I sneaked out of my Riedlingen apartment shortly before 5 am on Tuesday morning and thought to myself, “I smell a skunk.”  Now, in North America, that wouldn’t be anything unusual, but I actually don’t remember ever smelling a skunk in Germany.  I dragged my bags up the stairs to my car and noticed what looked like scattered trash bags in the street.  I paused–just to make sure it wasn’t the boogie man disguised as trash–when I heard a voice say, “You want help with those bags?”

Reaction #1: Trash doesn’t talk…does it??
Reaction #2:  Wait…I know that voice!

As it turns out, the trash bags lying in the street were actually four students who had hopped on bikes at that ungodly hour and were lounging near my car, waiting for me to lug myself (and my bags) up the stairs so we could say one more goodbye.  Sigh…I might have mentioned this before (ya think?), but I really, really love those boys!  After my initial surprise had worn off, we immortalized the moment with pictures, got my neighbor angry enough that he leaned out his window to yell at us to shut up, then goodbyed for the last time.  Needless to say, my carefully applied makeup suffered slightly from all the excitement.  It was, without a doubt, one of the most special (or “precious,” if you prefer, Collin) gestures of my life…  Thank you, Nate, Austin, Kristoff and Collin!


(The double-chins are intentional…no, really.  They express my sympathy for Collin’s post-wisdom-tooth-removal face. 
I didn’t want him to be the only one with odd swelling going on…
I am indeed a saint! 

Another goodbye’ing party waited in town.  See, I’m usually the type who likes to sneak off into the sunset without fanfare, but such subtlety was apparently not in the cards for me that day!  Waiting in Kandern were Mari Ellen, Michelle Young AND Ellen McAdam, who made the sacrifice of getting up insanely early during her last official week of school to see this teacher off.  I’m blessed, I tell you.  Beyond measure.


Another friend waited in the terminal.  Thanks for getting up early too, George!

And it was off to Paris, then Detroit–uneventful flights sped along by fun movies and two seats to lie on.  Not a bad deal.  My mom picked me up and we spent the night with wonderful friends in Jackson, MI, who treated us like royalty (my waistline proves it) and were just so gracious and kind.  After a leisurely morning spent eating a gourmet breakfast and admiring their beautiful garden (including pet squirrel, Jimmy), they led us to the hospital about an hour away.

There was a bit of a reality check when I walked through the massive front doors of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.  I was officially a patient in a cancer center.  Strike one for life’s unpredictability.  Things were all uphill from there.  When I finally reached the “Mohs Surgery” unit, I met Denise, the wonderful nurse who has been my connecting point with the doctors there since January.  Wonderful, friendly, kind person…I just wanted to hug her and sit down for a chat over tea!  She ushered me into a small room, installed me in a dentist-type chair with two feather pillows (knees and head) and walked me through the details of the procedures ahead.  My surgeon, Dr. Bichakjan, came in next.  He carried with him a lifetime supply of calm and professionalism and gentleness and kindness.  He took his time explaining things to me, drawing circles on my cheek, and asking questions.  When I told him that I lived in Germany, we discovered that he was raised in Holland and actually has relatives in Freiburg!  How odd is that?  I made a mental note to sit down for a cup of tea with him too! 

After taking a look at the other “bumps” on my face, the doctor decided to biopsy the one above my eyebrow.  They all appear to be of the same “family,” so he just took the one that would leave the most unobtrusive scar.  It was a quick and virtually painless procedure that will allow us to know, by Monday, whether more than the initial surgery will be needed.

I left the appointment feeling like I’d made a bunch of new friends, something I had NOT experienced yet in the medical aspect of this McJourney.  I am so, so blessed to be in such qualified and caring hands…

And how exactly does a person celebrate a biopsy?  With a giant hamburger, that’s how!  Right across the border in Canada, my mom and I stopped at Kelsey’s to indulge my insatiable appetite for God’s greatest invention!  This one was pepper-corn crusted and had two giant onion rings on it, along with a delish basil mayonnaise.  Food of the gods, I tell you!

What comes next?  I’ll be heading back to Michigan on Sunday afternoon (three hour drive, give or take a decade at the border), visiting my wonderful church in Lansing, then checking into a Microtel near the hospital for a four-day stay.  We had thought originally of staying with friends 45-minutes from Ann Arbor, but decided, given the unpredictability of our Michigan “vacation,” that it might
be better to be lodged 10 minutes from the hospital, with shuttle service and no pressure to be “on” before and after surgeries. The hospital booked the room for us (go figure!) and I’m happy to make the extra investment for the sake of peace of mind.

Monday morning at 8 will be the first surgery.  The next surgeries will take place about every hour, once they’ve sent the tumor sample to the lab, analyzed it, and figured out if there’s still more to remove.  That will take Monday and possibly Tuesday too.  On Wednesday, I’ll meet my plastic surgeon for a reconstruction consultation, and first thing Thursday will have that surgery done.  If all goes well, we’ll be on the road back to Canada by Thursday afternoon.

Some of you have asked about visiting me and my mom while we’re in Ann Arbor.  If you don’t mind, I’m going to hold back on answering until we’ve been through surgery number one and have a better idea of what we’re dealing with.  I hope you’ll understand that I will need to be very wise indeed in my use of emotional and physical energy during the protracted medical “stuff” I’ll be undergoing.  I’ll have Internet at the motel and will be in touch from there.

Meanwhile, it has been therapeutic to be able to rest a little and get over jetlag in my mom’s beautiful house on the shores of Lake Huron.  It’s a little chilly, but I’d rather throw a jacket on than deal with heat and humidity!

THANK YOU for praying!  The “peace of God that transcends understanding” continues to be my ally and my comfort.  He is good.



  1. i will be praying earnestly for you on Monday my dear. What a blessing to be able to have a weekend at your mom’s before you head to michigan for a couple days for hte next stage of your journey. What an amazing blessing that your kids were there to just send you off with love and that your dear friends who have meant so much to you over hte years but especially in the past year of this juorney could also come to see you off. what a blessing of joy that must have been for your heart. i pray that the Lord will give such wisdom to the dr’s and that you will be given peace in the midst of all this that you will go through in the next few days. your testimony and journey continues to be a humbling and beautiful expeirenc efor me…written by God and lived out by you. thank you for your rawnesa nd genuine expression that you share every time you write. it inspires me…to think about where i am with God and what purpose my journey has (and also examine how selfishly i tend to see my own life and the fact that i’m alive.) thank you my dear. many blessings upon you this weekend and as you head into the next four days with surgery and biopsies. i will be praying.

  2. Thanks for the update, Michele. We’ll be praying and waiting to hear from you! It sounds like you actually won’t be in the hospital nearly as long as I originally thought. I’m sure we’d still love to visit sometime wherever you are! Maybe we won’t talk about presidential politics, though!(c;

  3. EVERYONE is asking about you. Thanks for keeping us updated. I’ll send them your xanga way…

  4. Michele, I’m just catching up on your McJourney (and on the fact that you’re a novelist and an amazing photographer!) but I wanted to let you know that I will be in prayer for you. U of M is a wonderful hospital, and no matter what, you are in good Hands. If you and your mom need anything while you’re in the area, let me know — my parents live about 20 minutes from U of M.

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