Cancer is nothing when you have hope!! This site is all about living … and living well … with late-stage cancer. I hope you will journey along with me through the ups and downs of living with lung cancer.
Our Gate1 tour of Israel took us to Shepherds’ Field, one of three spots believed to be where shepherds learned about the birth of Jesus. Interestingly, Christians have chosen one spot – Shepherds’ Field, while Greek Orthodox believe the shepherds learned of the Savior’s birth in the eastern part of Beit Sahour and Catholics think the Christ child was announced about 400 meters north of the Greek Orthodox site, on the north ridge of Beit Sahour.
My opinion is that it doesn’t really matter which of the three spots is the one where the shepherds got the word that Jesus had been born. What is important is that He was born!
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:6-15
Shepherds’ Field is east of the Greek Orthodox and Catholic sites. It is also in Beit Sahour, a community southeast of Bethlehem, originally known as the Village of the Shepherds.
The Field of Boaz is visible to the east of Shepherds’ Field. This is where Ruth, grandmother of King David, met and married Boaz.
It was a cold, wet day in January when we visited Shepherd’s Field. It was amazing how warm and cozy it was when we entered the cave where Christians believe shepherds were tending their sheep the night they learned that the Christ child had been born.
The cave was fairly large, bigger than I would have guessed it would be. The ceiling was black from the fires that kept the shepherds and their flocks warm.
In the Bible study, the ROCK, the ROAD, and the RABBI, with Kathie Lee Gifford and Rabbi Jason Sobel, we learn that it is probable that the shepherds weren’t just your run of the mill sheep tenders. Instead, they were likely Levitical shepherds whose job it was to raise the blemish-free lambs to be sacrificed at the Temple in nearby Jerusalem.
The caves where the shepherds took their ewes before they gave birth to new lambs were necessarily kept in a state of purity since Jewish law required the lambs to be pure. So, the cave where Jesus, the Lamb of God, was born was almost certainly one used by the Levitical shepherds, one that had been purified.
Archaeological Ruins of Five Churches Found at Shepherds’ Field
The beautiful Shepherds’ Field church is new. In 1972, the Archimadrite Seraphim, the leader of the Monastery of Saint Savva, decided to build the full-sized church over the cave at Shepherds’ Field. It was while excavating the foundation for the new church that they found the remains of three additional ancient churches.
There are now the remains of five early-century churches found near Shepherds’ Field:
The Natural Cave Church dates to the second half of the 4th century
The Cave Church, dating to the 5th century
The Roof Chapel, dating to the 5th century
The Basilica, from the 6th century
The Monastery Church, which dates to the 7th century
In late August 2018, I made the decision to accompany my friend and fellow Stage IV lung cancer survivor on a trip of a lifetime for me – a journey to the land of my Saviour. I have never cared much about overseas travel, but I have always wanted to visit the Holy Land. I couldn’t imagine walking exactly where Jesus walked. When Karen needed a travel partner, I jumped at the opportunity to go with her to Israel.
Since I had never traveled overseas, there was much to do, including getting a passport. This task ended up being more difficult than I originally imagined because the passport office required a different type of birth certificate than I had so I had to order another. I was nervous that I wouldn’t get the correct birth certificate and then the passport in time to make the trip, but that was a worry I need not have had. The passport arrived in good shape months before we actually left for our trip in January 2019.
I am not typically a worrier, to say the least, but suddenly I was fretting over everything. What should I take? Do I have the correct bags or should I buy more? What will I wear? What shoes should I take? Karen and my husband Robert both reminded me that there were stores in Israel should I forget anything, but I wanted to be sure I had everything.
Words of hindsight are that, yes, there are plenty of stores in Jerusalem and other sites in Israel, but getting to them is not as easy as you might think. Our tour kept us very busy and didn’t include stopping by shopping malls. Without a walk or a taxi ride, a shopping expedition would not be possible. And, after a full day of touring, this old lady was tired. In other words, my worries about thinking of everything, in my opinion, were justified.
This post is really long. It probably won’t be very interesting to most people, but I wish I had seen something like it when I was preparing for my first-ever trip overseas and to the Holy Land.
Planning for the trip
So, let’s take a look at what I took … and what I didn’t take that I wish I did.
What I wish I had taken:
a bathing suit
These items would have been useful at the Jordan River (Yardenit) where believers can be baptized and at the Dead Sea where you float, whether you want to or not, because of the high salt content. Because I didn’t take a bathing suit (or, at least, a t-shirt and shorts that I could change out of), I did not partake in the baptism or the Dead Sea adventure. If I go again, I will be sure to pack something to wear for these activities first.
A pair of good walking shoes or boots.
I bought new and comfortable shoes (Skechers) that I love, but much of where we walked was uneven. Because it rained a lot while we were in Israel, many of the uneven surfaces were also wet. I wished for tennis shoes or hiking boots that had more structure and more sole than my comfy Skechers afforded.
I have never used a cane in my life and hope it is quite some time before I need one regularly. However, many steep steps, often wet, without the benefit of handrails made me wish for a cane to use as a third leg. They make fold-up canes and if I go again, I will likely take one along. If it never gets used, great! But, it would be a comfort to have it available.
A knit hat and scarf and warm gloves
These items wouldn’t take up much room or add much weight, but they sure would come in handy on those days when the temperature dropped into the 20s or 30s and the wind galed.
What I took that I didn’t need:
Too many pairs of inadequate shoes. As I noted above, I took comfy Skechers shoes – three pairs of them. I was glad I had two of those pair since one pair got very, very wet in the torrential rain that came the first day we were there. I never took the third pair out of their bag. Again, I wish one of the pair of shoes that I took had been hiking boots or structured tennis shoes.
Too many pants and tops. I thought I was going to get really dirty while touring so I insisted on taking a fresh pair of slacks or jeans or leggings for every single day. And then, for good measure, I threw in a couple of extra pair. Since I had them, I wore different pants every day, but that was unnecessary. It added a lot of weight to my suitcases. I could have easily worn the same pair of pants at least twice.
Likewise, I took more tops and covers than needed. I ended up using a multi-colored, warm sweater several different times. I didn’t need t-shirts/blouses that each had their own matching cover or sweater.
Israel in the winter is not unlike Dallas, where I live. Some days it is warm and sunny, where shirt sleeves are all you need. Other days are bitter cold and you need a warm hat, scarf, gloves, and coat. We had both kinds of weather when we were there. So, it is important to take both warm and cool clothes.
Bottles of pills – anti-diarrhea, anti-gas, aspirin … I took brand new bottles of all three. They remain unopened. It was nice insurance to have them, but I could have combined several of each into one pill bottle or pill keeper and saved the space taken by three separate bottles.
My own metal water bottle. While I enjoyed having my insulated water bottle while traveling to NYC, I never used it again on the trip. It just took up space and added weight to my luggage.
A travel pillow and blanket. I bought a nifty memory-foam travel pillow that folds into its own bag. I was really proud of my purchase and was anxious to try it out on the long airplane ride to Tel Aviv. It ended up being too big. I could never get comfortable with it. It was so big and unwieldy that it gave me fits. If I wasn’t such a tightwad, I should have just left it in Israel instead of continuing to drag it around with me. I doubt I will ever try to use it again.
I took a $5 blanket, 50X60, along. I had read that you wouldn’t want to use the blanket provided by the airlines because the cleanliness would be questionable. Well, the blanket and pillow we received to use were in plastic bags and I didn’t worry about their cleanliness. I did cover up with my blanket in the room in Jerusalem, but I could have used the extra blanket in the room and saved my space and weight.
Bluetooth keyboard. I took a Bluetooth keyboard for my tablet. I never got it out of the bag. Now, it didn’t take up much space and added minimal weight, so I would likely take it again, but I didn’t ever use it while gone.
What I took that I am glad I had:
A raincoat with a hood. This jacket was easy to stuff into small spaces and was worn multiple times, sometimes to keep me dry and sometimes to keep my warm and sometimes for both.
An umbrella. I took a very small umbrella that easily fit into my purse. Again, we had quite a bit of rain during our visit to Israel so the umbrella was a handy tool to have available.
Compression socks. I am not sure the credit goes to the compression socks I bought and wore for much of the trip, but I had no problem with my legs or ankles or feet swelling while on my trip, including during the very long airplane rides.
Comfortable shoes. As I have mentioned, I wish I had taken a pair of hiking boots, but I am also glad that I had a pair of comfy, lightweight Skechers with their memory foam.
A warm sweater that blended with nearly everything I wore. I could have left a number of “covers” (sweaters, flannel shirts, etc.) at home and simply used the same sweater again and again. I loved the sweater I took, but I wish it had had pockets. Most of the clothes I took didn’t seem to have pockets and I really missed having them.
Short-sleeved and long-sleeved tops. Some days were warm and a short-sleeved top was plenty, especially when topped with the sweater that could easily be taken off if needed. Other days were bitter cold so long sleeves definitely felt good!
Slacks, leggings, jeans. I took too many pairs. I enjoyed leggings, especially on the long plane rides. Jeans were nice because they had pockets and were warmer than leggings (even though I took some that were fleece-lined.) I could have gotten by with two or three pairs of leggings (which take up little space and add minimal weight) and a pair or two of jeans. Instead, I took multiple pairs of slacks and jeans.
A good camera and lots of batteries and memory cards. I am a picture taker. I take lots and lots and lots of pictures (over 10,000 while I was on my 9-day tour, two of which were simply travel days). I went through three memory cards since I was recording my memories in JPEG and RAW. I took four batteries; two would have been enough.
A good adapter to use to charge electronics in the room. I bought one that had four USB ports and the capability of plugging in a separate charger. It worked like a dream.
A portable battery charger. I bought one that was perhaps too big and too heavy, but I used it daily to keep my phone charged so that I could take pictures everywhere we went.
Earphones. I, unfortunately, lost my over-the-ear earphones I took sometimes during our trip to Israel. I think they fell out of my bag on the plane between JFK and Warsaw. At any rate, while I had them, they were great. They kept out much of the plane noise so I was able to watch the Netflix movies I had downloaded onto my tablet during the very long, very cramped, very boring plane ride across the ocean from America. I really missed having them after losing them and considered buying more at the airport. I decided to suck it up and wait to buy some from Amazon – I don’t need name-brand, expensive earphones like I would have had to buy at the airport.
Tablet. I didn’t use my tablet a lot, but I certainly used it enough to justify taking it. I mostly watched movies on it, but I used it to access Facebook or email a time or two. I thought I might use it to take pictures, too, but ended up just using my Sony camera and Samsung Note 8 for that task.
Plenty of charging cords! I often had four plugged into the adapter. I charged my phone, tablet, camera, and portable battery all at the same time.
A nice travel purse. I bought a nice-sized lightweight purse that had RFID blocking and straps that couldn’t easily be slashed. It had pockets that locked closed and some that didn’t and that were easily accessible. I really fell in love with the purse and will continue to carry it even when I’m not traveling. It has pockets on each side for an umbrella and a water bottle.
A bigger bag that the travel purse, jacket, tablet, etc. fits into. I bought a big leather bag that I could stuff everything I might need during the day’s tour into. I always left it on the tour bus but never worried about not having everything I might need while away from the hotel.
Prescription meds. I bought small containers at Walmart to carry enough of my prescription medications for the trip.
Lotions, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant etc. My skin is very dry so I use special lotion/cream that I took along in small containers. Every hotel where we stayed provided soap, shampoo (and sometimes conditioner), and body lotion. Every hotel provided a hair dryer, too. If you want to take along a curling iron, you will need to get an adapter specifically for high voltage tools. The adapter I bought to charge electronics would not work for a curling iron.
When and if I ever go again, I will try to keep my rolling, checked bag to a weight of no more than 40 pounds. My backpack, I hope to keep under 20 or 25 pounds.
In my backpack, I put three changes of clothes, pajamas, and necessities. In the event my checked bag had been lost, I would have been situated for several days while, hopefully, my lost bag was found. Leggings and tops didn’t take up much space or add much weight but gave me confidence that I would be okay if my big bag took a while to arrive. As it turns out, all luggage made the same trip I did!
Well, congratulations if you are still reading this! It is quite lengthy, but I tried to cover everything in one spot regarding what to take and what not to take. It was difficult navigating so many different moves with as much weight as I took along. Next time, I will have plenty, but not too much!
Our tour of the Holy Land did not follow the timeline of Jesus’ life. For instance, we didn’t go to Bethlehem, where our Savior was born, until the sixth day of our visit. By the time we went to His birthplace, we had already seen where He was baptized and where He died, was buried, and rose again.
I have decided to try to put as much as I can into chronological order rather than how we saw the landmarks while on our tour. I think it will make more sense that way. Naturally, you can skip around this blog at your convenience and can visit whichever page(s) you desire in the order that pleases you.
It takes someone much smarter than I am to understand how the West Bank and occupied territories all work. I’ve tried to do some research on it all, but I am sorry to say that my mind is left spinning.
So, while I do not purport to understand it all, suffice it to say that Bethlehem is in the West Bank. Our Jewish Israeli tour guide was unable to accompany us into Bethlehem because it is under Palestinian rule.
There is a sign at the border warning Israelis that they could be hurt if they cross over into the West Bank. If I understand correctly, this is because of Israel laws, not Palestinian.
Therefore, we were given a Christian Palestinian to guide us through Shepherds’ Field and the Church of the Nativity. I wish I better understood all of the politics of it.
The Names of Bethlehem
Bethlehem plays an important role in both the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. In Biblical times, it was known as Bethlehem Ephrathah or Bethlehem-Judah. Currently, you may hear it referred to as Bethlehem or by its Arabic name Bayt Laḥm (which translates to “House of Meat”) or its Hebrew name, Bet Leḥem (meaning “House of Bread”).
Getting to Bethlehem
Today, Bethlehem is located in the West Bank. It is only about five miles south of Jerusalem, situated in the Judaean Hills. To get here, though, you have to cross out of Israel and into the West Bank. Fences and warnings abound.
In recent years, tourists quit going to Bethlehem because it was simply deemed to be too dangerous. However, the Palestinians have made great effort to remedy that situation since much of its economy is tourist-driven.
Bethlehem in Biblical Times
Bethlehem is important to Christians for many reasons, most especially because it is where our Savior was born over 2,000 years ago. The Church of the Nativity, which stands over the cave where Jesus was born, is one of the oldest Christian churches.
It was initially built by Helena (326-328), mother of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I. The original church was destroyed but it was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Justinian (reigned 527–565). It remains substantially the same today as it was then.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Bethlehem is important to Christian pilgrims for more reasons than “just” the birth of Christ:
Rachel, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Benjamin, died during childbirth on the way to Bethlehem (aka Ephrath). She was buried there. (Genesis 35:16-20)
It is where most of the Book of Ruth took place. Ruth married Boaz in Bethlehem. They ultimately became the great-grandparents of the mighty King David.
King David was born and raised in Bethlehem. It was there that he was anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 16).
King David’s grandson, Rehoboam, who became the first king of Judah (2 Chronicles 11), fortified the town.
Shepherds’ Field, where the Angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds tending their sheep and announced the birth of Christ is also near Bethlehem.
King Herod assassinated all boys in Bethlehem, ages two and under, in a jealous rage after he heard that Jesus, King of the Jews, was born. He hoped that by killing all young boys he would do away with the Christ-child.
The population of Bethlehem and surrounding villages today is over 220,000 people, including over 20,000 living in three refugee camps (Dheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin). While Christians made up most (86%) of the population of Bethlehem in 1950, that is no longer the case. Now, according to Bethlehem mayor Vera Baboun, Christians make up only 12% of the population.
Sadly, Baboun says that the unemployment rate in Bethlehem is a staggering 27%. Part of the reason for this high unemployment is the declining tourism trade. Most tourists, even if they go to Bethlehem, do not stay long and spend little of their money there.
When we were there as part of our tour, we ate lunch in Bethlehem, quickly visited Shepherds’ Field, spent an hour or so at the Church of the Nativity (including waiting to be allowed down to the cave over which the church sits), visited a very commercial, very expensive shop, and left.
I personally spent a total of $16 US in Bethlehem, the cost of my lunch. I suspect that was also the case for many of the other people who were on our tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t help Bethlehem’s local economy much by our visit.
Just for Fun
Before I leave this page, I want to leave you with a touch of America that has made it across the ocean to the West Bank. Not only did we pass a number of McDonald’s fast food restaurants during our journeys – some kosher, some not – we saw lots of other American companies represented in the Middle East.
Boy! I don’t know how you feel about it, but for me, 2018 has sped by like a bullet. I cannot believe that we are about to begin the holiday season. In some ways, I love this time of year.
What I love about this time of year…
I like the weather better, for sure. I live in Texas where it is hot a good portion of the year. I look forward to cooler temperatures and always dream of a “white Christmas,” though the likelihood of having one is quite slim.
Before I got lung cancer, I was passionate about grant writing for K12 education and running my dogs in agility. As a lung cancer patient, I am very passionate about the following five things…
Advocating for funding to support research
Anyone who knows me or reads much of what I write knows that I am absolutely consumed with trying to get more money for lung cancer research. Not only do I attempt to fundraise for various lung cancer-related organizations, but I also write to my state and federal legislators on a frequent basis. I always request funding in amounts as significant as the death rate from lung cancer demands.
Okay, this post is probably going to have a lot of people looking at me and thinking I have gone stark-raving crazy. But, here goes anyway!
What would life without cancer be like?
I participate in a forum whose participants have all kinds of different cancers. Today, a post was made that asked, “Do you get wrapped up in thinking about what might have been if cancer hadn’t come?” The person who asked the question is livid that she has cancer.
I recently saw a study that found that lung cancer patients who do not have anxiety or depression live longer than those who do.1 I was surprised to find this information because I have always been told that attitude might make your remaining life happier, but it has no impact on how long you live.
I have already written about my excitement on Monday when I got to be interviewed for NBC Nightly News. What fun that was!!! But, it was only the beginning of an incredible week!
First Monthly Opdivo Treatment
I had to rush to my treatment appointment after the NBC interview. For nearly five years, I have gotten my treatments every two weeks. My friends, that is a lot of doctor appointments, especially for someone who previously avoided doctors like the plague. On Monday, I started getting a double dose of Opdivo. I will only go for treatments once a month.
I am so excited to have more of my life returned to me. I was a little nervous though about potential side effects. Well, it is Friday night and I have felt fine the entire time since the treatment. Yes!!!
Fun in the Sun (and the Bluebonnets)
On Tuesday, my friend Deanna drove three-plus hours to meet me in Ennis, Texas. Ennis is known for its beautiful patches of bluebonnets, the Texas state flower. Now, if you live in Texas, you live for bluebonnet season! It is a rare Texan that doesn’t head out to the bluebonnets with their kids, their dogs, their grandmas, their husbands or wives for pictures.
Deanna and I had so much fun! She lives in Florida now so I don’t get to see her often. I was blessed that she spent one of her days of vacation in Texas with me. We had a blast driving all through Ennis and Palmer and surrounding communities searching for bluebonnets. I can’t say we found a lot, but we had a lot of fun laughing and talking up a storm!!
It had been a LONG time since I had had my good camera out. I was afraid I wouldn’t remember how to use it, but a lot of it came back to me. It was good to use it again. Unfortunately, I have to remember how to reduce the file size before I can share any of them here with you.
Wednesday was a day of rest, but Thursday found me back at the gym with my friend Linda. We have been trying to work out at least twice a week since the new year began. She is a little better about making the goal plus some than I am. That’s probably why she’s having a little better results than I am, too!
Nevertheless, while I guess it is not “fun,” exactly, to go to the gym, I do enjoy getting together with her. Despite being tired and sore when we leave, I do feel more energized. I can tell I am stronger. Now, if only, I would lose some weight … or at least … some belly.
Thursday afternoon, I listened to a Webinar on advocating to Congress in preparation for the Life and Breath rally in Washington, DC next week. Immediately following that, I participated in a market research call. I always like to do those, both because I make a little spending money and because it is fun to see what potential commercials will be coming out. Oddly, I liked all three commercials I was shown. I typically don’t like or can find ways to improve the ads I’m shown.
Today, I got to have another new experience. I got to participate as a presenter in a Webinar about immunotherapy. It was a lot of fun. I had worried about my Internet service not cooperating, but today it was good. If only the guy who does our yard hadn’t shown up just about the time the Webinar started… I suspect there will be a lot of lawn mowing noises in the background when the Webinar is published.
I also tried making a video to post on WhatNext. For a first try, it wasn’t bad. I got a kick out of the fact that Espy decided that it was the perfect time for some petting, affection, and purring. Like with the yard mowing, timing is everything!
I have a few down days now, which I need. I leave for Washington, DC on Wednesday morning. I have a 6AM flight so we’ll have to be at the airport by 4 AM. It takes about an hour to get there. Maybe I won’t go to bed??? I’m sleepy just thinking about it!
I hope you’ve also had a fun and interesting week!
“Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” –Frank Lloyd Wright
Since I have been surviving cancer, I have really, really enjoyed visiting the gardens at the Dallas Arboretum. Whether I go with friends or by myself, I am filled with gratitude and peace while I am there. I consider my enjoyment of the gardens as one of the blessings of having cancer, because unfortunately, before being diagnosed with cancer, I never took the time to go.
I am an animal lover. I always have been. When I was a little girl, my mother would let us have cats but not dogs. I remember frequently hugging a stuffed poodle and praying that God would turn it into a real dog.
As soon as I was on my own, I got a dog or two or three! I’ve had at least one my entire adult life. Usually, I have had two or more. They complete me. I suspect many of you know exactly what I mean. …More…