A Rogue Wave


Maui, December 2010



Patrick, the girls and I went to Maui for the first time in December of 2010. Christmas week. Amazing. Left a piece of my soul there. Truly.

One afternoon, the girls and I went down to the beach without Patrick.  He went for a ride up Mt. Haleakala (the volcano) or down, or both probably.  I don’t know.  He could ride all day on Maui.  Anyway, it was a girls’ afternoon.  Olivia was 12 and Isabelle was 10.  Never mind how old I was.

It was the warmest day we had all week. The sun was scorching and the sand was hot.  We found a place to lay our towels and got settled.  Paradise.  How lucky are we to be here?  How beautiful is this place?  The hibiscus grows everywhere and their scent is welcoming and soothing.  The palm trees are huge and lush, and their shade is cool and refreshing.




We didn’t have an umbrella so we went straight into the shallow water to cool off.  We stayed knee deep.  Clear, beautiful water.  We were literally frolicking.  The girls were so happy.  I was totally relaxed.  I happened to turn around just in time to see a wave coming at us.  Like, a big wave. In that instant, I remembered what someone had said about never turning your back on the ocean.


Too late.


I called out to the girls and then I was underwater.  My face hit the ocean floor. I was upside down and inhaling salt water.  I very clearly remember thinking to myself “Okay I kind of know where the girls are and I think I can get to them as soon as I can stand up.”  I had this conversation with myself while flailing around trying not to lose my swimsuit.  It was one of my least graceful moments.  Ever.

But then, somehow, I was standing up again. The girls were just out of reach, but they were fine.  Freaked out, but fine.

Winded from our one-minute ordeal that felt like an hour, we retreated to the safety of our beach towels to catch our breaths.  I lost my good sunglasses.  And it took an eternity to clean the sand out of our swimsuits, and other places.  We ended up having to throw away Olivia’s new, yellow bikini. It was hopelessly full of sand in unreachable corners of the fabric and it had turned a permanent shade of dirt brown.

Never turn your back on the ocean. Got it.


I don’t know what it’s like to be the one with cancer.  But I do know this…that wave…


That feeling of being knocked off your feet and unable to take a breathe.  THAT is what it’s like to love someone with cancer.  One minute, I’m going about my day thinking we’re doing great and we have this treatment plan under control and we are basically professional carrot juicers and the outlook is oh so positive.

Then a rogue wave comes out of nowhere and I’m under water, upside down, face in the sand, no air.

But then the wave passes over me and disappears, as waves always do.  And I get up.  And I breathe—deep, calming yoga breathes just like I’ve been practicing for 15 years.  And I say a prayer or a scripture. Out loud.  Back on my feet, I look around, wipe away the tears and refocus.  I think about how many people are supporting us and loving us.  I think about how having a positive attitude is a must in this fight.

Those moments always remind me of that day back in 2010.  Even after my unsettling experience on that beach — I still love the ocean. I still love that exact spot on Maui.  LOVE it.  And I would return to that breathtaking beach tomorrow if I could.  In fact, I have.  And I will again.  You can count on that.  Team Burke will go back to Maui.

One rogue wave won’t keep me from getting back in the water.

And one moment of weakness won’t keep me from fighting on and believing with all of my heart and soul that we’ve got this. I may lose my balance. I may lose my composure.  But I will stand up again.

We’ve. Got. This.



Wailea Beach, Maui