In Your Face, Hobbes!

So here I sit, appetite sated in the company of friends old and new. Dinner tonight was Chinese which I ordered in French. Amazingly enough I got just about what I was expecting.   
Did I say old friends? Elise (Erny) and I have been besties for a couple years, bonded by our cancer experience. The old friends are from her childhood. Women she and her sister, Helene, used to play with in the streets of Luxembourg in the 50s. 

As the conversation swirls around me I pick up bits and pieces of the conversation- funny how English idioms sneak into their conversation. Throw in my grade school and college German with my high school French there are times I pick up on the conversation correctly (Luxembourgish is heavily influenced by German and French).

Helene Frisch-Helllenbrand.      Photo by DeniseCutlip

Many times this last month I find myself amazed that this is my life. When first diagnosed I expected my life would be like that which Hobbes talked about in the Leviathan. I would be without a social contract (friends) and my life would be nasty, brutish and short. Boy, was I wrong.  

No, I’m not going to blow smoke up your patootie, it’s not easy, and for some he was right on the money, but not for me. Do I count my blessings? You betcha! Do I sit at home waiting for life to happen? No way! More than ever lung cancer has taught me to take control of my life and run with it.  

Waiting for our plane.  Elise ‘Erny’ Smith on the right.                      Photo: Denise Cutlip

In a move, beyond generous, Elise’s sister bought tickets for the two of us to visit her in Luxembourg. She wanted to spend time with her sister and I being rewarded for being a friend who drives when she needs someone to stick around when she has medical treatment. We are spending the month of June at Helene’s home. With that as our home base we have made forays into Belgium, Germany and France.  

How did this amazing ride come to be my life? And so I find myself walking through wooded hills, high above th Moselle River picking and eating wild cherries. Greeting people in a language I barely understand. The paths I walk were not unknown to envoys of the Holy Roman Empire.  
In Bastogne Belgium I walked paths used by ghosts of soldiers lost in the Battle of the Bulge. Forever young, they gave their lives to defeat one of the most oppressive fascist rulers of the 20th century.  

Photo: Denise Cutlip


Photo by Denise Cutlip

In Germany we shop for chokolat to take home to family and friends in an Aldi’s that only slightly resembles the one near my home. Here I am enticed to by cuts of meat I do not know and fruits I have only eaten in dried or jellied form. Flowers, too, Edelweiss I know from the ‘Sound of Music’.  
It’s been an amazing time!

Photo credit:Renee Marbach
Photo by Renee Marbach 

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Thriving Along Recovery Road 

It’s hard to gain perspective of just how far you’ve come along Recovery Road. Odder still is trying to remember back when you were at your weakest and quantifying the steps that brought you to the best possible you that surviving   
There were small victories and great celebrations along the way. Finishing emptying the dishwasher, doing your own laundry, opening a pickle jar by yourself, walking a mile, swimming again, baking a quiche and riding a bike all seemed like great milestones. But the better measure (for me) is feedback I receive from friends.  


In 2014, when I visited Luxembourg for Christmas, I thought I was doing very well. We toured WW2 battle grounds, visited my friends family and took walks along the Remich Esplanade. We went to the Christmas Market one night and out clubbing another. I was cruising.  


This summer I am back. The first few days of the trip have been a whirlwind of friends, food, music, cocktails and shopping. Not a surprise right? Wrong. I thought my strength peaked in 2014 and that I’ve been maintaining well. So far the trip has been spectacular but hearing from those I’ve not seen in a couple of years that they are pleased to see that I am so much physically stronger and mentally alert has been an eye opener.  

Life doesn’t peak for cancer thrivers any more or less than for anyone else. We continue to grow and to stretch in new directions. If you’re really lucky you are surrounded by people who love and care about you. I’m very lucky.  

Pictured: 

The Remich Esplanade with the Moselle River and Nenneg, Germany in the back ground.  Wine country for sure!

My friend Elise Smith (a two time breast cancer thrives) and I waiting to board a plane.  Luxembourg bound. 

Ice cream, beer and beverages at a sidewalk cafe with Helen Frisch Hellenbrand, her granddaughter Sophie and Elise Smith. 

An Edith Piaf – Jacques Brel Tribute Show.  

Helene on her patio with two of her grandkids.  

Elise’s cousin Renee Marbach and Elise enjoying a family moment.