It takes a village to heal


It takes a village to heal
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It’s been over four weeks since surgeons at Mayo Clinic cut open my sternum, moved my ribs and lungs and heart valves (and whatever else was in the way) so they could remove the cancerous tumor attached to my airway.

And so they cut my airway, reattached it, then put my lungs back where they belonged and pulled and stapled my ribs back together.

They stitched my chin to my neck to make sure I didn’t move my head too far back, and then, day by day, during my stay in the hospital, a new tube or IV came out. And then the chin stitches were removed, and then three X-rays, one bronchoscopy and five days later, I was released back into the world that keeps on turning even while we hold our breath.

They think they got all the cancer. They think, but we’re still waiting to hear for sure.

I’m back at the ranch now with what I hope is the worst part behind me, slowly feeling a bit better and stronger each day.


Time will do that for you if you let it. It will get you to where you need to be. I’ve learned this lesson in my life before, but I’m still humbled by how helpless I feel in my own home, surrounded by the mess and the laundry and the projects we’ve made for ourselves.

All of that has to wait now the same way I have to wait to be able to grab my young daughters, lift them up, hug them tight or push them on the swing. Every morning, little Rosie asks me if my “owie” is better, which is code for, “Can you hold me yet?” And when I tell her I can’t, she sits beside me and we hold hands.


I wish I could tell you I’ve taken time to read the books I haven’t had a chance to read, or written some profound music or poetry, or had some major revelation, but mostly, when you’re healing from something as traumatic as this, it seems like it takes about all the energy you have to mend. And lots of terrible shows on Netflix.

I can tell you I have never been more physically vulnerable. And when you find yourself so helpless, your family, friends and community, they are illuminated. All of a sudden you see them, and the way their hearts open, because you can no longer afford to say, “Oh no, that’s OK, we got this.”

Because in times like these, without your village, you don’t have it. To survive it you have to be gone, displaced, completely distracted, and it takes all you have in you to get through days of pain and healing, let alone continue under any kind of normal. At least for now.


First family photo, halfway home after surgery…

And so you can’t do it alone. You need someone you trust to take care of the kids. You need your sister to feed the pets and plants. You need all the prayers and the well wishes and meals sent to your door. And while you don’t need that Juneberry pie, or gift cards and cash for gas and hotel stays and hospital bills, it sure helps ease one part of the burden of worry.

And you need your husband or your partner to get you dressed and open your pills and wash your hair and shave your legs and try his best at a ponytail and give up all his pillows in the hotel bed to make sure that you are comfortable. You need him to sit next to you in the hospital for five days wearing a mask and not complain once.

And so here I sit, feet up, a little worse for the wear, but on the other side of the scariest thing I’ve done since parachuting out of a plane over the ocean.

I am a lucky woman, so even if they call tomorrow and tell me I need to undergo radiation to become cancer-free, I know I can do it. Because this world we live in, while so genuinely heartbreaking, gives us miracles every day.


And to me, those miracles look a lot like my children laughing, or the purr of a kitten, the smell of the ranch after a storm or the crunch of a garden pea. To me, those miracles wear scrubs and masks, take my kids for a tea party, come to live with us while I recover, send cards and raise money and call to check in, pick up my medicine and teach me what it means to truly take care of one another.

And now that I know how it feels to be on this side of things, I understand better the ways to take care, too.

But for now, if you need me, I’ll be here, holding my daughters’ hands, eating casserole, walking slowly to the mailbox and healing up…


23 thoughts on “It takes a village to heal

  1. Good to hear you are back home and mending! You and the family are still my thoughts and prayers, and I know you will be fine, and come out of all this stronger than ever. Rest and heal up. Love and best wishes! ❤

  2. sending all my love, all the good thoughts, many prayers and every healing thought I can think, to you. you are loved

  3. Huge surgery! Will continue to keep you in prayer. Thanks for the update, have been thinking of you. Hope you have a speedy recovery.

  4. Oh it was so good to hear from you! I miss your blog posts and have worried about you. You have been through an ordeal and it was uplifting to read your grateful, positive words. I’m so glad the worst is behind you. You are a wonder Jesse!
    I’m a blog follower from Minnesota, old enough to be your mother but young enough to learn from you… and to heed your frequent well written reminders to appreciate the beauty around us and not to take anything or anyone for granted. (Although in a future blog post you most certainly can complain or vent a little If it would help, you have earned the right.)
    God be with you and your sweet family. Best wishes for rest and recovery..

  5. Jessie, it is so good to hear from you, amazing is more like it. That you have the Energy to share with those of us who care is astounding and wonderful. Your owie is stunning and impressive. Owie indeed. I’m so happy for you that things are looking good, that you’re home and being cared for so well. My very best to you and your family, Patti Jacobs


  6. I’m glad you are home and I continue to keep you in prayers as your recovery moves along.
    katherine jordahl

  7. Thank you for your beautiful expression of gratitude. Can’t wait for the hugging story is written. Let yourself heal!

  8. I have enjoyed your writings for years and look forward to the time I am able to meet you. Healing hands hold you from above as you hold hands on earth.

  9. Wow! Your story is amazing! We wish you the best in the days ahead! God Bless You and your sweet and caring family…….Thank you for sharing your story with us…..Take Care.. Mavis Sevigny

  10. Going backward through your blog …my that is going to be an impressive reminder of your surgery! Very neat though. I bet over time it fades.

    Wishing you well on your journey.

    Hope your “owie” is all gone.

    Virtual hugs, Sybil

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