Around the world, and on to Round 3

Oct 26

Around the world, and on to Round 3

It’s me again, writing from the chemo chair.  Today is chemo day.  I wrote my previous post on October 3, also from the chemo chair.  Five hour infusions wherein I am confined to a recliner make for good writing opportunities.

For about a week after my treatments, I feel pretty low; everything is hard.  At about the one week mark, I start to feel more functional and continue feeling a tiny bit better each day until the next round repeats.  I never get anywhere close to normal, but I am grateful for the relatively good weeks!

When my September scan indicated progression and Dr. Wonderful, Brad, and I began discussing a treatment change, Dr. Wonderful’s face reflected the concern he felt (progression is always worrisome).  As I reminded him about our upcoming trip scheduled to depart on October 11th, I could see his wheels spinning: both to get me into a good treatment situation and to jostle it around a much-anticipated trip. We had the honest conversation wherein we acknowledged I might not be able to go.  However I also saw the resolve he has long shown: we do the treatment so that I can live the life, not the other way around. I saw Dr. Wonderful for a check-in appointment on October 9th, and we both had emotions percolating as we jointly agreed it was safe for me to travel.  (He did ask me to travel with travel insurance that would fly me home on a private medical jet if I had problems; thankfully this was not needed, but I had it as a back pocket resource if I needed it!)

This trip was a long time coming: my cousin and is adorable now-wife planned their wedding for well over a year in advance.  My mom and dad told us — my sisters, myself, my family — that they wanted all of us to go to the wedding, and were very clear that they were gifting the trip to us.  When I told my mom: no, that’s too much!, she leveled me with her mom stink eye, and said, “Nothing would please Ma and Boppa more than to have the whole family together.  This is our legacy.”  And darn it if I didn’t know she was right.  So this trip to honor the bride and groom is also a big nod to the grandparents that live on in the way our family lives and loves BIG.

Our family: four sets of aunts, uncles and cousins on my mom’s side hadn’t been together since 2001 because they live in Queensland, Australia. (Well, they did. Now we kind of conquer the globe as we have spread out; we gathered from four widespread states in Australia, plus Singapore, England, and USA.)   Generations of excellent communication skills, a love of travel, and a commitment to family means that we are awkwardly close for people who live half-a-world apart.  A common saying amongst us is: “It is only distance between us (nothing else).”

So, exactly one week ago from this moment, it was the wedding day for my cousin (Australia is fourteen hours ahead on the clock).  It was everything we hoped it would be (congratulations to the happy couple!) We forgot to take a picture with all the USA folks together, but we did manage to get a picture of all of the bald members of the family (most of my male relatives — and me!), and that is kind of a good metaphor for the priorities.  We err on the side of laughter and “all in” experiences.  Everyone local took vacation time to spend with us, my sister and her new husband declared this trip their honeymoon, and the other out-of-towners made sacrifices to make it happen.

Having Brad with me on this trip was amazing.  He hadn’t been since our honeymoon trip in 2005, and it is a treasure for me to share it with him.  My daughters, at eleven and seven, had experiences that mirror some of my own childhood Australia memories.  I got to relive my own memories as I watched them experience it.  As I drove us around (on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road), I got to tell them stories.

My mom moved to Cincinnati two weeks after marrying my dad in Australia after meeting him four years prior when she was an exchange student to his high school in Cleveland, Ohio.  The older I get the more appreciation I have for a love that would take you halfway around the world (and back again.) My mom left her family, but my dad sends her back surprisingly often.  My parents are amazing, and their love is one great story.

The two things that ailed me most (other than my fatigue, which I am accustomed to) were kind of awesome.  I got a gnarly coral cut on my ankle from trying to rescue Greta in a shallow pool in the Great Barrier Reef after she lost a flipper.  Touching the coral is a big no-no, and klonking your foot into is obviously terrible for both you and the coral.   I tried to brush it off and keep going, but my uncle, a vet, took one look at my deep puncture wound and said I need to get it looked at as coral cuts are notorious for getting infected.  I started antibiotics and sported veterinary tape wrap for the rest of the trip.  It is my best (of many) scar stories to date.

We were boogie-boarding with some of the extended family, and periodically the ocean would spit out a couple of big waves that are great if you are ready to ride them or dive under them, but bad if you aren’t paying attention and let them crash over you.  I saw one coming too late, so I grabbed Greta as my uncle grabbed Maren as the wave crashed.  Clutching Greta in front of me (trying to “block the wave” — haha), I got thrown into the first of several underwater somersaults and I decided Greta and her smaller mass might fare better if I let her go and let her surface on her own rather than clinging to her when I was incapable of getting either of us to the surface until the wave was ready to let us go.  I got an earful of saltwater, and Greta got a nose full of same.  Luckily, we were both out in the water catching more waves soon; there are good life lessons to be had at the beach.

Some visual images where words aren’t enough.  These are just from my phone camera; I can’t wait to see what Brad has on his three cameras.

A beach walk at Mooloolaba beach.

My sandy toes on a coral beach.

Magical memories with Maren and Greta snorkeling with a sea turtle.

Family-palooza.  All (ALL!) of my cousins at the same table. (We were missing some partners/”out-laws” as I like to call them, who kept the home fires burning — we missed you!) But all of the original eleven are pictured here.

Celebrating the newlyweds.

Kangaroo (and koala) petting at Australia Zoo.

We rock the beach.

Epic travel.  Door to door on the way there 51 hours (we had a delay causing missed connections), and 32 hours on the way home.  (Longest single flight was 14 hours, 35 minutes.)  And we all agreed we would do it again (and again and again) in a heartbeat.

And now here I am.  We got home after midnight last night, and I’m dripping chemo today. My life is surreal, as you can imagine, in it’s extremes. I came home to a house cleaned and tended by my village (thank you!).  My spirit and heart have rebounded and shown strength that I didn’t know I had in the last two weeks (Queensland sunshine has magical healing powers), and I am humbled at the love and accommodation of our needs that everyone shared.  It was a literal burst of sunshine in my world, and I am so grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  To all the family who made such big efforts to see us and make memories with us: you are a treasure. Congratulations to my cousin and my newest cousin-in-law!  Mom and Dad, your generosity and love know no bounds. Being part of this family is one of this life’s most FUN blessings.  Thank you.


  1. Sharon Parson /

    What a loving, sweet family vacation.
    Your story telling is amazing, I could almost imagine being there.
    Family is the best circle of love I know !

  2. Yay!!! I am so thankful you were able to go! You have such an amazing, awesome family!

  3. Wow!! That’s about all I have to say as my heart swells for you all and your amazing trip, family, resilience, love, spirit of adventure…❤️

  4. Lisa M Marker-Robbins /

    Happy tears!!! 🙂 Love hearing all about this and celebrating that you got to go!

  5. Sandy Griffiths /

    Beautiful…Beautiful…Beautiful !

  6. Julie Tomaszewski /

    So happy for you!!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️

  7. Marlayne Skeens /

    Another Making Memory Trip ~ WOW!!!! So happy for the Bride & Groom to have their families there ~ Then it was on to more fun <3 Continued Prayers for many, many, more Memory Making Trips 😉 Big Hugs 🙂

  8. Julie A Talford /

    I am so thrilled you all went and I adore the pictures and you of course. Xxxooo

  9. Sweet. So lovely to hear. Praying.

  10. What a magical trip. Makes me want to visit myself. Love to you all!

  11. Kathi Roth /

    Photographs are beautiful! Love the sea turtle picture. What an amazing adventure for your girls. You are one good storyteller ?hugs

  12. I’m so happy that this happened for you and your sweet family. Your parents are the best. Hope your week is tolerable and that next week is better. Love.

  13. Jen, the Mathies, Andersons and Powells are an inspiration to us all of what it means to be true/unconditional family, supportive, and living life to its fullest. All of you truly inspire us to live a fulfilled life like you do! Much love to all of you, Jules

  14. Rebecca /

    Love. ❤️

  15. Bonnie B Jackson /

    Jen, what a Huge Blessing from the Lord for you, Brad, the girls and your whole family. Memories of a lifetime !!!? I’m so so grateful that you got the gifted family trip!!

  16. Lori6NV /

    What an awesome update!

  17. Sharon House /

    Wow. What a great memory making trip while honoring the bride and groom.. And snorkeling with a a sea turtle? How exciting!

  18. Newbie friend /

    I’m so excited to hear about your trip. Your family sure is special! I’ve been wanting to share with you that we are going to Australia and New Zealand for our 41st wedding anniversary in Feb. I’ll try to prepare for long travel days!

  19. Judy Proett Bell /

    What a wonderful time for all of you. Special memories always lift our spirits. Beautiful pictures.

  20. Kara Uhl /

    I’m so happy for you and your entire family for having been able to take this incredible trip. You are surrounded by so much love. I think about you all the time. xo

  21. Lindsay /

    How incredible that you were all able to go together and experience such an awesome trip! Amazing!❤️❤️❤️

  22. Tonja R Hemmerick /

    Sounds as if you all had an amazing time. So glad you all were able to go and enjoy.❤️

  23. Genora /

    I’m so glad that you and your family were given the opportunity to experience such a God given blessing. May God continue to bless and keep you all.

  24. Wonderful! I’m so glad you had this family time.

  25. Another Jen /

    It would be hard for me to love this more. Amazing.

  26. My heart explodes for you – to be surrounded by your people in a place you love. Praise God for the gift ALL of you experienced.