I write to you from the passenger seat of the family van, travelling west on I-40 from Knoxville to Nashville. I take that back. Now I’m in a different seat. I started this post 2 days ago, but I find myself finishing it in what seems my usual place for writing, a treatment chair at Tennessee Oncology in Nashville. Our summer kickoff vacation is over, and it’s back to the routine of treatment and work. It was an interesting vacation, to say the least. Our trip began last Saturday when we unloaded our car in the rain into a rental house overlooking Lake Lure in western North Carolina, near Asheville. If you’ve been in the South this week, you were likely impacted in some way by Tropical Storm Alberto. For us, it wiped out our lake vacation.
We rented a house with Kim’s mother and her siblings’ families, twelve of us in all. We wound up with only a single day to enjoy the water, Sunday, but even that day was marred. We also rented a pontoon boat for the week, but it was in poor shape and stalled constantly. Our first voyage lasted less time than it took to load the boat and ended with our being towed home by the guy who rented it to us. He and his mate worked on it for an hour or so, and then pronounced it working. Strangely, this pronouncement coincided with another rain squall and was uttered in haste as they sprinted toward their car. Our second journey ended with our rowing back to shore, and the boat then spent the next 3 days moored to the dock to lifelessly endure the storm for the next three days, with the restless occupants of the house looking down upon it, floating in increasingly muddy water.
Eventually, the house began flooding in several places, with moisture soaking through the walls around power outlets. By Tuesday, the storm had brought down enough trees to knock out the power, which took the pump-driven well water with it. Twelve people stuck in a house with no power, no water, and roads closing fast… no thanks. On Wednesday morning, we all packed up and left. We wished the good people of the area well and prayed for their safety.
Kim’s family went home to Atlanta, while we headed northwest to Gatlinburg, TN. We wanted to salvage our vacation somehow, and, knowing that we needed to be in Nashville on Saturday, Gatlinburg was somewhat on the way. We were able to secure another rental home, this time in the Smoky Mountains. Honestly, we don’t have much positive to say about this area. It’s a tourist trap with overpriced and overrated attractions, and it just ain’t our thing. We did enjoy the chondola (not a typo, that’s what they called it) ride up Anakeesta mountain and the stroll across the rope bridges in the trees at the top; the featured image is of our ragtag family before sitting our butts in the chair lifts.
While it is unfortunate that our vacation with Kim’s family didn’t go as we hoped, it seems strangely fitting, given the circumstances of its planning and my physical condition. For the past several years, Kim’s family had spent the week of Memorial Day on Hilton Head Island, but, since the passing of Kim’s father in 2016, she and her mother and siblings have been hesitant to return for fear of strong emotions from bittersweet memories. The lake was an idea for something different, something unhaunted, but it didn’t work out, obviously. Kim remarked as we left Lake Lure that the powerful storm was Gibby’s (her father) message to us that he wants us to return to the Island, to honor his memory that way. I’m not sure the storm was a message from him directly, but I believe Kim is correct in her interpretation.
As for me, I had been feeling uneasy about the trip since my gut popped out of my belly in San Francisco. As I mentioned in a previous post, my recently installed ileostomy from surgery in January unexpectedly protruded about 4 inches from my abdomen during a strenuous bike ride around Golden Gate Park in April. Since, I’ve been trying everything short of duct tape to keep the end of my small intestine tucked inside my body where it belongs. Really, what I want most is to not feel self-conscious in a swimsuit (don’t we all). I purchased a $150 “stealth belt” that was marketed as a life-changer for ostomy patients and would free me for any activity. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Within hours of strapping the belt around my waist, Fuji, the nickname for my stoma, was sticking out about the length of my thumb. This isn’t dangerous, but it bothers me, looks strange, and I don’t want it to get any worse. As a temporary fix, I fashioned my own device using neoprene from an old glove, plastic from a CD case, and an elastic belt. I’m hoping the folks at stealth belt can come up with a custom solution for me.
I again want to thank everyone for putting up with my top-10 album diversion. This was a good writing exercise for me. Honestly, I haven’t known what to write about for Two Stories recently, but folks have requested updates. I regard periods like now as the “time between scans.” I don’t learn anything new, and I just manage the side effects of treatment and bowel/bladder disease until the next CT scan, which is in 2 weeks. My biggest priority is trying to enjoy life, though. I’m also trying to refocus my energies on serving others through the church and the hobbies that have provided much pleasure throughout my life. At the moment, I’m struggling to engage in these things that once came so easily. But I’m prayerfully persevering by faith with the help of family, and friends.
Like my family stuck in the house at Lake Lure, I often feel restless and trapped. More, like all the other humans I know, I feel the tension between joy and sadness, peace and anxiety, certainty and doubt; metastatic cancer may add a bit more urgency. But, unlike that lifeless pontoon boat, being moored is my life-giving identity, trusting my Savior’s hands to prevent me from floating adrift during this storm. How frightening it is to imagine being beaten about by wind and waves, making calls of distress with no hope of a rescue.
Thanks for all your continued prayers.