“ALL” stands for Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

I just learned what “ALL means”, in the past few days, when plans for a trip to South America got replaced by a trip to the UW Hospital. It was like falling out of an airplane. I went from walking 2 hours a day to fatigue and no appetite, to the couch to the doctor to the hospital in pretty short order. So, on this day, when we were scheduled to fly out to Quito, Ecuador, I sit instead in a hospital room and prepare for chemotherapy and bone marrow biopsies and spinal taps and things I never knew about.


Sunday, we slipped away from our home on the island. We had one day to prepare. Though I have always been the ultimate symptom-checker and internet warrior researcher, there was no impulse to do it now. Just a deep pool of quiet.

Before we left home I walked around our land to see the quickening stir, the new bulbs bursting through wet ground, the bright green of new growth coming up between storm debris and last year’s still rotting leaves. The air was fresh on a gusty wind, playing tag with a raven. I admired the old lichens and rocks, the spongy moss and newborn nettles. I hugged a few trees. And I sent out a prayer to the Creator, the deep living Essence that dwells within the Universe and us, breathing life into our lives and setting the Great Cycles into motion that fuel this magical existence.

I asked, quite simply, for a miracle. The miracle of health, which every one of us takes for granted . . . until we don’t have it. And then, when we don’t have it, it is the one thing we want with all of our hearts.

Next, I sent a prayer to my angels. Well, I had to have a little talk with my mom about wanting to outlive her for many years. Mom always was fierce about pretty much everything. She loved family exclusively. So, I asked for her fierceness now in my healing. I talked to my dad, calling him back from exploring the heavens and to my dear loving grandparents and my beloved aunt Maria Elena and Steve’s Mom, Virginia. I asked for my unknown angels too, the ones you can feel by your side when you don’t take the turn that could have ended badly and all the other unemployed and altruistic angels who might be interested in me. I asked for them to be at my side and make angel things happen.

Once I was in the bewildering maze of the UW Hospital, I knew I had one more thing to do. I had to tell my friends and extended family and community. In doing so, I felt like I had unleashed the angels of Love. I believe in prayer. Whether it is done alone or in community, to God or nature sprits or just good old-fashioned love energy. I have always believed in the strength and amazing energy of friends and of community. I have banked my whole life on it. So, now—even more—I do so again. I figure anyone who wants to send me healing prayers—I am going to say welcome and thank you.

Having asked the Creator for the miracle of health and set the angels to work, I will hang tight with my sweet family, take in the wonderful notes from friends, and remember that we are all timeless and huge souls. I want to give my faithful body pure compassion and love and never let the small confines of hospital rooms rule my whole reality. I have led a blessed life. I have nothing but gratitude in my heart.

When the doctors were here today, I said— so it’s like this: an intruder breaks into the junkyard. So you release the guard-dogs and they snarl and run after and destroy the intruders. But then, they turn that furious energy on everyone else—the customers, the employees. Somehow you have to reel in the ferocious hounds that you just unleashed. It’s a good analogy, they said as they left the room. I know I have months ahead of chemotherapy. So, in 2 weeks, I will look like Jean Luc Picard. A bone marrow transplant is also on the horizon. I will keep blogging whenever I can.

P.S. We are feeling hopeful and want to stay that way. I am visualizing myself on another Grand Canyon adventure with Steve.  If you do that too, it would be much appreciated. My address for awhile: University of Washington Medical Center, 1959 NE Pacific St, Box 356125, Room 8452, Seattle, WA 98195-6125.

Also…not yet entertaining visitors at this point. And also prefer only email or snail contact right now, rather than phone calls. I can’t do flowers here. But I have a bulletin board and shelf space for notes and I check my email even more than usual right now.




25 comments on ““ALL” stands for Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

  1. OMGosh Shann!! What the HELL!!! I’m heartsick for you but I also know you have an incredible energy and lifeforce that will not be broken by this! Know that half way around the world I am with you in spirit and sending out all positive vibes for you to win this battle! I’ll be home the end of March for a couple weeks so maybe if you are up for it Lisa and I can bring our love and hugs to you!
    BIG HUG,

  2. We have not yet met (Steve has done some work for me). My name is Eko Noble, and I very much enjoyed your blog this past winter.

    I am so sorry to hear the news of your diagnosis, and wish you, Steve, your daughters, extended family, and Jack (who no doubt cannot visit) all the very best in this trying time.

    Sending love, good wishes, and strongest intentions for your speedy recovery,

    Eko Noble
    and Bodhi, a white miniature iteration of Jack, except Bodhi is older and a Poochon!

  3. I have long admired you and your encompassing / compassionate spirit, and I really enjoyed following your recent travels via FB, but now your news has bridged our casual distance, and my heart wants to sing to you. I have walked in those same halls and treatment centers, caregiving for family, and faced an intensity of doubts/hope/challenges/choices that spring forth with a cancer diagnosis. I know you are in good hands at UW, but even the best protective medical envelope is challenging to navigate as you proceed on your walk for health (sometimes those halllowed corridors can feel eerily more like “walking the shadow of death”). You are blessed with great family, friends and community for support, (I hope you will count me in for whatever can be offered to help) and you wisely have already opened yourself to aid from the universe – so powerful the often unseen/unacknowledged links between us all, hidden in routine social functioning – this “invisible” web of love will nurture and support you and your family. Most treatment models emphasize that you must totally believe in your success to succeed, but with all the twists and complexities of treatments (especially BMTs) you may need to at times balance and consider if/when difference between envisioned belief in a desired outcome, and actual experienced quality of life arise. . . challenging roads lay ahead – the good news is you’ve had lots of practice at being good travelers, just taking each twist and turn as it comes and savoring the present moments you share.
    I hold you and your journey to health most dear, and my prayers will keep flowing.
    Do let me know what help (large or small) you may need, sincerely offered in the great spirit of pass-it-on! Love and blessings, Anne

  4. You write beautifully and bring our existence to life. Thank you for sharing Shann, All positive prayers and thoughts are with you and Steve.

  5. You bet love is coming your way, the entire island starting with Dick and I will be rooting for you and sending loving energy hard and fast. XXOO

  6. Oh, you radiant thing, you. You may be suppressed by this intruder, but your zing is still shining brightly. Feel that current, Shann? It is speeding to you on a love-guided missile.
    Thank you for including us. It’s awful… but it helps.

  7. We will be following your blog and so glad to be able to keep in touch…thinking about you of course and confident that with your incredible energy you are going to beat this!
    Love you Shann,
    Cynthia and Bob

  8. Ok, yes, right. Breathe and know the Grand Canyon is entering your body, close your eyes and see the beauty and grandure and awe, (can one see awe? why not), feel the Grand Canyon dry air on your skin, listen and hear the wind, the quiet, the music of this grand, Grand Place…in fact, maybe a little Grand Canyon Suite on an iPod? Maybe. And I, I will do the same, as I send on the unemployed Angels I meet…to be with Shann, now, for as long as necessary. I am so thinking of you, many, many times a day / night.

  9. Oh my. You are in my thoughts, fiercely. On my mind, quietly. Present behind my eyes as they scan in the late February light at the end of the day! I left work but while warming the car I read emails and found this from you. Now looking at these low hills on a day that is not too cold, not too dark, not too harsh. I think of snow, dogs, ice, returning scents, color, sounds that are not frozen. Because I’m thinking about you I think about the world. That’s where you take me. That’s where you belong. So, hugs to that sweet family of yours and to you and keep writing….when you can. Love, Donna

  10. Shann – and Steve, you are both in our hearts and thoughts. Let me know if some Soroptimist ferry tickets can help keep you all connected here and there.

  11. To you Shann:

    May you be filled with loving kindness
    May you be well
    May you be peaceful and at east
    May you be happy

    Love from the Michael/Randy/Deva/Evan/Julia/Sarah family

  12. Oh Shann and Steve and Maria and Elena,
    Words fail me, but sending love and prayers.
    Your life force is so strong, I am sure it will help you through this.
    Love, Anne

  13. Sending love and prayers for your complete healing. May the road be a short one to your healing and return to your travels! Grand Canyon!!! Good goal! Surrounding you with the love from your community being reflected back to you.

  14. This is a beautifully written post, Shann. I am visualizing you hiking down the Bill Hall trail from the North Rim towards Thunder Creek and stopping at Tapeats Spring where the water gushes out of the rock. I can’t wait to read what you will post on your blog about that experience. Take care and hang in there.

  15. You are so powerful. How unexpected. The universe will align itself for you and I hope you get your wishes. Much love to you and your family, Chena

  16. OMG, this is not exactly the journey we wanted you to be on right now. You are one of the few people I know who could take this devastating news and turn it into a graceful prayer/response. I will send out a prayer to the Universe and hug some trees with you by my side. I see another trip to the Grand Canyon in my mind’s eye–you and Steve and Jack quietly soaking in the energy and awe of the surroundings this spectacular Universe has to offer. Know that you and the family are surrounded by Love at all times.

  17. This is unimaginable news, Sweet Shann. My whole body, mind and spirit and especially my heart is breathing and thinking, holding and loving you. Also, deeply in my thoughts and heart are Steve, Mariya and Elena. Billie and Bobbie are sending love to Jack…they’ve never met…but our furry friends have a deep wisdom and knowing and loving that never ceases to amaze me! We are also sending something in the mail. Feeling “Love like the Ocean” for you.
    Xo Juliana and Dan oX

  18. Shann, I just heard about your troubles. I am sending a lot of love and positive vibes to you. In my head I hear a canyon wren laughing at that cancer. I hope you can join us in the canyon soon. Love you.

  19. I’m Scarlet”s Mom in Idaho. She is missing Maria now from Tahoe and turned me
    on to your blog a few short months ago. I feel it is serendipitous. I am sending you
    that precious love ju ju and appreciating immensely my recent trip to Mexico with my beloved husband of 35 years. Scarlet loves Maria very much and we both
    are anxious for your blogs. Keep them coming however the detour.
    Love, Julie Caldwell

    • Thank you Julie!!! Once my mom is healthy, we will have to get our families together for some fun times. We appreciate you reaching out and the love sent from afar. Your family is already so important to me, and as a result you guys feel deeply connected to my family . – Mariya

  20. Oh Shann, my thoughts are with you! I’m glad your family is near by to support you and you know your Eliot family will pray for you! Love, Kaydee Kreitlow

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