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Posts from the ‘Rwanda’ Category

A death-defying dive into life

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Photo: Julia Fullerton-Batten

If you ask me, there’s nothing worse than jumping off a high dive. Unless you are pushed. And that’s exactly what cancer is like.

I wasn’t ready to dive into the chilling waters of breast cancer. Swim through weeks of radiation. Or tread through years of meds. I found myself looking out over the deep end of worry and fear, then suddenly, I was plunging in.

Growing up, I was the kid at Tanglewood Swim Club who would climb to the top of the high dive, walk to the end, and then stand there for what seemed like hours, staring at the water and contemplating my fate. Which, of course, was always death.

If you jump from something this high, I reasoned, you’ll die. It was that simple.

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“High Dive” by Norman Rockwell

Day after day I would face My Giant. Today’s the day, I’d tell myself.

But no matter how stalwart my resolve, I always came to the same conclusion. And I’d climb down and make everyone waiting on the ladder behind me, climb down, too.

I knew they resented me, the girl in the pink polka-dot two piece. I was a wimp. A nerd. A scaredy cat. (It did help that my handsome older brother was a lifeguard and surely saved me from some terrible fate.)

But this post is not about cancer or dying. It’s about living. Here’s what I’ve learned.

It was my unexpected dive into cancer that taught me to have faith. To trust. When you’re on your way down, the best place to look is up.

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Secondly, it taught me that there really is a fate worse than death. And that is to never really live at all.

So I began living. Wide-eyed-in-your-face-out-loud-living. And that is when some of my great adventures began.

First, there was Paris (my post-radiation trip—thank you, Stephen).

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Then Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills.

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In a few weeks I’m heading to London for my five-year survivor trip (I fancy being the cheeky blonde, below, second from the right).

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But my newest and most fearful adventure is Defying Small, the online community I recently founded for visionaries who are daring to live bigger, more passionate lives. People like Torre DeRoche (you go, girl!) the #fearfuladventurer herself.

This summer I will be writing a book called Defying Small: How Defining Life Moments Can Help You Live A Bigger, More Passionate Life. I’m terrified. I also can’t wait to get out of bed every morning.

I’ve come a long way since those climbs up the ladder of the high dive back in my hometown.

Now, whenever I look over the terrifying precipice of my latest adventure and contemplate my fate, I simply shout “Let’s go, baby!” and dive right in.


Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.” Nomadicmatt.com

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…


My Top Thirteen for 2013

Mixed media collage "Life" by Rachel Bradley

Mixed media collage “Life” by Rachel Bradley

While some of you have been making your list of Top Ten New Years’ Resolutions, I’ve been pondering My Top Thirteen Moments On Planet Earth (in honor of 2013).

This is surely a work-in-progress, but, for now, here they are:

1) Receiving the gifts of Love and Forgiveness from Above (thank you, Jesus).

2) Mother moments: Finding out I was having twins, and, later, #3. Holding Elizabeth, Hannah and Annie in my arms for the first time. And every moment since May 2, 1989, 9:48 pm.

3) Priceless moments with family and friends. Finding Fiona (my fuzzy girlfriend).

4) My first poem/published article/newspaper column/typewriter/writing desk.

5) Lunch with Ruth Bell Graham at Little Piney Cove. Weekend writing retreat with Madeleine L’Engle.

6) Lunch with handsome boyfriend on the Eiffel Tower.

7) Photo shoot in the Mediterranean with Regent Seven Seas. Standing on the balcony of the Sicilian villa where they filmed “The Godfather II” while someone played “Speak Softly Love” on a piano below.

8) Life-changing travel experiences: Rwanda (2010). Paris (2008). Turkey, Greece, Italy, Sicily, France, Spain (2004, 2006). Dominican Republic (2004). Romania, Belarus (1995). Latvia, Estonia, Russia (1990).

9) Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for the first time in a rented convertible. Yeah, baby.

10) Moments en Francais: Seeing Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Monet’s “Waterlillies.” Minueting in the garden at Versailles.

11) Seeing an angel in Carrboro, NC, while tooling along in my 1968 VW Beetle. True story (I have a witness).

12) Being at the bedside of my parents as they slipped from this world to the next.

13) Finally, all the millions of unspoken, and yet, profound, moments that have shaped who I am today. Grateful for each and every one.

April 6, 1994

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the beginning of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

I wrote about the genocide when I began working as a staff writer for Samaritan’s Purse in October of ’94. I poured over photos. Talked to field personnel. I wrote to make sense of the madness. I wrote so others could make sense of it, too.

Then, last year, I traveled to Rwanda for the first time. There I met Florence. Lambert. Jeanne D’Arc. Odilo. Rose. Jennifer. Bibi. Richard. Andrew. And Sarah.

The first six are survivors. Each of them has a story and each story is heart-wrenching.

Bibi, Richard, Andrew, and Sarah were not yet born or are too young to remember.

And, yet, what they all have in common is hope. And a deep and abiding faith in God.

Rwanda is a beautiful country. Its people are strong and resilient. Despite the obstacles, and there are many, they are moving with confidence into the future.

Anne Frank once said, “I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that remains.”

And there is beauty in Rwanda. So much beauty.

Becoming grace

God's grace is becoming

Year of All Years

A process for your best year yet.

6 Months to Live: The Experiment Continues

Life is waiting. Will you join me?