This may go without saying, but for me this year Thanksgiving is complicated. Fifteen days ago, I was sitting in my car in a parking lot when my doctor called to share the news. A rush of scans, tests, biopsies, blood draws, and conversations with my oncologist have revealed that I do in fact have stage IV lung cancer – several tumors in my lungs that have metastasized to lymph nodes in my neck and lower abdomen.
Within the next few days I’ll begin a targeted therapy that has seen some good results both shrinking existing masses and delaying growth. I’ve learned that I actually have two particular mutations active in my cancer cells – a situation that occurs in less than 1% of cancer patients. Fortunately, the targeted therapy I’ll receive is effective with both. In addition, because of this I’ll likely be participating in a national study with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. My oncologist at Duke asked me if I wanted to be in the study, and of course I said, “Yes! Yes! Anything to I can do. Anything to fight. Anything to help kick cancer in the ass. Anything to add to the knowledge base and practices from which I’m benefitting now.”
So here we go. And this Thanksgiving, with life upside down, I have moments of fear, despair, doubt, deep sadness… But I have hope too. And a readiness to battle. And an undeniable sense of connection to you people in my life, who feel to me right now like this incredible, all-star cast of cancer-kicking, prayer-hollering banshee warriors who are mad as hell with me and lovingly hopeful for me. Friends, thank you. Reading your messages, I find myself cycling through the highlight reel of my life, and so many beautiful faces come into focus – so much laughter, so many tender moments, so many meaningful experiences, relationships, revelations, inside jokes, late night conversations, songs, campfires, visions, dreams, joy… so, so much. I hold it all now in a way I’ve not held it all at once before, and it fills me up.
So today Karla and I are grateful. Sad and mad – but hear me: grateful. Thank you, friends and family, for making that gratitude easier to come by. Raising a glass to you this Thanksgiving and thanking God for your presence in the world and in our lives. Much, much love.
PET Scan in a few minutes, friends. Once again, I'm bringing you with me. Thank you for all the support, love, grace, good words... All my life I've never felt so deeply connected and today that feeling will embolden me to lie still for 2 hours while a machine combs through my body to look for more signs of cancer. That's the more mundane reality right now. The sacred reality is that I am not alone - that I have this wide, wild network of lovely people who are holding me in the light, and this reality fuels me to hope and to fight. Thank you so much, friends. I hardly have words to say how grateful I am. Thank you.
A Facebook post on November 16, just a week after my diagnosis.
Can I just say that while I can't respond to every word of love, hope, support, encouragement, lamentation, and flat-out solidarity, I need to let you know that your words have become life to me. Thank you all so much for holding me, Karla, and the girls so tenderly and powerfully in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, cursing at the sky, claiming and reclaiming hope...
I have news to share - a confirmation that I do in fact have lung cancer that has metastasized to my thyroid. I have an appointment with my oncologist tomorrow to go over this in detail and to discuss treatment. Add an MRI of my brain in the morning and a battery of tests on Tuesday next week and we'll be off and running. One thing that's become clear is that I perhaps couldn't be on a better spot on the planet to receive care. Duke's Cancer Center is top shelf, and I feel confident in their expertise.
I'm living in the midst of so much paradox. Time feels like it's galloping away, and yet I can't make the hours move fast enough to get to treatment. Life is in free-fall, and yet the most important things are snapping into focus with such distinct clarity - love for family, the gift of time, the will to fight and live... I've never been more vulnerable, and yet I feel so powerful because I feel the world around me rising up to my defense, shouting with me against the death-deals and holding me up. People, I feel your presence around me, in my body, spirit, soul. I know that I am not alone and this knowledge is Holy. Thank you.
In the midst of it all, I had this thing on my calendar yesterday - a date with Ezzy's 3rd grade class to help them write a song about their values and identity as a community. A week ago I could hardly imagine keeping that appointment, but yesterday I felt good, so we did it. We wrote a song, "We are Mighty. Are You Mighty Too?" They are. So am I. So are we all. Thank you for your might with and for me, friends. So much love to you all. I'll keep checking in...
(Posted initially on Facebook in November of 2017. This is how most people in my world found out about my cancer diagnosis.)
I can hardly believe I am writing these words to you. I have discovered this week that I have cancer. What kind, what stage, how severe – answers to these questions will come to light in the coming days. For now, though, what I know is that I have a mass in my right lung about the size of an egg, several more much smaller masses in my lungs, and a mass on my thyroid. Preliminary conversations with my doctor lead me to believe that I’m in for some major surgeries soon with chemo and radiation to follow, but of course we’ll see as things unfold. I am, of course, stunned. Karla, the girls, and I are coping as best we can – taking in news as it comes, crying, hoping, walking, playing, trying to get good sleep…
A few things I want to say to you at this point…
I hope you understand how much I regret breaking this news to you in this way. (For crying out loud, I am sharing that I have cancer on Facebook.) For a while I sort of imagined that I’d take my time to make calls and let people know, one by one, but to be honest, that would about break me. What’s become clear to me is that I need to let it out with the basic information and then respond as I am able or when we see each other next. It breaks my heart to share this news in any form, but I know you understand when I say that it is taking absolutely all of my energy and bandwidth to be present to my situation, Karla, and the girls.
I have always known that while life is a wonderful gift, it is not fair. Its unfairness is the thing that causes some to shrink back, to love reservedly, to trust less… But that same unfairness pushes us to live well, too – to trust, risk, dream, act, sing out… So in light of this very particular unfairness, I have a profound sense of gratitude that I am in a place where I can say that I am living well. In a myriad of amazing ways, so many of you have been a part of that, and I cannot say how grateful I am.
Karla and I are feeling viciously protective of Sylvia, Meheret, and Ezzy right now. We have told them everything and we have also nurtured hope in our home. I trust that you will join us in that hope with them, and to that end, I want to be clear: the space around my family needs to be a "no-crappy-theology-zone." Things like "Everything happens for a reason," “All part of God’s plan,” and "God won't give us more than we can handle" may be helpful for some, but I would prefer not to inflict them on my girls. Thanks for your help with this.
Finally, I believe now that the Sacred Source of the Universe, God, who I have come to name and respond to in Jesus Christ – this Source is sad, mad, and broken with me, but also courageous, hopeful, healing, and still calling. So on I go. Stuck in a free-fall right now, but still dreaming, still striving to live in light of that Presence. Thank you for your prayers and for sharing this load with me and my family in your own ways. I am grateful for you and grateful to be journeying with you now.
Much, much love, with admiration and wonder,