John, Sophie, Grant, and Jackie; May 2021
Home is where the heart is…held safely, lovingly, and earnestly. Home is where empathy and love flow.
One month from today, I will be Home for the first time in 6 months. I dreamed of returning fully well, triumphant, and free from the burden of future treatment. I won’t get all that, but…I am still alive, and I’ve earned and can afford a break.
There is also fun to have and work to do! Our son will graduate from high school on June 8th! And I’m still here, even though I wasn’t supposed to be. I’ll have the honor of delivering John Carroll University’s commencement address on May 22nd. And I’m still here, even though I was predicted to be dead months ago. Our daughter will be preparing for a semester abroad next fall, and our son will move into college. I’ll be here for that too. John and I will officially become empty-nesters in September, something we both dreamed about and kinda dreaded, the way most people do. But what is the “nest,” really? What is home?
I think a lot about home. Sometimes, I’m grateful to feel like a global citizen with “home inside.” I’ve always loved to travel and incorporate myself into other cultures. Home is wherever I am, from Detroit to Bilbao to Boston to Chicago to Shaker Heights. Lately, family and friends have visited Istanbul, connecting me to my American home, and we’ve made new Turkish friends we won’t ever forget.
Sometimes, I’m simply homesick for our kids, friends, house, kitchen, bed, and dog that have surrounded me for the better part of the last 2 decades. Always, I’m grateful to feel virtually held, by friends and family that connect me/us to that home at every turn. Photos and videos from a college visit or track meet we couldn’t attend. WhatsApp videos with our kids, sharing the details of their lives and occasionally pretending they still need our advice. Calls with Carnella, who is staying at our house, giving me the scoop on our son and the dog too. I’d like to think we were involved in our kids’ lives in the right way before I had to move to Istanbul, and that as much as I fantasize about family dinners, our son would be living his life very much as he is now…leaving us in the dust a lot of the time. It’s only natural at 18.
In May of last year, our little family (and dog) were all together, on the other side of one round of surgery/chemo and hoping I could keep this cancer at bay with natural treatments. Being altogether was, and continues to be, all I really need. What I dream most about being home is just being present with whoever is home, whenever they are. Family meals when we can. Just cooking favorite foods for the kids, John, and/or myself when we can’t. Being there for big events like graduation and also casual conversations that take place easily, without having to operate across a 7/8-hour time difference. Not just hearing about but also seeing our kids in action in their summer jobs and the fun they have planned with friends. I can tell a lot just by the way they walk in the door. That’s what I miss.
And the dog, Rocky! Will he even remember me after 6 months? I think so. How does he make sense of such a long absence? I’m pretty sure I’ll be forgiven (or it maybe will be forgotten). The good news is I can walk him around the block again…I couldn’t before we left. He’ll enjoy food scraps again…I couldn’t stand at the stove to cook before I left. Those little victories matter. I must count them, even as my body isn’t “fixed” yet. In any case, he sure is handsome, and I miss him a lot!
But, of course, I’d like to be…done.
I’d like to throw an “I’m-free-of-cancer-no-need-to-worry-about-me-anymore!” party and see everyone who supported us near and far. The truth is I can’t. Even though the pandemic is over for most everyone, I’m still immunocompromised, receiving chemo, and masked, and we’re not sure how much time I’ll really have at home. That will all be determined as I leave Istanbul, after getting scanned and measured in every way. Maybe I’ll have 20 days at home, then I have to come back. Maybe we can manage some bridging care in the US (a euphemism for fractionated IP chemo that mimics what I have been getting here). In any case, my carefree time at home is limited. That makes it both more enjoyable and urgent. Limits make meaning, but they can also be stressful. Living in the present, hoping for a future without limits will continue to be my work. Time is precious.
Luckily, I love international travel. I just don’t love being away from my family. Thank goodness our kids are old enough to have busy lives of their own now. I don’t take that for granted for a second. If I could just rest at home, maybe they’d be too busy for us anyway…
What’s surprising perhaps is that I will also miss Turkey because my hands and heart have been held here. Sure I’ve taken 18 chemos and as many full-body hyperthermia treatments, 44 local hyperthermia and hyperbaric oxygen treatments, sat through countless hours of nutritional infusions, been poked more days than not over 6 months (for a total of ~100 times, not counting the occasional double and triple redos). I’ve been in and, thank goodness, mostly out of pain, occupied a foreign body with a swollen abdomen and dresses I hope I’ll not need someday. I’ve struggled up and down Istanbul’s hills trying to build back my strength and my glutes…but I’ve also enjoyed delightful Turkish food, ancient sites, and breathtaking views, learned the culture from the inside out, including some beautiful language and made real friends along the way. From the people who work in our hotel and are caring friends, especially Suleyman and family, to the amazing people at Chemothermia (Dr. Slocum, Sirin, Noor, Halva, Ilena, Omar, Aran, Furkan, Ahmet, Eray, and Seren), it will be strange not to see them every day. Dr. Slocum likes to encouragingly say, “You’ll miss me!” when I get to remission. He’s right. I will. I won’t miss the treatments, but I’ll miss the people.
I’ve had unforgettable times with friends visiting Istanbul and conversations/emails/notes/messages with others rooting for me from afar. This little apartment is home too and, in many ways, all the space I really need. We cooked and ate here, worked here, talked, and watched too much Netflix. John and I have a lot of shared memories here too now. I’ll especially remember the fun times we were able to have on weeks off of chemo.
What’s not here always though… What is central to my idea of home… always, is our family: John, Sophie, and Grant. My heart is always with them. They are Home with a capital H. It’s time to reincorporate myself into their usual lives in the way I used to enjoy, at close range and uninterrupted by IVs and difficult chemo days, at least for a while. It’s time to remember something about what my own “usual life” was and imagine what it might be again. I hope someday for that life to resume, in whatever form it will take.
For now, I have to be satisfied with…and am quite excited by…the idea that I’ll be Home, at least for a while.
Your driveway neighbors (including the canines) are Sooo (with a capital “S”) looking forward to having you Home!
You are Fast! I look forward to seeing you (and your dogs!) across the driveway again.
There is, in fact, no place like home. Enjoy every moment!
May I come visit your other home and this home? Let’s talk ❤️
I love you Jackie!
And my alma mater’s commencement address?!? Ummmm you are fancy and famous!
Wonderful news about your return, Can’t wait to see you over the fence ….(literally)!
Suzanne and I have so enjoyed your heartfelt and courageous blog. Wishing you continued recovery and safe travels. See you soon!
I’m so excited and happy for you to spend some time at home and with Sophie and Grant! Enjoy!
Thank you, Chesea. Xoxo
Jackie, so wonderful to hear you will be back home surrounded by family and love. I can feel the energy already 💜
Thank you, Laura
I am so happy you are able to come home, at least for a while and be present for some important events and every-day ones too! Your strength and courage are amazing to me. I continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Peace and Love! Julie
Thanks so much, Julie. Much love back to you!
Yayayayay Jackie…Shaker Heights will be a happier place with you home…❤️
Thanks, Char! Xo
Safe travels. So grateful for your every word and lesson. Looking forward to your next chapter at Home. xxoo
Team More Cove awaits your return. And, I am sure, Rocky will be a smooching machine. Safe travels.😊
I’m so happy to hear this. And the attention to appreciation and gratitude that you represent
Safe travels and a beautiful visit, however long it lasts. Wish we could do yoga together while you are here!
So so happy that you’re going to be home! I heard about your JCU speech (one of my alma maters)…those graduates are in for a rare treat! My dad’s nickname was Hearts (long story) and in his eulogy, the priest used the phrase “home is where the heart is, and Hearts is home.” I think of it often, as it reminds me that home truly is wherever the heart is! I’m so happy your heart gets to physically be home, where it always is regardless of where the rest of you might be.
Thrilled to know you are coming home where I know you’ll continue to heal. Safe easy travels.
So looking forward to seeing you and Rocky strolling about, taking in the sights and sounds and smells of Home.
Looking forward to seeing you too!
Safe travels on your trip home. Wish you continued wellness and being able to enjoy your time at home. ❤️🙏🏻
Thank you, Lana
Safe travels my friend! Enjoy your stay in beautiful Cleveland. So happy you can be there for Grant on so many different levels. Love you!!
Love you too!
So happy that you are coming home. Your words to all of us over this past 6 months have been truly inspirational and thoughtful. Safe travels.
Thanks so much, Ginger!
We are all buzzing with excitement and love, anticipating your return and celebrating these milestones with you. My mind always goes back to a day in the spring of 2012 when we sat on my front porch talking about our boys’ schooling and what would become of them. I remember the warm sun and the comfort I took in your relaxed and confident take on what was to be. It’s how I always think of you. Can’t wait to see you.
Looking forward to seeing you too! And just look at how these boys have grown. Love them so much
We’ll all rejoice with you when you come home. And our prayers for you will continue, strong as ever.. Love you, dear friend.
Thank you, Cindy. Much love back to you!
Looking forward to you coming home and hope I can stop by to provide some respite from daily activities providing some sweet treats or just conversation. Keep up the amazing work you are doing.
Thank you, April🙏
I’m a loyal reader of all your blogs, always lurking in the background! Thrilled to hear you are coming home, even for a little while. Enjoy these milestones!
Thank you, Debbie!
So great to have you HOME! We will all feel it and all love it!
Miss you! Xo
Incredible journey, beautiful family, powerful writing. Enjoy home!
I have chills! You are so amazing! I’m so happy you’re coming home for a little. Enjoy every second, take it in, as I know you will! Family is everything, and I know you’ll soak up that wonderful time with them. My thoughts are always with you guys! ❤️
Thanks so much, Katie!
This is wonderful news!!! I’m so glad you’ll be back soon. Safe travels and I hope we can see you even if it’s just for a few minutes. Xoxoxox
I’m excited for you to be able to return home, for a short time anyway! Safe travels!❤️🙏🏻😘
Thank you, Jenny!
Being home is everything you’re hoping it will be! My family, friends, dog and my own bed are everything to me! Sometimes I would close my eyes at night in bed and dream about being back HOME in bed. No tears, all comfort. Now that I’m finally back home, I get that warm feeling just snuggling into bed. My dog has been spoiled with too many kisses! You are almost there Jackie! You’ve got this! Praying for you.
You understand more than anyone, Carrie. Love you 🙏
Such a beautiful time to be returning to Cleveland. It will truly be spring by then, not the false springs we’ve been dealing with where one day is warm and the next day it’s snowing. A little bit like life.
Your messages have been inspiring and truthful, giving courage to many. May God bless you as you return and move toward remission.
Thank you, Mary
Wishing you a very blessed time back at Home. Congratulations on given BG the John Carroll commencement speech, but mostly for being able to be part of Grants Graduation & Sofie’s send off to a semester abroad. All beautiful memories to make with your beautiful people. Peace & healing to you my friend 💗
Thank you, Kelly. Miss you. xoxo
As soon as it’s convenient (as much as it can be for you) I’ will be there in person to celebrate you and your inspiring journey.
Welcome home and hurry back to optimal health (both with capital “h”s!!!
Thank you, Steve. My schedule is tbd. I look forward to a time when it’s easy to visit ❤️
Rocky will remember you! He might be a little mad for a few days, but that will pass and he will be so glad to have you home! Can’t wait for you to be back in the 216 ❤️
It was so wonderful to hear that your next journey is HOME! Sending you love and strength till I see you. Maggie
Xoxoxo to you Maggie
So happy for the whole Acho-LeMay family that you will be reunited at HOME, even if only briefly. How wonderful to have that to look forward to. Thank you for your continued inspirational words of hope, grace, and acceptance. Our continued prayers… Pam
Thanks so much, Pam 🙏
Jackie, I’m so happy to read that your heading Home for a visit. Shaker Heights will be shining brighter with you there!
P.S. I just want you to know that I love reading your blogs and I light up when I see a new one in my inbox. You’re on my “must read” list for my dedicated contemplation/meditation time along with Richard Rohr, Sojourners and daily reflection’s books. Love you!
That means a lot, Mark. Love you too!
We wish we could be there to welcome you home but we will wait for the next return and party! Love you and Lee and we are right here for you.
Thank you, Dave. Love you too ❤️
Jackie, wow you are amazing. Home for only a few weeks and you are already doing more than most of us would be doing.
Our prayers are with you and your family. You are continuing to make a difference!
Thank you, Lamar 🙏
I do wish I could see you but more importantly, welcome you home., I will be cheering for you wherever and whenever you take a step toward your goals, and experience every milestone. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for every word you’ve shared along the way. You are the essence of hope and courage. You have all my love,Jackie. I’m with you.
Thank you, Rique. Much love back to you
You sure have a lot of friends for such a brave young woman. Wishing you well and a happy visit home. Congrats on your commencement speech; we are all proud.
Thank you, Larry
Sending you love and strength for your homecoming. You have been an inspiration of honesty, healing and resilience. Bring those dresses to Act 2 and splurge on new ones. You have more than earned them #URbeautiful.
Thank you, Kari 😘
You continue to inspire us to do our best…enjoy this special time with family
Thank you, Teresa ❤️
Sounds like an amazing journey Jackie. You never fail to inspire. Enjoy the graduation- so much fun!!! You’ve done well Mom and Dad!
Thank you, Vikki!
Wishing you safe travels to Sweet Home! You seem so amazingly prepared for how short it will be. May there be lots of pleasant surprises and very few unpleasant ones!
Thank you ❤️
Jackie – I, too, read all your blogs and am inspired by all of them. A recent (April 21st) Phytomedicine article regarding impact of Agrimonolide (Spirea) on stopping ovarian cancer is attached. Because of your focus on total approaches to healing, I thought to send it along. I wish you luck and send lots of love for immense healing.
Thanks so much, Susanna