Recalled to Life


The phrase “recalled to life” rang true over the past two weeks, as I returned to some of my favorite activities. Save for the past year, climbing steep rock spires and schussing down 45 degree slopes has been my normal.

“Recalled to life” comes from the novel A Tale of Two Cities; the suggestion of a new chance at life is an apt description of not just my experience lately, but the bigger picture of my life as well. This resurrection started when Elizabeth and Pippa and I headed out to Colorado for spring break.

While in Longmont, my friend, Jon, asked me if I wanted to go rock climbing. A little hesitant at first, I agreed. I had thought about perhaps climbing this spring or summer, but sometimes it takes a mental push to tie yourself back into a thin rope, force your feet into tight shoes and defy gravity by hanging on a cliff once again. I think going with a “safe” friend was a must—not just one with good climbing skills, but a proven friend I don’t need to impress, especially after what I’ve been through.

We headed to a familiar crag in Boulder Canyon. Starting slow on a beginner route, I kept readjusting my fingers on the thin rock holds, straining to stand on my toes on the small features. My feet and hands are numb in spots, the result of grueling treatment, so in a way I felt like I was relearning to trust them. Fortunately, this route included a lot of big holds, so precision wasn’t quite so critical.

After that shaky start, I surprised myself by ascending a 5-9, as well as another 5-8 (intermediate routes) somewhat comfortably. I began to relax, enjoying the familiar sights and sounds of the canyon, the sun rays reflecting off the polished granite, the roar of the rushing creek below.

All in all, the day proved to be a huge boost. Pushing my body and muscles again felt good—as did discovering that they didn’t break when tested. I believe outdoor adventure helps restore the confidence and dignity of cancer survivors (as I mentioned in a previous post), and this certainly proved true this day, as well as the rest of spring break.

The day went so well that Elizabeth and I brought our climbing gear to Colorado Springs a few days later. The first day we top-roped, but then the next day I was ready to hop on the sharp end (lead climbing). We chose Montezuma’s, a 150-foot sandstone tower in the middle of Garden of the Gods State Park, where I proposed to Elizabeth nearly five years ago. By happenstance, a professional sports photographer captured the climb (see slideshow in my next post).

A few days later, we headed to Vail Resort to do some skiing. Unlike rock climbing, this part of our spring break was planned. A few friends invited us to stay at a house, a mere 100 yards from the lift, complete with an outdoor hot tub and five fireplaces—one can never have too many fireplaces 🙂 It was an incredibly generous and timely invitation.

I have been literally dreaming of skiing all winter. Some of my dreams have included skiing couloirs with backcountry skiing friends in Utah. I always wake up feeling bittersweet, happy to hang out with these friends and experience the Wasatch again, if only in my dreams, but sad when I remember it wasn’t real. I’ve had similar surfing dreams, too.

Months ago, Elizabeth mentioned in her blog that she’d been praying God would give me an opportunity to ski this winter. At the time it seemed like an impossible dream, but I know many of you prayed. Thank you! Elizabeth and I skied a half day at small SD ski hill in January, but now we had the opportunity to ski the largest resort in Colorado—Vail—which boasts 31 chair lifts, 5,289 skiable acres and a 3,450-foot vertical. This was my first time at Vail, and some buddy pass discounts helped alleviate the sticker shock (see photo).


The ski area experienced a dry March, but the night before it snowed two inches—better than nothing. Yet some of the ungroomed steeps softened up from the sun, and the new snow made it seem like more like 4 or 5 inches of fresh snow.

We were happy to be there with friends—especially ones with whom I have backcountry skied. And it was handy to have a Vail local, Patrick, guide us through the maze of quad and sextuplet chairs, as well as show us which lift rides would get us from one side of the area to the other.

For me, the day wasn’t just an “Oh-isn’t-it-nice-the-little-cancer-patient-is-getting-out” type of skiing, it felt legit, like a typical day on the mountain, hitting areas like blues, steep blacks and double black diamonds. My energy and ability felt at about 75 percent of normal, which was encouraging. Even my previously crippled back now felt little to no pain as I skied moguls and carved fast giant slalom turns down endless blues.

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As a bonus, Elizabeth and I also skied Loveland Pass the second day. One of the best things about Loveland, and maybe the worst when windy, is that this resort resides almost entirely above treeline, giving excellent views of the continental divide mountains, looking like rows of sweeping white tents. I spent the first few hours giving Elizabeth a skiing lesson, which I still remember how to do from my Crested Butte instructor days. This was only her third day on skis in over 10 years, and, ever the athlete, she began quickly learning parallel turns.

All in all, it was a great ski getaway—we must give credit to Pippa’s grandparent babysitters and friends Yuki and Patrick who gave us a place to stay that helped make it possible.

When I think about our spring break, I feel grateful—grateful that Elizabeth and I could do so many active things together. And not just do them halfway, but return to some normalcy, and even try new things, like skiing Vail or Elizabeth ditching her snowboard to re-learn skiing. The activities were cool, but even beyond that, they evidence how well I’m doing physically, and this fuels our hope.

Reflecting on this makes me think again of A Tale of Two Cities. I had trouble sleeping for a few nights (insomnia is a side effect of treatment), and so sometimes Elizabeth reads novels to me. The words, ever poignant, struck a little deeper this time, almost capturing some of our years’ experience.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

This year has been one of contrasts. Upon initial diagnosis, along with months of treatment, we were living in the “worst of times,” just barely holding on to life. But then strangely, there were “best of times” mingled in as well—experiencing a closeness with God I didn’t know was possible, seeing him provide a way, somehow, through the grueling mess, and being closer with Elizabeth, Pippa and my family. Learning how to have a strong, forward-leaning trust in God’s goodness and provision for us, one that keeps standing, despite discouragements and seemingly impossible circumstances. This has been our hope.


Dark days have consumed us, but then light has eventually shone through and overcome the darkness—many times in fact. The winter has felt infinitely long. Even then, the blistering cold and persistent gray days can’t destroy our hope.

That’s the thing about hope—it has no limits. It is not restrained by textbooks, past cases or predictions. Even beyond medicine, my hope is in the Lord. And with God, there is always hope and there is always a way. Like it says in Psalm 71:14 (NIV) “As for me, I’ll always have hope.”

This spring break was a great reminder of how God has recalled me to life. Not just through outdoor adventure, but in my overall outlook on life. And I look forward to continuing to follow him and seeing what he has for me.

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Longing for a Spring Break



Throwback pic from one of many Red Rocks climbing trips in Nevada.

I grew apoplectic as I checked the weather app on my phone in mid-March. “Negative five degrees windchill?” I said. “Are you kidding me? It’s not supposed to be below zero in March.” This seemed cold even for Sioux Falls—ridiculously and unnecessarily cold. I felt like punching walls, shaking babies or even running ten miles (not that I feel up to that currently). Some serious cabin fever was setting in.

Elizabeth and Pippa were getting stir crazy, too. And then it dawned on me suddenly and swiftly—the Lawrences need a spring break. It has been a grueling year, and the persistent cold, gray days of late haven’t helped our mental state. The solution was so simple: cram our stuff in our car and head west. Of course, when you travel with a toddler, this is easier said than done—packing the endless piles of toys and gear, enduring tantrums due to missing a nap and the more-frequent-and-lengthy stops.

But we were on our way, and that was all that mattered.

This year, we set our sights on Colorado for spring break, for many reasons— family, some work needs and we still have a rented house in Longmont (Unfortunately the shortness of this trip won’t allow much time for CO friends). By contrast, my weather app now promised temps in the 60s, 70s and even 80s. Wow, usually one must go much farther south for that type of weather!

I have always loved spring break. It’s an opportunity to shake up the routine and venture somewhere different and warm. No matter what age or stage of life, anyone can benefit from a change of scenery in March.

The concept started in the 1930s and eventually earned a place on our American academic calendar. The hype grew furiously during the 1980s MTV era at Daytona Beach, unleashing a ballyhoo of beaches and beer.


Of course, I prefer spring breaks that include outdoor adventure.

I took my first collegiate spring break in Red Rocks, Nevada—a rock climbing destination near Las Vegas. I soon discovered that sleeping without a tent in the desert is a terrible idea—especially when tumbleweeds attack during a nighttime windstorm. Hello sleep deprivation.

Even after college, I have endeavored to enjoy more spring breaks, which usually include a desert destination within a day’s drive. However, sometimes I’ve broken the norm with something wintery, like a few years ago when my buddy and I skied the Grand Teton.

So, which one of my spring breaks has been my favorite?

Going to the Grand Canyon with Elizabeth when we were first married is high on the list. But another one that stands out includes a return to Red Rocks, about six years ago with my buddy Mike. This was nearly my tenth trip there—I’ve lost count. We completely geeked out on climbing for a full week, with no social obligations or distractions. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with such singular focus. We ascended multipitch after multipitch, including Prince of Darkness, Frigid Aire Buttress and many others. At night, over a dinner of Trader Joe’s or Baja Fresh, we’d peruse climbing guidebooks in our tent, discussing the minutia of our next project. It was like binging on your favorite street taco stand—all week. Finally, you felt like you had your fill of carne asada and cilantro. At least for now.


Here’s another throwback pic from Red Rocks 2009. There’s always some great sport-climbing classics in the Black Canyon. 

During the trip, one moment on the sharp end (lead climbing) typified Type 2 Fun—an experience that is harrowing in the moment and only fun to tell about later. Halfway up the 1,000-foot route, we miscalculated divvying the pitches. Mike, who relishes weird and challenging climbing (which makes him the perfect partner), insisted on the section of offwidth, where the crack is too big for hand jams, and is usually awkward and scary. I ended up leading this pitch. Since there is no easy way to stop climbing once you’ve started, the task fell to me.

Jamming my right thigh in the crack felt very insecure, but it was all I could figure. We only had one big cam, so I had to keep sliding it up every few moves, meaning I risked a massive fall for a few seconds each time—maybe even 80 or 100 feet at the worst points. Fortunately, I somehow groveled and panted my way to the top. I arrived sweaty, haggard and not happy. Meanwhile, Mike sailed past the awkward sections but once at the anchor, looked disappointed. He’d been denied his precious offwidth. Go figure.


There are some pretty entertaining routes in Red Rocks, including Tunnel Vision, where you literally climb through a cave for one of the pitches. 

In the end, this trip proved very memorable. As I have pondered spring break, in some ways there will never be enough of those carefree days for me to enjoy. As time continues to pass quickly—and life seems to go swifter the older I get—life’s difficulties and obligations seem to only increase, making such trips challenging to pull off. Ah, such is life. But as much as we can, my family and I will endeavor to spring break it up, each year.

Back to our present break, Elizabeth and Pippa and I arrived in Colorado a few days ago. The trip was rather last minute as we have already spread ourselves thin moving between Longmont and Colorado Springs in a short time. Maybe we will get to do some skiing and rock climbing?

We hope you get to celebrate spring break, too, whether far away, or even with a warm day in your present locale. Cheers to Spring Break 2017.


The three of us relished the 80 degree weather, including taking Pippa to the playground. 

The Next Frontier


“Going where no man has gone before.”

This may be a Star Trek cliché tagline, but it rings true in my case.

People often ask me, when will you be done with treatment? The answer is that I honestly don’t know, and at this point, neither do my doctors. The reason is that I am the only one getting this treatment; it is not standard practice. It’s like I’m literally exploring a new planet with Captain Kirk and crew. I vote we set our phasors to “eradicate cancer” mode.

In the world of oncology, it typically takes 17 years for a treatment to go from discovery to approval. 17 years! Politics and red tape generally delay approval, and in fairness there are some good reasons, too. But with cancer like mine, 17 years is time I would not have—not even close.

img_6138Fortunately, my treatment has been very effective. In fact, you can read about me in Avera’s cancer magazine. The same story is also on the website and in the magazine Human Touch.

There is a lot to celebrate, but getting to this point has been one long, hard climb.

The next step is also outside the box. Tomorrow, I will be getting Y90, an outpatient procedure where they inject radiation into one side of the liver, the site of the original tumor. It already looks “black and dead,” per my doctor, but this will be an insurance policy to eradicate anything that is left. This procedure has been around for decades, but it is new for my type of cancer—because they don’t usually get to the point where it would be helpful. Praise Jesus.

So, let’s hit warp drive and move things ahead.

How am I feeling going into this? Honestly a bit numb. It’s a pretty chill outpatient procedure, somewhat painful, though I will probably feel lousy this week (schedule has been cleared). However, I’m growing weary of always being on the edge of the next medical treatment. The day before is always a frantic chase to get a bazillion things done before I go back underground. The stress and anticipation of what’s coming gets really old.

Today is Sunday, so my to-do list didn’t include any work, just personal stuff. And, since it was sunny and in the low 60s, it was the perfect day for Elizabeth and Pippa and I to get outside. We went for a long walk along the Sioux River, and then I also rode my Diamondback Cruiser in the afternoon. Just being in the fresh air and actually getting my heart rate up felt so great. The day did not disappoint.

Speaking of disappointment, maybe you were secretly hoping I would nerd out a bit more about Star Trek. The truth is, I confess to be somewhat of a Trekkie. I don’t attend conventions or anything, but I love the Hollywood movies from the late 70s and 80s with William Shatner and Leonard Nemoy. The best one? Easy…Wrath of Khan, when Captain Kirk faces one of the most fearsome military enemies in existence. “And for that…I will blow you out of the stars,” says Khan.

On an adventure note, Captain Kirk fancies himself somewhat of a rock climber. In Star Trek V, the movie opens as he is free soloing a big route on El Capitan—like Alex Honnold does today for real.

Of course, Shatner didn’t actually climb the route. I’m not sure if he ever has even tried the sport. But he did give an interview around that time (posing as an expert) that is rather ridiculous and humorous all at the same time about rock climbing. The best part is that someone later made his comments into a song (see below). Oh, and he is referring to free soloing, not free climbing, which actually uses ropes.


On a more serious note, if you think of me tomorrow or this week, pray that this procedure would be effective. I am very thankful to be at this step and the hope of a better season is very much alive.

May you live long and prosper.


Living Scan to Scan



One of the worst aspects of dealing with cancer is the scans. Are things stable, in remission or is the cancer advancing?

Approaching a scan is like preparing to leap off a very large cliff—kind of like the 80-foot cliff in Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado that I once hucked off. I was much younger and dumber then, but I still remember the nerves and adrenalin.

But honestly comparing scans to any outdoor adventure fails to fully capture the experience. There is no “fun” thrill in scans or cancer.

Like many patients, I get scans every three months. Last week, I underwent another one, and the news was quite good. I will explain more in a bit, but let me first elaborate on more of the scan-to-scan experience.


A familiar view of Pike’s Peak through Siamese Twins in Garden of the Gods State Park.

So far, I have had four scans, and the days leading up to them have all been nerve wracking to varying degrees. We literally hang on the words of what the doctor says—and the delivery matters. Waiting for the news is like being on trial—sitting in the courtroom, while the judge and jury dispassionately share the verdict on your life. You know the following words will have massive implications—whether for good or bad.

Scans take their toll.

The days and weeks leading up to them, Elizabeth and I wear the stress like an overinflated air mattress—tight, pressured and pumped full of air. As we get closer to the day, we vacillate between extreme fear and hope, and often land in an odd mix of the two. Once we finally get the news, we decompress for several days, maybe even weeks, and try to return to some normalcy. Over time, I feel like that faded mattress in the corner by the pool: no longer able to hold the air it once did.

Friends of mine who have been through similar journeys have confirmed this same experience.

I haven’t always been the best about reporting my scan news on this blog—probably in large part because of the emotional toll it exacts. I tell the people around me afterward, but I often don’t have to the energy to report it to a wider audience for awhile.

Somehow the Lord is with us in this process. Elizabeth and I often get frustrated by our overwhelming fear and lack of faith—with every scan—but I tell her it is just part of being human.

And what is it that I fear? It seems like an obvious question yielding an obvious answer. But in short, I fear death—not being here. I know my hope of life with Jesus is secure, but still I fear news that will rip me away from my loving wife and precious daughter, who I could never imagine living without. I fear that my hope of recovery will be irrevocably stamped out, that even my faith and belief in God’s goodness—sometimes strong, often weak—will take a hit I can’t recover from. And in that way, I lose what means the most.

Even when I feel fairly confident going into a scan, there is always that gnawing feeling in the back of my mind—what if? The unexpected. This thing could go completely south—the cancer returns with a fury.

Thus far, that has not happened. My situation has  improved with each scan. But the fear of the unknown continues to haunt me.


We hiked with one of our favorite Colorado Springs couples and kids on Saturday. It was an epic day.

Oddly enough, when we approached the scan last week, it was the easiest by far. In fact, the day before we kept forgetting the scan was the next day. Part of it was that we had gotten the genomic blood test ahead of time, which again was 100% clear, indicating that I still have no cancer in my bloodstream. But we had gotten similar news ahead of other scans, too.

There was more to it.Elizabeth felt like God told her that the several months would be about “rest”—and somehow we felt much more at peace. Another reason was that during my unexpected hospitalization in Florida, they did a partial scan and my liver looked the same. We still could have worried about potential bad news, but we didn’t. God just helped us, and that is best way I can explain it.

I even scheduled a flight the afternoon of the scan, so I could attend a work conference in Colorado. In some ways, buying a ticket seemed stupid because if I had gotten bad news, there would have been no way I could have functioned well professionally. We may have had to cancel the trip and eat the cost. But by God’s grace, the news was good.

When we met with our doctor, he said that everything is still “stable,” meaning the cancer has not advanced, nor has anything changed since November. It still appears “dead.” This is the best-case scenario. However, it is difficult to fully know what’s going on inside the tumors, which is why my doctors will be taking the next step of treatment, which is Y90, an outpatient procedure of injectable radiation. It’s a little involved to explain it, so I’ll save that for another time. This is all good news, and hope of cancer eradication is very much alive, though I am realizing the journey is long—much longer than I ever thought it would be.

Meanwhile, I have been feeling great. The two-day work conference in Breckenridge was a huge boost both professionally and relationally. This was the first Lifelines activity we had attended in nearly 10 months, and there was much business to cover.  Relationally the time was rewarding. One of the evenings, we sat around the huge stone fireplace, and our team asked Elizabeth and I to share what the past several months have been like—the highs, the lows, the fear, the uncertainty, and especially the rediscovery of hope. We have a lot to be thankful for, and we are quick to share it. Our friends asked us questions and then prayed for us.

It all sounds simple, but the meaning for us was profound. There is something about a crazy journey that isolates you from people. When friends take the time to listen, to seek to understand—it is so powerful. We know that it is impossible to actually walk in another person’s moccasins—or with cancer, to know what it’s like to get an infusion, or radiation, or continue to take drugs with side effects, to endure sleepless nights. It would be impossible to understand that without experiencing it.

But seeking to understand is powerful, and it is enough. It is the effort of just being with someone—letting them know that they are not alone, despite the darkest valley they walk through. That’s what our Lifelines friends did for us. And besides all of the work stuff we accomplished, this was their gift to us. Not to mention that all of the interactions felt so “normal,” like we just picked up where we left off, which was also encouraging.

I realize that most everyone reading this doesn’t live scan-to-scan. But most likely you know someone who does. I hope this post sheds more light on what that experience is like, so you can pray for them. And besides praying, don’t forget just how powerful it can be just to seek to understand their journey. You probably won’t grasp it fully, but you don’t need to. Just the effort of trying will be a balm for their weary souls.

On a lighter note, after the conference, Elizabeth and I also spent a weekend in Colorado Springs with family and friends. We soaked up the warm sun like geckos—Friday was 77 degrees!

On Saturday, we went on two hikes, in the morning at Palmer Park and in the afternoon at Garden of the Gods. It felt gluttonous—like eating that second sprinkled donut you couldn’t take your eyes off. Of course, for me outdoor indulgences usually involve lots of ski turns, but all in due time.

In due time.


Hiking in a less familiar part of Garden of the Gods. The slightly overhanging wall on the back right is, to my knowledge, unclimbed and unexplored. It should be.


I braved some light bouldering at one of my favorite I’m-short-on-time-but-still-want-to-climb spots. My snake-dar was running on full alert—in light of the name—but to this day, I have never seen any bogeys at the Snake Pits.


On top of The Main Snake Pits Boulder


Another look at the Siamese Twins.

Ski-Day Boost


The day was long overdue.

I’ve wanted to ski this winter but I wasn’t sure it was possible—health wise or logistically. Yet this past Saturday, Elizabeth and I headed to Great Bear, my hometown hill, for some fun on the slopes. Ironically, where we live in Sioux Falls is the closest I’ve ever lived to a ski area—under 10 minutes away.

The day’s forecast was for high winds—like the typical Eldora ski day near Boulder—but when we arrived at Great Bear, the large oaks swayed only slightly, the gentle winds blowing a mere 5-7 mph. The sun winter shone brightly and the temperatures hovered around 30 degrees—a perfect February day in South Dakota.

Over all, the day proved a huge boost for me—both physically and mentally.

When I broached the topic of skiing with my doctor a few weeks ago, he gave me a green light, though cautioning me to not fall at high speeds—because chemo does make bones weaker. He seemed a bit less concerned when he learned I am experienced. But really, should anyone fall at breakneck speeds, especially with sharp metal edges underfoot?


Look closely at the trail sign, named after the marketing company my dad founded in Sioux Falls.

For most of my life skiing has felt as natural as walking. Maybe it’s my Norwegian roots—thanks Grandpa Mostrom. Yet, stepping into my brother’s skis (our gear is back in Colorado) I felt a little tentative—my body has been through a lot this past year. Would I feel the aches and pains of the last year?

Fortunately, within a few runs, I felt back to form, making arcing slalom turns and carving some longer turns too. It felt good to go fast—to feel free like I have so many times before. The freedom was short lived, though, considering “Great Bump” only boasts about 178 vertical feet. Not exactly Whistler Blackcomb, but I’ll take what I can get! I’m just glad Sioux Falls has a ski area.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about First Descents, a non-profit organization which provides “life changing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer.” At first, outdoor adventure didn’t seem like a good fit for cancer patients, considering all the health risks, but a primary goal of First Descents is to use outdoor adventure to help restore dignity and confidence—to help make people feel normal again.

Saturday proved as much to me as well. Cancer strips away so much—health, energy, and even my confidence to engage in sports I excelled in before. That’s why I think the day of skiing meant so much to me.

The day was also a boost for Elizabeth. Skiing for the first time in 16 years, she seemed to re-learn parallel turns rather easily—which reminded me just how adventurous and athletic my wife is, though she would not present herself as that :).  She switched to snowboarding after injuring her knee in 2001 but has always wanted to try skiing again. Saturday was the day.

It was a great day together, one the Lord blessed us with. I thought of Psalm 103—one of my favorites. “Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things (verse 4-5a NIV).” I’m glad I serve a God who is a Redeemer and Satisfier.

With this day on the books, I’m now hoping to ski again sometime soon, in Colorado and maybe even a day in the backcountry? Anything seems possible at this point.


Thanks to my brother and his family for loaning so much gear/clothing…Elizabeth loved skiing and I never had a hard time finding her in the crowd :).


Letting Go…In December, I sold my skimo race skis. It was definitely mixed, as I knew I won’t be racing this year. But what is the point of letting them collect dust? When the day for racing comes again, God willing, I’ll just buy more (easier said then done). It was a little sad when someone agreed to purchase them only a few hours after posting. They still will compete in the Grand Traverse this year, just not on my feet 🙂 #circleoflife #grandtraverse

A Vacation from My Expectations


After feeling better than I have in months, I hit a snag.

My parents rented a house in Clearwater Beach, Florida, and we joined them there in early January. We were eager for the sun and warm temps, especially because the average low in Sioux Falls this time of year is less than 7 degrees Fahrenheit! It would also be the first time Pippa had ever seen the ocean.

Shortly after arriving, I began to feel sick—quite sick. Soon my fever spiked to 103 degrees and my family took me to the hospital. I was reluctant to go, but it is standard for someone in cancer treatment to be admitted with such a high fever.

Meanwhile, right outside Clearwater, in Tampa, the national college football championship was taking place—which meant there was not only an influx of people wearing orange and crimson, but a spike in the number of people in the emergency room. When I showed up, there was an average wait time of more than five hours!

Apparently, a cancer patient is a high priority, so within 20 minutes they had me in temporary room. I didn’t know whether to be happy about the short wait or concerned. A few IVs and anti-nausea pills later, I began to recover from dehydration, which can be an intense cycle if not taken care of quickly. The nurses kept disappearing for long gaps of time, probably to treat the next victim of a tailgate brawl. The place must have been hopping, because there were no overnight rooms available. So, I tried to settle in for the night in my temporary room. There was so much hustle and bustle in the ER that I felt like I was trying to sleep during a frat party, right in the thick of the all-night beer pong.


After running some tests, the doctors told me I had most likely picked up some type of 48-hour virus. Or maybe I had reacted to my medication? Whatever happened, it was not fun. Fortunately, I was released from the hospital within 24 hours, even though I was still feeling weak and groggy.

So much for the start of my beach vacation.

This seemed a far departure from how well I had been feeling in Colorado over Christmas, like I had taken two steps back. It was the first time I had been sick since the summer, which is amazing considering my compromised immune system.

Still, being hospitalized was a new low.

As you may recall, this was not the first time I have been hospitalized during my cancer journey. Now some of those feelings of fragility were fresh on my mind again—the whirlwind of nurse visits, pain mitigation plans and constantly beeping machines. Admitting myself felt like waving the flag of surrender—that my life would not be my own until I was released.

When I was allowed leave the Tampa hospital, I began having trouble sleeping, especially because our bed at the rental was like a slab of concrete. Before cancer, a hard bed would be annoying, but now it was a significant obstacle. My inability to sleep at night grew increasingly frustrating and discouraging.

“Part of me feels like the adventurous and outdoorsy and young side of me keeps slipping farther and farther away—so far, I fear, that I won’t ever be able to recover it,” I wrote in my journal.

This vacation was not going like I had hoped at all. It was becoming a vacation from my expectations. When I planned this trip, I had expected that I would continue feeling better. I envisioned lots of time on the beach, maybe seeing some friends in Orlando, and maybe even some surfing, if I felt good enough (I don’t like being near the ocean without surfing). But initially I spent a fair amount of time indoors, peppered with a few lazy walks.


Pippa loved swimming in the heated pool.

On one of the mornings, I was walking on the beach and praying. In frustration, I asked God about it, though I didn’t seem to get a direct answer. So, I answered my own question: “You’ve been in treatment for months, including 25 rounds of chemo. What did you expect?”

True, getting sick should not be surprising given my road. Before we left for Florida, I had pushed myself with all the packing and to-do lists, and I was fresh off another treatment. Most significantly, in the big picture, my body has been through a lot. I used to win my age group in triathlons, but now that seems like a long time ago.

There was an evening when Elizabeth and I were in Colorado in December when we were tucked into the bed of our Longmont house with our old quilt bedspread and our wedding pictures on the walls. It felt so familiar and good, almost like the cancer thing never happened—that we didn’t moved back to South Dakota, didn’t uproot from our job and life. “Doesn’t it feel like this has all just been a bad dream, and that now we can just resume our life?” I said to Elizabeth.

Of course, the Florida incident jolted me back to reality like a strong cup of bitter coffee.

Yet, somehow being willing to admit to myself (again), that I am still in the humble state of cancer, felt initially difficult, but eventually freeing—like letting the pressure out of an overinflated tire. I was free to stop acting like I didn’t have cancer.

I also felt comforted that somehow in all of this I am understood. I was reminded of this as I read a devotional on Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in creation is hidden from God’s sight.” Beyond the medical facts, I was reminded that God knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling.

As I kept reading in Hebrews, I was also reminded of how God provided a Great High Priest, as one we can approach for help and counsel. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:12).”

img_5996Indeed, I did need grace, and over the next few days, I think I did receive it. Maybe not in an immediately-solve-all-my-problems-and-feel-completely-better kind of way, but over the next few days the trip did get better. For starters, I purchased some memory foam and slept better. I also realized that being hospitalized probably sped up my recovery, as an IV can hydrate you much faster than just drinking liquids. Also, hitting a low point mentally helped me again see the reality of my plight. As the old saying goes, “reality is your friend.” More than that, I think God meets us in our reality, especially when we can be honest with ourselves.

Soon I was starting to settle into the vacation. And what did I do with the time? First off, Elizabeth and I spent a lot of time on and near the beach—taking Pippa swimming, watching sunsets and walking. It was not my normal outdoor experience, as I’m used to a faster pace, but just sitting and being in Creation is healing in its own way. Did I mention that each day the average high was a delightful 78?

The next few days blended together pleasantly.


Pippa sees the ocean

Introducing Pippa to the ocean was especially fun. She often says the phrase, “oh wow,” in her over-annunciated way. And once we were sitting in the white sand and sun, we heard a lot of “oh wow’s.” However, I’m afraid she is a lot like her dad in that she has a hard time sitting still. On the beach, she spent a lot time running and Elizabeth and I spent a lot of time chasing. Early on, she ran fearlessly into the sea on her own. But after an unexpected face plant from small waves, she became a lot more tentative. We tried coaxing her back in the water, but she soon preferred swimming in the pool. All in all, I’m sure she had a great time. Even now that we are back in South Dakota she continues to say to us, “beach?” and “swim?”

If only the beach were still so close.

Sailing and Island Hopping.

The last few days of our trip, Elizabeth and I did get a chance to do some adventures that were much more our speed—including visiting a secluded island preserve and sailing on a catamaran.

The Caledesi Island State Park is a natural white-sand island, about four miles in circumference with turquoise green waters. We hiked on the beach and along a three-mile loop through the island’s interior, seeing the original 1880s settlement markers along with age-old pine trees. There wasn’t a lot of wildlife to see, but we did run into an eastern diamondback rattlesnake. No kidding.


See if you can spot my reptilian foe.

We were warned that they inhabited the island but that it was unlikely we’d see one. But seriously, this always happens to me. Ask Elizabeth—I have nearly been bitten several times trail running in Colorado. And no matter what state I visit, it seems I have a built-in snake-dar
for any snakes lurking around in the area. It’s probably because I hate them so much.

I spotted this bespeckled devil a mere foot from the trail, camouflaged in the brush and ready to strike. Once he noticed us, he grew quickly agitated and would not let us pass. After a good five-minute delay, we were finally able to squeeze by while one of us distracted him with a stick.

Minus this slithering foe, our favorite parts of Caladesi were the uncrowded beaches, which reminded us of Costa Rica, and also the shell collecting—we found several small ones with little holes in them to make a keepsake necklace for Pippa to remind her of her first trip to the ocean.

On our last full day, Elizabeth and I took a two-hour sailing lesson on a Hobbie Cat. She has always wanted to learn to sail, so the lesson was a definite highlight of the trip for her. If we ever do live near the water, Elizabeth and I would love to buy a Hobbie and go sailing much more often!


Astoria—and My Health Update

Another enjoyable part of the trip was getting to read a few books. My favorite was Astoria, a survival story about the 1810 expedition, which sought to establish the first American settlement in the Pacific Northwest, just a few years after Lewis and Clark. Facing shipwrecks, Indian attacks and starvation, nearly half the people perished. I’m always a sucker for American Frontier stories, especially where they faced the wilderness of the new world.

Speaking of facing the wilderness, I am overdue to give an update on my health. Right now, I am in a strange, but good, place. My treatment has been very effective—much more so than the doctors expected—and thus they are unsure of what to do next. I have been cutting back on treatment (which has been fine with me) and right now we are talking through the next options. My next scan is in early February, and if things continue to look good, they will most likely pursue some further type of outside-the-box measures. I’ve heard they are leaning toward an outpatient procedure where I will receive injectable radiation into my liver, called Y90. Apparently, this has been very effective in eradicating cancer, though it is not traditionally used in cases like mine.

We received more good news lately too. I recently had another genomic blood test, and it was again 100% clear, indicating that I still have no cancer cell mutations in my bloodstream. This means the cancer is still contained (or dead) and not advancing. The scan will tell more of the story.

I am still not out of the woods yet, but good things are happening. We are endeavoring to keep waiting on the Lord with hope and patience.


The Beach Life. This is the path we took each day from my parent’s rented cottage to Clearwater Beach, which was a mere 50 yards away.

A Long December: Playing Catch Up


We loved hiking in Boulder with 64 degree weather—not too shabby for December!


After months of consistency, I fell off the blog wagon in
the past several weeks. Here’s to more updates in 2017.

I will attempt to fill in some gaps. Looking back at December, Elizabeth and Pippa and I spent two weeks in Colorado for Christmas and New Years. While it wouldn’t be fair to call the whole time a vacation (the advantage of working in communications is that you can work from anywhere—which is also the disadvantage) there were certainly some relaxing days with friends and family in Colorado Springs and Longmont. We have had a lot to be thankful for, and there is nothing like sharing it with family and friends—though we only saw a fraction of the friends we wanted to. Here are some highlights from the trip:

  1. A three-week stretch with no treatment. I cannot tell you how glorious I felt—better than I have in months. There were certainly cues that my energy is not all I am used to, but I was thankful to feel as close to “normal” as I can right now.
  2. Lots of Colorado Sunshine. I can’t emphasize how great it was to just be out and about in the Colorado sun. I’ve gotten so used to the land of 300 plus days of sun per year. The light and heat boosted my mood and soul, not to mention it helps heat up the temperatures. One day in Boulder, it hit 64 degrees! I love “winter” in Colorado.
  3. Hiking, hiking and more hiking. Part of the bonus of feeling well offered the opportunity to get outside and hike as much as possible—nothing too crazy (no Incline) just getting out there. Elizabeth and Pip and I hiked at Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon Open Space, as well as Lake McIntosh in Longmont and also in the Flatirons near Boulder.
  4. Staying at our house in Longmont. We have been in a strange season of geographic upheaval, moving states and three different addresses in the past 9 months. Very few places have felt like “home.” But our house in Longmont still does—maybe more than any building does right now—and it was nice to enjoy this for a short weekend. The only downside was that a lot of our friends we are used to seeing were out of town.
  5. Eating lots of Thai food and Chipotle. This is something we have often taken for granted, but there are no Thai restaurants or Chipotle in Sioux Falls. So, while in Colorado we dined at both as much as possible. I love curry as much as Oprah loves bread. And Chipotle’s quacamole is the best—$1.95 well spent.

We got back to South Dakota shortly after New Years and tried to settle back in a bit. I was thankful to say goodbye to 2016—which will go down as my hardest year yet. In 2017, I am looking forward to seeking new adventures, finishing the outdoor devotional I have been working on and especially the hope of becoming cancer free.

Here’s to good things in 2017.


Too Cool for 2016…Happy New Year!

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


The Thursday Treadmill


For the past several months, Thursdays have been my least favorite day of the week—the day I get treatment.

I’ve been repeating this cycle since June. After my treatment day, then Friday, Saturday and at least part of Sunday are recovery days, as the lack of energy and nausea keep me lying flat a lot of that time. Then, Monday through Wednesday I feel good enough for normal life again. Having the “normal” days are great, but mixed. I feel as though I have to pack a week’s worth of work, errands and even social stuff in that timeline. The time slips away fast—too fast—and suddenly I’m back on Thursday treadmill again.

My facial expression wrinkles at the thought of chemo.

In fairness, I did get a week off from treatment during the week of my birthday, September 13. The two weeks without drinking the weed killer were glorious, to say the least! Elizabeth and Pippa and I stayed at my family’s cabin in Minnesota; being there proved a refreshing reprieve, to say the least.

On my birthday, Elizabeth and Pippa and climbed to the top of the Tulaby Lake Firetower. Atop the 110-foot tower, views of the maple trees beginning to change color were amazing. 

In reality, even when I’m back in the grind of treatment weeks, I have a lot to be thankful for. I am glad that the treatment is working. I am also grateful that I’ve felt well enough to keep working—at least part time. The productivity is good for my soul. Though my life is certainly not normal these days, at least I can still keep contributing to Lifelines and Cru ministries.

On another note, if you think of Elizabeth and I, please keep us in your prayers. My treatment is getting progressively harder every week (on Elizabeth, too)—which is not surprising. The body can only tolerate so much. A certain Scripture has been especially inspirational: Romans 12:12. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and persistent in prayer (BSB translation).”

I think this is relevant for anyone, but especially for those battling circumstances like cancer or other ongoing problems. Join with me in this rally call to keep a firm grip on hope, be patient through the Spirit’s power and continually bringing requests to the Father!

I look forward to this Thursday passing quickly, so I can return to the better part of the week 🙂



The three of us, along with Elizabeth’s mom, visited Itasca State Park, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River. 


Saying goodbye to summer at the lake is always melancholy. This year, I helped my dad put away the main dock, by floating it toward the boat ramp, and then pulling onshore with a Bobcat.