On the last day of July, my Dad turned sixty.

On the first day of August, he was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma.

It was sudden, horrifying, and a nausea-inducing roller coaster of various diagnoses to end up at that point.  His diagnosis was confirmed last Monday by a specialist in Memphis.

The tumor did have blood vessels, so according to the specialist, if it is intending to metastasize, it already has.  Whether or not it has spread to the rest of his body is yet to be seen – there will soon be tests, but those tests may be too early to be conclusive.

Following that, there will be more scans, treatments, and some level of vision loss – an intense journey.

A journey that I, for one, am not prepared to take.

I’ve been living in a blur for the past three weeks.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t slow down just because one needs to sit and process – there’s been a trip to New York, thousands of emails to answer, Vault Parties, my commitment to be a Birmingham Restaurant Week Blogger, preparing for a new year of homeschooling, and perhaps the hardest task of all to do well during this time – being a Mommy.

Although I’ve been careful to not say anything on social media until my Dad was ready for it to be public knowledge, it’s been a hard few weeks.  I’ve had many days of ups and downs, and in general have lived with a steady level of anxiety that has caused me to not be able to sleep or eat well, which has in turn made me sick and lose weight.  But throughout it all, there have been two things that have helped me redirect my mindset.

First of all, my Dad.  He has been tirelessly optimistic, disarming, and nearly unconcerned.  Every time I’ve talked to him, I’ve come away feeling as if I’m just being too dramatic about the whole thing – clearly, everything is perfectly fine.  His faith – and not just faith like “I believe” faith, but faith like “I believe so I actually feel differently” faith has exhorted me and convicted me about my own unnecessary anxiety.

In an email last week, Dad told me, “Too many times in my life stuff has happened to me that has seemed like the worst thing that could have happened, but God always works in way that I could never have imagined.  Seems silly, but I think it will be exciting to see how this will all be used for His glory.”

Yes – that is what I want.  That is the attitude I want.  That is how I want to live my life.

The second thing that has helped has been to constantly return to the Word of God, especially the Psalms.  There are so many passages of reminders of God’s Goodness, God’s control over everything, and of our safety when we rest in His arms.  On my most anxious of days, I’ve carved out a little extra time to just sit with my prayer journal and bible and just copy down verses – I’m sure that David doesn’t mind a little bit of plagiarism.


After a page or so, my heart begins to beat a little slower, and I can feel my anxiety loosening it’s grip on my mind.

I know that it will be a journey, and perhaps a long journey.  But I also am fully convinced that God does have it all under control, and already knows exactly what it will entail.

Psalm 3

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear…

As I write this, Ali is enjoying quiet time upstairs in her room.  Through the monitor, I hear her softly singing…

“He answers prayers, He answers prayers.

He answers prayers, He’s so good to me.”

She has no idea how very right she is.

My parents are still planning on taking their two week 40th anniversary adventure before any treatments begin.  The current schedule is to get scans to check for cancer in other areas of his body (primarily lungs and liver) this week, and then in five weeks, Dad will go back to Memphis for another evaluation.  Possible treatments include a weeklong placement of a radioactive “plaque” on the back of his eye to attempt to destroy the tumor.  Your prayers are appreciated!

136 thoughts on “A New Journey.

  1. We have been praying for your Dad (and your entire family) since last week when the request was made known to us. This journey won’t be walked alone…for your parents nor for you and your siblings. God is sovereign…and while we often don’t understand, we can trust Him. We will continue to pray for you all–that you feel the presence of God, that you see His hand at work, that you rely on Him for the faith, trust and peace that you need. He, too, is walking this journey with you and will never leave you not forsake you. We loved your parents first…and now have grown to love you and your family! Much, much prayers….

  2. You and your family are in my thoughts. I hope your faith and love will provide a bit of comfort, but I can only imagine how worried you are. Take care.

  3. Our prayers will be with you. My kids love to have specific things to pray about and I love them to have the experience of seeing God answer. Thank you for allowing us the privilege of joining in.

  4. I would love to put your Dad on our prayer list at church. What is his name? I will be lifting your entire family up in my prayers. Remember, God sees the whole picture, when at times like this, we can only see a few feet in front of us. ((Hugs))

  5. Rachel, I love your blog, but rarely comment…this requires a comment :). My heart hurts for you because I know that special daddy-daughter bond. I am 29, my dad will be turning 55 this week. Seeing health problems creep up is nothing you can be prepared for. They only thing we can do is pray, rely on God, and deal with things with as much grace as possible. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  6. Oh Rachel I am so sorry. :( You are going at it with the right attitude, though, (easier said than done, I know) and I love what your dad said about being excited to see how the Lord uses this for His glory. I will add you and your family to my prayer list!

  7. i’m so sorry this is happening to your family. how hard. thank goodness your family are believers. i’ve always wondered how people get through circumstances like this with no support and hope from the Lord. there is no hope but for the hope that we share. and He is enough. but still hard stuff indeed.

  8. Our Lord is with us every second of every day. May His peace and comfort be with you, your family and all your Dad’s friends until this is over. He will be in my prayers everyday until you tell me his is well and fine. Prayers for all the family. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. Please take care of yourself and take one day at a time. I do not have to tell you how much I love you but I want to say it to you. And I think your parents are the most wonderful people.

  9. Rachel, I love the paragraph where you make the distinction between faith (I believe/I believe so I feel different) beautiful words and a great way of explaining how people feel when it’s their hurdle and God is bringing them through it. We have felt that way through our recent loss and you put the words to what we were feeling – THANKS!
    Psalm 40 is a great one too – God is writing a new song for the Zannis family to sing and your dad is prepping for his solo. What a great faith legacy for your family.

    1. Thank you, yes – being able to be different because of faith is the hard part. Something I’m working on every day! And thanks for the Psalm reference!

  10. Psalms 126:5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Our family has had many trials lately. Sudden health changes that will change our family’s way of doing things. I belive that God will be glorified by your Dad. His wisdom about how God takes a life event and makes it into something grand. Know that I am praying for you.

  11. Rachel,
    My heart goes out to you. I am praying that God will make His presence known to you and your family in the journey ahead. I pray that your faith will be strengthened and that God will take this opportunity to “show off.”

    Anytime you or your folks head up to Memphis, give me a holler. Winfield is an excellent place to take a potty break on the way…and I don’t live far from the interstate. Usually my bathrooms are slightly less scary than those of the gas stations. I make a mean cup of coffee…or chocolate milk.

    Thinking of you today, friend.

  12. I will definitely pray, Rachel.

    My mom has some potentially scary medical stuff going on (but without any conclusive diagnoses yet), so I can relate at least a little to the anxiety and worry.

    But you are doing exactly what you should–turning to the Lord and carrying on with assurance in His sovereignty.

    He honors that…always…no matter what form it takes.

    Praying for a swift diagnosis of all elements of his condition and for a miraculously easy recovery!

  13. rachel, i can’t even begin to imagine the pain and anxiety that you must be feeling. i will most definitely keep you and your family in my prayers. your dad’s outlook on this is beautiful and i can only hope to strive for that kind of faith. thank you for sharing…

  14. Dear Rachel,
    My heart is hurting for you. We’ve had serious family health issues this year and I understand that anxiety. The Lord IS faithful to give us peace and I pray that He will just overwhelm you and your whole family with His love and comfort. “For ye have not received a spirit of bondage again for fear, but ye have received a spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. In like manner the Spirit joins also its help to our weakness; for we do not know what we should pray for as is fitting, but the Spirit itself makes intersession with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:15, 26. These have been a comfort to me, because even when we are overwhelmed by fear the Spirit intercedes on our behalf, when we don’t know what to pray we can just call “Daddy-Father” and He knows exactly what we need. Much love to you.

  15. Oh man, Rachel. I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you. Praise the Lord you are trusting in Him through all things! You truly are a light shining in the darkness. I will definitely be praying for you and your family. You are loved!

  16. I am so sorry to hear about this! Your dad sounds like a very strong man with an even stronger faith. His faith, as well as God will get you through this, no matter the outcome. Praying for all of you!

  17. Praying… I LOVE that he is excited to see how God will receive Glory through this! I pray that I could have that attitude when the unexpected happens and my faith is tested…What a blessing he is!

  18. Rachel-I am so so sorry you all are going through this. What a wonderful example your father is for us-and you too. Although I know without a shadow of doubt the Word is the first place I need to turn to I don’t so many times. You are an encouragement to me.

  19. It is never easy to post about personal issues and as a faithful follower I appreciate you opening up about your dad so that we (all of us bloggers) can send prayers for your dad…there is power in prayer I firmly believe.

    Your dad is being so positive and this news is not setting him or your mom back from going on their trip which is great and I hope they have an awesome time.

    I will be praying for you too, Rachel, this will not be an easy road but one that you will be able to get through.

    Prayers and Hugs my friend

    1. Thank you so much! You’re right – blogging about the REAL stuff is the hardest type of post to write. I appreciate your understanding and your prayers!

  20. Oh Rach! (and Chris, and JC and Lindsay, and your sweet Mama, and Nick and all the kiddos!)
    Y’all know we know all too well the horrifying news of cancer…
    I’m so sorry, and know that we are praying for y’all! Your dad is an amazing person, and I have NO DOUBT that God will use this trial for His glory. But I know that it’s a very, very difficult road. One that I know y’all would rather not take…
    Love your sweet family!

  21. Wow Rachel, I know that this must be hard for you all. I will keep you all in my prayers. Your father’s faith is inspiring as is yours. I will make sure to include your family in my prayers more specifically than when I ask him to protect my friends.

  22. I’ll be praying for your family. I’m a daddy’s girl, too, so I can only imagine how hard this must be to watch him go through this. I would encourage you to read through the Caring Bridge site of Laura Black. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her by now…she’s a Birmingham mom who recently went to be with Jesus after a 5 year battle with cancer. Her caring bridge blog is the most honest, beautiful thing I’ve ever read. Her words on suffering, anxiety, joy, going though treatment, fighting for life, etc. are some of the most encouraging things I have ever read. You can find it here:

  23. Rachel – When my mom was sick with brain cancer, a friend of mine sent me this note, and it is something I came back to often during her illness:
    “May you know that your family cannot be plucked from His hand, and that, ultimately, His sovereignty cannot and will not be shaken – He is still on His throne and not panicked about this in the slightest bit… He’s still leading you by still waters and making you lie in green pastures.”
    I can’t offer better words than those that gave me such comfort.

  24. Rachel, I’m so sorry to hear this. I know this is a familiar passage but Romans 8:28 is straight to the point. While not all things are good, God does work them for good. I know that is difficult to remember 100% of the time but in those lucid intervals it’s very comforting. I’ll be praying for your sweet family.

  25. So very sorry to hear this …….your father has a beautiful faith! And it appears you have a great army of supporters! I so look forward to the time here on earth when “…. no resident will say, ‘ I am sick’. ( Isa 33:24) Joining my heartfelt prayers to the many voices raised in his and your behalf, to the “Hearer of Prayer”.

  26. Oh Rachel, I am so sorry to hear this. Another good thing about this blog is that you can share information like this and have many more prayers going up! Will be praying for your Dad and the rest of your family as you cope with emotions and the many aspects of this new journey.

  27. You have an amazing ability to write compassionately and eloquently even in situations of extremely high stress. I wish the best for you and your family during these times.

  28. I am so encouraged by this. Thanks for sharing about how the word is strengthening your faith even in hard times! Keep posting about his progress, and how the Lord sustains him during it all. And keep teaching awesome songs to your daughter…love that song! :)

  29. It is so devastating when cancer of hits any of your family members. Not only will I do my best to pray for healing, I will ask for strength for your entire family.

  30. Rachel, A big hug to you and prayers for your family. Thank you for sharing your dad’s words of wisdom and outlook on this journey. He is so right!

  31. Your dad sounds like a great man and a seasoned warrior. How fortunate you are to have that heritage in your family. Your dad won my heart when you started sharing about his cars on your blog. I will be praying for this big man of God. We need more like him to help us walk on this road called life.

  32. Oh Rachel, I am so sorry. Through this trial, I’m sure God will work it out to his glory, as your dad said. One of our closest friends (the best man in our wedding) is dealing with terminal cancer; he blogs, and his posts are definitely bringing glory to God. You can check out his blog here, if you’d like: . And here is a link to his posts on cancer: . Anyway, I pray y’all will be surrounded with wise doctors, helpful friends, peace, strength, and healing.

  33. Praying right this moment that you and your family will feel the strong arms of Jesus surrounding you and pulling you close to Him. Peace that passes understanding.

  34. Praying for your Dad and for your family from Brisbane, Australia. Thinking of you in this hard time. I know what this is like becuase my father has struggled with serious health complications of late too. God is bigger than this. Love and hugs.

    1. Thank you so much! And I’m so sorry about your Dad, as well. It’s such a difficult thing to go through! I’ll be praying for your Dad and family.

  35. Just wanted you to know that I am praying for your dad, as well as the rest of the family. His faith is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  36. I love the stories about your dad – and such a cute pic with Noah in the Olde Truck! Know that my prayers are going up for your dad and your whole family – for strength and healing! God can be mysterious in His reasons. But one of my favorite stories of yours (regarding prayer) was that while you were pregnant with Noah, you and your friends prayed that you would “feel” labor this time. Whoo-boy, talk about God listening to your prayers! =)

  37. Rachel- so very sorry that your dad and the rest of your family are having to deal with this! What a great attitude both of you have about it- it’s very clear that he taught you well how to deal with such news! Stay strong- you are all in my prayers!

  38. Rachel, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad’s diagnosis. What a wonderful attitude he has; I’m sure that’s a comfort to your whole family. I will be thinking the very best thoughts for you all.

  39. Rachel — I was diagnosed with melanoma last year. A weird spot on my back (that my husband noticed when we were…um…well, you know…)…anyway, it was a weird spot right in the center of my back by my spine that I could never have seen on my own. He was worried enough about it to mention it in the middle of our You Know What, so I made an appointment the next day. When I went to the dermatologist, they immediately said “we are taking that off right now and putting a rush on the testing,” which everyone knows is a bad, bad sign. Long story short, I had huge surgery on my back two days before Thanksgiving last year and spent a LOT of time during the holidays thinking about how to deal with the worst possible scenario since our daughter is only 9 years old.

    Turns out, it wasn’t the worst possible scenario. No spread to my lymph nodes that we’ve been able to find and my back has healed (mostly). But I’m still trying to eat more healthfully and take better care of myself.

    Two cookbooks that I have found incredibly helpful were written by a dietician who works with a cancer center program for folks going through chemo and all sorts of other rough treatment plans. She has a lot of wonderfully healthy recipes for when your dad is feeling great but she also has — and this was the part that I was most interested in when I was certain we were worst case scenario — recipes for when you are dealing with fried tastebuds and rough going through chemo. Her name is Rebecca Katz. Her cookbooks can be ordered easily through amazon or B&N — one is entitled The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and the other is One Bite at a Time.

    I am not exaggerating when I say that they were life-changing for me, because they gave me something to be proactive about at a time when I felt powerless and helpless. I will keep your dad in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope that these cookbooks give you the same measure of comfort that they did for me. Even if there is a worst-case scenario — and I pray that there is nothing but good news from here on out — you’ll be armed with something you can do to make him comfortable and a little happier along the way. Hugs, hon.

  40. I’m sending prayers your way. I know what it is like to have a sick parent. 4 years ago my mom went to the hospital to have a cyst removed from her pancreas & the surgery went fine, but her recovery didn’t see passed just over a month after the surgery. She never went home from the hospital. She went in for a surgery that the surgeon was promising she would recover from in time for my wedding wedding 4 months letter. What amazes me the most about the whole situation is when she decided to leave her life in God’s hands & have all the life assisting equipment removed, she was still trying to comfort me. She was worried about me & my dad not about the fact she was dying. That is what I try to focus on now when I think of her & this time of year. The best advice I can give you is enjoy every day!

  41. Rachel, I will pray for your dad. His faith is a reminder in my own life that prayer is nothing without faith that God is the answer. God is a lot bigger than any tumor. Just believe and don’t doubt. Keep reading those psalms of encouragement.

  42. It’s funny (odd) that I found this tonight. I’d read your blog earlier about mom butt jeans and for some reason, I read it again tonight. And, tonight, I decided to read more through your blog. I ran across this post and it flooded me with so many emotions from about 4 years ago. My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was a VERY scary time and my husband was deployed. And, for a while, I made his illness about me… What would I do without my dad? What would my daughter do without her grandfather? He can’t get sick because he can’t leave ME. But eventually, here’s what I learned from that situation– God’s purpose is bigger than ours. And, it’s funny because I also just recently had this discussion with my husband who lost his uncle to cancer at the beginning of the summer. I feel like EVERY situation we are placed in is under His will and if that’s true and He is in control, even if the unthinkable happens, it still brings glory to Him. Yes, it hurts us. We ache with fear and worry and yet we can never change that. Every event in life adds up to make us who HE wants us to be. If the very best scenario happens, your dad will be cured of this cancer and you’ll walk away with a better understanding of God’s will, a better prayer life, and a deeper appreciation for God’s strength and power. If the very worst happens, and your dad becomes so ill that he can’t fight this then you’ll come away with the exact same things. God is making you (and everyone else affected) into what He needs and wants you to be. His purpose and will is bigger than ours.

    Another story- A guy I went to church with several years ago was born with a heart defect. He’d had several surgeries to correct it but there came a point when he just needed more than a surgery could provide. He needed a new heart at 24 years old. He collapsed one Sunday in church and went into the hospital. Sadly, he never left. He was too sick to leave the hospital because they couldn’t control when/where he’d collapse the next time. Then, he got his heart but had a freak reaction to the medicine he needed to be on. That’s actually why he died…not his heart. His brand new heart, even then, was functioning perfectly. He LOVED our church. He LOVED to invite people to church. He lead student groups. He truly LOVED Jesus and worshiped every Sunday like it might be his last. And so, he has this crazy legacy at our church. He invited and invested in so many people who’ve come to know Jesus. I fully believe he did it so much because he didn’t know how much time on this earth he had. He invited a LIFETIME’S worth of people to church in just a few short years and I’m not certain he would’ve had he not felt a sense of urgency to see the people he loved and cared about come to know Jesus before he left this earth. They, in turn, have invited and invested in people and had people come to know Jesus. It’s a beautiful picture of God taking something horrible and awful and making it beautiful and amazing.

    All this to say, your dad is absolutely RIGHT.

    AND YET, today’s sermon was about BOLD prayers and I learned so much more about my prayer life and how it is truly lacking. My pastor showed us time and time again when God answered people’s bold prayer with a bold response. So pray, pray, pray! Pray specifically for your dad’s health, pray for how your family holds up during this crazy, trying and tiring time, pray for strength for him, pray for understanding. Pray about it ALL.

    And lastly, we’ve been singing this song a lot lately and it gets me every time. Hillsong wrote it. It’s amazing.
    God Is Able
    He Will Never Fail
    He Is Almighty God

    Greater Than All We Seek
    Greater Than All We Ask
    He Has Done Great Things

    Lifted Up
    He Defeated The Grave
    Raised To Life
    Our God Is Able
    In His Name We Overcome
    For The Lord
    Our God Is Able
    [ Lyrics from: ]
    God Is With Us
    God Is On Our Side
    He Will Make A Way
    Far Above All We Know
    Far Above All We Hope
    He Has Done Great Things

    Repeat Chorus

    God Is With Us
    He Will Go Before
    He Will Never Leave Us
    He Will Never Leave Us

    God Is For Us
    He Has Open Arms
    He Will Never Fail Us
    He Will Never Fail Us

  43. I’m so sorry to read about your Dad, but wow, what a wonderful example he has set about living life in Faith! I know I personally struggle with giving up control to God, especially when it comes to those I love the most. I will be praying for you and your family as you all walk through this journey and I pray that you will all find comfort in your faith.

    PS – Whenever you blog about your dad, I always think of his guest post about his trip to the post office. The last line always makes me laugh. I know where you get your wonderful sense of humor!

  44. I’m praying for you and your family daily. I know how anxiety can get to you during a time like this. Don’t let it get the best of you like I let it get the best of me. Love you.

  45. I don’t know how I missed this post! Praying for all of you! At times like these I do not know how anybody can make it through without a faith. When life seems out of control it is so comforting ( even if just a little) to hold on to the One who is unchanging!

  46. I have had the privilege to meet your folks here in Memphis at the Hope Lodge. They have been great company and I have enjoyed our brief but interesting talks. I am sure you know how exceptional they both are and want you to know their stay in Memphis has certainly touched others. We compare notes to see how our treatment and conditions are similar and different. I discovered your blog while reading his. I hope you have decades to continue building family memories. As I told him this morning, he should write his memoirs part 1 as I am sure part 2 will have plenty to add in later years.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing! I agree – he definitely needs to write a book about all of his adventures!!
      I hope that you are also feeling better soon!

  47. I am so sorry to hear about your dad,
    just remember that in mark 4:35-41 Jesus calms the storm so all you have to do is ask God to calm yours
    thinking of you, God bless.

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