Tuesday, June 10, 2014

No more chemo...

Guys, we made it through chemo. A few weeks ago, at dinner, Chris unveiled a PICC line-free arm, and in what Chris proclaimed the most gratifying reaction to his good news, Jacob jumped up onto his chair, flung his arms out and sang,
"Everybody dance now!"

Chris is still recovering and has a lot of ground to regain, but this time, he gets to stay better. Several months ago I wrote about being where I am. If you're in a painful, hard place; if it's not fixable but what is intended for you, then be there. Lean into it. Do it with your heart and soul. And guys, where we are right now is happy. I feel like the Israelites must have felt when they crossed the Jordan River. Like a promise has been fulfilled, and I can move out of this godforsaken tent and build an actual home. Entering the Promised Land wasn't the end of their struggles, but glory hallelujah, it was definitely a time to celebrate. So, we're having a party. I only have a vague-ish notion of what I'm serving, but the No More Chemo playlist is in great shape. The boys and I have been rockin out to those songs.
  • Forget You by Cee Lo Green because... forget cancer.
  • Mama Said Knock You Out because Chris H has been knocking out some cancer.
  • O Love that Will Not Let Me Go because The Lord has showed up for us in cancer.
  • Tonight, Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae because I dare you to resist singing along with it, and we're at a roll down the windows, turn up the volume and sing your heart out place right now...
Around this time last year I had a breakdown in an elevator at the hospital when I realized I probably would not be able to take the boys for our annual week in a cabin in a bit of wilderness. A kindhearted woman with a PICC line and no hair tried to comfort me, but she just made me feel worse - like a self-aborbed fool crying over missing a favorite vacation to my exhausted, perpetually recovering husband who would definitely be staying home feeling crappy (at best) for the summer. Thanks to my sweet father-in-law who devoted his year to lightening my cancer load and my parents who tracked down a cabin not too far from Houston but enjoyable in August (look at a map - it's not trivial), we did get to take our trip last year. This year, the boys and I are in Colorado. It's been another amazing trip which is not so much a testament to our awesomeness as it is to a quiet, scenic location and some cabin traditions and guidelines that have evolved over the years.
  1. No electronics. Not even for me.
  2. Supply the boys with whatever ridiculous, normally off-limits breakfast cereal they choose.
  3. Just because children complain about something doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.
  4. When you go for a hike, think of it more as being in the woods than covering any real mileage.
  5. Except for one day. Go for a hike that pushes the envelope - something ill-advised that they'll be proud of completing.
Our first year, this was a 3 mile hike that ended with Jacob on my shoulders and Bryan in my arms. This year Cecilie the Fabulous agreed to keep Rand, and our ill-advised hike was a 7-mile trek through snow, across creeks, through meadows and up mountains. But, my unlikely favorite part was along the side of a mountain that had been devastated by fire. It was stark - blacks, greys and whites, all the more jarring after miles of lush greens and browns. But this ruined forest held it's own kind of stoic, understated beauty. The fire left unlikely patterns on some of the blackened tree trunks.

Any bit of color - vibrant yellow flowers or bright green shrubs that went unnoticed in the thriving, healthy forest were remarkable - beautiful in that way that hurts - against a backdrop of desolation. It made me think of our past year and a half with cancer. The moments that I rarely notice in the midst of our happy, busy, cancer-free life - my family eating dinner together or Chris and I laughing over the boys' antics - felt like precious gifts in the middle of cancer. Miraculousness is easier to notice in the middle of a desolation.

I watched my boys hike their way through that forest that was and will be again. Each of them was wearing a bit of bright blue, and they were conspicuous in that stark forest - as they are when they're at the hospital with us. I worry for them over the cancer hits they've taken. To watch your dad go through this is hard and painful and it leaves marks in ways they can't understand yet. But I watched those bright, blue boys walk persistently on and felt assured - in a way I can't quite define or describe - that they're going to be okay, even if they're not okay.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5-7


  1. Chris and Summer, we are SO overjoyed at the news that chemo is done. We think about you so much and miss being with you. So glad about the support you have from your families in Texas. Our prayers are with you.

  2. Hi there! Congrats on Chemo being done!! My name is Cameron Von St. James and I had a quick question for you & was wondering if you could please email me when you have a free moment. Thanks! I really hope to hear from you soon and appreciate you taking the time. ☺ cvonstjames AT gmail DOT com


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