Friday, May 6, 2016

Third Place

Dear Family and Friends,

Those of you who know me know that I am “a bit” competitive.  OK, I’m very competitive!  I love to win.  In my childhood, I made sure I sold the most campfire mints and Junior Achievement products.  When playing softball and volleyball, my teams often won the league championships and it was so satisfying—especially the times I had the most home runs or points served.  When working for Children’s Hospital, I wanted to be the one on the team who raised the most money, and most years, I achieved that goal.  And don’t get me started on canasta and estimate, my two favorite card games, and how hard I try to win when I play.  In all of the above, I would not say I’m a bad loser.  I don’t usually sulk, make excuses, or act ungraciously if I lose.  I just prefer to win!

In much of life we are compared to others with "places" assigned.  In the Olympics, you can come in first, second, or third, and win medals accordingly.  In high school or college, you can come in first, and be the valedictorian, or come in second as the salutatorian.  Likewise you can graduate cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude—if you are a brainiac.  And most ambitious people, as hard as they may try, will only achieve titles of coordinator, manager, director, or vice president at work—never president. 

There are rankings with cancer too.  When staging your cancer you come in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th stage, and as you know in these rankings, stage 4 is the worst news you can receive.  And when going through chemo, you can come in first place, receiving the best possible news—your cancer is gone!  Or in second—your cancer has shrunk!  Or in third—your cancer has stayed the same (i.e. is labeled “stable disease”), or in last place—your cancer is everywhere and it’s time to call hospice.

Yesterday’s scan put me in third place.  While one tiny lung nodule had disappeared and one had shrunk, all the abdominal area cancer remained unchanged after the past two additional months of chemo, making my total this round six months.  

This was hard news to take.  I had been feeling, overall, very well.  No abdominal pain.  Good energy.  Walking 4 miles most days.  Good appetite.  Tolerating the chemo well.  I thought for sure the cancer would have shrunk.  While I hadn’t dared hope for first place, I thought I would come in at a solid second.  I don’t like coming in third!

The doctor said we will continue on the same chemo regimen for now, rechecking in three to four months.  And I spent half the day yesterday shedding some tears while grieving the absence of the news I had hoped for.  But after awhile, Steve and I went for a great walk in the sunshine and came home to Cinco de Mayo dinner with Renee, Daniel, and Riley, complete with chicken and beef tacos, guacamole, and Steve’s famous margaritas.  There may have been cake at the end (both lemon and chocolate).  And as usual when hanging out with my great family, I enjoyed a house full of hugs, love, laughter, great conversations, and reaffirmation of our trust in God.

The Bible says in Psalm 30:5, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  And Earl Palmer, former pastor of University Presbyterian Church used to say, “go ahead and cry over your disappointments, but then, after awhile, quit crying and decide what you are going to do!” 

So here is what I’m going to do.  I’m going to quit stressing about yesterday’s scan, keep going through chemo to fight cancer with all my (and God’s) might, keep trusting the God who orders all my days, keep taking walks in the sunshine, and keep those chips and guacamole coming (along with a very occasional margarita and slice of cake)!

Love to you all,


  1. Comments like I'm about to make may not help when you're struggling but looking upon her journey, I have viewed Gabrielle as a role model and inspiration. I too have ovarian cancer stage III having just undergone my first round of chemotherapy and as I stayed prone in a recliner I thought of Gabrielle who walked 4 miles every day through this process. That knowledge motivated me to get up and walk my half mile a day.

    Visited with Gabrielle just prior to her embarking on this most recent course of treatment and now again when she faces doing this indefinitely and her spirit in vital living and support for her family carried me home with courage and inspiration. We are indeed today's survivers living life to the fullest capacity possible with God's blessing.

    Thanks Gabrielle.

    1. Thank you for this lovely post, Carol! You inspire me too! Here you were at our visit, just done with chemo, and full of joy and life and ready to head on an international adventure! There is joy in the journey for sure, and each day is ever more precious. Love, Gabrielle