Stage One

Several months ago Lynnea and I started planning a ski/snowboard vacation to Alpe d’Huez, France.  Two of our good friends from Israel, that live here in Groningen, invited us to join them and some of their friends on a six day trip of epic winter sports in the French Alps.  Not wanting to pass up this great opportunity to experience a new culture and a new language (both French and Jewish/Hebrew) we signed up immediately.  Of course when Lynnea’s diagnosis was given to us we thought that there was no way we would be able to go to France.  ImageAfter consulting with the doctors they thought it would be in our best interest to go and get some fresh Alpine air before Lynnea’s surgery.  Instead of six days on the slopes we decided it would be best to only ski for three days.  This would give us a day and half to get to the south east part of France by car with our two friends.  Instead of coming back with them at the end of the week, we would take a bus from the ski resort to Geneva, Switzerland and take a fifty minute flight back to Amsterdam.  So with our plans amended we went and spent four warm sun filled days at the Alpe d’Huez resort.  It was a wonderful time spent soaking up the sun, exploring the mountains, enjoying wonderful homemade meals, and laughing with some of our new Israeli friends.  The morning arrived when we had to depart.  Lynnea and I had arranged to take a bus from the resort to the city of Grenoble, which is just over an hour away, and then transfer to another bus that would get us to the Geneva airport.  As the bus started its decent down the winding two lane switchback road I began to see signs with bicycles on them and the name of a person next to it.  At each turn I began to pay closer attention to these signs, until I realized that they were the names of famous bicycle racers who had won this stage of the Tour de France.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had no idea that the Alpe d’Huez resort was part of the mountain climbing stages of one of the greatest bicycle races on Earth.  It was at this very mountain area where Lance Armstrong competed in a stage and would go on to win seven Tour de France titles after battling cancer.  As Lynnea was burrowed into my shoulder trying to get some sleep I was struck by how fitting this place was for the two of us to visit.  Not only is it a place where arguably, one of the greatest feats of human athleticism has occurred, but that it provides such a wonderful metaphor for the journey ahead for Lynnea and I.  That this fight with cancer will be done in daily stages just like the Tour de France.  That there will be days ahead which will be easy and feel like we are on flat ground.  Then there will be days when we have to climb a mountain, because chemo has made her body sick.  We don’t know how to fully prepare or train for these stages, but we do know that we have to take it one day at a time.  And just like the Tour de France, we know we have hundreds if not thousands of people cheering for us and working with us to help fight.  I have no clue how Lynnea’s body will respond to treatments, I pray that she will be healed fully, and that we will surround her in a year and call her a cancer survivor.  That is many days and stages from now.  What I am here to say is that stage one is complete!  That yesterday the surgeon removed her left breast without complication.  There is no evidence that the tumor was attached to the chest wall and the skin around the tumor was loose.  That yesterday she slept, rested, and through most of the night she experienced little pain or nausea.  This morning and this afternoon she was up walking around her room and down the hallway.  These are all positive signs that speak of a healthy recovery, but the journey is still long.


14 thoughts on “Stage One

  1. Thank God that the surgery is over and apparently successful. Pray for clear lymph nodes. In the US they send you home the next day. I went back to work after two weeks with the drain tubes in my pockets, but feeling well. Do as many normal things as you can. I planted flowers and thought this activity is so insignificant and makes no difference to anyone; in a few months no one will even know I did this. HOWEVER, it made me feel so good! Chemo will make you weak, so it may take a little longer. Praying for you. Karen Detweiler

  2. My eyes filled with joyful tears as I read this. Your blog is inspirational and I’m happy this step was as “easy” as you could have hoped for along this journey so far! May it stay that way! Love to you both!

  3. Thanks so much for the update! I’ve been in an oncology nursing conference the last two days and couldn’t help but think of Lynnea during the cancer survivorship session yesterday. She’s off to an amazing and strong start in this journey. We are all here with you guys every step of the way! Love you!!

  4. Most encouraging news – and am feeling relief with you and Lynnea, one day at a time. Also delighted to hear about your ski trip and new friends made. And … if you’re not fluent in Hebrew just yet, i’m happy to give free lessons when we see you! Shalom and ahavah (love).

  5. You are a wonderful writer Jonathan. I have stood at the fonish line of one of the stages of the Tour, having the whole sprint ‘fly’ past me before I could say: “oh look! They’re here!”
    I doubt the finish to your battle uphill will be with such speed… I am glad to read that you have prepared your hearts and mind well for the journey ahead and admire the way you are ready to take each stage as a single step towards the finish…
    As you probably know, the Bible says in 2Timothy 4vs. 7 & 8 (I feel free to skip vs 6 as it’s somehat depressing, and I hope not the case!)
    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also for those that have longed for His appearing.

    I would love to see you finish the race and get the ‘crown’ of glory: a whole body! (yes, even with one breast removed..).. Glad to hear that so far, so good… Use all you have available for recovery of this first stage… Sim

  6. So relieved to read that the surgery went well! Did you guys know that Alpe d’Huez hosts a yearly massive fundraising event called Alpe d’HuZes? They’re raising money for Dutch “KWF kankerbestrijding” (roughly translated: fighting against cancer) by cycling up the mountain 6 times in 1 day individually or in a team. Reading your story, thinking what you’re currently going through and realizing what that event is actually about, was an impressive moment for me this evening!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing Jon. This is a beautiful post, and the Tour de France a beautiful metaphor of the journey ahead. Thanks for posting the photo of Lynnea and her sister. It’s wonderful to see Lynnea smiling! Thinking of you two and praying tomorrow is a good day…one day at a time. Love to both of you, Leah

  8. Linnea and Jonathan, it was a real treat to meet you guys and spend those days with you in Alpe d’Huez. Thank you for this blog, which allows me to share these times and struggles with you.
    You both struck me as people with an intense inner glow, some type of positive sureness which wards of ill spirits, a flame which cannot go dark.
    Take care and be strong so we can all meet next year, hopefully with some snow this time for all the snowboarders’ sake.


  9. Wonderful reflections Jonathan … in image + word!! The Tour de France is both a superior individual effort AND a team effort. We are with you & Lynnea through every stage! Big hug … D

  10. Through ups and downs, through cries and laughs, pain, smile and love will make you stronger. And we all believe that, at the end of the line, you’ll succeed.

    No words to say how inspiring you BOTH are – not only when teaching how positively you manage this setback, but for the great strenght you find in God. I wish I had that.

    (PS: completely at your disposal. anytime.)

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