Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Today. Visiting the Ancient World

While we were getting on the ship in Italy, my dear friend, Mandy Doloughan Rumble, passed away from colon cancer. She was 44 years old and leaves behind a husband and two young daughters. I don't remember a time not knowing Mandy. We grew up in the same small town in Bishop and in high school, we were partners in our countless drives to Mammoth Mountain to hang out with ski instructors, ski and have fun. We both graduated from high school and went to Hawaii to celebrate together, along with our friends Elida and Robyn. Afterwards, I came to Utah for college and she went to Cal Poly. We stayed in touch. When I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a few weeks later, she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. We connected as we were both starting chemo at the same time. I lamented to her one day: Mandy, we are going to lose all of our hair and maybe our eyelashes and eyebrows too! She responded: I don't care about my hair. I just want to live. I felt "this" small. Me, too. Please, Lord, let me live. Please let us both live. I sobbed and sobbed. Cancer is so evil.

Just this past December, I asked her if we should gather up our daughters and take a trip somewhere. Where would we go? Disney World? Bahamas? We never got to take that trip. She told me that she would be on major chemo indefinitely. Of everyone in her family, her husband was taking it the hardest. He was angry that this had happened to her. To him. To their family. Before I told her I had left my husband in the wake of my own cancer diagnosis, she said, "I'm sure Bob is going through the same thing." Well, not exactly, Mandy. Maybe it's easier that way.

Cancer gives you a passion to live. Every single day. Live big and grand and without regrets. To create memories and to make joy wherever you can find it.

And yesterday, that memory was Turkey. Ephesus. Perhaps the coolest thing I've ever experienced. Close to where the Virgin Mary spent her last days. Just over the hill from the major ruins of the city of Ephesus. And it was very hot. And windy. Thank goodness for the wind. Without it, it would have been incredibly uncomfortable. Come to think of it, it was uncomfortable anyway. The night prior, both Siena and I ended up at the Medic and were nursing horrible colds with lots of antibiotics and meds. I decided to take myself off of Thalidomide for a few days. It weakens my immune system and I need time to recover. I am sick endlessly. I get "better" for a week and then start all over again. Ugh! But we pushed through our colds and thank goodness we did. It was worth it a million times over. We learned so much and took loads of photos. And lunch was delicious. I love Mediterranean food-- figs, olives, cucumber-yogurt cold soup, olive oil over couscous. The thought of eating a cheeseburger and chips makes me want to gag. (Side note: I've lost two pounds on this trip. William keeps me running up stairs endlessly, even if I do feel crappy. I feel stronger and better and I haven't seen the inside of an elevator on this trip. Pushing myself is good. A sense of accomplishment.)

The Ancient World is my latest interest. I want to read Ephesians. My next Big Trip must be the Holy Lands. I thought China would be next but if we can afford it, I think it must be where Jesus walked and did His ministry. Or maybe back to Greece, just the islands (which Morgan really wants to do; Siena just wants to go anywhere and everywhere-- it's all an adventure).

And so it is that we spend a day at sea, sleeping and sleeping some more. And tomorrow, back to Croatia for a day. And then we are done with this portion of our trip. I am excited to explore more of Italy, too.