Saturday, March 8, 2014

Joy In Small Town USA

I was invited recently to do a radio interview at a country station in Ashland, Alabama to talk about my cancer survival and my books. Since it was a pretty good drive from my house (plus the interview was at 7:30AM), I decided to drive down the night before and stay in a bed and breakfast facility (one of the few lodging facilities in Ashland, Alabama).  Little did I realize what a joyful trip this would become.

Basically, to get to Ashland, I had to drive to Talladega (home of the Talladega 500, for you race fans) and go south about forty five minutes.  I made a few turns in Talladega with the help of a GPS system which I had borrowed from my in laws and eventually landed on the Ashland Highway, a two-laned road (occasionally three lanes) which took me through the country to Ashland.  Going through a wooded area, I kept waiting for a deer to dart out in front of my car but thankfully the woods were quiet.

I arrived at Brown Gables, a bed and breakfast inn which is over a hundred years old.  The owners, Ellen and Michael, had restored this facility in magnificent fashion, even after a massive fire had gutted it several years before. I was impressed by the massive ceilings, the abundance of antiques strewn about the place, and most importantly, my bedroom.  I don't know much about antiques but I slept in a bed that was raised high off the ground with high bedposts.  As a matter of fact, I had to use a stool just to climb on the bed.  I also had a fireplace in my bedroom which I didn't use.  Of course, there were all sorts of trinkets on the dressers and walls, so many special articles that I was afraid I would break something.  I was also afraid I would fall off the bed during the night, quite a distance before I would hit the floor.

I awoke the next morning and drove through downtown Ashland, past the splendid Ashland Courthouse and followed a road through some hills and valleys until I finally arrived at WCKF 100.7 FM, a country station nestled on top of the mountains.  A black dog named Isabel lovingly embraced me as I got out of my car, continuing to add to the splendor of my trip.  A few minutes later I sat down with David and Teresa, who both made me feel welcome as I began the radio interview.  At the close of the interview a couple of people called the station and received autographed copies of my books.  A local pastor's wife also called, stating she wanted a copy of both of my books for their church library.  Afterwards, I dropped by Brown Gables to pick up my luggage and headed home.

Yet, I couldn't forget the sense of wonder I felt in the radio station. After having cancer, major surgery and chemotherapy years ago, little did I realize where it would take me.  In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined ending up in a radio station on a mountain in the country.  Visiting the bed and breakfast inn also would have been improbable had it not been for cancer.

I wrote my first book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer", to describe the many difficult places I had to go due to cancer, e.g. major surgery, multiple hospitalizations, lingering effects from chemotherapy, etc.  Little did I realize the happy places I would go because of cancer, e.g radio interviews, TV interviews, visiting places I had not seen before and meeting people I had not known before.  As C. S. Lewis titled one of his books, cancer has given me "joy by surprise".

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