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
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
I was really stoked about the new ski season! I got new boots and new skis and I was ready to go! Unfortunately mother nature was not so ready.
With there not being alot of snow in the early season we got passes for Mt. Rose (they open pretty early). Boy after a whole summer off you get a little rusty. Since there was more dirt than snow at Alpine we decided to go for a hike up the mountain instead. Checked out the new chairlift. Walking up the mountain you can find some interesting things (you know stuff people dropped in the snow).
So recently I’ve been rolling with someone who is rolling sober. (side note: his is being sober for a year) Right now this is a thing, I guess. Every time I turn around someone is sober, getting sober or sober curious (wait are those technically all the same?). I’ve always been a you do you kinda person, because I’m gonna be in my lane doing me.
In a show of solidarity and the fact I’ll try anything I tried out some NA(non alcoholic) beer. You’ve heard of this, of course, beer flavor no booze. I have to say it wasn’t bad, even though some of them forgot to add the beer flavor part. Drinking beer(s) and not even feeling buzzed is strange. It’s like when you only put 2 cheeses in the 3 cheese macaroni dish, it’s still good but something is missing.
Long story long, I like cheese and I want all the cheese. So I am not the NA target market. Seriously I toyed with the idea of some NA wine but I just couldn’t. Yeah nope. Well that’s not totally true. Been trying to get my hands on some of that cannabis infused wine (as I understand it they have to take out the alcohol to add the THC). Hmmm, ok.
Luckily my “cip” has a mind of his own and his sobriety has nothing to do with me, whew. So I’m off to get some candy and a box a wine for tonight’s festivities. Now…..what pairs well with snickers?
After a challenge, trip, adventure or experience I get home and take a deep breath. Then I say to myself (sometimes out aloud) whew, I did it….and didn’t die!
Although I step out of my comfort zone on the regular, it’s a monumental task for my inner me every-time. I’m not big on labels but I suppose you call me an extroverted introvert. I live for going places, trying new things and meeting people. But it is seriously exhausting mentally and emotionally.
Usually the first thing I’ll do when I get somewhere is find an escape spot where I can go and reset. In Fiji it was down a little cliff then across the river to a sand bar. A couple times I had to scramble to beat the rain. No I idea how I’d get back up if that cliff turned to mud.
What can I say, it’s how I cope and keep from killing people (kidding..sorta).
Anyway, for those of you wondering I’m back in Tahoe! The welcome back was a wake up call.
from this to …………………………………to this
So I will be posting about Fiji soon….but first I have to find my coat!
Second leg of my super road trip I rolled out of Michigan and blew through Indiana and Illinois. That’s about where I hit I-80. I-80 westbound would take me all the way to Tahoe. I’ve driven this stretch of road Michigan to Colorado so many times now I truly think I could do it with my eyes closed! I lived in Iowa for about 20 years. I always look forward to going back. A lot of growing up, for me, happened there and many friends were made. As always I didn’t get to see every one I would have liked to. But I got to see some old friends and their adorable little guy!
Driving through the windmills of western Iowa my mind linged on the days I biked those rolling hills. Ah, the fly over states. After living in the densely populated west coast I longed for the open space of the Midwest and the comfort of a small town.
Since I was rolling north through Colorado I just had to stop at New Belgium Brewery (Ft. Collins). Have you been there!! Next time you’re in the area stop for the tour. The tour guides (and beer) make it real fun. I lost my wallet hurrying to catch the tour, the people who found it were trying to contact me before I finished the tour! Thank goodness. New Belgium…..Good People….Great Beer.
After lunch and a chilly stroll around Ft Collins (man it was 79 degrees when I left Iowa) I was westbound again. By the time I hit Wyoming it was sleeting.
Nothing but good things to say about Wyoming. In 2006 I hunted a buffalo there. Considered moving to Chugwater when they were giving away land and hiking the Basin was a joy. Oh and they have wild horses, what a sight to see! I had planned on camping/hiking a few days in WY. However the cold rain and digital highway signs warned of a storm coming. So on I went.
Next stop Salt Lake City……wait hold up Park City, I see you…got to come back to this cute town to ski. Spent the next miles plotting a winter ski resort road trip. How fun would that be! A quick stop to stretch my legs and check out Temple Square.
With reports of fresh snow falling in Tahoe I pushed on from Salt Lake City. It was a good choice…….got back just in time to get in one last powder day!! Not a bad end to a road trip.