise of heaven with You?  Or, is that really the only hope that exists for all of us?  Is every other milestone, like beating cancer or overcoming depression just a reminder that true happiness and joy can and only will be experienced once we’re united with You?

I worry about who I am, and about who I’ll be once this is all over.  Then again, the saying “once this is all over” doesn’t seem to really fit a person’s experience with cancer.  Even if, as I pray, in a few months I’m told that my scans are clean and the cancer has been killed in my body, this won’t all be over.  It will still be a part of me.  As much as I like to fantasize about a day when I’m told I’m cancer free and I magically return to my pre-cancer self, I know this will never happen.  Too much has been done to my body and mind, and I will never be the same.  I only pray that over time some of my innocence returns; that someday the anger I feel at my body betraying me dissipates.

One thing that I know will make my post-cancer self vastly different from my pre-cancer self is that I’m now a mother.  And there is great joy in that.  Even on days when I’m so overcome that I don’t feel much of anything, looking into my beautiful boy’s blue eyes brings me comfort.  Though I feel lost and like a blind man walking an unknown land, holding John Paul still feels like the most natural thing in the world, and for that I am overwhelmingly grateful.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

-Psalm 42


  1. Briana

    You are providing us a window into your beautiful soul. Thanks again for your honesty.

    You’re at least half way but probably more – almost done! Praying for disappearing tumors!

  2. Sarah McManamon

    Ali you are such an amazing witness to so many people of blind trust in the Lord, especially to me! I’m so glad we were brought into each other’s lives. I love you!

  3. Sherry Willems (AKA Nana)

    I love you, Ali. The last several days have been brutal, and yet, you try to protect us all from your fears, anxiety, and pain. Our love surrounds you, and we will try to hold you up during your remaining chemotherapy cycles. Don’t hide your tears, let us help you face your fear, anger, and anxiety head on. Feel better, baby, we all love you so much.

  4. Alli, I love you. My own words and tears seem so inadequate…and so I give you these.

    “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”
    by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

    God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
    then walks with us silently out of the night.

    These are the words we dimly hear:

    You, sent out beyond your recall,
    go to the limits of your longing.
    Embody me.

    Flare up like a flame
    and make big shadows I can move in.

    Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
    Just keep going. No feeling is final.
    Don’t let yourself lose me.

    Nearby is the country they call life.
    You will know it by its seriousness.

    Give me your hand.

  5. Diane Pfarr

    Hi Ali,

    Although we have never met I feel like I know you. You are a beautiful child of God and I know in my heart that He has His you in his all powerful, loving hands.
    Please know Donny and I pray for you, your little boy, your husband and family each and every day.

    May I share a quote with you that a friend had on their blog … “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take. The clouds you so much dread Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.”

    Thanks for posting your picture with JP and his “Be Not Afraid” bib.

    God Bless
    Diane Pfarr

    • Thank you so much for your beautiful comment, Diane. And thank you also for your prayers. I love the quote you shared. It always amazes me how God can take clouds and turn them into blessings. Even on my darkest days I can still see the mystery of that happening in my life, and I am so grateful!

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