How Far I’ve Come

The bags are packed and everyone is sound asleep.  I love this quiet time in the wee hours of the morning when I am alone with my thoughts, when no one disturbs me with his or her needs and wants.  In these hours, I sit alone reading or watching TV or writing.  The silence of the night that envelops me allows my mind to go to places to which I cannot go during the brightness and noise of the day.  My mind ventures into territory that only I can know, to my innermost self, to my past and my future, to those places of regret and sorrow and joy and longing.  And yes, it is in these hours that I often feel I am truly beginning the journey away from my children and husband and this life, toward the next life or the Great Beyond or the Undiscovered Country or whatever you want to call “it”  Sometimes, my thoughts frighten me but mostly I treasure the insights that come from these rare and special minutes and hours.

On this early morning,  I want to invite you briefly into my contemplative world and so I write. 

In a few hours Josh and I will board our flight to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, in what will be the first leg of our trip to the Galapagos Islands.  In the interest of me getting some sleep before heading to the airport, this post will have to be relatively short.  I just felt the need to mark today, July 2.  In an ironic coincidence, two years ago exactly today I boarded a flight to Los Angeles with my husband and children, going “home” to the place I grew up, all to attend a family reunion that I had instigated on the 4th of July and my cousin’s wedding on July 6.  I did not feel good that day (nor for much of the preceding month for that matter), for unbeknownst to me, my colon was completely obstructed and close to rupturing.  Those of you who have followed my journey know that while I somehow made it through the family reunion, I never made the wedding for that morning I checked into the ER and was told the following day that I had a mass obstructing 99% of my ascending colon.  So began a living nightmare that became something much greater.

A year ago I began writing on this blog the story of my diagnosis, an incredible tale with the expected pain, horror and shock, but also a tale of Providence and profound beauty, compassion and love.  In honor of my fast approaching anniversary, I reread those three posts — A Nightmare, The Hand of God and A Love Story — because I think it so important to revisit the past from time to time, to evaluate where you’ve been and how far you’ve come, to appreciate the lessons that a seemingly cruel life can teach you.  (I hope those of you who haven’t read those posts will take the time to read them (or reread them for others of you) for I think with all honesty that those posts are among my most compelling.)

Two years ago today I boarded that LA-bound plane in a daze of discomfort and pain, headed for a Stage IV cancer diagnosis that was probably even then incurable.  Today, I board a plane to visit a place I’ve always dreamed of seeing and touching and breathing with a life partner I secretly dreamed of finding one day.but never actually dared believe was possible for me.  Today, the nightmarish quality of that time has faded and what stands out now is the beauty and love.  Today, Josh and I love each other more deeply than we ever did before.  Today, I have learned to live with a passion and joy greater than anything I’ve ever known.  Today, I have witnessed the divine-like quality of human compassion and love, in large part due to the family and friends and others I have met (and re-met) who have stood by me in a truly humbling show of support.

And that is how I evaluate how far I’ve come in the last two years.

In recognition of my fast approaching “cancerversary”, I texted my colorectal surgeon from UCLA, Dr. D.C., on Monday, a couple hours after receiving my Avastin infusion.  We hadn’t texted or spoken since December, but as with last year, somehow, I (and possibly he too) feel the need to acknowledge what he calls our “unfortunate anniversary.”  I felt the need to tell him that I was going to the Galapagos Islands to “celebrate” this cancerversary, that we were buying the apartment next door to expand our home, that I indeed had found a way to keep living my life after he saved it two years ago, and live it better, I daresay.  He called me that night on his drive home from work.  He told me he had just been telling another patient about me the day before and how he had planned to call me when I texted.  As I recounted in A Love Story, I felt a special kinship with him virtually from the moment we met.  It meant a lot to me to talk to him, to feel the love and support from this person who literally saved my life, to realize that he is one of those special people I’ve met because of my cancer.

On this cancerversary, I am grateful for having met Dr. D.C and for him still being a part of my life.  I am grateful for all of you.  I am grateful for this opportunity to travel to a place where few go.  I am grateful to be able to be with my love of many lifetimes (and for my in-laws for taking care of the girls in the interim!).

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Domitilla
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 03:00:32

    Enjoy your travel, Julie. And thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. They are precious more than I can tell. Because you are showing your “innermost self” with such a graceful honesty. I hate cancer. I hate your cancer as much as I hated mine. But I also somehow feel that it is because of my cancer and yours that this wonderful sharing of thoughts was and is possible. Reading your posts I recognize my own thoughts in yours, I find so well written in your talented style my same feeling about life, disease, destiny and afterlife. Your travel is mine. Your travel is ours. Love you, dear friend ❤️

    Reply

  2. Victor
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 03:01:33

    Julie,
    Have a wonderful trip to the Galapagos!
    I think of you often, and I hope we can meet up soon, with our families.

    -Victor

    Reply

  3. Chris Rice
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 06:38:57

    Julie, I wish you all the love and care as you move ahead with life in spite of cancer. I so wish I can be as tough as you and choose life and love each day here on earth. Love you my sweet friend have a great trip and make more memories with your family.

    Reply

  4. Kim Segers
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 07:11:18

    Julie, you and Josh are going to have the most amazing experience and I cannot wait to see the pictures on FB. The Galapagos are truly a magical place and one of my favorite places that I have visited. You and Josh are truly setting off on an adventure. Have fun and savor every moment!

    Reply

  5. Katie
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 07:39:56

    Beautiful, Julie! Have a wonderful trip. Live in the moment. Celebrate!

    Reply

  6. Cindie
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 07:45:03

    So happy that you and Josh are getting to go on this amazing trip together. Thanks for sharing your experiences and feelings with us. Look forward to seeing some pics!! May God bless you both on this beautiful vacation together!!

    Reply

  7. Maxine
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 14:42:45

    Have a wonderful time and I know you will take plenty of pictures. Enjoy today and always remember that none of us truly know what our future holds. I know when you return we will hear all about the fabulous time you and Josh shared.

    Reply

  8. Lisa Bender
    Jul 13, 2015 @ 15:24:58

    I can’t tell you how much Joel and I enjoyed meeting you and Josh on the Galapagos cruise! You are an inspiration to all! Stay strong and we will always stay in contact!! Hope to see you sometime soon!

    Reply

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