Scroll down past the big trees – he told us on his personal blog – and there you’ll find me. In a picture from one of his hiking trips, surrounded by beautiful tall trunks of some of the world’s tallest trees, there Tom Marsilje didn’t only find himself but introduced himself.
Humble. Happy. Hopeful he was in the midst of something bigger.
As an oncology researcher who’d been inspired by his mom’s pancreatic cancer, his own cancer diagnosis was another leg on his adventure – one filled with molecules and proteins, T-cells and receptors.
To follow Tom felt like we were on the adventure, too.
He helped us discover the colorectal cancer landscape, many of us for the first time. When he faced information that applied either to himself or others, he stopped like any great explorer to examine each finding and take careful notes. (By way of many blog posts, articles, emails and Facebook posts.)
He unpacked the complicated vocabulary of oncology research for all of us following along. He didn’t only explain how clinical trials work, he helped build a tool to help people find them.
It was easy to forget Tom himself was fighting an aggressive disease. He was one of us, yet somehow he seemed light years ahead.
I guess that’s what made life with Tom feel like such an exploration – a plunge into the scariest, most confusing yet most enlightening and cathartic cancer journeys of a lifetime. As a true expeditionary, every scan and doctor’s appointment led to new doors and ways to travel.
And he brought us along for all of it.
Thanksgiving is coming soon! Why am I excited for a holiday I traditionally spend in the bathroom?
Because I now hold the secret key to the holiday: the recipe for my Aunt Denise’s rolls.
Now, these aren’t just any rolls. These breaded masterpieces are legendary. These rolls are often used as a selling point on why to attend a family gathering.
“Denise is making her rolls!” my dad will say as a way to get a “yes” from me about attending the family get together. These rolls do have a warm place in my childhood memories.
With my love for baking continuing to grow, I thought they’d be the perfect next challenge.
I texted my aunt and asked if she’d share the recipe with me. In her graciousness, she quickly texted me a page out of her grandma’s cookbook with a handwritten “good” next to it.
My armpits were sweating to the point I felt the seam of my shirt begin to stick to my side each time I maneuvered the car seat around the big oval table under the judge’s chair. It wasn’t exactly the image I’d dreamed up as a child about the day I’d adopt a baby and become a mom – but then again as a child I wasn’t fully aware of underarm perspiration.
Beige, dinged up walls void of anything pretty or colorful surrounded us. They looked nothing like what I assumed an adoption courthouse would – no majestic stairways or velvet draped curtains to welcome the judges overseeing some of the county’s most important cases – child adoption and placements. What a bummer.
The fact I was standing in the courthouse in January, four months after the September we’d pulled the trigger and five months before the soonest we were told we’d have a baby, blew me away and caused a decent amount of anxiety and stress.
Nothing was happening the way I’d expected or planned.
I’m happy to report I successfully made it through another colonoscopy. I’m pretty sure this was my 12th colonoscopy over the past 16 years.
The doc recommended I return to using one of my preferred preps from the past: Miralax and Gatorade. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, but it’s much better than the gallons of salt water-tasting stuff I used to drink in the early days.