Thankful to #OptOutside


Yesterday, Elizabeth and our daughter and I “opted” to go outside and join millions of other people across the U.S. who use Black Friday as an excuse to get outside and enjoy outdoor adventure, rather than buying more stuff they really don’t need.

Lest you think I’m riding a moralistic high horse, the reality is that some things I want to buy I may just buy on a different day or online—just not on the Friday after Thanksgiving 🙂 In other words, I’m not above the day, I just like to support getting outside as a lifestyle.

Along with my brother and his family, we went for hike at Great Bear Ski Area at about 11 a.m.. The sun and warmer temperatures, not to mention lack of snow, made for a great outing, especially considering the ski area has not opened up yet, and the grassy hills remained mostly dry. Another plus was the lack of wind—a rarity in South Dakota.


Growing up I spent a lot of time skiing at Great Bear.

Opt Outside is a national day that was started a few years ago by REI. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the outdoor retailer giant closes all stores across the country (and even online shopping) and instead encourages customers to get outside and enjoy outdoor adventure. The phenomenon has definitely caught fire. Check out #optoutside and you will see more than 2 million posts—I know this because I tried to find my post from yesterday and couldn’t!

I usually don’t really need a national day to motivate me to get outside—in fact I’ve spent a lot of my life opting out of things to get outside—perhaps even to excess 🙂 It probably started in college, when my friends and I used most Saturdays to go whitewater kayaking, rather than join 30,000 other people at the UM Grizzlies home games. I like watching football—but I like kayaking even more.

There are so many benefits to getting outside—It’s always refreshing to spend time in God’s Creation.

And especially these days, it’s been healthy for Elizabeth and I to keep doing the things that give us life, especially in light of my cancer journey. One aspect about facing this disease that is especially challenging (and there are certainly many) is how it threatens to define me—that somehow the largeness of this disease overshadows all I am or have done. I’ve already lived 38 years of my life and there are many things that I would much rather have define me, like writing and outdoor adventure, being a husband and father, and my relationships with family and friends—and especially my relationship with God.

Getting outside helps me keep in touch with who I really am.

Thanksgiving week always brings a fresh reminder of gratitude. And this Friday brought one more reminder of how grateful I am for the opportunities to be outside.




Winning but Not Quite Victorious



This past Monday I had my third CT scan, which assesses the effectiveness of my treatment. In short, the news was very good.

To put it in military terms, we have beaten the enemy back, but the war is not quite over yet. In fact, there may still be some battles and skirmishes left to fight.

What partly got me thinking in military terms recently is that Elizabeth and I watched the movie Hacksaw Ridge last week—the first time we’ve been able to go to a theater together since Pippa was born! The film was excellent in quality, incredibly gory (okay for me, but not for Elizabeth), and over all very inspiring, especially faith-wise, for those who face impossible situations.

Speaking of impossible situations, I want to share more about my medical results. The scan showed that things were as good as in August, and even slightly improved. Here are some highlights:

-No evidence of cancer in my bones. “They will appear abnormal on scans probably all your life, but there is no cancer there,” the doctor said.

-As to the tumor in my liver, which has been the source: “It has a noticeably dark and dead look,” my doctor said. “I have to think that it is well treated.” The spot has decreased in size since August, but it is hard to say whether the cancer is completely gone.

And that is why I am still wary to plant a victory flag. I think God alone will be the one who gives us confidence when we should do that, but that day is not yet today. There is no cancer currently showing up in my blood, but I don’t want this enemy to become like Saruman, who appears defeated in the second Lord of the Rings movie, but then gathers strength and attacks Middle Earth again with a vengeance in The Return of the King.

Which is why I still have some battles and skirmishes to fight. My hope and prayer is that we can vanquish this cancer completely.

Because they are not sure which of the three parts of my treatment is responsible for the success, I will have to continue with chemo. My heart sank when I first heard this news on Monday. So far I’ve lasted for 21 rounds of treatment, and I would like to have been done months ago, as every week it gets harder and harder with the side effects like fatigue and nausea. How much more must I endure?

At this point, I have no idea. I do know there is a ceiling to how much a person can tolerate—the toxicity builds up and starts poisoning the body. If you push beyond a certain level, you risk irreparable side effects. And so, I think one of two things will happen:

  • I will have to stop because my body can no longer handle it
  • God somehow tells me to stop, plant a victory flag.

The good news is what God had already done. As my doctor has said, “we are no longer operating out of the textbook here,” as there could have been no way to foresee the type of positive results that I am getting. It defies most medical explanation and I am thankful.

Let me not, even for a minute, suggest or imply that I am any of the reason that this treatment has been going as well as it has. God alone is doing it and will continue to do it, if it pleases him to do so. He is certainly using the Avera Cancer Center and He has kept me strong in mind and body. But the credit is ultimately His!

And for those of you who have continued to lift us up in prayer, I do know that God is hearing and responding to your prayers. Please keep interceding for us!

Please pray…

-That God would continue to give me the strength to endure more chemo, or make it very clear when I should stop

-That God would indeed completely vanquish and eradicate this cancer and that my health would return sooner than later!

-That He would keep me from permanent side effects

-That this miracle would continue, and that God would get the full glory and credit as the story unfolds.

I look forward to the day when we can wave the flag of victory. By faith, that day will soon be here. But not quite yet.

Not yet.

P.S. These verses, sent from a family friend this past Sunday, greatly encouraged our anxious hearts. “‘O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage,’ And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” ~Daniel 10:19