Monday, September 7, 2015


“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?” 

I've been stretched in all the usual ways I would want to "wake up and live my life," as Marie-Laure, so aptly states in the book, "All the Light We Cannot See."   

While I've regained some of my strength, and some energy, it's a minefield of uncertainty as to when I'll run out, each day. When my breathing becomes labored, when my energy packs up and leaves with little notice, when my legs go stiff and stop working, where will I be?  

Feeling confident and energetic one night, Rick and I went for a short walk.  I made it all the way down to the end of our street.  But the way back?  My breath starts shortening, and my lungs hurting, I get so light headed, the edges around me start to fade.  Thank goodness I could intertwine my hand in his, and use his stability to propel me forward.  I'm learning about "strength," in brand new ways.      That some days its leaning, and some day its face-planting in bed, just getting by.  And some days, its just about getting up, and trying again. The biggest lessons, seem to arrive in the tiniest moments.  

As Ann Voskamp so aptly writes, “Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perserverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?” 

So I spend my weekend, chemo-nesting.  Preparing once again for the upcoming week of appointments, scans and doctor visits.  I washed the sheets, the pillows, the tattered comforter, trying to refresh my bed, my place of retreat and refuge.  My days get so long, so quiet.  I need ways to pass the hours.  To quiet my mind as it races forward wondering, how long?  How much?  And sometimes just, how? 

It's Sunday afternoon, and the rain gushes down, shoving our plans to go to the lake on the back burner.  The boys are restless, longing for something to do.  So we decide to go to dinner.  Despite how carefully I've chosen my foods and cut back on calories, I continue to expand with fluid retention, and underneath it all I am deeply craving comfort food.  

So I just decide we should go.  And even though we're driving on the highway, Nolan should drive- his first time on the highway.  We talk about merging, and how to navigate road construction, and I marvel at how he exudes such confidence.  He admits to feeling nervous, but does not let it get in his way of performance.  We're all being stretched in new ways.

We eat a delicious meal.  I'm savoring each bite, as my taste is finally close to normal again for a few days. And we tell funny family stories.   Like how Grandpa Jim accidentally fed Colton a big slice of "okra," he thought, except it was a jalapeño pepper and Colton's eyes leaked tears all night long.   How the only time I've ever gotten a phone call from Nolan's teacher, was when he was in preschool. He was hugging a cute girl named Ivy- and through my suppressed laughter I agreed to adhere to the new rule, "No, no, no, hugging Ivy." As soon as I laid eyes on Ivy?  Well, who wouldn't want to hug that sweet girlie!  

We ended our evening with one more spontaneous move.  As we headed back towards home, the sun was rapidly going down.  Rick swiftly maneuvered our way out of town.  It's one of only a few sunsets I've witnessed this summer.  

But this is where I find the most life.  This is where I live my moments most full.  Surrounded by my boys, our arms firmly entrenched around each other, love at the center of it all.

These moments have been much harder for me to cobble together this summer.  But I long to keep trying, to find these moments, and live them full.  

Tomorrow I have a brain MRI with sedation, after we get the boys off to their first day of school. 
Wednesday, I see Dr. Panwalkar, and go over both my PET scan results from last week, and my MRI results from tomorrow.  Then off to infusion to round out my day.

I will have ample quiet time again- and so- how can I pray for you?  

Will you send me a message?  An email?  Or leave your request in the comments below?  

I covet your prayers in receiving my scan results- please pray for strength in handling whatever is to come our way.  

~all shall be well~ 



  1. I always hold my breath (without realizing it) when I read your words. This post. Your heart. Your love. Your world. Your family. It's just so beautiful and real and raw and right.

    Thank you.

    I'm praying for you daily.

    If you'll whisper a prayer for my writing and His will and perfect timing, that would be wonderful.

  2. I pray for you every day, Vicky, and will pray extra for your upcoming week. And while I understand how you see facing cancer as not really being brave cause you have no choice, I still see you as very brave as you continue to push to do things and get out and enjoy times with your family. It takes bravery to step out never knowing how you're going to feel moment to moment at times. And you're also very brave to share your heart with us. Putting yourself out there, putting what you're going through into words...takes bravery. Trusting the Lord in all of this...takes bravery and strong faith. You're one of the strongest and bravest gals I've even "met." And I feel I have met you as you have shared your life so openly and your writing makes one feel as if they are right there with you. Much love to you, Vicky.

    Sharing one of my heart verses: Philippians 4:6-7.

    6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  3. I also understand the bravery discussion. But here's the deal. I know folks with similar conditions who are bitter, angry, and just plain unpleasant to be around. Frankly, I do not blame them at all. But, you have chosen (and it is a choice) a different path. You try and often succeed to see the good in all. You don't complain here. You offer prayers for others. You exude warmth. Hugs

  4. I will pray for you my friend. How you strengthen my faith, your words, your attitude and of course your heart.
    If you think of it...would you pray for my boy (Timothy)-for strength to do the right thing and a heart for God & for my girl Emma, for direction and for a heart for God...thank you dear one ox

  5. Oh my dear sweet friend-
    What a deep and satisfying joy to read your words and even more to see these amazing photographs of you, Nolan and Colton, the sunset behind you, surrounding you. I immediately felt a great relief as I looked...knowing that just as that sun goes down in splendor around you, so God's light surrounds your hearts. His Son surrounding you too.

    And the quote from All the Light We Do Not See..."I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?" In your heart of hearts, dear Vicky, you appreciate that we all have trials and hard parts. You truly don't see yours as bigger or harder. Bless you for that.

    Yet, and I imagine some others might feel this way, the grace and joy and gratitude you show in the midst of this battle, where you are fighting for your life, is truly amazing. It takes courage to tell this story authentically and share the hard parts too. It takes even more courage to live it.
    So to me, sweet friend, you are brave.

    And as always I will hold you in my heart and prayers this week, every day, especially as you meet with Dr. P and get the scan results. May His Love and Peace hold you and strengthen you and comfort you... no matter what.

    I love you Vicky Held Westra, to the moon and back!

  6. Vicky, you wake up and live your life because you know the One Who gives you each breath and every step. in the midst of that confidence there can be moments of difficulty breathing and wavering footfalls, but you know Who holds you--what wonderful gifts Rick, Nolan, and Colton are.

    i heard something amazing a while ago: we weren't meant to carry the "how." this video explains: hope it encourages you.

    like Julie, i humbly request prayer for guidance as i write each week, and for Michael to be drawn into deeper understanding of community and of the reality of God's desire to be in relationship with him.

    SO love you, strong woman!

  7. This is a beautiful post, not just because of the gorgeous sunset, but for how you live your one and only life with authenticity and courage and most of all love.

    I am praying praying praying for you.

    Can you please say a prayer for my friend Katelin and her husband as they lost their beloved English Bull Dog to lung cancer on Saturday. In the grand scheme it is not as big of a loss, in comparison to others, but to them it is crushing. I know you know about the love of a good doggy.

    Again, I am praying for YOU, dear Vicky.

  8. Dear sweet Vicky....let me pray for YOU.

  9. Dear Vicky: reading your beautifully written words is alone a prayer for me. For it teaches me much each reading. It helps me to seek to enjoy life. To handle hardships with grace. To get much life out of each moment. Both joyful moments and struggles. ~ I will be praying for you and your upcoming tests. Thank you for writing and teaching us much . . .

  10. Praying for you often this week . . .

  11. I pray for you every night, Vicky. I send courage and love to you in the upcoming week. You are stronger than you will ever know.

  12. Vicky....I have a prayer journal, and you are in it. I will add another entry tonight for your MRI and your PET scan results. I date the entries, and then I am able to go back and put a check mark beside them as God answers each request. I also praise Him in my prayers. That is my first prayer. He deserves soooo much more praise than I could ever give Him.
    I pray for a good first day of school for your guys tomorrow. They are growing up so fast, and I send them a hug and a smile as they face another 'first.'
    Kudos to your strong husband as he continues to hold you hold him right back.
    I love you, sweet friend. I do have a prayer request. I have unrelenting vertigo. I have been going to the doctor every other week for no avail. I go again on Thursday at 1:30. Thank you for praying for me. You are sweet to do that.
    Sending you a special hug.
    Prayer warriors we are....for always.
    Love you,

    1. Jackie,
      I'll be praying about your vertigo this Thursday. Sending you a hug!
      God Bless! Love Linda

  13. My dear, sweet friend, as I go through my day and you come to mind, I say a prayer for you and your family. Tonight, I send strength and love to you as you go through your tests tomorrow.
    Your pictures are so lovely! There is something so calming and peaceful in a sunset. I have always felt that it carries with it hope for tomorrow.
    My prayer request would be that His perfect timing would bless me soon with an answer. Thank you, Vicky.

    Love, Eileen

  14. I don't comment often but I read every word you write. I can't explain it but you touch the very heart of me and I thank you for that. Deep somewhere inside of me I think you are going to have time to see your boys grow up....that is my prayer for you.

  15. I read your post..and saw the beautiful pictures... and for the first time I read what others wrote as I scrolled down. I do that once in awhile but don't read each reply.... As I read what all those that love you wrote, I was in awe of the beauty of each and every one. The prayers for you and your family, the love and respect and the answers to your request to pray for others. I can put into words the beauty I felt...but I didn't want to leave without saying anything...I am a bit speechless. Know I will be praying that grace is with you this week...that all shall be well. love you beautiful lady

  16. I pray for you and your family each and every night, right along with my prayers for my family.

    PS: I see Sheryl up there and I haven't seen her in ages and ages!

  17. Thinking of you many times during each day - holding positive and loving thoughts.

  18. Your graciousness astounds me...your beautiful words and the love that you express for your family and your life are incredible. Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily for strength, peace and joy. Whether you realize it or not, you are a brave woman and give the rest of us a measure of hope, for whatever lies ahead. May God bless you and keep you.

  19. Vicky, It's always a blessing to check in and see a new post. The comments are so beautifully written also. Yesterday, it was so nice to read about driver's training and first day school and remember living those days after my own boys left to go back to their grown up lives. And "The Light We Cannot See", I had to check it out after hearing you were reading it and I enjoyed it very much. "Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books." The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"

    Continued prayers for you and yours.

  20. Oh, wow, such a gorgeous sunset!

    I love that first quote from All the Light We Cannot See. We've been studying trials and challenges in our weekly women's Bible Study, and the one thing that comes up over and over again is how we (1) know that we're going to face challenges and (2) the important thing is what we do with them - do we let them change us for the better or do we allow them to make us bitter and angry. What a powerful testimony of God's grace and mercy when a believer is able to not just face the challenge (you don't have much choice about that), but face it with light and kindness and gratitude and thoughtfulness for others - and you most definitely do all of these things.

    Praying that the MRI will show that the chemo is doing its job and shrinking those tumors.

  21. I check your blog several times each day for the latest updates. Praying that God's mercy and grace will be with you tomorrow and every day. I am asking prayers for my friend, Ruth, who has been battling pancreatic cancer for 15 months. Like you, she has a wonderful testimony of God's love for her. God Bless.

  22. Your words always bring a beauty and truth to my day. I thank you for that. You are in my prayers and your family is in my heart.

  23. You have many prayers coming your way!!

  24. you are always in my prayers…and i just want thank you once again for being such an inspiration and such a bright light for those of us who are behind you every step of the way!!!

    extra prayers for my father in law, recovering from a stroke and for my mother in law, whose alzheimers continues to progress, would be such a gift!!!

    love to you and your family!!!

  25. Sending prayer, love and healing thoughts .... and please pray for my father, who had a heart attack yesterday, his second, and is struggling to live, or die. Pray for his peace - which ever way he is meant to travel now.


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