Embracing the Extraordinary

I’ve always craved extraordinary experiences and through diligence and luck I’ve managed to pepper my life with them. I attended extraordinary schools, married an extraordinary man, gave birth to four extraordinary children, ghostwrote a few books (I won’t claim they’re extraordinary) while chasing those children, lived in extraordinary places, and traveled the world first in spurts, and later in one extraordinary fell swoop. Nothing has come close, however, to what I have been through the past seven months.

This time extraordinary found me…and I didn’t want it. I would have given anything to be ordinary, to be one of the 99.5% of women my age who do not end up with colon cancer, or the 99.99995% who do not have the even rarer appendiceal cancer (which was likely the origin of my disease). Accepting that cancer had found me, I would have loved to have fallen into the more common categories of Stage I, II or even III, but upon entering the emergency room, I had to settle for Stage IV; and as cancer activist Kris Carr explains, “there is no Stage V.”

So, faced with an extraordinary situation no one would ask for, I have had to confront life from a new and unfamiliar perspective. I have had to fight not to create magical experiences but to stay alive. I have had to face a diagnosis that statistically gives me little chance of long term survival and prove that I am anything but a statistic. I am a walking miracle, a deviation from the norm, a medical outlier.

Anne shaving her head

Off with the hair

I have emerged from chemotherapy as I entered it, thanks to my surgeons, “cancer free.” This is an extraordinary accomplishment given the voraciousness of my tumors. I have lost a lot along the way–my sense of medical invincibility, my unfamiliarity with personal trauma, an assortment of organs, my high frequency hearing, and some feeling in my hands and feet–but I have gained even more. I am alive, tougher, wiser, more grateful.

Words cannot express the gratitude Tom and I have for the scores of you who have sent messages of love, care packages, meals, and prayers our way. We firmly believe that each and every gesture of temporal and spiritual support has made a difference in my recovery and played a part in creating a hopeful future for our family.

The hair is coming, as is life

No longer bald, what some might call stylish

We never imagined when we embarked on our round the world adventure almost five years ago that our greatest adventure would occur at home. Now that it has, we are even more grateful that we had the chutzpah to live out our dream of extended family travel and have every intention of fulfilling many more extraordinary dreams in the years to come.

Though we are optimistic, my fight is not over. I must work every day through diet, exercise, and stress management to make my body hostile to the cancer that so recently threatened to kill it. I must learn to live in the moment and appreciate what I can do today as opposed to what I could have done yesterday or what I might do tomorrow. None of this is easy. There are many times when this whole experience seems bigger than me, when I wonder how I can possibly make it through the next few months much less the next fifty years. But as with any great adventure, faith and a certain degree of fearlessness have sustained me thus far and I trust they will continue to do so in the future.

As I continue my recovery and regain my strength, I expect to be able to share more. For now please accept my sincere thanks for your love and encouragement. They truly have meant the world to me.

17 thoughts on “Embracing the Extraordinary

  1. wow, I was actually just thinking of your family and blog yesterday for some random reason. I don’t know what even brought it to mind, but I always loved reading about your adventures. I was wondering how you were doing…so it’s great to hear this post. Thoughts are with you!

  2. It was wonderful to read your words. I always knew you were an incredible woman Anne. I will continue sending love and prayers your way.

  3. Oh Anne! You were so beautiful before the cancer, it’s incredible how much more beautiful you’ve become. You’re words and experience have been truly humbling. Thrive! —Cathy

  4. It is so good to hear from you! I’ve been praying for you and your family! Thank you for your words, you are so inspiring! Continued prayers for you and your family!

  5. great news that treatment went very well!
    your story is so inspirational and life inspiring, thanks for sharing.
    it’s important to remember and live in the moment and for tomorrow.
    stay well

  6. Thank you for sharing your ‘lessons learned’ as you travel that journey not chosen! Prayers for your continued strength of body, mind, and spirit as you go forward through this uncertain adventure of life.

  7. beautiful post. it was so wonderful to see you and spend time with you this last couple weeks. thanks for coming and sharing your recovery and spirit with us. we love you bunches and bunches!

  8. Good to hear from you Anne, and Q & I are so glad you are still alive & kicking, and kicking the cancer in the bee-hind.

    You & your family continue to inspire. Keep up the good work, and hope to see you soon.

    Big hugs.

  9. Anne,

    I just want to send my blessings and let you know how truly inspiring your words are.
    My husband and I are one of those crazy few who have decided to take our three kids on a journey around the world. I am truly glad to run across your blog and will be reading it to get insight from your experience.

  10. Anne,

    First, I want to say how greatly inspired I am by your story. I send my blessings to you and your family.

    We are one of those families that have decided to leave everything behind and travel the world. Your site has such excellent information regarding your travels. I will be reading it often. Thanks for sharing so much.

  11. You are an extraordinary woman Anne with an extraordinary family and we have been praying for all of you. So glad to hear from you and about how well you are doing. I am so sorry that you have had to endure this, but grateful that you choose to go through it by seeing it as a blessing and using all that you learn and grow from it to lift you even higher.

    May God’s love enfold you and walk with you through this extraordinary journey. We send blessings from Asia and hope some day to meet you and your family on the road.

  12. Anne,

    My wife and I, parents of four with ambition for a big trip of our own some day have been thrilled and grateful for the experiences your family has shared with us so far. We look forward to hearing about more adventures from you and thank you for your inspiration.

    Jim and Marianne

  13. I want to thank you. You have along with many others have inspried me to someday go on my own Round-The-World Trip. Also for updates about your great life. My trip is called my Someday Trip for which I will someday go on it. Your information has been a great help for research. Sorry you have to go through this horrible happening. Glad you are doing so good!
    Stay strong!
    And go on your next Extraordinary Journey!

  14. I’m pleased to hear you are not only doing well, but sounding upbeat and positive about the experience. I can understand why that is one of those unusual, rare experiences you would want to miss.

    All the best, and maybe we’ll catch up with you on the road somewhere, too.


  15. You are in our thoughts and prayers. I still share with others how inspiring it was to follow you and your family around the world as we prepared for our own trip. I hope we don’t have to draw inspiration from your latest “extraordinary” experience but, it is good to know that should we find ourselves in a similar circumstance that we have an example of a true warrior! God Bless.

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