Last year, my mom, dad, and brother came to visit me in Colorado. We had an amazing time walking around my beautiful neighborhood, cooking out, and skiing. I hadn’t skied with my brother in years, and I’d almost forgotten how good he is, as well as how much of a daredevil he is. Before we moved to Colorado I hadn’t skied in about ten years, and I’d been pretty happy that I was able to ski comfortably on the blue (mid-level) mountains. But, my brother Clete wasn’t happy with that. He kept saying that he knew I could do better. So, I finally let him convince me to follow him on some black diamond (high-level) mountains. They weren’t as hard as I’d thought they’d be, especially because I followed my brother’s every move down the run. After a few hours of black diamond mountains, Clete talked me into some double black diamond runs. They, too, were manageable as long as I followed Clete’s every move. Eventually, Clete mentioned moguls, which are large bumps that cover some runs. Hearing the very word moguls reminded me of being a kid, face down in the cold snow, my skis somewhere below or above me. Needless to say, the last time I had tried moguls it hadn’t been a success. But, I adore my brother, and wanted to live up to who he thought I could be, so I gave in and told him I would try moguls, as long as I could continue to follow his every move down the mountain.
Never one to take the easy way out, for my first mogul run in years Clete brought me to a double black diamond run that looked like a cliff. And before I had time to complain or chicken out, he was moving expertly down the mountain. I had no choice but to take a deep breath, and follow him. I tried to smoothly turn around each mogul as he did, but somewhere in the middle of the mountain I started heading straight down the run, skiing over the moguls instead of around them. Before I knew it I was out of control and in a heap at the bottom of the run.
Clete helped me up and told me that I had forgotten the most important thing when it came to skiing moguls: you can’t look down the mountain. Instead, you only look at the mogul right in front of you. And once you turn around that mogul, you look at the next. Before you start down the mountain it helps to map out a path for yourself, through the moguls, but if you look too far ahead while you’re making your way down the mountain, you’ll lose control and fall. When I kept this in mind on the next couple of runs I did with Clete, I was amazed at how it helped. Soon, I was getting cocky and cruising down double black diamonds like it was no big deal.
For our last run of the day, Clete suggested we do an easy blue, so we could relax and just have fun. The first half of the mountain I stayed with Clete, turning smoothly and easily. But then, I decided to show off a little. I’d gained so much confidence skiing with my brother that I wanted him to see how fast I could go. I took off. The only problem was that in my overly confident skiing, I skied right through a partition between the easy blue run and a double black diamond run full of difficult moguls. And Clete was nowhere to be found. I would have to make my way down the mountain myself.
Before beginning, I tried to map out a path for myself between the moguls. When I started skiing, I kept that path in mind, but knew deep down that it might not work to exactly follow that path, and that if I found an icy patch I might have to alter my path a bit. Though my goal was always to reach the bottom of the mountain, I kept my eyes only on the mogul ahead of me. I couldn’t believe how manageable something that had looked so daunting seemed as long as I followed my brother’s advice. Before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the mountain. Looking back up at the bumpy run I’d just skied down amazed me. I couldn’t belive I’d made it down by myself. But, slowly, I had.
I am full of questions right now. Though I had a PET scan to determine if my tumors have shrunk anymore last Monday, I won’t find out the results until I begin my next cycle of treatment Tuesday. It’s hard waiting, knowing that someone out there knows the results and I don’t. It’s especially hard waiting, because not only do the results have the obvious meaning for my life, but on a smaller scale, they greatly affect the next few months of my life. If they’re good, it’s likely that my doctor will only recommend six cycles of treatment, meaning as I go into my fifth cycle, I only have two to go! If the results are less positive, it could mean four more cycles. As Mike and I try to plan our lives, knowing when I’ll be done with treatment would be so helpful. And since cancer has become not only the main focus in my life (other than my son, of course), as well as the source of most things I do (doctor’s appointments, treatment appointments, etc.), I’m anxious to imagine a day when this is not the case. Although, even the thought of that day brings me some anxiety. I have no idea what it will be like to finally be able to just be a mother. Will I be good at it? And what else will I do with my life, when I have my life back? What am I meant to do after all this is over? I’ve never known exactly what I’m meant to do, the way some people feel called to be a lawyer or a nurse. I’ve never felt I fit into any one thing. I love to write, and sing, and help others, but sometimes I struggle to find the best way to do all that.
So, here I am, full of questions and anxiety about what the next steps are in my treatment, and what the next steps are in my life. But I’m choosing to take my brother’s advice to heart. I’m choosing to focus only on the mogul ahead of me. I know what awaits me at the bottom of the mountain: God. As long as I try to keep a path to Him, allowing for some changes along the way if necessary, I know things will turn out all right. And like that day in Colorado, though I may stand alone on this mountain, I know I’m not really alone. God is with me, and I can feel love coming in all around me, from all of you, and in that, there is so much beauty it’s almost unfathomable.
Lead, Kindly Light, by Cardinal John Henry Newman
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.