My Journey through Breast Cancer

On October 11, 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage II Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) ... or as we like to call it, extreme measures for a nap (EMFN). For a while, this blog will be my cancer journal. Enter at your own risk.

10 September 2007

Trail Journal, Days Three and Four

My pack feels lighter today. I know that it IS lighter, there's no food in there now ... but I'm still excited that it FEELS lighter. I was sure by today that any weight at all would feel like too much weight. I'm surprised that I don't feel too sore yet today. I'm definitely a bit body weary, but not too sore yet.

It didn't take us long to pack up. We stopped at Lake #2 to fill up water bottles for the hike out. We only have about 5 miles to hike out, and there's very little elevation to lose or gain. So as we begin our hike out, I'm hopeful we'll reach the car soon.

Hiking out is never quite the same as hiking in. I know in my head the distance is the same. But it feels longer. My theory is its because the novelty is gone. The terrain and the adventure is now familiar. I've seen it before, so I'm not as interested. Well, and after having already done nearly 20 miles in the last two days, I'm kind of ready to be done. That might be the more correct theory.

We're about 3 miles into the hike out, and suddenly ... I'm done. I gotta stop and put my pack down. My shoulders hurt, my body is tired, and my feet are killing me. They're pounding with every step they're required to take, and even pounding when they're resting. I want to just power through, get to the car, but my body says no, it needs a rest. I yell at Caleb (he's several steps ahead of me, more because of the dust he kicks up off the trail than because he's a faster walker). "Must ... rest ..." We stop by a log. I take my pack off. I need a moment without the pack. We eat a granola bar. We drink some water. I'm wondering how I'll make it out. And yet I know I will ... mostly because I have to. If I'm going to get to the car, I have to walk there. That's all there is to it.

I can hear voices coming down the trail our way. And I'll be damned if they see me sitting and resting like a wuss. I don't care if they're strangers. So I stand up, put my pack on, and we start walking again. This time I'm determined to just barrel through. Finish. I can do this. I can. I can. Think about pizza. Mmmm, pizza. That's gonna taste good.

We're starting to pass more and more people on the trail. Some are obviously hiking in for several days, but many are on day-hikes. They have little dogs with them, they're not in the right shoes for long trekking, they have kids on their backs. We must be getting close, people like this don't go far from the trail head. I try and take my mind off the pain in my feet, and suddenly realize I don't have a single song playing incessantly in my head. Weird. I always have a song in my head. Contemplating this strange phenomenon uses up a solid two minutes, but too soon my thoughts are brought back to my pounding feet.

Please tell me the car is close.

We pass one hiker who wants to know where we've been. We chat with him for a while, he talks about hiking Langley and Whitney back-to-back ... back when he was young. He sounds crazy. He tells us we're 1/2 an hour from the trail head. Part of me thanks him, for now we have a time frame, part of me doesn't believe him. Surely we're closer. He sounds crazy anyway, he must be wrong.

He turns out to be right, of course. But we plow through, passing more and more people, and their small dogs, on our way out. As we turn around a bend in the road, I can see the parking lot. But I'm afraid to believe it, I remember what the mountain did to me just yesterday, teasing me time and time again that I was near the top. But this time, its no mirage. That's actually the parking lot. We made it! We really made it! I've never been so happy to see my little plastic Saturn in my life.

We drop our packs by the car. We take our boots off. Oh the glorious feeling of taking one's boots off. We pile our dusty packs and our dusty selves into the car, and we head down the mountain. And the most amazing feeling comes over me ... I've already forgotten about the pain in my feet, the body weariness, the soreness that will inevitably hit, and I'm ready to plan another backpack. What a great trip! It really couldn't have been a better trip. Even the broken stove is now just a great story element. I can't wait to do this again.

It takes us about an hour to get down the mountain. Less than half way down we pass a group, a large group, of hang gliders. At a turnout in the road there are at least 50 of them set up, ready to jump off the side of the mountain. As we continue to wind our way down the mountain, a few of them take off. Of course, the mere thought scares the living daylights out of me, but what a view they must have! I'm guessing they glide for a solid hour before they end up touching down in the valley.

The valley. At the trailhead, where we just were, it was probably 75, with a great cool breeze. In the valley, its over 100. We stop at the visitors center to return the bear canister, and stepping out of the car is like stepping into a sauna, only without the humidity. Its HOT. We turn in the canister, and do a little shopping in the air conditioned visitors center. I buy a new keychain. I love trinkets!

We decide to head over to the hotel and see if they'll let us check in early. Suddenly (or, not so suddenly) all we want in the world is a shower. The girl at the Best Western is extremely helpful, and says as long as the room is ready, we can check in. We silently pray the room is ready. If not, we have to wait another 2 hours before we can get in. She comes back from checking with a smile on her face, "It's ready!" She gives us the key, and we send up silent prayers of thanksgiving. Yay for showers!

We unload the car and Caleb showers first. I want the freedom to take as long a shower as I want, without feeling guilty that Caleb is waiting for his turn, so my generosity in letting him go first isn't as altruistic as it might seem.

Ah, cleanliness. It feels so good! Now that we're clean we head into town for lunch. Our options are few, so we end up at McDonald's. The hot meal and that HUGE cold soda taste really really good ... as greasy as it all was. We spend the rest of the afternoon reading. We weren't tired enough to sleep, but definitely weren't interested in DOING anything. So we whiled away the afternoon in the air conditioned room, just waiting until it was time for ... The Pizza Factory.

"We Toss 'Em, They're Awesome," the sign says. Oh, and they're so right. The pizza tastes goooood, and well worth the wait. We barely talk as we devour the happy greasiness.

The soreness has set in. Every time I sit down for longer than a couple minutes, I have a really hard time standing up. Its my thighs, and my calves, and my shoulders, and my back ... all of me really. It just takes a minute to make my body do what I tell it.

Yet surprisingly, the next morning, after an Aleve and a good night's sleep, the soreness is gone. Except for some residual pain in my calves, I feel good. I could take on another mountain! But I won't. Not today. Today we're driving up to White Mountain and the Bristlecone Pine Forest. These Bristlecones are the oldest living things on the planet, some nearly 5,000 years old.

The road to the visitors center is long and windy. It takes us all the way up to 10,000 feet before we finally reach the center and the trailheads to the short trails. We start up one 4-mile loop trail, and it climbs straight up, for quite a while. We're tired. And we've already spent a lot of time in the sun. I'm wearing sandals and don't feel like changing into my boots. So we turn around. As we head down we pass an older woman with a walking stick coming up who says, "You're not doing the whole 4 miles?" I fantasize about bragging over the 25 miles I did the three previous days, somehow feeling the need to explain to this total stranger that we've already put in a few miles this weekend. I'm not a wuss! But I refrain, and we head back toward the car.

Caleb goes into the visitors center to buy a really cool photo book on trees, and then we head back down the mountain. We stop at a great lookout point to look over the Owens Valley and on to the Eastern Sierras. Its weird to think just 48 hours before we were on the other side, gazing over the Owens Valley at the White Mountains. If time travel were possible, could we see ourselves? Hmm ...

We're heading home now, very grateful for the air conditioning in the car. The temperatures outside are reaching 110 in some spots. The drive is uneventful, we don't even hit any traffic. We're home by 5:00, and once again step out into a sauna. We decide we were lucky the heat wave hit on a weekend we were gone. After unloading the car we jump in the pool for a little while, just to cool off. The temperature inside the condo read 92 degrees when we got home. Ick.

Tomorrow its back to work, back to the daily commute and back to regular life. Oddly enough, I feel rested, I feel like the four-day weekend was enough rest, and I'm as ready as I ever am to head back to work tomorrow.

I came across a book in the Lone Pine Visitors Center about the 15 California 14ers ... there are 15 mountains in California taller than 14,000 feet. I've crossed two of them off my list, and I'm starting to think it would be really cool, in my lifetime, to climb them all. I've already climbed the tallest one, and a truly difficult one, surely the rest can be trained for and conquered as well! Next year, we'll do White Mountain I think. After that, who knows?

I can't describe in detail what it is that draws me to this kind of adventure. Its too intangible.
There are a few things I know ... I love the feeling of accomplishment, I love that I can eat peanut butter for dinner and pop tarts for breakfast and not gain any weight, I love the view from 14,000 feet, I love pushing my body to its physical best, I love the solitude and the quiet, and the incomparable beauty, always so vast and changing. Its a one-of-a-kind experience, every time. My legs and my feet and my shoulders have already forgotten what I put them through, and they're looking forward to the next climb.

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