October was not only birthday month but test month. I’ve had a mammogram, blood test, colonoscopy, a CT scan plus I met with my new oncologist ( by video call). New doc is nice and listens, maybe because I’m right there in his face. The good news is my scan came back clear. I still need to go in for a endoscopy as I am still having trouble swallowing.
Between the lack of appetite and trouble swallowing I have to keep an eye on my weight. Ironically this time last year I was buying bigger pants, they don’t fit now without pins. My weight has always been an “issue”.
Eating because I was sad, happy, bored used to be a thing. A joy of thru hiking was getting to eat anything and a lot of it. Mmm, food. Now, well it’s a chore and a complication. I lagged on my last hike because couldn’t eat enough calories. So much of everything revolves around food. When I go out with friends first order of business is locating the restroom in case I get hit with nausea. I have to eat slowly, I hate having people wait for me. Hate wasting food but sometimes it’s just too much.
So my unsolicited advice is take care of yourself..but eat the damn cake!
On the upside my CT scan did come back good. More tests in December to figure out the swallowing issue. Til then I’m working on a new project, waxing up my skis and looking forward to getting back in the mountain this winter.
Waking up in my tent I felt the familiar pit in my stomach like before every backcountry hiking trip. But this was kinda different. I can’t do this. I’m not sure I want to do this, what if something goes wrong, breaks, hurts……When did I become this person. Oh yeah it came with my cancer diagnosis. Side effects: Fear and self-doubt.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After my surgery I didn’t do much of anything. What could I do? What was I supposed to do? So I spent days dreaming about getting back to hiking and my life in general. Knowing I needed to start out slow I latched onto an old idea of hiking the Trans Catalina Trail.
The trail runs along Catalina Island, which is 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. (trail distance 38.5 miles), Planning and getting there is an adventure in itself, and part of why I’ve always put it off. There are reservations for campsites and a 60-90 minute boat ride via the Catalina Express. (oh and if you happen to mess up and book your campsite on the wrong day they charge you $9.00 to cancel! Tourist trap.) After getting thoroughly ripped off it was time to pull together some gear.
My pack, shoes and sleeping system is alway at the ready, cuz you never know. But I needed to get some new trekking poles and I had to borrow a tent from a friend. I was gonna purchase a new tent but the fearful,doubting voice in my head was all “what if it goes badly, you never backpack again and you’re stuck with a tent you’ll never use again”. I was listening to the voice.
So on Monday I drove up to Dana Point to catch the ferry. By the time I got on the afternoon ferry lugging my heavy pack I was tired and slept the whole boat ride. After a quick bite to eat (two bites of a grilled cheese, I can’t eat much in one setting anymore. This was a concern knowing the calories I’d burn hiking) I walked sweating to the first campsite. Finding my spot quickly, I threw up my tent, crawled in as if I could hide. It was still light out.
The pit in my stomach only highlighted my lack of appetite. Oh well, I popped my meds (a new addition to my gear list). I packed early/quickly before I talked myself into going right back to the ferry. The climbing started straight away. It really sucked when people started passing me. The voice in my head was singing a different tune “no worries, we have all day”. I drank more water….if I couldn’t bring myself to eat at least I could be hydrated.
There was a lot of, well, stopping and resting. It’s an exposed trail with endless ups and downs. I wasn’t moving much faster than the first buffalo I saw on a hilltop. Super happy to finally make my campsite (Backpackers can stay at four campgrounds along the way, each with bathrooms and running water.) I tried to force down a dehydrated meal, but it didn’t go down well. Eventually I just ended up eating ramen with two flavor packs. I needed the salt desperately for the cramps in my legs.
Sure it’s been awhile since I did a multiday hike. But you would have thought this was my first time. Waking to a thick layer of fog and cool drizzle it dawned on me I didn’t even pack a rain jacket or even long sleeves! But I live in the desert, whats rain? Looking at the elevation for the day I said screw it, popped my meds and I started hiking in the drizzle. The drizzle soon ended but the overcast sky made for a much cooler hike! A very nice ranger gifted me some water, I needed it. Later, at one point I rounded a corner, I came upon two bison one coming right towards me, one lolling on the hillside. I stopped. The buffalo, with huge a head, shaggy beard and sharp horns, stared at me. I took some steps back. There is currently a herd of about 160 on the island. Having hunted bison, back in my hunting phase, I wasn’t too scared.
Expecting to get into Two Harbors after 5, fueled by Skittles I made it by 3pm! Yah me! But I was hella tired and some how missed the campsite by a 1/4 mile.
As I dragged myself to the local store I heard someone call in my direction. Odd. I turned and a you guy approached. He told me he followed me on IG and had hiked the PCT. I rarely meet people like that. Our chat was short, but his kind words and generosity meant so much. Thanks Branden. In an era of diversity inclusion and rasied tensions more people have helped me than tried to hurt me. That has been my outdoor experience.
I would have love to beach camp at Parson’s Landing, but everyone does and it was full. So I did some eplorative hiking and then beat it back to catch the shuttle boat then hop on the ferry. All in all It is was a tough challenging time but that is how we grow the most. My faith (in my abilities) was not completely restored and many adaptations are necessary to hike in my current state. But I’m not giving up or giving in. The fear, doubt and cancer will not win.
It’s weird what you don’t know until you need to know. I considered myself pretty healthy and active prior to my diagnosis. I’m dealing with it. (side note that used to be the name of my very first blog) How am I dealing with it? They (the docs) have me on “targeted drugs”. It’s primarily a chemo pill that I take everyday at home. Plus a reflux drug and an alphabet of vitamins. Yes there are side effects; like stomach upset, vomiting, muscle pain, skin changes, memory issues and feeling generally tired.
It’s not the chemo everyone knows. So I tend to get treated as fragile by my family (as they saw me at my worst) unresponsive in the hospital. Then others who haven’t seen me for months think “hey she looks fine”. The scars are mostly hidden and the turmoil is on the inside. I’m not fragile but I’m not ok. That’s easier to write than to say out loud.
Learning to live with a cancer diagnosis has been difficult and very stressful. But you guessed that. The change in my cognitive/physical abilities has caused significant distress. I become overwhelmed, at times, with multiple tasks, distractions. Just leaving the house for a social occasion leads to stress. I’m used to hiding that though. The muscle soreness and hip pain really blows as you may have heard I like to walk. My long walk plans for the fall will be different than before and are maybe contingent on what the doc says.
But hey I don’t think that will stop me. I’ve beat death! Oh right I haven’t told you about that. I did. Not ready to talk about that yet though. Not totally sure why I am sharing all this, I’m not usually this “sharing”. But hey the game has changed, for me anyway.
Luckily I’ve found groups for information/support like LRG (Life Raft Group) and Gist International. My good friend sent me a book called Chris Beats Cancer, with great healthy living information. These sources have given me a plethora of information I was unaware of.
For now I’m dealing with the hard changes. The muscle soreness and hip pain hopefully will go away since it makes walking long distances difficult. But it’s also hard not to worry about cancer coming back.
That reminds me, symptoms of cancer are not always obvious. I did not see this coming and it blew my life up. If you are not feeling well go see your doctor. Check your health insurance, run all the tests, eat something healthy, reduce your stress…. because this sucks.
In December of 2020 I was diagnosed with Gist cancer. And just like that everything changed. It has tested my lifestyle, relationships, and patience. It’s a big deal that I am trying to pretend is not a big deal.
Wait, what is GIST you ask? A GIST (pronounced “jist”) is an uncommon type of cancer that starts in the digestive tract. Gist is rare and it’s not clear what causes it.
How the heck did that happen or How did I find out about it?
Well now basically it went like this….I was tired, like super tired and I had a loss of appetite, that’s it. It was like a really bad cold, without the cold parts. I laid around for over a week barely getting out of bed. Turns out some people with GISTs feel tired because they’ve lost blood from the tumor. Being that this was the era of Covid I went to the hospital for a test. The ridiculous part of that was that I drove myself (15 miles) even though I could barely walk to the car. Hindsight being 20/20 that was not smart, especially since I promptly passed out in the parking lot as soon as I arrived. But on the upside it was the hospital parking lot. I can’t say enough good things about Tahoe Forest Hospital. They quickly determined it was not Covid but I was losing blood and needed blood and a host of tests!
Since no one knew what was going on I had an upper endoscopy AND a colonoscopy. Samples were taken from the abnormal area for a biopsy.
Waiting for the results wasn’t as bad as hearing the results. I’ll never forget sitting on my bed when the doctor called, all I heard was cancer……blah, blah, blah.
It turned out to be a resectable tumor (one that could be removed safely with surgery)…it was recommended I do it soon…so I had surgery January 11, 2020.
Woah, that was huh? I know right. Pretty much most of December, January and half of February was a blur. Jason was a sweetheart, dropped everything and drove my whiney butt across the country to Michigan; immediately following the
diagnosis. I had to be near my family and Karmanos Cancer Center got me in lickitty split. Things went sideways in my 2nd surgery. I can’t really get into that right now, but I was in the hospital for a month, that sucked. Full disclosure: I don’t remember most of it. Actually I don’t remember much at all from the end of December to February. Seriously nothing and yes it is way weird.
My simple surgery got complicated. The tumor was sizable and to get it all they had to slice me open and take part of my tummy too. So I’m all better now. Ok not really. I have a host of issues, physical and mental.
This is not a path I saw me going down, basically I’m bushwhacking at this point.It’s been emotionally stressing (it can be when the rug is pulled from underneath you). While everything is up in the air I am scrambling to take care of my mind and body. Dealing with it…….changes.
Can’t say I went hungry while in Fiji. So much tasty goodness. A lot of the time at the resort was spent deciding what and where to eat next. There was an amazing Sheraton breakfast buffet, with a fresh juice bar complete with smoothies and protein drinks. Even made to order eggs. Good thing there was a gym and numerous beach activities.
Our first days in the interior jungle we lived on Backcountry meals and protein bars. Some people are not fans if rehydrated meals. I thought they were tasty, except for when they were crunchy. But that was usually due to me not adding adequate water and being impatient.
By the time the race was going, so was catering. The local catering crew had mad skills and worked long hours, but always greeted us with smiles. Seriously in a field they whipped out fresh pastries, cookies, breakfast, lunch and dinner! When it’s raining, your sliding in mud on limited sleep….a hot meal can be a game changer.
Then there were the Wavaka villagers at Camp 2. The village ladies came over for tea. Little did I know ‘tea’ meant tea/coffee and 2 trays of fresh baked breads! There is just something unexplainable about sharing food with others, there is a coming together a sense of community. I will be forever grateful to those near and far that have shared their food and allowed me to become part of their world.
What finer things to do than travel and eat well? Even if you could only afford to do it rarely, the fact that you aspire to that, and are willing to spend money. I think that speaks well of people” Anthony Bourdain
When we arrived at Camp 2, the command post was already set up, since it was late we opted to sleep inside under the giant race map! There was also the business of meeting the local village workers. Little did we know those guys would share so much with us in the coming days.
Our camp was 2 of 4. WE’RE #2!!!!! There was a command post, medical, media and food tent. I eventually got my tent up!
Camps were where teams could meet with their team assistant(TA). The camp volunteers stationed at that the camps organized a site for each team and their gear was delivered to that spot. When teams or their TA arrived we pointed them in the right direction. It was funny because prior to the race start we had a whole system of how we were gonna do everything. Then the race started, the rain started and things got real. See a large truck would arrive filled to the brim with about 5 large plastic tubs per team and other stuff. All this gear has to be carted over to the camping area. Unfortunately with all the rain and mud we were only able to get the truck so close or they’d get stuck in the mud. Thanks to a lot of rugby strong Fiji men, every tub was carried to the every site and back.
Terry- Malaysia, Tim-US, and Derek-Canada were the other Camp 2 volunteers with Lani as our Lead. It was a joy working/laughing/exploring with all of them. Speaking of Lani she is Fijian and in charge of our camp, heck there wasn’t anything she wasn’t on top of. No matter what urgent matter came up she had the answer, so when people mistook me for her I was stoked (sans answers). Her grace under pressure (especially with very little sleep) is something I aspire to. Being Fijian she made sure we got to catch some of everything and explore. There is some much to see in Fiji but exploring the villages was pure joy!
I was anxious and tired when we landed in Fiji at 5am, it’s a super long flight to paradise. Once again I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, but it was big. Other participants and event organizers were milling around the airport terminal, jet lagged from different corners of the world. Once we sorted out groupings, passports and changing money we loaded busses to go to the resort, our home and training location for the next couple of days. Some of the volunteers were experienced and had been part of past Eco Challenges they were way more confident in the goings on than us newbies.
I roomed with Cali from the UK, she was super nice and I just loved to hear talk. What, I like a nice accent. With a couple of other volunteers we explored, ate and prepped for going to our camps. There were credentials, shirts, documents and radios to be picked up. Then the repacking from your luggage to your backpack. It’s a lot like packing for a camping trip, well because that’s exactly what we were doing. Adventure camping in the jungle, as usual I could have been more prepared. Live and learn!
The adventure part of Adventure Racing (AR) is what really excites me. Like long distance biking, thru-hiking and even burning man, AR is just little out there. The energy and build up in the preparation. Knowing it’s gonna be hard, challenging, frustrating and you’ll ask yourself, many times, why am I here. But you push on through the fears and doubts with the help of like minnded people who remind you of the magic in an adventure.
The next stage of this adventure began with a 6 hour van ride to our remote Camp 2. Seeing the city melt into the remote country side is quite the experience.
It’s hard to explain how surreal this was for me. 17 years ago I watched Eco Challenge on TV and now here I was, a part of it. When I applied I doubted I would make the cut. Seriously you should have seen my application video, it was so……me. I guess that’s the key throw your hat in the ring and be yourself. But yeah that’s basically how I ended up a volunteer in the World’s Toughest Race. For those of you watching on Amazon Prime…(I know you are)…..check me out on X-Ray bonus feature!
This whole living in the now, being present idea, I get. It’s not a hard concept to wrap your mind around. Putting it into practice however is whole other ball game. Lets just take the internet. I am online, like constantly. Need info Google it, share my great day-facebook, new recipes, new books, new people…….yeah I’m still looking for the end of the net. Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah see it is so super easy for me to drift from the now moment. Even with it right here in front of me; I quickly can jump to somewhere else. A future event….look it up on the internet, a past event…the internet holds onto the memories I forget. Now the internet is not bad, well not mostly, but I need to learn to limit my time there. The TV too. My guilty pleasures, reality television. Ok everyone needs an escape. But the news, ah, that is so frustrating. For instance last night before bed no less, they did a story about K2. A smokable form of potpourri, um the key word there is potpourri! Kid smoked this stuff and hmm…died, killed himself, whatever, parents blame K2! Hold the incense! Why, why, why is your kid smoking potpourri!?? Now the parents want it banned….you know for the safety of the kids. WTF. People you can’t legislate stupidity. My potpourri satchel is for refreshing my drawers not smoking. So frustrating. No wonder our government is so messed up….they waste valuable time dealing with crap like this. Now excuse me while I return to the now moment. Where things are good and stupid do not reign.
Flashback photos from 2011….same girl…..different time
To tell you the truth I’m not sure what to say or do here anymore. Originally I started this blog to cover my hiking. I wanted family and friends that supported me to be able to follow along and know how I was doing. With people then asking ‘ what are you doing next’, I transitioned over into daily stuff then about working at the ski resort. The second season at Alpine Meadows ski resort was not planned but I was excited and intended to share the experience. To say the least things did not go as planned and the season was tiring and stressful.
Time and time again I would come up with posts and then realize I was just venting. Even I wasn’t interested in rehashing the daily trails. I toyed with the idea of just ditching the blog all together. (It wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve had three other blogs, one anonymous, one on cycling and one on cooking that I ditched. See old post here from 2011, not much has changed.) Anyway, with working 10 hour days, being tired and having other things to attend to, well the list of reasons was long.
Then the coronavirus hit.
With the loss of my job and the quarantining all of a sudden I had a whole lot of time on my hands. It was really fun to participate in the CDTC Virtual Trail Days! (It’s going on throughout April, check it out). I always find it funny when people are interested in me or what I’m doing. Nobody’s reading this blog was a reason to stop. During the Trail Days Q&A I was reminded that that doesn’t matter. I do the things I do because that is just me, living my life. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, this blog was never about followers, likes, sponsors or what people think. I live a weird crazy life, always have, long before the internets.
I like my little wandering chardonnay blog. I’m keeping it. I’ll post when I can. Thing is my life is my life, it’s not ‘content’. I’m not a brand to be promoted. This coronavirus “reset” reminded me if this all goes away I’ll still just be a girl living her crazy life.
I had to take a bit of a break. The whole internet, facebook, instagram, blogging thing can at times be a bit overwhelming, intrusive and honestly mind numbing. With other things going on in my life I had to re prioritize somethings. However, now with this whole pandemic thing I have acquired some “free time”.
First off those of you who have had to cancel or postpone your hikes (long, short, or otherwise) I feel for you. I was hoping to see y’all at CDT Trail Days. That has now been transformed into #VirtualTrailDays streamed via Facebook Live!
There’s gonna be speakers, like Will Akuna Robinson and myself, gear giveaways and a live concert. Join us starting Wednesday April 1st at 6pm PST! Hope on over to http://continentaldividetrail.org/trail-days-2020/ to see the schedule and find out about winning some gear! Hope to see you!! Now stay safe, healthy and wash yo hands!!