Participate relentlessly

Jeff participates in the traditional ritual of "ringing out" on his last day of radiation at Walter Reed, September 2013.

Jeff participates in the traditional ritual of “ringing out” on the last day of treatment
in Radiation Oncology at Walter Reed Medical Center, Bethesda MD, September 2013.

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

Two years ago today we got the devastatingly bad news nobody ever wants to get, and despite some initial hope that it might not be as fearful as it seemed at first, the prognosis only got worse and worse in the weeks that followed.  Yet life went on, and blessings abounded.

Some of them were decidedly mixed blessings, as Jeff endured grueling chemotherapy, side effects, and harrowing surgeries.  The toughest one was less than a year ago, in November, a multi-stage resection that lasted 14 hours, after which he was kept asleep until the next morning, and then spent another two hours in the operating room to address complications.  As traumatic as these procedures were, they gave him a considerably improved prognosis, and we feel thankful he had the options available.

Every step of the way, we have been mindful of the tremendous advantage we enjoyed in having top-notch health care provided through the military medical system, without fears of catastrophic debt or threatened job security.

We also appreciate the physical strength that Jeff had built through years of a healthy diet and daily exercise.  While these did not prevent him from getting a highly malignant cancer, I have no doubt the foundation of generally sound health helped him endure and survive extremely aggressive treatments.

I have been so grateful to Jeff for his understanding of the need to “participate relentlessly” in the blessings that were there for us at a very dark time.  Because he has been willing to face the ordeals of treatment, he is now at the 2-year average survival time originally predicted for patients with his diagnosis who started the chemotherapy protocol he began shortly after his stage IV cancer was discovered, and he’s doing much better than originally expected.

Amazingly, he still works full time on days when not in the hospital or receiving outpatient treatments. In this way, too, he participates relentlessly in the life he has lived in faith for so many years.  The future remains far from assured, but we take each day as a gift and live in hope for more years together.

If you’re like most people, some of your richest blessings may have been, or still may be, not easily endured.  Others will be hidden for years, until you look back and realize that things you were unaware of, or even worried about, were bright threads weaving a beautiful pattern in the tapestry of your life.  We may be unable to see the finished designs of our lives for a long time; we’ll see mostly the knots and loose threads.

I hope you won’t let that sidetrack you.  Some days will be more difficult than others, but relentless participation does not require our best every day.  It just requires faith and commitment.  If we keep showing up, the blessings will continue to flow.  I really believe that.

One year ago today:

Other springs

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Jean Chirdon

    Julia, I am grateful this post has been sent again!
    It so beautifully encourages me in the troubled times being endured by myself and our family – too many to mention and some require privacy.

    I have been meaning to send you a thank you card for the wonderful tea bags you offered to readers. I know how good they were as I accepted your offer. As I’m procrastinating about responding to such blessings and only trying to get minimal tasks done at times, I am encouraged by your kindness and your most thoughtful words.

    How painful your journey with your husband during his illness and then suffering the grief of his death must have been. The love you shared sounds absolutely beautiful even amidst the great difficulties. May your memories of him be less painful now and bring a smile to your face from time to time. Thank you as you keep the faith and bless others with your wonderful blog.

    Though I don’t comment regularly, I do read your blogs pretty faithfully. It is rare when I miss one.

    Hope you are well.

    • Hi Jean, and thank you for taking the time to send this thoughtful comment. I’m so glad you are enjoying the re-postings (or “reruns” as Raynard likes to call them. 😀 ) I appreciate your kind words about the blog. The journey has continued to bring pain, sorrow and additional grief, and bearing it alone, without Jeff’s support, sometimes multiplies the challenges. Yet I continue to believe that life offers us many reasons to rejoice, even if we cannot feel that joy in our hearts. From what you say about your own challenges, I think you probably can understand. Yes, privacy prevents us from sharing many of the details that bring us pain, so we must find other ways to work through our sorrows. This requires creativity, and that’s a good thing, because I find that various forms of creativity are a solace that can transform our sadness into something more beautiful or at least bearable. Thanks so much for being here! And I will send up a prayer for your situation, which I hope will become brighter over time.

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