Lessons From Hawaii

It’s been so long since I’ve written, I fear I may have forgotten how to write. Thank you to those who checked in on me during my lengthy silence, especially the Astonishing Fartman, who left such a lovely comment for me on this blog. Incidentally, I have loved receiving all the personal notes and comments and especially meeting some of you in person; I’m happy to say that I’ve found new friends through this blog.

As you may have already known from Facebook or figured out from reading previous posts, I was away in Hawaii for ten days, where Kauai’s warmth, light and lushness healed to some degree my tortured body, mind and soul. I returned almost two weeks ago to deal once again with the mundaneness of life – going to Trader Joe’s, Target and Costco to re-stock the emptied fridge and pantry, cooking homemade dinners after almost two weeks of eating out, packing school lunches, engaging in the agonizing morning routine of getting dressed and dragging ourselves through the Brooklyn streets and subways to work and school, watching (or rather being forced by my husband to watch in my case) portions of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, catching up on the most recent episodes of House of Cards; you know, all the usual stuff. And then, there was the not-so-usual-stuff: the horrible jetlag resulting in the girls being awake until 11 p.m. most nights and me and Josh tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning, and then jerking awake hours later to realize that school had started 15 minutes earlier; the stomach bug that assaulted Belle on Good Friday, leaving her to throw up on her and Mia’s bed and then, after I had cleaned and changed her, my bed too, all at 3 in the morning, of course. The same bug assaulted the rest of us the day after Easter with Mia throwing up five times in the span of eight hours. Josh and our babysitter had somewhat milder symptoms and yours truly barely felt anything, just some nausea and gassiness that could have been just as easily attributable to the chemo pills (or perhaps the spread of more metastatic disease). And throw into the middle of all that trips to the cancer center for an Avastin infusion and a discussion with my oncologist. How a part of me wishes we could have stayed in the escapist paradise that is Hawaii forever. 

There we stayed at a resort where the pools, filled with a dark blue water nearly as dark as the nearby ocean, seemed to go on and on, winding their way down the cliff like a gentle river surrounded by natural rocks, silky green, orange and red vegetation, and softly roaring waterfalls. A pond filled with lively koi fish circled one of the hotel’s restaurants, at which we dined one evening as the children poked their heads out of the expansive windows to wonder how the fish would sleep in the gathering darkness. On the first morning there, plagued by jetlag, we bypassed the saltwater lagoon that sat beneath the pools to venture onto the little beach tucked into a cove and watched the sun rise. That morning and every other morning after, Josh took the girls to the Sea View Terrace to pick up coffee and pastries; the terrace offered breakfast and exactly what its name implied, a magnificent view of the seemingly limitless sea. Our room, no doubt the cheapest among the 600+ rooms in the resort, was on the ground floor, lacking any noteworthy view, steps away from the parking lot, with a lanai furnished by two chairs and a table that were adorned by our perpetually drying swimwear and further beautified by the girls’ fading sidewalk chalk art – Josh told me the unsightly bathing suits and child graffiti all looked so ghetto but I said who cares.

Instead of making our way up and down the stairs and through the hallways to the front entrance and our car, we would sometimes escape the resort through our ghetto-ized lanai, scampering past the manicured bushes and grass to our rented Ford Focus, that seemed to give Mia a tummy ache every time she sat within its confines. In the car, we drove to lunches and dinners of impeccably fresh and local fare, accompanied by ice cream for the girls, virgin pina coladas for me, and sangria and Mai Tais for Josh. In between our meals, we drove through a red-rocked canyon with waterfalls carved into its sides and up to the north part of the island, where fertile fields yield enormous crops of taro, all the way until the road ended and we could drive no further. We drove the car to other modes of transportation from which we could see parts of the island that were inaccessible otherwise. On an open-air train, we circled a former sugar plantation that now cultivates oranges, pineapple, coconuts, hogs and goats. On a helicopter, we looked down upon an amazingly diverse terrain of beaches, mountains, valleys, canyons, farmland and gorgeous green-blue waters – and by “we” I really mean Josh and I because the girls fell fast asleep under the influence of the lulling monotonous roar of the rotors (which thankfully overpowered the slightly nauseating sensation of seeing the world at twisted and entirely unnatural angles). On a catamaran, we cruised along the spectacular Napali Coast where dwarfing cliffs drop straight into the ocean, dipping clumsily into little alcoves, into which the native Hawaiians used to slip their canoes on their fishing excursions; we saw many pods of playful dolphins and a few elusive whales; the children agreed to allow Mommy and Daddy to don snorkeling gear while they remained behind under the supervision of the crew, for which I am grateful as it allowed Josh and me to hold hands as we swam amongst the schools of colorful fish, fish that were so swift that I couldn’t manage to touch a single one. Josh and I put the girls in the resort’s kids camp one day and rented a tandem bike – yours truly doesn’t bike solo because of my vision issues – and biked along the east coast of the island, capped by a late lunch of superb raw ahi tuna, shredded pork, rice and seaweed salad, all purchased at a nondescript but very popular local market and eaten on a patch of abandoned grass overlooking the never-ending, soothing ebb and flow of the ocean. It was one of the best and most memorable lunches of my life.

I know that the warmth and intense brightness of the Hawaiian sun, the coolness of its starlit nights, the majesty of Hawaii’s singular terrain, the saltiness of its pure waters, the sweet juiciness of its fruits, the bird songs that began in every pre-dawn light, the fierceness of the graceful fire dancers (whose performance was the climax of the luau during our last night in Kauai), all of it served to heal, at least a little, what has been broken inside of me for a long time. For the last 21 months, I have been hurting in a way that I haven’t ever hurt in a life that has had more than its fair share of hurts, and all of it was made a thousand times worse in December by the devastating news of the spread of my cancer to my lungs and its incurable nature. Before December, there had been (most of the time) fire, determination, hope and faith, for before then, although cancer had wounded me, I still believed that I would recover, that I would be made whole again, strong again, just as I had found strength in having lived with my visual limitations. But after December, there was no more fire, determination, hope or faith; there was just hatred, rage, jealousy, worry, despair and even sometimes the ugly desperation of a wild and frantic creature fighting to survive at any financial, emotional and physical cost, as I researched trials and studies and ingested cannabis and put other things into my body that seemed of dubious value.

In the days and weeks before our departure, I was fretting and crying about who would help my children make decisions about where to go to high school and college, ten to fifteen years from now. I was agonizing about Josh taking my girls out of New York City after my death despite my wishes. (For the record, it is my express desire and wish that the girls be raised in New York City or a similar worldly cosmopolitan city.) I was worrying about Josh himself, about what rash decisions he would make, about his emotional stamina to endure the loss of his wife. And in response to all those potential situations, I thought of ways to control a future of which I would not be a part, planning and having conversations with people faithful to me who would understand my wishes and who would help to support Josh and my girls in my absence. And yet, despite all of my planning, I feared with a deep anger that my wishes could easily be made irrelevant by Josh under the evil influence of the Slutty Second Wife or other person who would not care about the desires of a deceased and forgotten me. Josh was insulted by my lack of trust in him and his love for me, but nothing he said, no reassurance, no promises, nothing could ease my worries and misgivings; nothing could quiet my crazed mind and soul. Nothing that is except Hawaii.

It seemed like physical symbols of my emotional turmoil were manifesting in the days before our trip. The increased Xeloda dosage, which I had begun two weeks prior, had left deep cuts along the natural creases of the first joints of my fingers, ten times worse that the worst paper cuts, so painful that a single strand of my girls’ hair touching a cut would have me wincing in pain. Blisters, bloody quarter-sized welts turning various shades of black and blue, formed right under the outer layers of my skin, on the balls of my feet, the result of the Xeloda breaking capillaries, I’ve read. Walking normally was like treading on fiery coals. I wore latex gloves as I packed for our trip and on the airplanes and applied endless amounts of creams and lotions and then bandages. I bought ugly super-padded flip flops that became my only footwear for the next week. I hobbled behind my husband and children as they ran through the airports and then the resort, trying to walk on the edges of my feet. The pain was truly agony. After arriving at our hotel on a Thursday night at 10 p.m. local time (4 a.m. New York time) and a short night of sleep thanks to the jetlag, I called my oncologist on his cell at 5 a.m. local time (before our walk to see the sunrise). I told him without equivocation that this was not an acceptable side effect. He told me to stop the Xeloda pills immediately and that we would decide what to do next when the cuts and blisters healed. He warned me this hand foot syndrome might get worse before it got better.

For the first couple days, Hawaii’s perfection with all the smiling people who had come to bask in its perfection only seemed to exacerbate my mental and physical anguish. I looked upon these fellow vacationers who had come from all over the world, seemingly so happy and carefree, walking and darting about so easily, and I hated and resented all of them. I was certain that none of them, or at least a vast, vast majority of them, did not have to think about Slutty Second Wives or tolerate the kind of pain I was in. I knew rationally that if I could peer beneath the façade, I would see flaws in these people’s lives, but none of them had the same life flaws I had of blindness and then cancer at an early age, none of them could be hurting like I was hurting. I felt the self-pity and alienation, the distinct feeling that I did not belong in a place of such perfection because I was not perfect; I was irreparably broken, mortally wounded.

After a few days, the cuts and blisters began to heal, little by little. Rationally, I understand that it was the break from the Xeloda that was allowing my skin to heal, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was also the magic of this Hawaiian paradise. Josh, after a couple days in Hawaii and completely fed up with my moroseness, told me he had scheduled an 80-minute massage at the resort’s spa. He knew that I was too cheap to spend the money on a massage for myself. He’s a good husband, my Josh, the best there is (even if he drives me bonkers sometimes). The spa was the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced – and I’ve been to a decent number of spas throughout the world. Apparently, Britney Spears had been in the day before and the likes of Robert Downey, Jr., Adam Levine and other celebrities also frequent the place. The treatment room was exposed to air and light and life-affirming greenery. That massage was the best I’ve ever had, performed by a heterosexual male (also a first) who was a pharmacist in a former life. So, he understood about cancer; he understood what hurt me, and most importantly, it felt like he was able to release some of the hurt that had settled into my muscles. And he was able to do this while making me laugh about the celebrities who visit the spa and gossip about the inner workings at this huge resort. I’ve never felt so relaxed and happy after a massage until then. That was the turning point in Hawaii where my mind changed course, where my perspective shifted.

Rather than being angry and resentful towards the happy people around me now, I appreciated the goodness in my own life, that I too, despite my cancer diagnosis, can and should be counted among those happy people. I was grateful to feel good, to not be in pain anymore, to have the means and the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place, to have a husband who loves me so much, to have wonderfully smart and animated children, to be alive, to be able to breathe and taste and smell and touch all the beauty and wonder that surrounded me. I’ll never forget standing on the bow of the catamaran after the snorkeling and after the lunch provided by the crew, bouncing with the currents as the boat sped back to port, with the sun shining down on me, taking deep life-sustaining breaths, overcome by a sense of incredible well-being, of loving that moment and just that moment in time because for me, right then and there, there was no future; and I rejoiced in that for every fiber of my being was present and alive to what was, indifferent to what would be. In that moment, I felt no jealousy, no envy, no yearning for someone else’s long life, no resentment towards those who have the life to which I had always felt entitled.

Josh was sitting with the children; he was looking rather green and Mia was about 30 minutes from vomitting on the deck, but I was loving being on the boat, no squeamishness whatsoever. I’m generally okay on boats; I like to think it’s because I spent a month at sea when I was a little girl on a rickety fishing boat fleeing Communist Vietnam. I’ve been on many boats since then but for some reasons the sightless memories of my first boat experience were with me that day, the vague feeling of sitting on my grandmother’s lap – yes, that grandmother – for days on end, without even room to lie down, of people puking and peeing over the side of the boat, of mournful prayers of hundreds during the sleepless night to the invisible Buddhist gods, of crying for milk and my grandmother in a fit of frustration hurling my bottle into the South China Seas.

As much as I was living in the present on that Hawaiian catamaran, I also recalled my past then, for what are we today if not the sum total of our experiences and memories. I have never been one to dwell on and regret the mistakes of the past; rather, I believe in extracting the lessons from our own history, finding strength in all that we have overcome in our lives and celebrating our achievements, no matter how big or small. It isn’t easy to do, especially after being told that you have incurable cancer, in the face of the self-doubt and sense of inadequacy and failure that comes with constantly comparing oneself to others. It’s certainly something that I have struggled with since December, to celebrate the strong person I always thought I was, to remember what I have overcome. But that day, I finally remembered where I came from and where I’ve been. The memories did not make me feel strong in the way that much of the cancer community likes to think of the word, like I could beat Stage IV cancer just as I had overcome poverty and blindness, like I could go a hundred rounds with the enemy and emerge victorious. It wasn’t that kind of strength I discovered that day. No, it was a more elusive and precious strength born of gratitude. How could I possibly feel gratitude in a life doomed to end prematurely, in a life that I daresay few would want, you must wonder? But I did feel grateful, not just for my husband and children and for being alive, but also for the incredible life I’ve lived, a life that could have been cut short long before cancer on more than one occasion, a life that could have been mired in mediocrity and obscurity. My past is a gift and so is any future I have.

Living with gratitude and in the moment while bolstered by the lessons from my past, these are the life principles I’ve committed myself to embracing, with the ultimate objective of finding happiness, and if not happiness all the time, peace with my fate. To that end, I left Hawaii with an ancillary commitment to take better care of myself to encourage my mind to continue to adopt that perspective. Living with gratitude and in the moment requires constant mental vigilance, a mental workout equivalent to a physical workout at the gym. It means doing things not because I think any of those things will cure me or even extend my life, but simply to make myself feel good in the moment, whether it be taking supplements I believe in, exercising, acupuncture, massage, meditation, therapy, cooking, spending time with my family or taking more vacations. No more, or at least much less, fretting about the future from which I will be absent and the Slutty Second Wife. I seek now to live in this moment as much as possible and this moment only because the here and now is really all we have. I seek to find contentment with my life and thereby cease the jealousy and rage.

Competitiveness and ambition, innate human tendencies, have served our species well for they have inspired individual achievement and spurred creativity, mankind’s walking on the moon and vaccines, and will spur one day, the cure for cancer. But competitiveness and ambition have their dark sides, resulting in jealousy and rage. I have always been a competitive and ambitious person.  I credit those qualities with personal and professional successes, but I also credit them with my darkness.

On the online support groups, sometimes people with Stage IV disease (as well as other stages of disease) will post about good news – their clean scans, their sustained remissions for a year or two or three or even longer – and they always preface their postings by saying how they feel bad for sharing such good news while fellow Stage IV patients are struggling with so much bad news but they share to provide hope – that word that I hate so much. The responses are inevitably something along the lines of how good news is welcome and congrats. Well, I have a confession and I suspect I’m not the only person who feels this way. I swore that I would always be honest about this cancer journey with the world when I started this blog so I make the following declaration as part of that promise, to give voice to the sentiments of those of us who hide our ungracious, unflattering and shameful sentiments. As much as I’m jealous of those perfect people in Hawaii, I’m most jealous of those Stage IV patients who survive much more, those patients who for whatever reasons whose lives were spared by the gods. Have the gods determined that their lives are more worthy of being saved? Have they achieved more? Why do they deserve to live and I deserve to die?  Why do they get to win and I lose? All frustratingly unanswerable questions that fill me with rage once again. Sometimes, I find myself thinking that they’ll get theirs one day. I suppose such feelings make me a terrible, uncharitable, vengeful person, but I also believe such feelings make me very human. To be clear, I don’t want to think such thoughts, to have such emotions. I hope my newfound commitment to live in the moment will rid them.

I’ve had cancer patients come to me, people who are in their 50s and 60s and older, people who’ve raised their children and lived to see their grandchildren, and they complain to me about their cancer, about not living until 70 or 80 or 90, and I think to myself, you have no right to complain to me; what I wouldn’t give to live to see my children graduate from high school, never mind the birth of my grandchildren; what I wouldn’t give to see 50, never mind 60 or 70 or 80. These people tell me you always want more and grieve the future you won’t have, no matter how old you are. I suppose they are right.

Here I am, as I write this, having just received news of my yet again rising CEA, grieving again the fact that I won’t be here to watch my children grow up. (I’m back on the lower dosage of Xeloda as of last Wednesday and continue on the Celebrex). At the same time, I realize that someone like Rachel, the 30-year-old woman I wrote about in Dying Young who was diagnosed at age 26) and all the other young people, the children and teenagers, who die from cancer and other illnesses, they didn’t even get a chance to have children, to even marry or date or go to college or high school. Does Rachel look at me and feel jealous that I get to live longer than she does, that I got to have life experiences that she will never get to have? Could she or anyone even remotely be jealous of me? Would she want to tell me, “You should be grateful for all that you have,” just as I want to scream the same directive at those complaining patients who are older than I? A part of me thinks the idea is laughable and yet a part of me also thinks it might be true.

It is all about perspective; that’s what Hawaii made me realize. Being happy and having peace are choices that we must make every day, every moment of our lives. Executing the choice to be happy, to be at peace, to not be jealous or angry, to feel gratitude, to live in the moment, is a gargantuan endeavor that requires a forceful manipulation of the mind to adopt a perspective, a life and world view that is consistent with those objectives. I have a lot of mental and emotional exercise to do, work that may lead me to withdraw from the online cancer support group community for a while (I don’t want to bring my jealousy and rage and other non-supportive energy there), although I have every intention of continuing to blog on this little virtual space, for it and my writing and all of you who have read this far are my solace. So, please keep sending me notes and leaving comments and otherwise reaching out to me. Your support helps me in ways you will never know.

I sat down with Josh to watch Ken Burns’ documentary, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, a visual depiction of the Pulitzer prize winning book of the same name. The first part of the three-part series, which profiled children suffering from leukemia. Josh found depressing and upsetting.  Many cancer patients found all three parts to be even more depressing and upsetting. In response to an online posting about how depressing the documentary was, I wrote the following:

I read the book and loved it. I’ve only watched about half of the documentary but plan on watching the whole thing. It’s depressing to those who have an unrealistic understanding of this disease; I suppose for many, that refusal to confront the reality of this disease is necessary to get through the day as we live with this disease. I am anything if not a realist. The truth is that Stage IV for many is a death sentence, whether now or later. The truth is that we are not that close to a cure. [X] is right — the more realistic (and dark) the picture the more urgency will be afforded the cause to fund research, not just with the general public but with the cancer community itself. Everyone needs to get involved in raising money to fund research. Awareness and education in my opinion are secondary issues that matter little in the big scheme of things. I do not personally find the book or the documentary depressing, in part because I understand the reality without any sugarcoating or false hope. My husband found it depressing because he fears for himself and our children. I find that since I already have Stage IV cancer, I’m not scared anymore, at least not for myself because I am not afraid of death. It’s all a matter of perspective. When I see little children dying of cancer, I think I’m freaking grateful that I’ve lived that many more years than they. When I look at the course of human history and realize that cancer has been part of us since the beginning of our species but we’ve only begun treating cancer with surgery in the mid-1800s (with the advent of ether) and with radiation in the early 1900s and chemotherapy in the 1940s, I see what remarkable progress we’ve made in the last 150 years for a problem that has plagued us for thousands and thousands of years I am awed by our ingenuity and determination as a species. Think about the bigger picturs Think about our humanity and your fellow human beings, past, present and future. Maybe then you won’t be so depressed.

It is all about perspective. Now to listen to my own advice…

Here are some pictures from Hawaii.

IMG_2481[1] IMG_2487[1] IMG_2500[1] IMG_2503[1] IMG_2522[1]

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. julielyyip
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 09:11:28

    Reblogged this on Julie Yip-Williams and commented:

    Forgot to title this post before hitting “Publish”. The piece has been properly titled now.

    Reply

  2. Janie Davis
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 09:58:47

    Thank you for sharing, Julie! I adore you and am so touched by your honesty.
    You share your deepest and unadorned feelings which reminds me every day just how very precious life is. You are such a gifted writer and I believe you are touching lives in a very positive way. We never know where are journey in life may take us but you remind me to make the most of what I have experienced and to be grateful for each day I have yet to experience life. Thank you for your words and friendship!
    You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Reply

  3. steph20021Steph
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 10:25:18

    I always look forward to your entries. Thank you for sharing your honesty. And yes, I for one am jealous of your means and opportunity to go to Hawaii, a place I had always thought I’d get to see but in all reality will never.

    Reply

  4. lisa
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 11:27:36

    Wonderful writing as always Julie. Thanks for admitting to the jealousy. I could relate. x

    Reply

  5. Jeanine
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 12:01:28

    It’s so good to hear from you. You have been in my thoughts for weeks, now. I was hoping you enjoyed your vacation. Your words brought tears to my eyes, once again. Keeping you in my prayers, Julie. My prayer is that you live a long life. Live for today. One day at a time and always stop to see the beauty. Enjoy the spring flowers popping up everywhere. Enjoy those adorable girls you have. God bless you, Julie.

    Reply

  6. Peter Huber
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 12:23:15

    Julie;

    Thank you for your eloquent honesty. As I, a nearly 70 yo husband/caretaker of a nearly 5 yr Stage IV cancer survivor (7 overall), have felt guilt for experiencing the richness of life denied so many of our new friends with this diagnosis/prognosis, I too have felt a need to withdraw. My guilt, mixed with the pain of losing many/most and the fear of losing my “Lifelong Dearest” often overwhelms my ability to feel comfortable with others on this journey. Reading your thoughts helps illuminate my path knowing I am not alone. Paula and I continue to hold you, Josh and your beautiful girls in The Light.

    Reply

  7. debbie
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 12:28:31

    I have the same cancer and a similar medical journey as you; colon to the lungs. I am happy to read of the place you’re in now. I have been feeling a peaceful realism, contentment, (most days) for a while now and it has made my quality of life a lot better.

    Reply

  8. cjshomenta
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 12:34:44

    Welcome to embracing gratefulness, acceptance, and compassion. I think you will find it allows you to enjoy life with less jealousy, rage, fear, and comparisons to other’s journeys. Control is often an illusion. Control over your disease, control over loved ones lives after you’re gone (control while you’re still here is pretty tricky too!) – all difficult or impossible to maintain. But while you often can’t control the external stuff, you can usually exert a lot of influence over how you react to it. Those are some of the best lessons you can leave for Josh and the kids.

    Julie, thank you for your blog entry. I always look forward to reading them and following your progress, travels, and family.

    Chris

    Reply

  9. Lisa
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 16:33:50

    “Being happy and having peace are choices that we must make every day, every moment of our lives.” Absolutely true and difficult. I have faith in you to do your best every day, and that’s always enough.

    Reply

  10. Cristina
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 20:03:24

    You are my favorite writer ever!
    I agree with you on most of your emotions. I have the same cancer as you, with mets to the lungs, chest cavity. I also found out late last year about no longer being curable. I especially agree with you that women with cancer, with young children have it the hardest. I have been fortunate to see my daughter grow into a beautiful adult. But I have no doubt your girls will also grow into wonderful young women. You have given them a base and they will always carry you with them. And no matter what happens after you’re gone, you will always be in Josh’s heart.
    I am so happy you found “the present” in Hawaii. Always thinking of you and your family. Thank you for being!

    Reply

  11. Helen
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 22:17:02

    as always Julie ~ a brilliant, and honest piece of writing ❤

    Reply

  12. Domitilla
    Apr 12, 2015 @ 11:56:52

    You are a wonderful human being, Julie. You are as brave as to speak out honestly about something one would be ashamed to admit, being jealous of other people, the ones who are not affected by cancer or at least who aren’t now. The others, the ones for whom thinking about the future is not scary, the ones who are not fighting against a monster that is inside you, the ones who are likely to live longer. The others. That is one of the worst side effects of cancer, parting people between “you” and “the others”. That is another awful consequence of this horrible disease. Because this difference is only illusion. Nobody really knows what there is round the corner, happiness or tragedy, health or disease, life or death. Nobody. We are ALL under the same heaven. Cancer may have taken away from you many things, and yes, even that word you hate so much – hope. But it will never – NEVER! – take away from you those amazing qualities that make you a wonderful human being, stronger than cancer. Yes, STRONGER THAN CANCER. Outstanding, exceptional, unique. That’s what you are, that’s what you were on that boat from Vietnam, that’s what you were fighting against blindness, and that’s what you are now, every time you write on the blog, telling us, the blog people, what are your thoughts, your fears, your anger, your rage instead of keeping silent, shutting your door and heart. That is heroical. Cancer cannot change the wonderful human being you are meant to be and keep, IN SPITE OF CANCER. Thank you, Julie. You mean so much for so many. Keep fighting. Keep the Hawaii inside you. Keep the beauty and happiness and thankfulness of life inside you. Inside you, the best place to keep them. Love. ❤

    Reply

  13. Katie
    Apr 12, 2015 @ 12:47:55

    I’m grateful for you!

    Reply

  14. amycallow
    Apr 13, 2015 @ 09:44:12

    I’ve missed your writing Julie. I am grateful for your life and your willingness to share your life. You have had a great impact on my daily life and I think of you often and am sending you strength and love.

    Reply

  15. Kit Grady
    Apr 13, 2015 @ 12:19:35

    Such a strong and beautiful view into your journey. Thank you for sharing. My stage 4 hubby also tried the Xeloda route with avastin thinking it would work better, but his CEA also began to rise and now we are on irinotecan and avastin. His numbers have fallen drastically.

    Reply

  16. Della
    Apr 13, 2015 @ 15:46:51

    Julie, I can’t tell you how much this post means to me. Thank you for reminding me what matters and that being happy is a choice. Living in the moment is so important. I have spent countless hours in my life over analyzing conversations and events while missing the joy right in front of my face.
    I understand all the reasons you are writing this blog. I just wanted to add that I am a grown woman (without illness) and I am learning from every single one. Thanks a million times over. I am grateful for you.

    Reply

  17. Rhea
    Apr 14, 2015 @ 15:03:59

    As always impressed and humbled by your ability to seek peace and light while being very honest about the dark, and your insane talent at describing the complex emotions to a level that most cannot.

    Reply

  18. The Astonishing FartMan
    Apr 20, 2015 @ 18:25:35

    Having read your post several times now, I think it is one of the best things you’ve written here.

    You know the old joke–the not-so-funny old joke–that compares women and translations of foreign texts: “The beautiful ones are rarely faithful, and the faithful ones are rarely beautiful.” I think something similar can be said of almost any kind of great writing: The most difficult thing is to write something serious that is both beautiful and honest. That’s why almost all great and beautiful writing is in the form of fiction.

    You have written the truth, faithfully and beautifully, without stimulants to enliven the mundane or antidepressants to soften the pain. Your writing consoles everyone who faces a similar situation and enriches the understanding of those who have not.

    What courage it takes look life and death straight in the face, and say, “I choose happiness!” That choice isn’t easy, not even for so-called healthy people with a comfortable life; one must reassert that choice almost constantly. And, because we humans are frail, limited, imperfect creatures, sometimes (often!) we can’t find within ourselves the strength to choose to be happy. Yet the choice to be happy, which is almost the same as the choice to try to be happy, is a refuge one can re-make again and again for oneself with the words, “I shall try.” The happiness we aim for is not unrelenting joy, not carefree, nor pain-free, nor without sorrow, nor without regret. It is more like a kind of thankfulness: “I shall try to be thankful.” And again, “I shall try again to be thankful.”

    My life is like that of a penniless beggar who has been given five hundred gold coins. Sometimes I want one thousand, and sometimes get angry wanting more, not to hoard, but to share and to spend. I shall try to be thankful. I shall try not to be angry. But I still want more. My sadness comes from wanting more. Anger comes from the sadness. Because I do love my life, how could I not want more? I want more. I shall try to be thankful. I shall try not to be angry, but shall always want more.

    (P.S. I’m sooooo jealous of your writing.)

    Reply

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