Be Not Afraid

The Path Is Wide Open…

One of the positive aspects of having cancer is the people you meet. It happens in the hospital, at cancer happy hours (yes, they exist and yes, they are awesome-the first time I went I asked Mike, “Where do you think the group is?” as we entered the bar. He responded, “Well, I’m not entirely sure, but you might check with the group of baldies over there…I mean, it’s just a thought…”), through mutual friends (“You have cancer? Oh! My friend Jenny has cancer!! Therefore, you two are surely soul mates who share every thought and are exactly alike in every way.” Okay, I’m actually kidding with that sarcasm, as I really, really do enjoy meeting other people who can relate!), at the grocery store when you lock eyes with a stranger after realizing you’re both rockin’ the bald look, or in the elevator at the infusion clinic (there’s nothing to promote immediate bonding like you both pressing the dreaded 4th floor button and sharing a smile or you both visibly trying not to throw-up as the elevator – surely the rockiest in history – moves excruciatingly slow up the building.)

The point is, people with cancer are everywhere. And sometimes, only they who are walking the same rocky path as you can completely understand all you’re feeling, and all you’re facing.

Since I’ve only ever met one woman who has fought the same type of cancer as me, I am especially grateful for the Facebook group I belong to, a group made up entirely of PMBCL fighters (that’s primary mediastinal diffuse large b-cell non-hodgkin’s lymphoma to you!) It’s been such an incredible source of support and comfort to me. The one hundred and some members have listened patiently to my worries during my roller coaster journey with cancer (remission-maybe not!-biopsy clear-maybe not!, etc., etc.) They have sympathized with me when I complained about how insecure I felt after gaining new scars, losing my hair, and becoming puffy from prednisone. They have suggested remedies for my chemo-induced side effects. They have celebrated with me when I finally received news of my remission this month. And they have inspired me with their own stories of survival and perseverance. I am so thankful for them.

Yesterday, a member named Steve told us that he was checking into the hospital to begin the 21 day process of annihilating his current immune system with intense chemo, and then infusing his body with new, cancer-free stem cells (after already enduring many rounds of chemo and radiation.) In a sense, he is being re-born, and he is doing all he can to kick cancer’s butt once and for all. He asked that in his honor, we spend these next 21 days living life more fully than ever before, that is, with more love, more happiness, and more adventure.

In that spirit, John Paul and I have set aside the laundry (stop complaining and just wear your swim trunks under your suit, Mike!) and cleaning that desperately needs to be done.

(This picture is actually from a few weeks ago-hence my baby’s burn-free face, but the current state of our house is shockingly worse.)

Messy Baby

We’ve left the dishes in the sink, set aside the mail that needs to be sorted, and crumpled up to-do lists (the crumpling was JP’s idea.) And instead, we’ve set off on adventures, spread love by spending more time with friends-both in person and on the phone, and done our best to whole-heartedly embrace happiness.

One way we’ve done this is by starting a tradition of eating breakfast by the bay, giving ourselves time to enjoy the boats, watch the early morning walkers, feed the ducks, and just be with one another. It has been lovely. And you better believe we’re going to keep looking for more and more opportunities for love, happiness, adventure, every day, everywhere we go.

And so, as we begin the weekend, I’d like to offer my friend Steve’s challenge to you: what are you going to do to bring more love, happiness, and adventure into your life?

The path is wide open.

The Path is Wide Open

Friends, I do not know everything Steve is going through. In truth, we’ve only ever met through Facebook, and I know little about his life. I’ve never had to face a stem-cell transplant, or say goodbye to my son for 21 days. But I do know what it’s like to have my spirit momentarily crushed by a cancer diagnosis. I do know what it’s like to wake up to the sounds of beeping machines in a hospital room in the middle of the night, longing for someone to talk to. I do know what it’s like to be tired and to struggle to find the strength to keep fighting. And wonderfully, thankfully, blessedly, I also know what it’s like to receive message after message of love and support. I know how important these words are, whether they come from friends, family members, or strangers. I know how often these messages carried me through my darkest days. And so, I would love to be able to send Steve this post, complete with messages of support and love, as he begins his 21 day journey.

Please leave a message for Steve below in the comment section. Let him know that you’re supporting him from afar, and tell him what you’ll be doing in his honor for the next 21 days to bring more love, happiness, and adventure into your life.

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28 comments

  1. annamarie

    Steve I will be praying for you. And in your honor I will try very hard to enjoy our beautiful beaches here in Naples, FL. Annamarie

  2. Sherry Willems (AKA Nana)

    Thank you, Ali, for reminding me to look for happiness and beauty in EVERY day!!!! I have tried doing that most of my life, after going through my own chemotherapy forty years ago, but there are days when anxieties and exhaustion bring clouds. In honor of Steve, for the next 21 days, and hopefully longer, I will chase those clouds away by cherishing the inner beauty of the people in my life. Steve, I will be praying for you. Keep up your spirits as best you can, and know there are many in your life who are sending healing thoughts and hugs.

  3. Steve, I am sorry to hear about the struggle that awaits you. But I am glad to hear you are fighting, and I will join the others of Ali’s friends who are behind you. Even though suffering can be very isolating, we must never forget that we are in this life together, united in mysterious and powerful ways even with people we have not yet met face-to-face. And so I stand in your corner, I offer you my prayers and thoughts and energy to strengthen you in the battle ahead. I will light a candle for you at Notre Dame’s Grotto, and I will offer mass here at Notre Dame for your healing and strength (Ali, if you can get me a mailing address, I will send the mass card along). Be strong, brother, and know that we are with you in your suffering and in your fight. May God bless you and fortify you to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    Peace,
    Dan

  4. Aunt Cathy

    Stay strong, Steve. Have faith! I don’t know you, but I imagine you must be very strong, and you can call on that strength in the days to come. You can beat this, but just in case you need a little help, I’ll be adding you to my prayer list, because we can all use a little divine intervention!

  5. Cori

    Steve! Please know that thoughts are coming your way from Evanston, IL. In honor of creating more happiness, love and adventures, I am getting my bicycle out of storage from the winter and start to ride again. Here’s to completing a century ride (100 miles) before the this time next year. Here’s to your rebirth!

  6. Every day is a gift most of us take for granted, isn’t it. Today is the only day we have for certain, so I love your challenge of seizing it, Allison!
    And to extend love each day is all God requires of us…

    Steve — I cannot imagine what you’re going through. I cannot imagine the emotions your family is having to sort through, either. But I do believe in a Higher Power. I do know the Great Physician personally and would be honored to pray for you and your family.

    Father, You know the path Steve has ahead of him. Be with him, Lord, in a powerful way. Give him the strength, encouragement, love he needs to get through this. Give the doctors the wisdom they need to get Steve through this. Father, I’m asking you to heal Steve. Through a miracle or with modern medicine is up to You. But please bring his health back to him again so he can continue to raise your children up the way they should go. Be with his family, Lord, as they go through this, too. Let Steve and his entire family feel your presence as they go through these next months. And thank You in advance, Lord. For what You have done and are going to do through Steve….

    All for Him,
    Nikki

  7. Steve, although I don’t know you I offer you my Saturday…my husband and I are driving in small towns enjoying art fairs coffe shops live music bird song and beer. I will enjoy every glorious second in your honor and send you all the positive energy I am soaking up.

  8. Dear Steve,
    The older I get, the smaller the world seems. Please feel my prayers around you as you fight your battle. You are NOT alone.
    Wish I knew a really funny joke. Could you just pretend I told you a REAL gut-buster and just laugh for me???? Sometimes I do tell some funny ones…sometimes I just do things that crack my husband up…..
    Many blessings, Steve.

  9. Mary Enquist

    Hi Steve,

    21 days, huh??? That seems pretty unbearable. While I will never understand what you and your family must be going through, I can promise you three things: 1) I will be praying for you and your family each and every day, 2) I will be fundraising for LLS as I train for the NYC Marathon this fall in honor of YOU, Allison, and my Mom who are all fighting the battle with Lymphoma, 3) I will cherish and not take for granted each and every minute I get to spend with my daughter, while you are heart wrenchingly forced to be away from yours.

    I also want you to remember three things: 1) Your are incredibly strong and will get through this, 2) You have a army of people routing for you and praying for you, 3) The 21 days will end.

    God’s peace,
    Mary

  10. Mindi Danielson

    Steve I am reaching out to you and your family because you are not alone. My husband had an allo transplant on Jan.. 24th of this year. Prior to his transplant he spent 35 days in the hospital during induction. It was an emotional ride, but stay strong. For the next twenty-one days we will keep you in our thoughts and prayers. With two young children of our own, we know the anxiety that sets in knowing you will be away from them for a duration. Stay determined..our prayers are with you. The Danielsons-Kenosha, WI

  11. Gayle Emgelstad

    Steve, I will keep you and your family in my prayers as you go through the next 21 days. I will pray for healing for you and strength for all of you.
    Many Blessings,
    Gayle

  12. Karen Owens

    Hello Steve!
    Even though we don’t know each other, I want you to know I care about you and am praying from afar. You are such a wonderful guy, according to Allison, and you need to be strong during this necessary treatment so that your family can welcome you home with open arms! I am going to make a point of doing something nice for an unexpected someone each and every day. This will be done in your honor! Take care and know that prayers and good medical care will get you through this painful time In your life. Soon you will be as good as new!!

  13. Barbara Ryan

    Steve, if spoken thoughts and prayers can lift your heart and mind, and soul – then know that many people send them your way. Few of us can imagine what you must be going through, but your story reminds us all that life is a gift – for as long as we have it. Somehow God is in the midst of all this…. Peace be with you.

  14. Steve, I wish you well and will be thinking of you from a warm and windy Chicago! I am a runner, and find my peace on the beautiful Lakefront Path in Chicago. This is where I will be thinking of you, your family and friends, and all those fighting the battle against cancer. My hope is you will have many days filled with joy and happiness. I will be thinking of you on my runs as I look out over the beautiful, serene (usually!) Lake Michigan. Lots of love. -Sarah

  15. Steve, although we’ve never met, I just wanted to let you know that I will be thinking of and praying for you over the coming month. Hold on to your hope, and trust that God has a plan for you, even if you can’t see it right now! Stay strong!

  16. Elise

    Dear Steve, please let me offer the beautiful things that I experience in the next 21 days to you and your family. Although there is great beauty in the hospital’s role in healing, hospitals themselves are often barren of things that lift the spirit. Mindful of the sterility of your surroundings, I will dedicate to you my delight in the many things of beauty that I so frequently take for granted. God be with you!

  17. Sarah Horowitz

    Steve,
    We heard you are going through a difficult time to say the least. Please remember all of the good in the world and live each day for those beautiful children who love you so much. In times of darkness there is hope deep within the hearts of friends, family, and even those who do not even know you. Our thoughts are with you. You are so wise and strong.

  18. Briana

    Steve,
    Many blessings to you in this season of great trials.There are people that you love and folks you will never meet praying for you through this time. Your rebirth and recovery are on our hearts. My prayer for you is these 21 days go by in a flash and you are given a peace and understanding deeper than you’ve ever known.
    In honor of you, I will hug my eight week old daughter closer and play with her longer every day, grateful to be able to do so. You’ll be back with your family in no time.
    Peace to you,
    Briana

  19. Britney

    Steve,
    I don’t personally know the struggles, pain and grief you’re dealing with currently, but as a pediatric oncology and BMT nurse, I do know that your strength, courage and determination to fight for your life is an amazing story to those medical professionals who take care of you everyday. As I care for my patients I am touched by the love that families share, and my faith is renewed daily as I try to carry what I can for them through their journey as an individual who it has be stuck with such an awful situation. While I say all this, at the same time I know, this sucks! It just sucks and I want to encourage you to continue to be strong and courageous (as my kiddos would say) but also know that others think it sucks too. I often drive home saying “What the heck God, this sucks!” But our Creator is faithful and he will see you to the end. Praying, encouraging and lamenting with you!

    Brit

  20. Clete Willems

    Steve,

    I will be saying the prayers that helped my wife and daughter and, don’t laugh now I’m serious, writing a Steve character into my book. He’ll be strong and enduring, and inspiring to all who meet him. God will bless my make believe Steve and, I pray, his authentic role model as well,

    Know you are thought of.

    Clete, Ali’s Dad

  21. Shawn

    Steve, There are prayers for you coming from Des Moines, Iowa. May you stay strong and fight for yourself and your family and patient with God’s plan for you.

  22. rebeccaworthington

    Steve,
    Sending prayers, much love and hope for a beautiful future your way. Stay strong and know you are not alone!!!
    Rebecca

  23. Hello Steve: Each of the 21 days I will be praying something specific and today I pray that God will fill you with COURAGE to step into this journey and take the hand of your Creator as He guides you each day. With deep love and concern for your well-being I am a friend from Kenosha, WI, Joan S.

  24. Claire

    Dear Steve,

    These past few weeks, my parents have been visiting me in my new home in Alaska, and we have been celebrating life more fully these past couple weeks than we have in recent memory. We all experienced a number of ‘firsts’ and amazingly awe-inspiring experiences – and I am grateful for those opportunities, particularly given your wish for us to live more fully on your behalf. I am sending prayers your way for sure during this arduous time. You are part of a spiritual (and online) community that is with you throughout your journey!
    Claire

  25. Janette

    Steve,
    I will be praying for you and your family to stay strong, feel the love among each other and most importantly feel God’s love poured out on you even in these loneliest moments. I am dedicating over the next 21 days that I will be slow to anger and be thankful to God for the people I have in my life.
    Janette

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