Wednesday, October 22, 2014


When Rick moved his office into the basement of our house, it caused a lot of upheaval.  We're bursting at the seams.  Not only is the basement filled, but so is our small garage.  And when our employees show up to work?  Parking can be a nightmare.  So with the help of a friend who does concrete for a living, and some of his crew, Rick readied the ground next to our garage last week. 

The pumper truck was supposed to come at 11 Saturday morning.  But a little before 9 the sound of a large truck underneath our bedroom window woke us up.  We scrambled out of bed and jumped into work.  But just a few hours of work, with several sets of hands, and we had it looking good. 

Speaking of hands, when we moved back to Moorhead we made a set of handprints in concrete we poured at our first home, circa 2003.  So it seemed appropriate to mark the passage of 11 years in just this way.  Wow- where has 11 years gone?  

The rest of my week has been filled with such sadness.  My heart is heavy with sorrow.  Not one, but two precious cancer fighters, have been told they will be going to their eternal homes- soon.

Much too soon.  

There have been many tears shed.  And lots of talk about how do you do this?  How do you stop… treatment, and doctors visits, and infusion appointments?  And then what?  What do you do?   The vulnerability, of no treatment, no protection- well I just can't wrap my brain around it.

Because you think- just one more drug.  Can't there be just one more chemo?  One more treatment?  One more anything? 

When we speak of wanting "awareness" of breast cancer and all the funds raised by "Pinktober" to shift to research and funds going to find a cure- this is why!  

Because at the center of my awareness- is too many friends, taken by their stage 4 metastatic disease, way too soon.  

Can we focus on making this stop please?

Find a cure. For all cancers.


So in the meantime, I'm soaking up all my moments, with urgency and energy to match.  My sister-in-law, Missy got this early Christmas present for me.  Its a positivity jar.  Each day you grab a quote out of the bag and put it on top of the jar.  Each one has caused me to pause, to reflect, and helped to shape my intention for how I will live each day.

Every time I go to this fundraising website, Vicky fighting breast cancer, I leave in tears.  A ten dollar donation allows you to be entered into a drawing for  "thank you gifts," a few of which are shown below.

I cry just as easily for the 10 dollar amounts, as I do for the other generous amounts given.  What I know, is that each one costs, each of you- no matter the amount,  and we're so humbled by it all.  We have just a few weeks left of the fundraiser!  

While out on a hunt for a Birthday gift for my mom who just turned 79, I  came across this little gem at Barnes and Noble.  "Life is a Verb."  How would you spend your time if you only had 37 more days to live?  

So often, you all do so much for me.  Sometimes, when I am spent, weary with sorrow, and completely worn out- the only way through- is by focusing on something or someone else.

Why not do a giveaway?  Do you like to read?  Is there a book on your list you have wanted to get for the longest time?

Maybe today is your day?

I purchased a 25 dollar gift card from Barnes and Noble and will give it away to one lucky reader! 

For one entry into the contest, please leave me an answer to this question in the comments below on my blog:

What is at the top of your "must read" book list?  

For a second entry, either sign up to follow and leave a second comment, or tell me you already are a follower in a second comment on my blog. 

That's it!  

I will use a random number generator to pick a winner.

You have until 6 pm Friday night to enter.

I will post the winner shortly thereafter, so you can email me your mailing address! 

Good luck to everyone! 

Friday, October 17, 2014


Day two...

Mass at the Carmelite Monastery starts at 7 am, so we set our alarms for a few minutes after 6.  Its dark outside as we find our way across the path over to the chapel.  As comfortable as I feel inside, I also feel reverence and sacredness throughout the Mass.  The sisters sit behind a screened wall.  We can hear them sing, pray and read, so beautifully, but not see them in any way.

An hour later we scurry out the door, and notice the sun is just coming up over the horizon.  We hurry inside to get some breakfast started, and as the coffee percolates, I slip outdoors as the sun makes its presence known.

To my delight, not only is the horse nearby, in the pasture behind the guest house, but for the first time ever, I see a farm cat sitting pristinely nearby. 

I turn for one last shot, and see the horse, standing, motionless.  We stand in the presence of one another, not uttering a word, or a sound, yet keenly aware of each other.  Somehow, he exudes a quiet and yet sturdy energy and I soak in it, as the sun begins to set his chest ablaze.  I am mesmerized. 

I retrace my steps and look back towards the chapel. I notice the moon still in the sky, while the sun begins to cast a glow on the chapel.  I'm taking all of this in and feeling, peace, and awe all at once.

And then my stomach growls, as the chill takes over, and I rejoin Roxane in the warm kitchen for some breakfast.  Soon we will be heading back to a tiny vestibule in the monastery, where Mother Joseph will meet with us.

In the meanwhile, I'm sitting quietly in my room, and reach for a book to read for a bit.  Its my copy of Love Does, by Bob Goff, and I find I can always read for a short bit and fill with something he says, no matter how short the time.  

As I go to lift the book from the dresser, something falls and clunks on the floor.  I jump as the noise catches me off guard in such a serene setting.  I pick it up, and have to chuckle.  Its my book mark- the new one, that says "believe."  I have to say I feel this word, suddenly, in a whole new way.  

Its not long and Roxane and I are headed over to see Mother Joseph.  We ring the bell as instructed, on the outside of the door, and then enter.  We aren't immediately certain, which room she will appear in, so we stand in the entryway and wait.

I notice a door begin to open, and suddenly Mother Joseph appears, welcoming us to sit.  She sits behind a desk with iron bars that open so we can talk.  

Oh where do I begin to describe to you all that is Mother Joseph?  There is such a quiet assurance in her voice.  While she is dressed, head to toe, in her habit, her face radiates such warmth and light, I hardly notice what she wears.  She has a vibrancy to her that is palpable.  

And her witty remarks and comments begin immediately, reminding me, of how entirely human she is. We segue from one topic to the next with ease.  I find myself telling her, I am here to see if God has anything to tell me, or show me, as I sit in this period of waiting.

And Mother Joseph says, "Vicky, the sister's and I pray for you often, (she mentions a homily they've just read- then says)  I think what I feel He would want you to do in this time of waiting, is to REST.  Much like Mary held baby Jesus in her arms, on her chest- rest.  Feel all that love and comfort, from that place of rest."  

I've said this before.  My words escape me, when I am at Carmel.  My minds slows, and I don't think long and hard about much of anything.  I tend to just "be."  

And from what Mother Joseph has just shared with me, I sink further into letting go.

The hour we have with her, quickly passes.  Mother Joseph has imparted such soothing words for hard times.  As we stand to leave, she accepts a hug from each of us.  Its an embrace that reached all the way around and I leave feeling refreshed.

I'll be leaving in a few hours myself.  With the sky so blue, and the light still pouring in, I go off back behind the guest house.

Then I circle around the front by the pond again. I'm always amazed at how I see it with new eyes no matter how many times I walk through the grounds.  

All too soon, Rick arrives to pick me up.  I grab my bags, and stuff my two words inside, "rest," and "believe," and we drive off into the future of all our tomorrows. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

be still

 It seems as soon as I step into Roxane's van, the chaos, the mess, the darkness, begins to fade into the dust being kicked up by the van and left in a cloudy trail behind us.  We talk the miles into oblivion until suddenly, I gasp, oh its the turn, already!  And an hour has evaporated.

We're here.  At the invitation of Mother Joseph, we're here at Carmel of Mary, a Carmelite Monastery, for a "retreat."  It's my third time here.

The light begins to shine as we turn to enter the lane that will take us to the Monastery.  Its a gorgeous fall day.

We drive past the chapel and work our way back to the guest house.  

We are greeted by these, poking through the rails, straining to face the sunshine.  Its a welcome greeting, Roxane and I both stop to capture in pictures.

We put away our things, but every window beckons with a filmy, gauzy, white in which the sun streams through.  I can hardly wait.

The "blue" bedroom is the one I always choose.  But I barely lay my bags down and reach for my camera.  I can't sit inside for long.  While Roxane, a writer and journalist, works, I head out.   My thoughts still, as my eyes open to the light streaming everywhere.

I walk outside and as my feet hit the earthy grass, I see a Guinea feather, left behind by one of the hens that inhabits the grounds.  I see them, far off in the distance.  Its the only sighting of them I have the entire time I'm there.

I walk past the gated areas, where the sisters live.  With 7 hours of their day centered around praying, I am quiet with my steps, not wanting to disturb the solitude around me.  

The gate, to their backyard, with the word "cloister," on top.  The word according to Merriam Webster means : a place where monks or nuns live : a monastery or convent
: a covered path or hall with arches that is on the side of a building (such as a monastery or church) and that has one open side usually facing a courtyard

The silence is both staggering and serene.

Its a long walk, yet, just like our ride, I shoot photo after photo, stepping carefully through the grounds.  There is something so sacred about being here.  I go to sit in front of Mary, and at long last my overflowing heart is unburdened.  

While the leaves are turning autumnal colors, and falling steadily from the trees, bursts of color stand out everywhere my eyes gaze.  Like at the feet of Mary, the bright red flowers, just beginning to wither, yet steadfastly facing into the light.

I soon get up to walk down and around the rest of the property.  The light dazzles everywhere and I am shedding my sweater, for short sleeves, just like my soul is shedding its burdens, layer by layer.

I walk.  I breathe.  My mind ever still.  About the only word that truly escapes my lips, is thank you, God, thank you.

While there are points of reflection in so many places, like the bench below, I simply wander forward.  My Fitbit steadily counting all my steps.

Step, after step, of gorgeous grounds, and nature in all its glory.  How can one not feel God?  I do not have any urgency to find Him, He is everywhere.  I just breathe deep.

I'm outdoors, walking the grounds for nearly two hours.  Its nearing dinner time and Roxane and I will be heading into town to eat our first meal on our own.  

But as if my first day, wasn't spectacular in every way, the next day doesn't disappoint in all of my new discoveries.  More coming… 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

It was nearly 1 pm, time for my appointment with Dr. Foster.  I am already sitting down in the waiting room with my pager, when I look up and he is hurrying by my seat.  He smiles in acknowledgment and waves.  

Within minutes, my pager goes off.  Its my friend, Heather, who happens to also be the charge nurse in radiation oncology, who comes to get me.  She is smiling so big and I alway feel how authentic she is.  I'm touched she has taken the time to come and get me.  

Of course, that makes me more chatty, and I have to remember, we're trying to do all the paperwork since I am a "new" patient again, having been released just a few months prior.  She is professional and always does a thorough job, while bringing comfort in her compassion and kindness for me, always.

She tells me Dr. Foster will be coming in, but he is thoroughly going through the old scan and the new one, and will take awhile.

So Rick and I wait.

It feels like forever, and all at once.  This place I find myself- straddling that line.  

As Heather is leaving I find myself saying,  "I am just open… to receive whatever is…"  

At some point, Dr. Foster emerges.  He smiles warmly, and greets both Rick and I.

Then he begins by saying he thinks, based on what he has seen, he has two options to present.  And then he leans forward a bit and says, that he personally, likes, one of them better.

So here, in a nutshell, as best as I can offer is his impression.

First, the scans are unclear of exactly what is happening in those two spots.  The word "prominence" is used in a vague sort of way in the report.  But that is because the nature of the prominence could be several things.  It could very likely be that my cancer is growing. Or it could be what is being seen, is necrosis, or dying tissue, just now, showing up on the scans. Or some combination of both of these things.  Some new cells, scattered about some old. 

And then it hits me, suddenly.  We aren't talking about new spots.  We are indeed talking about two previously treated spots.  Which leads me to know, only one treatment will be available, at whatever point its needed.  

So he offers his two choices.  To go ahead and treat those spots with radiation, in the only way that remains an option for me.  Whole Brain Radiation.  There, I've said it.  The one I've tried to keep out of my line of sight, out of my thoughts, out of my mouth.  The one I hoped wasn't in my future.  The one I can barely conceive of… the one.  I won't say more.  I can't.  Please know, I can't even talk about it. 

So we quickly go on to the next option he has.  Which is to wait.  Do nothing, now.  And re-scan in a few months, to see if there is more in which to help us decide what to do.  

His last question to me, then, is whether or not I feel psychologically able to withstand waiting.

So my decision, is between, hard, and hard.  

So hard it is!  I'll take hard, with a side of grace.

I do feel reprieve in the waiting.  I do know 3 more months is a gift.  

But there is still an ache in my heart.  A sadness, behind it all, that I am trying to sit with, for now.

******** I'm so thankful to fully feel, I am not doing this alone.  You all are so kind, and brave, for opening yourselves, to going through this very hard stuff, right along side me. And your prayers have soothed me, buffered me, and stood me up, when I wasn't sure I was able.*********

My infusion volunteer, Sandy, shared this with me yesterday:  "God is able."  Then she prayed, sweet words, over me, washing me in his Grace and Love.  

God is able.  And through his grace, I pray that I am able, too.  

Able, Mabel… has a certain charm to it, right? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

mountain climbing and the heart of possibility

"We always have the ability to shine our soul’s light, access a greater reality and live in the heart of possibility."  Panache Desai

Midmorning Friday, my phone rang.  It lit up with the Sanford number and I right away suspected it would be him.

It was.

"Hi Vicky, Panwalkar here.  How are you?"  

We quickly get past the pleasantries.  He knows I am waiting to hear.

He jumps right in.

"Your scan, Vicky, the two brain tumors, are more prominent now."

"And the third one?"  I ask.  "What about that third spot."

"Oh, he says.  "Just give me a minute to pull it up on my screen."  Minutes pass, as I hear his computer working.  He mumbles a quick "sorry, it takes so long."  

He also uses this time to ask me about the retreat.  "Shelby, (Dr. Terstreip) told me you were speaking again.  How did it go?"

"We had a great day~" I tell him enthusiastically, "just great."

"I am sorry I couldn't attend this year," he says apologetically.

I assure him it was fine.

Finally the scan has loaded and he reads the report.

"That third spot may have been a blood vessel or something, but it is not showing on this scan. So its just those two spots."

"So, what would you like to do?" He asks.

Oh dear.  He is asking me?  

I know he is wondering if I've read up on treatments of this nature.  And the truth is?  I haven't wanted to go there.  

I know there are no chemotherapy agents left, that cross the blood brain barrier. I've tried the others already.

And radiation to my brain?  Well I've successfully done that twice.  But two times, is already exceeding the limits of how much radiation a body should take.

So three times?  Is this even an option? I'm stuck trying to see this one through.

And so is Dr. Panwalkar.

He either isn't ready to tell me what I don't want to hear… or he hopes maybe someone can muster some idea of something that can be done.

"Would you like to see what Dr. Foster thinks?"  

I agree that I would.  

Dr. Foster has one opening Tuesday, tomorrow after my infusion.

I pray he has an answer I can live with.  I pray he has an answer so I can live.  

Will you pray for my aching heart?  My restless and searching mind?  For Dr. Foster, to somehow help me through this?

Ultimately, I know its still in HIS hands.  

When I open my Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, I'm bowed down with these words for today:

Be willing to follow wherever I lead.  Follow Me wholeheartedly… Though you don't know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless real. To receive these gifts you must walk by faith-not by sight

Sometimes I lead you up a high mountain with only My hand to support you.  The higher you climb, the more spectacular the view becomes; also, the more keenly you sense your separation from the world.  This frees you to experience exuberantly the joyous reality of My Presence.  Give yourself fully to those Glory moments, awash in dazzling Light.  I will eventually lead you down the mountain, back into community with others. Let My Light continue to shine within you as you walk among people again.  

Our fundraising site continues to be such a joy and source of light to us.  

Thank you for loving us so.   

Will be back with updates as soon as I can.  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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