Breaking the Silence

Just a little over four years ago, we embarked on the adventure of a lifetime–an 11-month round-the-world journey with our four children. At the time, we took more than a little heat from skeptics who questioned our sanity. When we patiently tried to explain our reasons for going, we would always include what seemed a purely hypothetical rationale: you never know how long you’ll have your health. Sure, Tom had had some complications after his hip replacement surgery in early 2006, but we never really considered them life-threatening. The scenarios that played out in our minds revolved around bum knees and bad backs. We didn’t imagine that our time together might end before our 90s. At 5’2″ and 90 pounds, I was rather cavalier about my health and figured I’d live to be 98, just like my Grandma Lucille, who passed away during the first month of our trip.

What a rude awakening I received two months ago. I went to the emergency room with severe stomach pains and came home 2-1/2 weeks later missing half of my colon and all of my female reproductive organs and with a grim diagnosis of late-stage cancer. Though I was tumor free at my PET scan 3 weeks ago, the less-sensitive doctors we’ve visited are certain that my cancer will return and that it will take my life in not so many years. We now avoid those doctors. My current oncologist has a much different attitude as do my surgeons, who saved me from some highly aggressive tumors. They have prescribed an 18-week regimen of chemotherapy and are relatively confident we will kick this ugly disease. I start my second round tomorrow and continue to be up for this fight.

Andrus family without a pyramid

Kids are growing up too fast

As Tom mentioned, when things were at their darkest in the hospital, the thought occurred to me that I might never travel again. To be honest, that didn’t bother me. I was simply grateful that we had been crazy and carved out the time and savings to take our kids and roam the planet. What did bother me of course was the thought that I might not get to see my kids grow up, have their own crazy experiences, and form their own families. In my sadness, I realized that while this future could be taken from me, my past could not. I’ve spent countless hours with my kids and made all my major life decisions around their welfare, but the 330 days I spent traveling with them (and their dad, of course) were some of the best of my life.

We fully intend on taking Kieran and Asher around the world again in a few years when McKane has gone off to college. At the tender ages of 4 and 6, they derived very different things from our first trip than their older brothers. There is so much we want to show them, so much we want to experience with them, so much time we want to spend with them. Asher recently started watching old home videos, and after watching some footage from the trip pronounced, “I want to go again and do everything exactly the same.” She was referring specifically to the houseboat in Kerala where she and Kieran got up to some mild mischief, but her thought was a sweet one. There wasn’t a thing she would change about those 11 months and neither would I.

Anne and Asher in Kerala

Walking by the houseboat in the Kerala backwaters

Tom and I are grateful beyond measure for the outpouring of love, prayers and support we have received in the past 9 weeks. We have been flooded with meals, emails, gifts, and well wishes and are amazed by the kindness so many have extended. We have felt the power of your prayers and continue to find hope, joy and optimism in our faith.
Anne and Tom with heads shaved

same same but different

I have no intention of falling short of Grandma Lucille’s 98 years. I view this as a trial that will strengthen me, teach me compassion, and undoubtedly help me to savor all of life’s moments, not just the extraordinary ones like the trip. But then again, each day I get from here on out will be extraordinary, a blessing that might not have been.

Baldness all around

some are born to baldness...others have it thrust upon them

46 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your story. You are an inspiration. It is so beautifully written. My wife and I have been considering a trip round the world with our son. Your post gives me more courage to do so, now.

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family…I KNOW you will not fall short of Grandma Lucille’s 99! Thank you for sharing. I can just imagine how hard it must be to put this out there, but we are glad you did because now we know what to pray for. Continue the fight. I am optimistic!

  3. I ‘ll be waiting for you in Brasov, Romania with a bigger cake and this time we will meet up. :) All the best wishes for all six of you!!!!!

  4. As were planning our around the trip back in 2008, we heard about your family and began to follow your story. We enjoyed reading all your blogs, looking at your photos and felt like we got to know your lovely family from a distance. From one world traveling family to another, we send you our heartfelt thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery. Keep up that positive attitude….as they say where there’s a will there’s way.

  5. Oh Anne… Since Tom’s post a few weeks back I have been praying for you and your beautiful family. Although we haven’t seen you guys in a few years, stories sporadically arise of the fun times we’ve shared with Mac and his unique family! You all are so full of life and positive energy you’ve certainly left your mark on the Godby’s. I can only imagine how difficult the past few months have been but I am equally confident that your love and faith have provided much comfort. It saddens me so to know that you have been going through such a trial. Please know you ALL are in our thoughts and prayers daily and that you have left a little piece of your beauty in Alpharetta, and for that we will always be grateful.Wishing you love and peace- Diane, Mike, Logan Hunter and Izzy.

  6. You have inspired me once again Ann. I admire you for different reasons now.
    I will pray for healing and courage for you and your family. And praise
    for good docs and meds. You are more beautiful than ever.

  7. “… I realized that while this future could be taken from me, my past could not. ”

    I think this is profound. You state beautifully why our choices and actions are so important every single day.

    Thank you.

  8. I don’t even know you or your family, except that we are fellow family world travelers and so feel a kinship with your spirit of adventure and living life fully. And here you are still living life to its fullest, looking to every experience for important lessons and most of all, for love and gratitude. You will be just fine, I’ve no doubt. My prayers are with you.

  9. Anne, Tom and family – what an inspiration you are to your children and those that follow your wanderings! A positive attitude in itself brings on such a sense of satisfaction. Of course, I want to add my very best wishes to you, Anne, and to all of you, keep the attitude and strength you’ve had all this time.


  10. I could have sworn i commented earlier. But I want you to know that I love you and you are constantly in our prayers. You have always been an example of faith and conviction. Now you are sharing your strength during a very difficult time. I am so grateful for your example and your love.

    You are so beautiful.

  11. We have been following your travels since we saw you on Oprah. You inspired us to take our 4 children around the world for 18 months creating unique and memorable times together. Your faith in the face of this challenge inspires us once again, we will keep you in our prayers.

  12. Thank you for your beautiful words, your amazing spirit and your unshakable faith. We love you and pray for you many many times a day – the boys have added “bless aunt anne” to the cue of every prayer they say. We love you.

  13. Anne and Family: Thanks for sharing. You will find all the prayers will give you such strength. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I too surrounded myself with family and friends and upbeat doctors. I just went for my first 3 month checkup after chemo and everything came back great. You will beat this Anne. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
    Love Kitty and Ramon Stewart

  14. In the great uncertainty, the wonders of trust, legacy sown into others’ hearts, living the spirit aware: A magnificent knowledge. It’s a comfort to the sympathetic reader that you have strong support. I wish continued courage and healing.

    PS: found your inspiring travel blog while preparing for a month footlose in Peru.

  15. Thanks for all the comments. Anne and I are treatment today and it means a lot. We also need to make sure Brasov is on the list again next trip around the world. We will travel for cake…. Of course we will travel for most any reason.

  16. Anne – you are and your family are in our prayers and thoughts. You sound like a fighter and that is great!!!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
    Kitty and Ramon Stewart

  17. Tom and Anne. . .we are so fortunate to have you as great friends!!! We are along for the ride in this next adventure with you and want you to know our love for you and your family. Abrazos!!

  18. You are beautiful-inside and out. Thank you for sharing many thoughts for us all to consider in our daily lives. Not too many people can say that they have people from all over the world backing them up. I hope your preparations and our prayers make this round much easier!

  19. Anne, you are an extraordinary woman! Thank you for sharing this event in your life with thousands of people you don’t know. You and your family are in our prayers.

  20. Anne and Tom,

    Melinda PM’d me recently and told me of Anne’s illness. I was saddened to hear the news but want you to know that our family will be praying for you and I will be keeping up with your blog to see how things are going.

    Much love to you and your family,


  21. You and your family are in our prayers many times every day. I was running not too long after we found out that you were in the hospital with some scary possible diagnoses and the song “Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin came on my ipod. I remembered that Tom and I were sharing music the last time we saw you guys, and that was one of the songs I recommended to you guys. I had mentioned that I had shared it with Lisa when she was in the midst of her treatments. What strange timing that turned out to be. As I ran, listening to the lyrics of that song, and thinking about what you and your family must be going through, I got goose bumps all over from the emotion of rooting for you guys. The song has a powerful message, written from someone who had been through a fight with luekemia. I don’t usually get goose bumps while running when it’s over 90 degrees before 7:00 AM! Listen to that song if you get the chance, because you’ve got to swim! We love you guys. I’m no stranger to shaving cream on my head. It suits you & welcome to the club.


  22. Dear Six,
    I thought of you today as we currently have a program on the TV in the UK called ‘My Crazy Family Gap Year’ (!), so I logged in to see how you were doing…..and now I have tears running down my face. I know when I tell Chris later he will feel the same. Stay strong and fight hard, as we still have a Thai takeout and Wii play debt to repay when you drop by whilst visiting Dax at Oxford!!
    Besos a todos
    CRFS xxxx

  23. Tom/Anne: I’m sorry to hear of this news. Positive vibes from the Dirty South being sent your way. I just went through a similar situation last year with my mom. Chin up. You can beat this.

  24. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Anne. Your courage and perspective in the face of such adversity are an inspiration to us all. Stay strong and keep fighting. You are in our thoughts and our prayers.

  25. Hey guys. It’s been way too long since we’ve seen you, but you have been in my thoughts so much since I heard the news from Gavin. Thank you for sharing your faith and perspective. I have always admired you guys so much, and here’s just more proof of your goodness. Much love and many prayers and thanks from the McPhie family. You got this.

  26. I’ve just come across your blog because my husband and I are considering doing a RTW family trip. We are planning perhaps a little far in advanced, but we are just the type to dream.
    I was wondering if you would recommend the age that may be best for children to go (ie what might be getting to old for them to enjoy or too young). We, at this point, have 1 son and no plans for any more children, but who knows what God has planned for our future.
    This is a very inspiring blog and it makes me more excited to go on such an adventure.
    I’m sorry to read the health struggles you have faced and are facing, but am inspired to know that you have such a faithful outlook. You will have people praying for you at this part of the world.

  27. I saw a tweet from Tom today in Tweetdeck and figured I’d just come over and see what was new at your site. I have now just finished reading about your diagnosis. Stay strong. We live in great times. My grandmother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer not too long before I was born (1/10/62). They performed a radical mastectomy, but gave her a grim outlook (1 to 2 years.) Well, she lived until 1993! She was at my wedding (’86). She came to congratulate me when I graduated with my MBA (’89). She saw my oldest come into this world (’91).

    It’s 2010 and our doctors can do so much more than they could in 1961. Her care was greatly enhanced by a love of life and desire to overcome. You have a family that I’m sure provides you that drive.

    I will continue to follow your progress and look forward to hearing of your healing. The best is yet to come.

  28. I saw a tweet from Tom today in Tweetdeck and figured I’d just come over and see what was new at your site. I have now just finished reading about your diagnosis. Stay strong. We live in great times. My grandmother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer not too long before I was born (1/10/62). They performed a radical mastectomy, but gave her a grim outlook (1 to 2 years.) Well, she lived until 1993! She was at my wedding (’86). She came to congratulate me when I graduated with my MBA (’89). She saw my oldest come into this world (’91). It’s 2010 and our doctors can do so much more than they could in 1961. Her care was greatly enhanced by a love of life and desire to overcome. You have a family that I’m sure provides you that drive. I will continue to follow your progress and look forward to hearing of your healing. The best is yet to come.

  29. Hello Anne,
    Your family’s journey helped us organize/get up the courage to take our family on our own RTW adventure. We returned in July, and I hadn’t been back to your blog until now. This blogging world is sometimes larger and certainly more amorphous than the real world—we’ve never met. But let me say, your words about your cancer fight, and about spending that precious time traveling with your children touched me as if they were written by a best friend. Don’t worry, I’m no crazy cyber-stalker! :v) I do want to say that there will be prayers said for you in many languages, from many religions, and by strangers like me. May your recovery be swift and complete.
    Cheryl Parton

  30. Hi Anne and Tom,
    Not sure if you remember me from Vietnam, but I traveled with you and your beautiful family on our tour around Halong Bay. I by chance clicked on your website and just read your post. From my brief travels with you, I have no doubt that your incredible strength, faith, and familial support will get you through this. You all have the most grounded and positive outlook on life, and that is the key. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Stay strong and take care.

  31. Sitting in Singapore sending you and yours TONS of prayers, hugs, Light and positive vibes! We haven’t had much internet time lately on our family world travels, so I am just finding this post because last week in Sydney we met up with a traveling friend we’ve known online since 2005 & she then wrote about your family and mine, which led me here again to check in.

    I have a dear friend in the UK who survived cancer ( even when EVERY doctor told her it was impossible after it metastisized every where in her body) and she councils people going through this if you should ever feel the need.

    Cancer CAN be over come and I know with your great love and strength, Anne and with the love and support of your family that you will get through this. Loving you from a distance, even though we have never met, my heart goes out to you. Sending blessings of strength and peace to all of you.

  32. Tom and Anne, I remember you from college…we were just acquaintances, but one of my clearest memories from that time was walking down Temple Street with you both for a block or 2. Tom was back from his mission and returned to school, Anne (maybe?) had graduated. But you both were talking about your new life together (were you engaged or married then, I don’t recall) and I cannot forget the way Anne’s eyes lit up when she spoke about the peace and inclusion and family focus that she loved so much about her new path with Tom. The enthusiasm you both had for your life together was intense and palpable. And the way you 2 looked at each other…all I could think was “These guys REALLY have something big here.” I’ve read your blog form time to time, and can say that clearly, that impression was right.

    You were an inspiration then, you were an inspiration during your world travels with your children, and you are both an inspiration now. I wish I lived close enough to drop off a casserole (you’re probably tired of those by now!), but instead will keep you both close in thoughts and prayers and send you a hearty “Ashe!” (a la Master T) across the miles.

    :-) Gina Palmisano (maiden name, you wouldn’t know me by my married name!)

  33. Gina,

    Thank you so much for the comment. It means a lot to us. I can’t remember if we were engaged or married when we talked. Those first few years are a pleasant blur. TD was an amazing place and we were lucky to have met there. We also go the chance to see Master T last spring at our reunion so all those memories just came rushing back, he really created an enjoyable environment for us. That place is not going to be the same without him. I took the liberty of looking you up on Facebook and I see that you also have a couple of lovely kids and you are probably going through the college application process this year. It is such a stressful and fun time. Good luck with it. Thanks again for the nice comments, and I am sure you caught us on a good day.


  34. Jeanne,

    Thanks for the comment, we have been keeping up with your great adventure and publishing journey and love seeing you live the dream and measure it in years. Anne is doing very well and she plans to overcome her illness as well. After she does we will have to get back to our nomadic ways and join you as long term travelers.


  35. Lauren,

    We definitely remember you. Those days in Halong bay were amazing days. I still can’t believe I don’t have a picture of the guy putting the cow on the motorbike where we stopped to take a group picture. Thanks you for the thoughts and the prayers. We hope to meet again on another travel adventure in the future.


  36. Cheryl,

    Thanks for the comment and thanks for prayers. Anne is recovering well, the chemo is tough but she is handling it well and has a great positive outlook. Your trip looked amazing as well. Congrats on taking it.



  37. Steve,

    Thanks for adding your grandmother to our list or people who give us inspiration. Anne is doing very well and only has one more round of chemo in a couple of weeks. It will be nice then to move into the next phase and put this cancer father and farther behind us each day.

    I hope you and your family are doing well.



  38. Hi Anne,

    You’ve been on my mind. I’ve emailed you a while back, but didn’t know if you ever received it. So, I decided to see if you still had your blog going, and to check in.
    I was thinking about our past, and how special those years were to see Sammy and Dax, Miya and Mckane grow up together. They were so young! And look at them now… All grown up!!! I followed some of your travels on the blog, and marveled at you and Tom for the fun, bravery, strength, inspiration, wit, and the wonder for life you shared with your kids along the way! I wish we had the courage to do that! What an amazing gift you were all given to have so many great memories! I know you will continue to have many more. I’m looking forward to catching up with the family, and letting you know what’s going on with us. All of our love and prayers are going your way. Tom, lots of love to you and the kids too!


  39. Pingback: Maternal Thoughts from a Travel Junky | Brooke vs. the World

  40. Stumbled across your blog while looking up traveling with kids. You are in an inspiration in so many ways. I am in tears. Not just because of your current situation but because it is a beautiful thing to see a family live out their dreams. Our dream is to travel the USA in an RV or maybe even our minivan(!). Things seem impossible right now, but it’s blogs like yours that keep the dream alive. Thank you.

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