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More From Carol Shaw Johnston

April 14, 2021 by Carol Shaw Johnston (Tennessee, USA)
Getting ready to fly over Denali
(From left: Carol, Lily, Sophie, Ron)
At a waterfall outside of Anchorage
On the day Lily started relapse
chemo, Sophie was there with her
Lily & Sophie on a “socially distanced”
visit to Ron & Carol in March 2021

Our trip to Alaska with our granddaughters, Lily and Sophie, was in June 2016. One of the reasons my husband, Ron, and I were particularly excited to take Lily and Sophie to Alaska was because Lily had battled leukemia for two and a half years in elementary school. The girls had missed so much during Lily’s battle, and their lives were forever changed. Five years had passed, though, and at the ages of 13 and 15, the girls were now old enough to be away from their parents and fully participate in the activities we planned. It would be a grand adventure.

And it was. All four of us loved the trip — fishing; hiking; riding in a float plane; and seeing whales, bears, moose, otters and all kinds of wildlife and tundra scenery. On one hike, we watched a female ptarmigan walking with a wing bent and seemingly injured. We learned that she wasn’t injured; she was protecting her newly hatched chicks by luring possible predators away from her nest. We caught salmon, halibut, and sea bass. Sophie even hooked a Ling Cod, which we released back into the water since it wasn’t in season.

Every morning we’d recite Psalm 118:24 — “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (NRSV). Every evening we’d recite Psalm 4:8 — “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.” Sophie and Lily both found the verses calming.

What we didn’t know during the trip was that just a few months after we returned, Lily would relapse and go through an additional two years of chemo — stronger and harsher chemo this time. We were all in shock about the relapse and feared the harsh treatment to come. But time passed, Lily survived several frightening reactions to chemo, and eventually she finished treatment and once again began re-building her strength.

Now it’s the spring of 2021. Lily is a sophomore in college, and Sophie is about to graduate from high school. Lily is studying to be a pediatric oncologist, and Sophie is finalizing her college choice. Lily deals with long-term side effects from her cancer treatment and must give herself antibody infusions each week. Otherwise, she’s healthy and active.

What’s next for us? While in Anchorage, we watched a presentation on the Northern Lights, and we immediately added seeing them to our bucket lists. Our plan is to return to Alaska with the whole family during the fall of 2022, when we will hopefully be able to see the aurora borealis. What a way to celebrate, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

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