Walk alone_rs

As I near the end of my yearlong clinical trial treatment for my CLL, I find myself reflecting a lot on the events over this past year or so. I have met a lot of people, fellow warriors fighting alongside me. They all shared with me their own horror stories of diagnosis and the road that brought them to this same treatment center. Most have similar stories to mine where their (trusted) doctor misdiagnosed them several times until it was nearly too late! Even as I see their victories over cancer, I know that cancer is not easily beat and often rears its ugly head at a later date and, often, in a different form.

Some of those I have met are on their second, third or even fourth bout with the beast! I’ve read the statistics and while great strides in new treatments are emerging, my brain can’t keep from thinking about the obvious: Some of those great warriors I’ve come to know and feel close to, will not make it.

These thoughts keep me from getting ‘too close’ with them. Yes, we exchange phone numbers and email addresses, but have yet to make any contact outside of the infusion unit. I imagine it is much the same with the staff. I am sure that if they work there long enough, they will see many who don’t make it. I don’t think the treatment center has a specific policy on patient/staff relationships, but would they really need to state the obvious? I think it’s one of those ‘unspoken policies’ they all pretty much adhere to, much like I do.

Probably the number one thing this past year has taught me is this: It’s okay to recognize and even embrace the hard facts. Denial is one way to deal with something that is overwhelming, but eventually it must be dealt with. By recognizing and embracing these sobering, cold hard facts, I can see the mountain I must climb and concentrate on my climbing path. The fog is lifted and I am able to see all the other souls there. They reach out to me offering a hand to help me over the next obstacle. In turn, I begin to reach out to others and together, we climb. Together we make the best of a crappy situation and enjoy the views along the climb.

My mountain started with the great joy of getting married followed by the great pain of losing my brother. Not even a month later I learned that one of my closest friends was battling breast cancer. 2 months later, I was diagnosed…I had no time to enjoy being a newlywed. I had no time to grieve the loss of my brother or comfort my best friend. So many huge emotion filled events were getting stacked one upon another. My children pulled away and fell silent (still trying to absorb my new bride played a part I’m sure) some friends and relatives pulled away, but others stepped forward and held me up.

We all have battles that are devastating. Some keep them very private while others share their wounds. Sharing my battle publicly was a choice my wife and I made after much discussion and soul searching. While parts of my battle are still private, the bulk of it is out there in hopes that it will help others. I know how much my brother’s battle has helped me. He wasn’t as public about it, but I am confident he helped others even if they never acknowledge it publically. Much of what my brother taught me was not immediately recognized or appreciated. God how I wish he was still alive today to talk to! I can’t tell you the number of times I have wanted to call him and lean on him. He was always a good resource for me when it came to life’s little tragedies. I admired how he embraced his harsh realities. Nearly 30 years earlier, he beat his drug addiction and alcoholism by acknowledging it, then planning the next step away from that lifestyle. Perhaps that’s what gave him the strength to fight such a valiant fight with CLL? His setbacks never pushed him off the trail. Steve was always focused on the next foothold even at the end when that foothold was the one that took him to heaven… He knew it was time. He embraced and comforted all who were there to comfort him! I am just so in awe of his grace and dignity right to his last breath!

So as the end of treatment nears, I realize that that end is another beginning. My journey will not end, but rather evolve into the next chapter. I will always have my sensors out scanning for the possible return of cancer, but it will not be my focus. I will not let cancer steal my mind, but rather submerge my mind into life’s adventures that lay ahead. The mountain will flatten and the path will be smoother and wider. I will live with a deeper knowledge of life and death, love and faith and never take a single day for granted.


Today’s blog is a true shoot from the hip. Cancer sucks. Period…. Woke up this morning to the sad heart breaking news that heaven gained another new angel.. Jack Rollins. #Jackrollinsjourney #jackstrong . Cancer has taken another. Sweet 5 year old Jack, who along with Hines (#hopeforhines ) has been at the top of our prayer list for a little bit over a year when we were enlightened. Cancer knows no boundaries.. leaves nobody out. No race, no age, rich or poor, nobody is exempt. Jack has fought an adult warriors battle… he lived as much as he could in his 5 years… He was diagnosed at 2. Hospital to hospital… treatment to treatment… needles, tests, drugs…we all prayed for a miracle. Neuroblastoma. His family’s whole life and whole mission and daily drive was to help him survive another day. The lessons he taught everyone who met him, knew him.. or even of him are countless. He was a warrior beyond words. Parents are never supposed to bury a child… there can’t be a more cruel twist. How does a family who has spent years fighting for a child’s life ever rebuild… let alone go on. This has been the daily family life. How do you possibly pick up from here??? Today has been a day of tears and sadness for Peter & I. For myself, a wound opened…My brother lost his 5 1/2 month old son one day when he took a nap, he never woke up… SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). No answers…Every single day my brother is my hero… he gets up out of bed and goes on… and I don’t know how… or if I ever could…It’s been almost 10 years, and today, the scab and that pain came right back… all of it…There is so much I don’t even understand in this life…So many questions I have. I don’t understand any of it… but especially children.
Today our buddy Hines is doing really well.. and for this we are so thankful!!! His family’s battle continues… and we are with them in support and prayer every single day.
Jack was an inspiration to us all. He smiled.. he cheered on his fellow patients…he made the best of a really shitty situation… He was a warrior. 2 weeks ago he sat in the Bat-mobile with Batman & Spiderman. This week he got his wish… legos & 2 puppies who will now keep his family going. There is a special bond between cancer warriors… one without words… just a deep knowing and connection. Families, and support caregivers understand. You just do the next thing as Peter’s brother Steve used to say. Cancer brings us as humans to such a different level of understanding. No time for drama, life hangs in balance… every day is a gift… Don’t waste the gift. Love Big, Forgive Much, Hold each other close… nobody is guaranteed tomorrow. Sadly most don’t understand these things on the deepest of levels.. until it touches them personally. Try harder… Hold each other tighter… and please please… send up a prayer for Jack & his family & all his loved ones & all the children who’s freedom & lives have been taken by cancer…for all the warriors past, present & future…it could be any of us next.
Cancer sucks.. our hearts are so heavy #jackstrong ❤


IMG_12594590472535It would be easy to see negative things that happen in life as some sort of punishment or bad luck. It would be easy to let myself become consumed by negative thoughts, but I choose to look at negative things in a different light. I will confess that I struggle with this quite often, but nearly always find a way to rein it in and re-focus on what I like to call a deeper meaning for it all. It takes an abundance of faith sometimes, but the challenge has its rewards.

When I look at a fish swimming in a small fish tank, I find myself wondering if it gets bored or feels trapped. I’ve been told that fish have an extremely short, short-term memory, so every time they turn around and head to the other end of the tank, it’s all new to them. I suppose this could be true. They don’t look stressed or bored, just very peaceful in their environment.

Humans have a much longer short term memory and require much more space and distractions. However, even humans have limits to what they can comprehend and we always put limits on everything to help with this comprehension. There’s always a beginning and an end, top and bottom, left and right. But when we try to wrap our (limited) brains around the vastness of outer space, we get a little boggled trying to find something to compare it to. “Light years” is the yardstick of the universe as we try to comprehend the very impossible task of traveling at the speed of light for millions of year to get somewhere.

So when it comes to God, it’s no different. We humans long to put physical attributes like a face or even a gender to an almighty entity that the vastness of outer space pales in comparison to. Why do we need tangible, measurable attributes to be able to accept or comprehend what God truly is? To imagine a ‘being’ that is, always has been, and always will be, creator of everything we know and believe, could actually be measured or quantified in ways we measure everything else?… well it’s an absurd concept to me!

We can no more fully understand what God is any more than the fish swimming in the small fish tank can understand us humans. Faith must be the yardstick we use to measure God. Faith without limits… Faith without boundariesBlind faith.  But is Faith taught, learned or a grace given to us by God? The answer is yes!

While it is human nature to want everything to make perfect sense in order to fully believe in it, to come close to understanding what God is, we need faith. Faith is the key to getting from this ethereal world into the next soul world. Faith can be ‘the back burner’ where we just chalk something we don’t fully understand up to faith and perhaps get back to it some day when we have grown more spiritually and can understand it better.

When we are toddlers, we learn to have faith in our parents. They tell us not to touch the hot stove because we will get hurt and (most of us) believe them without having to touch it. When we are driving down the highway and we cross a bridge, we have faith it will hold us and we will cross uneventfully. But there comes a time in everybody’s life when they begin to question what they believe in. We reach the age of reasoning.

My biggest awakening or shake up came when I was in my 40’s. Suddenly the prayers we Catholics all recited in unison at every mass became full of conflict for me. It seemed silly to me to pray to mother Mary for something, Saint Francis for another and so on. Weren’t we taught to take it all to Jesus or God? I could go off on this tangent for a few pages, but I’ll stop here and stay on point.

Questioning our faith is never a bad thing. Seeking answers to solidify our faith can never fail. God will answer any questions we may have! At some point, that little toddler may question his faith in what his mom said and reach out to touch the hot stove despite her warnings. We may question our choice of religion or church we go to. We may even question why certain events happened ‘to us’. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of cancer patients have thought or uttered the words ‘why me’? Same goes for someone who lost a limb, suffered through a natural disaster or lost someone close to them.

To the (limited) human being, these are all devastating things that we feel the need to make sense of. If we dig deep and think perhaps how God might have intended this for us, a reason can be found. No, it’s not a punishment, but rather a way of showing us a new perspective. Everything happens for a reason. Had my doctor not missed diagnosing my cancer 7 years ago, I wouldn’t have met and married my soulmate. Had I not gotten cancer, I wouldn’t have met and touched the lives of countless people. Had I not gotten cancer, my life wouldn’t be so blessed with some of the great people I’ve befriended. I wouldn’t enjoy the sunsets or a field full of fireflies as much as I do now. The list goes on and on!

Yes, it does suck having cancer when I look at it superficially, but when I look at the gifts it has brought to my life it becomes a blessing. Having cancer has brought me to a deeper level of faith and understanding that wasn’t possible before. I believe we humans need disasters or hardships to bring us to a deeper level of faith and understanding of just what God is. Adversity can bring us closer to God if we take the limits off of our boundaries of comprehension, lean on our faith and be still. With hearts full of love and blind faith the answers will come. The lessons reveled and the blessings bloom.

One of my favorite verses from a rock song:

“When you think all is forsaken, listen to me now. [all is not forsaken] You need never feel broken again. Sometimes darkness can show you the light” – ‘The light’ by Disturbed