Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hiking the Alps

We met with my Oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre yesterday morning to discuss my treatment plan.  My situation is rather puzzling to oncologists, because I do not have any family history of women with cancer and my age does not fit the profile for ovarian cancer.  The textbook treatment plan for women in their 60s with stage 3c epithelial ovarian cancer is to do three rounds of chemo, surgery and three rounds of chemo.  The data supports this treatment plan, and so that is my treatment plan.

Due to my unique case, my Oncologist sought out professional advice from his own team of oncologists at Juravinski, oncologists at Princess Margaret in Toronto and a world-renowned Oncologist specializing in ovarian cancer in the States. While these experts are closely aligned, Andy and I will need to make an informed decision about the timing of my surgery.  We are scheduled to meet with a highly recommended Oncologist at the Princess Margaret in Toronto in the next week or two.  We are confident that God will lead us to the right decision and ask that you'd pray for wisdom, clarity, strength and peace.

As we discuss my situation with medical terminology, professionals and the hard facts, we continually go back to the comfort found in "one step at a time".  While Jordin Sparks sings a catchy pop song with this title, the truth giving weight to this statement is found in the Bible.  God emphasizes the steps in our lives, not the full road ahead. Here are a few examples found in the Bible, "The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him." Psalm 37:23, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:9, and "A person's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?" Proverbs 20:24.  And so we move forward with the God who is making firm, establishing and directing our steps, one step at a time.

God has prepared us for this journey.  In a myriad of complex ways that we will never fully understand, He has equipped us for today and for the unknown road ahead.  I have been blown away by this realization again and again in the past month. Here is one example.  Three summers ago Andy and I backpacked Europe for 8 weeks, blogged our adventures and did a challenging hike in Switzerland where I first learned what "one step at a time" really meant.  As you read my blog post below, see how God graciously taught me that lesson during a one day hike, but how its application beautifully extends to our situation now.  Glory to God!
When in Switzerland, you can't help but hike! Interlaken is an excellent place to do this as its surrounded by huge mountains and has a fantastic view of the impressive Jungfrau peak. There are many hikes to choose from, varying in the amount of time it takes to do each one. We decided on hiking Harder Kulm as it has a great view of the white-capped mountains. Instead of choosing the two hour hike, we went for the four. Little did we know, we were in for the most difficult hike of our lives! 

Actually, the level of difficulty is debatable. Andy says the Cinque Terre hike was more difficult because it was practically all uneven stairs going up and down the whole way. For me, this hike was much more difficult because we had no idea how much further we had to go for the majority of the hike (we were the only ones hiking this route) and the cold I had caught was sucking the energy out of me and making it much harder to breathe. We went back and forth up the steep mountain, making our way through grassy fields, thick forests and constant inclines. The sights were beautiful but I began to get focused on the final destination and just how far we had to go. My legs felt super weak, it was a hot afternoon and we had no water left. I wasn't feeling too excited about the hike at this point. 
During one of our frequent breaks to catch our breath, Andy encouragingly said "just one step at a time". For some reason this somewhat cliche comment stuck with me and some realizations dawned on me. I was too focused on the final destination. So when we turned a corner and only found more steps or no sign of the peak, I got overwhelmed with how much further there was to go and how tired I was! It became really helpful to actually take one step at a time and only watch Andy's feet ahead of me instead of looking further ahead a th steep inclines. It made me think about how God directs our steps in life, but doesn't reveal our whole future. Sometimes I've felt like I just want to know what's ahead in life like who I was going to marry, if I'd get a job, where I'll be in ten years, etc. But in the same way that it was just too overwhelming to look beyond a step in the hike, it would be shocking and just too much to see more of our future. For me, this is another reminder that God's ways are so beyond us and that I need to trust his guiding footsteps. After rediscovering these truths, the next day we read Isaiah 55... check out verses 8 & 9... "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" Hiking the Alps (original blog post from August 2012) 
My second round of chemo starts on Tuesday.  Thank you so much for reading this blog, encouraging us in emails/texts/calls/conversations, and/or faithfully praying.  We are so thankful that you're choosing to take "one step at a time" with us, our families and our faithful God.


  1. Thanks for sharing Julia. An encouragement for you as you have encouraged us: remember as you take one step at a time that "One thing remains," God's love "never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out" on you!

  2. I continue to keep your family in my morning prayers. God truly will give you what you need one step at a time, if you take each step in faith. He then blesses beyond what we can even fathom!

    Joyce DeBoer

  3. Well said. So encouraging (and challenging!) to read.

  4. Thank you for sharing your heart and experience with us. We pray for you in each step of this journey

  5. Julia, we are praying for you and your loved ones:
    Peace filled with His peace..and a sweet sense of His presence through it all.

    from montreal

  6. Such intelligent words of advice, and I need constant reminding of "one step at a time" as well. Thank you for these words, Julia. God's timing is definitely not our timing and we need to learn patience. Praying for you everyday!


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