It should come as no surprise my love for talking a good long walk.
I have shared about walking many times—remember Verso l’Alto?
Some people crave a good run; I crave a good walk.
It’s my remedy.
I haven’t been walking as much lately, much to my chagrin.
We spent many hours and many miles driving across state lines while looking for rest, discerning the next right steps, and making memories these last few months.
Summer has come to an end more quickly than we want, but we are happy to once again be in a routine.
I have been missing the miles in my sneakers. While we have been doing our best to get in a few hikes here and there, our consistent walking routine was MIA, much like we seem to have been this summer.
We were living our best life in the mountains, by the sea, in the car, between treatments, and even at doc appointments.
With our first whole week of homeschooling under our belts and the first full week of our college kids being away and settled, we finally had a chance to get out for a long walk.
This is a story from a few weeks ago.
Early in the week took a walk among a canopy of trees and paths of a favorite sacred place.
It was painfully evident in many ways my walking has ceased or been limited at the very least this summer.
We were headed to another appointment for Jon (a follow-up from just a week earlier), so I insisted a walk was needed to clear my head. Walking helps to make space for unclear things.
Many concerns were tucked in our hearts over these last few appointments.
I was grateful for the time in a sacred space to walk some hills, hide among the trees, be held within a sanctuary, and put down some steps with my favorite souls.
As I sat in the clinic room days after the walk, I noticed an ache.
There was an ache both in my legs from the walk and in my heart for worry about several things.
While I sat idle during the appointment, I wrote a few words in my journal about walking.
I wrote how what surrounded me on that walk was probably more for more soul than moving my legs—I can find a lesson in anything if I allow my eyes to see.
I look up from my writing and swap a few stories with our caring and attentive nurses at this shorter-than-normal appointment.
Just two weeks before, we sat in another room for many, many hours, aware of the weight of that appointment. Our minds were flitting back and forth to some significant changes occurring as we sat in that appointment.
Change Gears, Big Steps
Gears were shifting in our treatment plan and for directions as we were preparing for college move-in days.
Amid the moving parts and changing conditions of our college kids Going Where they were Called, we were quietly processing some big things and next steps.
As the visit ended, we exchanged words with nurses about how it makes so much sense we are so tired this week.
We’re tired from the whirlwind, ebb and flow summer of making memories, traveling many distances, discerning the next steps, and working through treatments to keep a possible growing spot from returning.
One of our care team nurses we’ve come to love says, “Remember, when you feel the most fatigued just go for a walk…You’ll gain a lot of perspective.”
She adds with her endearing positivity, “We have a choice in how we approach this life, right?”
I locked eyes with her as we gathered our things to part ways from this appointment and phase of our fight. I think she knew this appointment might be one of the harder ones—we have been in this race for quite some time.
“Wise words,” I say.
The nurses must have known I was tired; I was quieter than usual.
Our time together—this step in the treatment process—coming to an end stings a bit. Things are constantly shifting and changing in this fight.
Or perhaps it stings because I grow attachments to people far too quickly, especially if it’s with someone entrusted to care for us.
Maybe this is why I was so drawn to Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus with His Cross when I was on the walk earlier in the week.
I cannot say enough of the Simon of Cyrene’s in the room that day. I am not sure they know how these visits, even the lengthy, exhausting, and heavy ones, can bring so much peace. Their words offer some of THE most unconditional love, support, and understanding.
“Yes, wise words,” the nurse says in response to me.
She chuckled with her lovable laugh and reminded us, “They are the words you both have said to us repeatedly these last few months. We’ve told other patients this is your formula. This is how you told US you avoid fatigue. You just Go for a walk.”
I just about come undone as she tells me she uses our example for others. I force back my tears.
It’s an honor to know our journey; even the tiny choice to keep walking could inspire others on their journey.
Knowing this helps keep us going. Not a pace to burden others need to live up to, but a pace where we come alongside and cheer them on as they try to muster their own strength in their difficult journey.
I remember doing this—coming alongside—when we coached a track team of 30+ littles from kindergarten to 3rd grade.
You run alongside them and call their name to encourage them.
Shouting from the stands or finish line is good, but sometimes it’s hard to hear the cheers.
Sometimes the pain of running (walking and carrying a cross) can dull your ability to hear distant voices. Having voices near helps keep your focus.
Sometimes the pain of running can dull the voices so far away. You can’t always yell back (or return messages or text back or be more than a receiver) because the energy required to do both is far too great.
It’s the cheerleaders nearest to you that you hear.
It’s the nurse reminding us we set the pace.
Or it’s a man on the elevator taking a ride with us who must be a friend God sent our way.
Or maybe a friend who drops a simple message, a heart emoji, or mailing a card, or offering prayers that keep us going.
The nurse is right, we need to walk. I’ve been missing my walks in the business of summer—hence the fatigue.
In unison, the nurse, Jon, and I say, “One day at a time. We will just keep going, One day at a time.”
One Day at a Time.
Go for that Walk.
Clear your head.
Awaken the muscles.
Shift your eyes.
Inhale the good.
Release the ache.
Build your strength.
Find your courage.
Renew your purpose.
Dig deep for hope.
Look for the light on the path.
Pray along the way.
Encounter Jesus, who carried The Cross first.
We made it this far.
He did this for us, so our burdens may be light.
He still does.
I am weary.
He, Jesus, knows I am weary.
The world is weary.
So I imagine you feel this, too.
Things are catching up with me. Some will ponder or attempt to guess what those things are.
Likely what I hold in my heart is very different than what you carry in yours—perhaps your need for walking is not the same. I still encourage you to take a walk.
We never know the story or the weight others hold in their heart or on their shoulders.
After talking with the nurse about walking, I am reminded this was our antidote for fighting fatigue following the days of Jon’s surgery and while on his chemo and radiation routine.
We just kept making a commitment to keep walking.
There were some hard days, but we kept walking because we knew we would become exhausted if we didn’t.
I know it seems counterintuitive; I am learning much of the mystery of life is especially so in life lately.
Heading toward the parking garage after our doc visit that week, I look around, and things feel familiar yet very different.
I don’t want to be in this place again, not in this way.
Yet, here we are. Pondering and preparing for hard things.
Just Keep Walking
I cannot help but think about how we walked our way through the summer and the fall. We made it this far. A year ago, I told myself.
We made it this far.
We just gotta keep walking, keep taking things one day at a time.
One Day at a time.
Jon has been living with and fighting aggressive brain cancer for 14 months now.
At this point, we do not have details to share. We are still gathering pieces to this puzzle. Figuring these things out does not come easily. Like all each option we’ve considered, we have not jumped in with eyes closed and head down.
I recently read a social media post about how people “so easily just take chemo when they have cancer.” Oof, those words stung. This is why we have made a decision to limit the intake of articles, social media, advice—it is necessary to protect our already tender hearts and minds.
I can assure you “easily” is NOT AT ALL how we approach any of this. NO decision has been EASY.
Our decisions have been made with a ton of trust in our highly qualified medical team, a bunch of research on our end, a whole lot of prayer, and a faith that God’s plan is better than all of this.
With that in mind, what Jon has given permission for me to share it seems tumor progression/recurrence is likely and surgery is a strong possibility.
We share this because we invite you to pray with us and for us.
We are asking you to join us with bold and fervent prayers as we navigate these difficult days.
We ask you to pray for clarity for our best next step and for our continued peace beyond understanding.
We ask for you to be our Simon of Cyrene.
There is no need to get caught up in details that are ours to hold. We know the world is filling us with a story that our medical info is not to be kept private and respected.
We are learning there is a need to respect privacy like we respect the ocean waves, a flash flooding warning, or a brain tumor trying to make itself known. Please trust me that keeping hold of a boundary like respecting medical privacy is crucial to maintaining peace.
Simon of Cyrene
After talking about how we need to respect a brain tumor with the nurse, we stepped aboard the elevator we have boarded so many times this year to return to our car and head home.
An older man was standing across from us as Jon pushed a button to head down to the parking garage.
I exchanged smiling eyes as the doors closed behind me. I ask the older gentleman, “How are you?”
He answers, “Well, we are all here for a reason.”
I paused at that response.
“We are all here for a reason,” I repeat in my head.
“Isn’t that the truth, Sir.” I replied, holding on to his words—we are all here for a reason.
As we got to our stop on the floor below, I noticed that the button he pushed wasn’t going in our direction.
The button for the floor the man pushed indicated differently. It was going two floors above where we got on.
It seemed he was riding down to only go back up.
He realized that, too, and said aloud what was on my mind, “Sometimes need to go down to head back up.” (fall down to get back up.)
“Wise words,” I whisper once again.
I wonder if this is another Simon of Cyrene moment, letting me know we aren’t alone.
Way of the Cross
In the small moment, we are reminded the cross is being held for us even by a stranger—in an elevator sharing words to lift us up, to cheer for us, or just to tell us we are all here for a reason.
We all have a purpose, even in our hard stuff—even if we inspire the nurses to tell others we go for a walk.
Yup, we are all here for a reason—on the elevator, in the treatment room, on the walking path, on this Clever and Courageous Journey of living with brain cancer, or while allowing your children to make choices to honor what is in their hearts and Go Where They are Called.
We just have to take our next best step, one moment, one day at a time.
Like the man from the elevator says, sometimes we have to go down to get back up. We fall, and others carry our burdens with us.
To decrease the fatigue, according to our nurse, “some wise (wink wink) people named Jon and Heather say it’s time to take a walk.”
I remember the walk just days before our appointment.
It was holy ground, another Verso l’alto.
It seems we keep going back to walking when we need to find rest.
I’ll add it’s a bonus if the route we take is The Way of the Cross.
As it were, there is one more thread to this. There always is…
On Saturday night, while moving our kids into Franciscan, we took a friend we met in South Carolina to dinner. She attends college not too far away. After dinner, we ventured onto campus to stop by the chapel. This chapel is a place to behold.
Then I took a short walk alone along the path of the Stations of the Cross. There was something about seeing them in the dark under the brilliant full moon that captured my attention.
The next day after mass, we see a Friar who I met on Thursday, and Sophia has known through her online classes over the last year. He handed me a card, after telling me he prayed he would run into us before we left town.
Inside the card was a well-loved booklet of prayer for the Stations of the Cross.
On the front cover was an image of Mary holding her Son, the 13th Station, which depicts the darkest sorrow for Mary, Stopped here the night before. And there was also a bookmark prayer card with a picture of St. Francis embracing the Crucified. On the back was the “Prayer Before the Crucifix.”—the other station that stopped me in my tracks the night before.
As I cannot stop thinking about the treasures given to us by our Friar friend. It’s no surprise how the Stations of the Cross and Go Take a Walk all came together these last few days.
I have my thoughts on what all of this means. Some I have shared here, some thoughts will remain between God and me.
Storms blew through the night of that appointment with remnants of Hurricane Ida (and worries on our hearts) after we arrived home from our doctor’s appointment.
Once again tornado watches and warnings were swirling around us like our drive to Ohio. I am sure there is a metaphor in all of it.
The winds and rains pounded and washed away many things, including parts of a garden I have been tending. Some of it washed away, as in scattered, across my yard. I was glad for that since I am so ready to put it to rest for this season. I am so ready to put many things to rest.
It was a day that brought unexpected heartache and damage to others but in many different ways—water and tornado damage, loss, grief.
I felt the effects of all of this. I know I am not alone.
The details of our stories are just not always the same.
But New Mercies come every day.
Thursday morning after the storm, we woke to a glorious sky, magnificent temperatures, and receding water.
Then we got out for another walk—probably the longest walk we have taken in quite some time. With each mile, my ache is a little less.
I will lace up my sneaker and keep going for a walk with Jon, for Jon, because of Jon.
Please stay the course and walk with us—maybe become my Simon of Cyrene.