I’ve been walking for decades. When I was 25, I was told it would save my back after a fall. It has saved far more than my back! Walking has been a source for both physical and spiritual renewal in my life. Through life’s uncertainty, walking has been a reliable friend. When my life becomes too frantic, it is rest. When I need guidance, it is where I find God. When I need respite, it is peace. I have dreamed and prayed over countless miles of mountain trails, sandy beaches and city sidewalks.
My love of walking started when I was a child. My grandma gave my sisters and me each a small cotton bag filled with ten to twenty shiny copper pennies to spend on candy at the drugstore on Main Street in the tiny Wisconsin town of Barron. We felt so special as we headed out on our adventure. Our walk past gardens of peonies and rhubarb, was filled with anticipation of our arrival at the corner Five and Dime. Through the storefront window, we eyed jars filled with candy dots, jawbreakers, and tiny wax soda bottles filled with pink sugary water, trying to decide which treasures to choose with our pennies. It was joy…the freedom of the walk, the sweet treats and the love I felt from my grandma! God knows this about me. It is the only explanation for why I find pennies on almost every walk.
Walking is simple…just head out the door. But not all walks are easy.
There is a hill at 2.2 miles into my neighborhood walk. Not a straight up steep hill, but a long and gradual, lung burning incline. It is the hill that often factors into my walking decisions…as I think maybe instead of this walk, I should go somewhere flat, go a different direction or not go at all! I know! It sounds ridiculous as I write it too!
I have been acutely aware of this hill over the last several days and have been experimenting on how I approach it. Instead of focusing on the top of the hill, I’ve been making interim goals…walk to the mailbox…walk to the post…focus on the path right under me. Two to three short steps feel almost level. I’ve got this. Don’t think about the next little elevation…focus on this step…the next step…don’t look too far up the hill. Push a little. Stop and rest a little. Cheers for each small bit of progress. It works. It isn’t less hard. It is just more manageable.
This is different for me. I have always been a planner and goal setter…until three years ago when multiple myeloma became part of my walk. Suddenly the future was very uncertain and planning ahead became a mental challenge. It is my other hill to climb, a long and gradual daily challenge. It is every step, every stop to breathe and every grateful day I get up and get to do it again.
In these three years, I have been blessed with little pain and discomfort, even after life altering treatments and some scares along the way. Medicine has been good but also underlies unwanted side effects. My immune system is working hard on too few fighter cells. I challenge my doctors to work for me, to see me as an individual and not a statistic, while appreciating their clinical expertise and the science behind it. I anxiously wait on test results, staring at the notification of their arrival and pray for the good news of continued stability.
I am not everybody with multiple myeloma. I don’t fit the profile. But I have been given this. I have learned to let go of Dr. Google who only visits in the wee hours of morning when in sleepless night, I try to find wisdom or that one magic healing potion. I have learned that my army of caregivers are my life givers. Family that forget I have cancer, enlist me to help, love me unconditionally and just go and do life with me! And I have learned not to think too much about what “might” happen next. It doesn’t help me. This is not to say that I don’t think ahead. I do! I have a long list of things to do. I won’t allow this beast of a cancer to scare me from living. It’s just that I have learned to live differently. I take each day just like I am approaching the hill…two steps forward…sometimes two steps backwards…sometimes standing still…and take a breath, thankful for each step I take to reach the top of “the hill” on this day.
I have learned that sometimes it takes having the life we know ripped away to find our way. My grandson took me to see the new Disney movie Frozen II, where this idea is the central theme, “where all is lost, then all is found”. The enchanting ballad, “All is Found” speaks to me asking “…can you brave what you most fear, brave enough when all seems lost?”
On this new journey, I have learned to be brave and through it I’ve found so much more than I have lost. I am resilient and content. I’ve learned to find strength by trusting God in a new way. He says to “look carefully” at how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time….to understand the will of the Lord. I get it! In retrospect, it was time wasted I regret most. It was holding too tight to things I’ve loved…instead of just simply loving. It was trusting my own will rather than God’s will. It was looking way far up that hill and missing the beauty right under my feet.
I celebrate all that is these three amazing years. I live with joy! I live with hope. And right now, I’m heading out to climb that damn hill!
“All Is Found”
(originally by Evan Rachel Wood)
(from “Frozen 2” soundtrack)
Where the north wind meets the sea
There’s a river full of memory
Sleep, my darling, safe and sound
For in this river all is found
All is found
When all is lost, then all is found
In her waters, deep and true
Lay the answers and a path for you
Dive down deep into her sound
But not too far or you’ll be drowned
Yes, she will sing to those who’ll hear
And in her song, all magic flows
But can you brave what you most fear?
Can you face what the river knows?
Until the river’s finally crossed
You’ll never feel the solid ground
You had to get a little lost
On your way to being found
Where the north wind meets the sea
There’s a mother full of memory
Come, my darling, homeward bound
Where all is lost, then all is found
All is found
All is found