Respirit: To inspire a courageous and purposeful spirit By Catherine Lewallen

Murphys, CA…This time of year, I’m getting a lot of wishes thrown in my direction for a “better 2012.”  While obviously the sentiment is sweet, I can’t help but hear the implication that my 2011 was perhaps sub-par.  I will admit that it was eventful.   Okay, so I was 36 years old and had a stroke in my cerebellum this year.  But it turned out to be a huge blessing: it led to my cancer diagnosis.

Specifically, it is Stage IV Melanoma (you have to put the “Stage IV” on there… it makes it scarier).  What that means is that early last year I was told I have an incurable form of cancer that will most likely kill me within three years.  Okay.  So now I am faced with a lot of decisions.  There are certainly constant choices regarding treatment options, diet changes, and future plans for my nine-year-old son, Jonah.  But also decisions about what each day is going to look like for me. .. for my family.  With what kind of plan will I arise each morning?

I was initially leaning toward self-pity and indulgent pouting.  Next I moved on to “making the best of it” and “staying strong for my family.”  But then I decided that was not good enough either.  I made the choice to ignore that what I’ve been handed looks horrible.  God loves me and makes no mistakes, so I know it to be a gift…  just in a horrible package.   I am a Christian, a mother, and a teacher.   All three of these roles demand inspiration.  And that is exactly what cancer has done for me.  It has respirited me!  Yes, as far as I know, I made that word up.  So the definition I am assigning to this new verb is “to inspire a courageous and purposeful spirit.

Courageous” represents  the days I’ve failed miserably, knowing all along, with great certainty, that I will never stop trying.   “Purposeful” reminds me of our finite time here in this world.  Your days are numbered, and so each one is a precious series of decisions about how you’re going to fill it.

Early in my cancer journey, I decided to do what I do best: talk about it!  Or more accurately, I began writing about it.   I started online journal entries with medical updates for family and friends.  (Only later did I find out that is called a blog!)  As time went on, I started adding emotional and spiritual updates as well.  The process and its response have been a miracle.  I somehow began documenting healing. I began sharing my most private struggles and triumphs.  In return, many of those who read my admissions trusted me with their own personal troubles.   We all desire desperately to be healed.

So perhaps, we are to make this journey together.  I  know that this process has fulfilled my life in unimaginable ways and created the happiest “me” that has ever existed.  (And, yes, I still have cancer!)  Thank you in advance for letting my life into yours.  “Let us call out to one another through the darkness until the night becomes alive with the sound of many voices, encouraging God’s weary travelers.”  (from Streams in the Desert)

Editors Note…Catherine’s fight and the manner in which she has fought it publicly has been an inspiration to many.  If you would like some context and a more personal look at her battle you can find it on the Caring Bridge Website Here! We would like to welcome Catherine as one of our contributors and we hope her story can help you along your journey in life.