Saturday, August 30, 2008


Today is the big anniversary.

One year ago today I was running around Salt Lake getting our passports for our Christmas in Chile. Driving around wearing capris and shoes with heels. Long curly hair and lots of hope.

Thats when the diagnosis hit me. On I-15. In my minivan, while talking on a cell phone.

I remember reading in one persons cancer experience that they had never been happy since the day they were diagnosed. I was so mad when I read it. Surely that could not be the case, and it was their own fault if they felt like that. I thought they should be happier than ever! Just to be alive, wasn't that good enough?

I'm sorry to say I see what she was saying.

I have learned a lot this year. I don't think I wanted to know half of it. I didn't want to know about depression. I didn't want to know about anxiety. I didn't want to know about suicidal thoughts. I didnt want to know the worst in me.

I liked being naive. I think I had enough trials to get me on my best behavior and in my scriptures. I was progressing. I was contributing to society. I was loving my neighbors. I was raising a family in the gospel.

I wasnt doing these things perfectly, but I really was trying. And I was happy.

I know people have had to go through hell like this when they were kids or teens. That breaks my heart. I think I would have been fine to wait 30 more years for this to hit me.

I guess Im feeling like I failed this test. God gave it to me, and I should have been prepared, and I should have come out with flying colors. But I fell short. I dont feel like I can ever have that pre cancer happy smile again. Like there will always be pain in the back of my eyes.

I wonder if this would be a different experience if I had no lasting side effects. If I wasnt limited by my leg, or if my prognosis was better. would I be like, 'Man that was a bad year. Sure glad that part of my life it over. Sure glad I learned those lessons.'

Instead I feel like a truck ran over me, and I feel...flattened. I dont feel like Im a better mom, a better friend, a better neighbor, and better wife, a better mormon. I feel like I'm a worse all of these.

Can something just kind of ruin a bit of you that you never really recover? Or do we always have to be the better for it?

Here is the truth: I am a cancer surviver, but I'm just surviving. I'm not thriving.

What do you think? Is there still a chance at heaven for me, or should I give up and go get drunk?


Jill said...

Sometimes, maybe, we really are just expected to "survive" the stuff that is dished out to us and that's all. Maybe we don't have to become a "new" person as a result of what we have experienced. I think we hear too many sappy stories about people who have had "life changing" events (such as surviving cancer)and they're never the same again, their whole lives are suddenly in perfect perspective. Is that the case for everyone? Absolutely not. Another thought, you are fresh out of your "experience." As time passes and life goes on, I have no doubt that what has changed about you will slowly reveal itself in small ways. I think especially you will notice it when you interact with others who have "survived" cancer and are feeling just like you are today. They will know they aren't alone in their unexpected thoughts and reactions. I love you Alisa and YES you still have a chance at heaven. Just like all of us.

Doc said...

Alisa, you are so good. I think you have just had opportunities to face the worst in you like you said, but I think you are winning. I am proud to call you my big sister.

Brittany said...

Don't go get drunk, but do maybe splurge on some expensive ice cream. And know that we ALL feel like we're failing the big test most of the time, but most of us haven't just had the year from hell.

Chapman Family said...

The matter of fact is that people have all those thoughts without even having cancer. And it goes to show everyone that you can't judge anyone. And of course, that is what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is for. ALL OF THOSE FEELINGS. All of them. You have a long list, so it might take a while, but take EVERY one of them to the Lord and say, "You already suffered for these, please don't let me feel them anymore." It sounds so easy, huh? It's soooo not! And I know you want to say, "I already have to suffer, so I need to be HUMBLE and suffer some more?" But it's worth it. And the way I see it. The people who go through massive trials in their lives are being prepared for something HUGE in heaven. And let's face it, just "surviving" is a HUGE accomplishment in itself. And if it means something, we all learned from you . . . the entire journey. Thanks for being a great teacher.

BJJ said...

You are so purely honest and as I sit here crying, I know there is something profound that I am supposed to say, except I don't know how to say profound things so here it goes:
I can't begin to imagine the year you have had! It totally sucks that this happened to you! All I can say is what it has done for me (how selfish of me, huh!) You have taught me the gift this life is and that all the petty little things do not matter. You have taught me to look at the important things and to be grateful. You have taught me to laugh in the darkest moments and that Heavenly Father loves us no matter how 'ugly' we think we are (on the inside and out). You have taught me true perseverence and when I fall short of all I am supposed to be I think, "If I can just hold on a moment longer, I can endure." You have taught me to be a better mom, friend, sister, daughter, neighbor, mormon etc. You cannot know the effect of your experience on my life and if you are having this experience to show me what I truly need to be grateful for and what is important in life, then thank you. You have given so much and I hope you do find true happiness again, you are truly an inspiration!

Roger and Kelli Proctor said...

I say, dont give up! I think you are amazing! You got through it way better than I probably ever would! I will always think of you as amazing! Keep on keepin on!

SB said...

I do not think you understand what kind of strength you have endured on others. I know it's not easy hearing this from another person who is "not" going through what you are- though I feel I have gone through my own battles the past 6 years with being pregnant 6 of those times and only being married 7 of them. As I continue to fight the battle to be a mother I understand that I am thankful for the children I have to love even if it is just the 2.
I sometimes feel as I have failed the "mother" challenge, but I have to pick myself up again and say: it is ok, I feel my Heavenly Father loves me.
Alisa, YOU have been an inspiration to so many people, I am saddened by what you have endured but you have made ME a better person, I see how great of a husband you have and reflect on my own: I have a great husband as well. Your boys LOVE you and look up to you no matter your feelings, I think it is wonderful how honest you are; if you feel crappy, depressed you say it: we all need to hear it. SO many people do not clue in that depression is real and the thoughts you have had are real. I hope for comfort for you and want you to know that I think your a GREAT example to all of us in the blogger world as well as in the church, as a neighbor etc.
Sorry for the babble but Don't take that drink:)
Take care!

ckw7 said...

I don't know if you have any idea of the number of us who check your blog site for news from you. We ache at your sorrows and thrill at your triumphs. We have all been praying individually for your recovery. We share your relief and your fears. We admire your ability to be totally honest and we ache when you do.

I shared the following story privately with you last year. At the funeral for a rebellious, inactive returned missionary, who contracted cancer and then was loved back into activity by a new ward, his cousin, Elder Hugh Pinnock, spoke. His talk also had a big impact on me.

Elder Pinnock told of being in Canada on assignment at a stake conference, when he received a call from the First Presidency requesting that he speak at a funeral on Monday morning – at a small tow in Montana. The connections were difficult – but arrangements were finally made to fly him there and get him to the town on time.

He recounted how it was still dark when he boarded the small plane. As the sun came up, he said he became very alarmed. The plane was very old and was actually being held together in several places by duct tape and bailing wire. He said he began some silent but fervent prayers for their safety. Because the plane was so small, it became apparent at some time that none of the instruments in the cockpit were working. The pilot had a small hand-held compass that he was using to try to determine their course. They did not take the most direct route. There was absolutely no communication of any kind with a tower.

Elder Pinnock said that when that plane finally touched down at his destination, he was so grateful and even relieved. Then he drew this analogy:

There are many men and women around us like that airplane. They are not pretty to look at and their scarred lives are held together with duct tape. They are not taking the most direct route through life, there are many side trips and distractions along their way. They go for long periods of time without any contact with a higher power. But when they touch down at that final destination, all that matters is that they endured and made it. They are there! I love that analogy!

Reading your blog this afternoon gave me a new take on an application for this: Sometimes the Lord allows things to happen to really mess up our "airplanes". Some that should still be shiny and new become scarred and don't function the way we want them to. Is there room at the airport for those kind of planes? Of course, there is. He loves us all equally. He knows our individual challenges and will be there cheering for us after we land our planes! Is there room for you in heaven . . . of course there is. All of us fly with imperfections & challenges, just trying to do the best we can with the airplanes we have been given. But there is a hager wawiting for each of us if we just figure out a way to land those rickey old planes.

Thanks for the inspiration you give to us all!

Rebecca said...

Alisa, you will thrive, again. And when you hit your stride, I hope it will be easier to see what a better wife, mother and Christian you have become. That vision will probably come in small glimpses the rest of your life, with a grand vista exploding in the Spirit World and/or resurrection morning.

You have always been one of my heros. Thank you for taking time in the midst of your chaotic last year to blog. Your writing has lifted me in very many ways that I truly cherish.

ronco said...

I think you're practically perfect in every way, Alisa.

Tiffany said...

I think you are being way too hard on yourself. This past year has been extremely difficult, some of which (side effects) haven't gone away yet. You are a human being, a daughter of God, a small piece of diety, although, not perfect. Just as we all are not perfect. I am taking a course on changing our thinking, and I came across this the day before I read your blog. I hope it will help.
"The best thing you can do for yourself is to be kind. Be kind to yourself. Be forgiving. You CAN succeed WITHOUT being perfect!
Just do your best!
When you get frustrated and feel you have fallen short. You can say, 'I blew it, but I am doing the best I can with what I have to work with, and I am going to rely on unseen forces to make up the difference.'"
Heavenly Father will make up the difference, don't you see, He has promised YOU that. He has not asked you to be perfect, He has just asked you to do the best that you can. And if you think you have not done that, then your thinking is wrong, change it.
One more quote from this course.
"You can't worry enough about a problem to fix it." So long as you are filled with worry, there's no room for inspiration. Be at peace, release the fear, and light, power, ideas, solutions, and all kinds of beneficial energy will have room to flow in. Don't pinch it off by hanging on to baggage and/or fear. Let it go."
ALLOW yourself to see the good, it is truly there.

Momila said...

Oh, Alisa, Life is what happens to us while we are planning other things...everything you experienced it's best and worst. We all got to church and see everyone else with their churchy faces on and wonder "how can they be so good and perfect and I am such a mess?" and I am promising you they are thinking the same things about us.
Christ does not expect you to suffer any more than you can bear. We have to learn to lean back into His comforting arms and relax a little.
Our little trials over the past 3 years have taughtus there is really only time in this life for love. Love your husband and love your boys. And love yourself. We do.

suzanne campbell said...

I am a cancer survivor also and you need to give yourself time it hasn't been long enough. Sometimes it hits right after that is when I faced the depression and anxiety its different for everyone. Don't be so hard on yourself. As for the Lymphedema my 78 year old father in law is back to riding his bike 78 miles a week. He went to the clinic and they helped so much let me know if you need the number. Again its too soon and it will get better long suffering only comes by long suffering you are much loved Suzanne Campbell

travisandkatieatwood said...

I hope you don't mind me commenting but I was just thinking about this the other day and relating it to my mom who has breast cancer. I don't think that you ever forget that you have cancer and I actually think you will think about it everyday or more and for the most part those around you will to. As time passes I can promise you that happiness will come. There will be the greatest moments when your with someone who you love and loves you and you will forget that you have cancer and you will find yourself truley happy to be in that moment. I can also promise whether your with your child, your mother, sister, husband or friend they will only see you for who you are and the person they love, and in that moment no one will be thinking about cancer. It will just be you and them exactly like it used to be. And for some reason you will be closer than you ever have before.

jennie said...

Dear friend... I can understand why you would be having these feelings, and you probably won't believe that we all think you are wonderful and that you've been a champ this past year. But you truly have been a champ.

The minute you started feeling better, you were on the phone calling to check on me, e-mailing me, and coming over to make sure I was okay, just because I was a little overwhelmed with a new baby. I think that goes to show that you really do think more about others than you do yourself.

You ARE in survival mode. So do what it takes to survive. Don't worry so much about everything. Just do your best to function right now! You have been through so much... let all the people who love you, keep loving and serving you!

I agree with RONCO, that you are practically perfect in every way. xoxo

bradnlisa said...

All I can say is that I loved this post. I can still hear 'you' through all that you are writing! I laughed so hard when you commented about getting drunk-so did my mom! Everyone handles 'trials' differently and especially cancer. I think your thinking is totally normal and I love you for being so brave. You have faced so much and you are still an example of courage to me!

wendipooh13 said...

ok, man you know how to write and make a girl cry. I don't think you realizeh ow strong you are, what an example you are, and what an inspiration that you are.. I am sooo grateful for how many times you have invited Austin over to your house to play, you have no idea some of things I've gone through this summer and I just want to say thanks, it has made the world of difference to me, and to him to play to James, you've been a lifesaver... thank you!!!!

Brittani said...

Alisa- all I can say is GOOD JOB girl! You are amazing, and a stronger person than I am! Plus, if you don't have a shot at heaven I'm screwed!
I love you very much and am proud of everything you have accomplished. One year down, life to go!
Love you!

Tricia said...

If you want to drink--try apple beer- it is pretty good. And please know that there is NO ONE, least of all Heavenly Father, who is judging you. I am proud to call you my friends.

Sonja said...

Alisa, I know you well and I think this whole cancer thing has made you more compassionate and understanding as well as better able to see what a beautiful gift life is. I don't know anyone who gets warm and fuzzy feelings about cancer. I guess what I'm saying is that just because you aren't happy about having had cancer doesn't mean you aren't thriving.

AnneMarie said...

If you don't have a shot at heaven, then neither do I. And I don't think cancer is supposed to morph you into a new and improved being. Just like marriage and motherhood won't do that either. But both of those teach us things that help us to grow. I don't know, I just know that you've made a huge difference in a lot of peoples' lives (before and after the diagnosis) and I think you deserve a big thank you for that.

Karlet said...

I'm so glad I got to live with you for a little while, Alisa because I got to know you better than I ever would have. I don't think you realize just how strong you are and how much influence you have over so many people. One thing that I found out about you as you were going through this was that you care about each person individually. Somehow you always help each person feel good about him/herself. You always know just what to say. I love you so much!

Brooke said...


I don't really know what to say because I don't know what you've been through and feel bad that we haven't been there for you, but I will say that I feel like your feelings are totally normal. I can relate to feeling like you will never be the same. After my miscarriage (different, I know), I felt like that, like I had been robbed and life would never feel happy again.
It takes TIME to work through all the awful feelings and I'm sure your body needs lots of time after all you have been through. Time heals us and then we are able to offer compassion to others in their trials. You are an awesome person and I (like many others) am grateful for the example and perspective you have offered this past year through your beautiful writing on this blog. Thanks for sharing.

Can't wait to spend some time with you in FALLON!!!:) (Maybe we should sneak off to Vegas and get some (virgin) pina coladas and go crazy shopping or something - would that help you!?)

Love, Brooke

jennie said...

Need another post...

steveandlaura said...

I,too, feel that way after the biggest trail of my life...I used to feel like I was strong and now I feel completely weak and weary! I came to a realization of all my false in the process and realized I wasn't as good as I thought I was...weird? All I have concluded is that it is our consistency in striving and not giving up in or over our trials. Here's to keep on keepin' on!

The Brown Family said...

There is nothing I could say that hasn't already been said. You are so amazing. I admire you, you have inspired me. I think you are too hard on yourself and I think that you need time. I am sure that the things that you are going through are things that everyone who has had cancer goes through, they just aren't as open and honest as you so you don't hear about it. There has to be a process. Your fabulous

kathyurry said...

You are a good Friend and wounderfull Primary Teacher and a Wounderfull person all together we all have our ups and down and all have lots of trials mine are differnt than yours and yours are differnt than Kash next door to you or even any ones we all have differnt things we have to deal with. So hold your head up high and sime and find the good inside of your self and tell yourself what all you have gone through this last year and think I am glad that year is behind me and this year will be lots better.

Mindy Benson said...

I'm sure you get so many comments on your blogs and hope that I can find something to say that will maybe lift your spirits. I have been going through some pictures lately and came across some pictures of a b-day party you had at your house. We were probably about 14 or 15 years old and we had climbed up on your roof and jumped off into a huge pile of snow. I remember how much fun that was. Sometimes life is just like that. We just have to have faith and jump. It doesn't matter if we are the perfect mom or wife. There is someone there that catches us when we fall. This is our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we fall short, but try anyway. I believe that his mercy and his amazing love will help us up to where we need to be. I can't even begin to imagine the trials that you have had to face this past year. I hope that I can be even half as strong as you are. I know that you don't believe that, but you are my hero!!! We are coming to visit for Christmas and it would be so nice to go out with you and Deb and Misty. It would be so much fun! Take Care