By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband Steve stopped the car in the middle of nowhere on Highway 20 in northeast Iowa Saturday afternoon on our way home from the Mayo Clinic. “I thought you said we were stopping at a rest stop?” I said, a bit foggy from the previous day’s anesthesia and thyroid cancer surgery.
“There’s no rest stop here; you just have to get out of the car and walk for a few minutes,” Steve replied. We had been instructed to get out of the car every hour on our trip home to prevent blood clots from forming in my body after surgery.
I imagined stopping at scenic places on our journey home, especially along the rolling hills of northeast Iowa. But this, our third one-hour stop, occurred on a barren stretch of highway. Even in my somewhat confused state of mind, I thought: “Boring!”
The next day, paging through a home-made book of prayers and inspiration, I reflected on a note that Cheryl, one of my college roommates, emailed last year, after I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma. She began, “Dear Barb, I know you’re headed on a journey and it is more than just a bump in the road; it’s a new path, although it has been well traveled … just that it is new to you….”
Re-reading the note, I thought about all of the people who have been on the journey before me — relatives, friends, colleagues, fellow parishioners, readers of this newspaper and Cheryl herself. Their courage and positive attitude inspire me. A memorial card for Tom, who died last year of cancer, slipped out of my book bag today. Maybe a little nudge from God to think about Tom, who sang in our parish’s choir, and others who have traveled this road with cancer or other serious health challenges.
“You’ll need to prepare, so I have a checklist for you,” Cheryl wrote in her email. First on the checklist: “bring your family, friends, and be prepared to meet others along the way. It will be an amazing journey.” I think about the nurses, who took weekly blood samples or administered chemotherapy to tame the follicular lymphoma; the hematologist, surgeons, nurse practitioners and my primary care physician, who responded to questions and alleviated fears. I think about the people who have prayed over, with or for me and the hugs, cards and Facebook posts with emojis (smiley faces, etc.).
But it is Steve who has been my constant travel companion on this journey, even during the times he’s probably wanted to take the exit ramp and leave me behind! Occasionally, I forget to add the “gr” to attitude. Daily prayer and the Mass — along with the prayers of others — smooth the bumps on the road and provide a sense of peace about our final destination.
Cheryl’s checklist includes a reminder to “Continue on your normal path in tandem with this journey path.” Doing so has provided deep satisfaction and a renewed zest for life. As the prophet Isaiah said: “They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” (40:31).
And hopefully, I’ll appreciate all of the rest stops on the way!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)