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(Mostly) off-topic: Bucket List

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

I apologize for the long post.  For those who are busy, here is a summary.  Last week I hiked Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim-to-rim and I am proud of myself.  You can skip the rest.

When I was in my late 50's, I would visit the Grand Canyon, stand on the rim, and say to myself. “I wish I had hiked down to the river when I was 21 and it was not a big deal.”  But after a while, I asked myself, “why not now?”

So slightly before my cancer diagnosis, I started hiking to the river and back in a day.  It is about a sixteen mile hike with one mile loss (and regain) in altitude.  The first time I did it, I thought I might die on the trail.  But with each successive hike, it got easier.

My chemo was two-weeks-on, one-week-off.  At the end of every off-week (except one), I would travel to Grand Canyon and make the hike to the river and back.  Those trips were a relief for me.  When hiking, all I could think about was hiking.  I could not think about cancer.  All I could think about was the progress on the trail, and when I finished, I got a rare sound sleep.  After completing chemo, I kept going to the Canyon way more than I could justify or afford.  But it simply felt good to me.

Of course, over time hiking to the river and back became less satisfying, so I set a goal of hiking from rim-to-rim in a day.  That’s only seven miles as the bird flies, but about 24 map miles on the trail.  Twice last Summer I set up the rim-to-rim hike, but failed.  The first time the guy I was going to hike with fell ill and we cancelled without starting.  The second time, rodents got into the trail food in a North Rim cabin, and with no way to replace the food at 3:00am, another hike was cancelled.

Last week, I made the hike from South Rim to North Rim, and after staying on the North Rim, back again.  So I have completed my bucket list trip of rim-to-rim-to-rim.  The map distance is about 24 miles, but the fitness tracker logged it as about 30 miles each way.  The hike entails getting up at about 1:30am, hitting the trail at 3:00am, and for me took a bit more than 12 hours one way and almost 13 hours on the way back.

I am a painfully slow downhill hiker, due in large part to the damage chemo did to my back and joints.  If you add-up the sum of my physical challenges, I could claim to be disabled.  In fact, last Fall I obtained a handicapped parking placard.  I do not use it, but somehow getting it was important to me, it is a sort of blue badge of courage.

I asked myself what is the purpose of this post?  To some degree, I guess I am just bragging.  But to another degree I want people who face the uncertainty that I did when I was diagnosed to realize that there is the potential to resume a relatively normal life.  To a natural degree, people come to this forum when things are not going well and walk away when things get better.  Sometimes that skews the picture of what colorectal cancer is like.  We all have to make adjustments to deal with the surgery and recovery.  Most all of us pay a price for having chemo.  Most all of us face a reduced potential life-span and have to make peace with mortality.  But nonetheless, we can also accomplish goals and tick boxes off our bucket list.

A final observation.  I have noticed that members who have a passion, be it a horse, a dog or cat, a kayak, a grandchild, a mountain home or a desert canyon, seem to have more peace in their lives.  Hiking Grand Canyon is a bit of an obsession for me, but it has given me a great degree of peace, especially after my cancer diagnosis, plus it gives me a good dose of exercise that I think helps my health.  I'll close with one of my many sayings, "Aging (and I include cancer in the aging category) isn't fun, but it beats being dead."

JanJan63's picture
JanJan63
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

Thank you for sharing that! I am so impressed by your stamina and determination! Like I told you, I could barely walk around the rim very far. Your's is a story of courage and it's amazing. I hope to be half as tough as your are. I wish we could have met when we were there, that's a shame the message thing was being weird. Or it was me, as you know I'm not a techie. Did I even spell techie right? Is it tekkie?

Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this. I agree that it's so important to inspire and give hope to other people dealing with this horrible illness. Hope is one of the greatest gifts a person can give another. Who knows, maybe in the future I'll get fit and do the hike with you!

Hugs,

Jan 

Butt's picture
Butt
Posts: 323
Joined: May 2018

Absolutely impressive!

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 4890
Joined: Jan 2013

You deserve it and we LOVE it. 

How absolutely fantastic!  You can imagine how much I would love to hike even a little of the Grand Canyon, but it may never happen, and thus, we take what we can get, and I am extatic with my little desert canyon. 

I am so very proud of what you have accomplised, and I look forward to hearing abuot what you are going to accomplish in the future. 

The pictures are also absolutely fantastic. 

Keep on hiking, dear forum friend. And, keep on posting. Not many of us stick around, not many want the reminder, and I don't blame them at all.  I'm glad that you are still posting, especially the example of strenght and hope. 

God bless!

Tru

Msboop15's picture
Msboop15
Posts: 81
Joined: Apr 2019

Thank you for sharing your adventure. I have friends who have done rim to rim but none have had to overcome the issues you have. You should be bragging!  

You mention chemo damage to your back & joints. Did you have issues before chemo & it made them worse or was it all brought on by chemo?  Just curious...haven’t seen many mention that. 

Elaine

Msboop15's picture
Msboop15
Posts: 81
Joined: Apr 2019

Thank you for sharing your adventure. I have friends who have done rim to rim but none have had to overcome the issues you have. You should be bragging!  

You mention chemo damage to your back & joints. Did you have issues before chemo & it made them worse or was it all brought on by chemo?  Just curious...haven’t seen many mention that. 

Elaine

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

I had back problems for years, but not as severe, and not in other joints, like the knees, hips and ankles.  I love to blame chemo for all my problems, but chemo turned my teeth grey, if it did that, I can imagine the changes is caused in my other bones and joints.

JanJan63's picture
JanJan63
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

It turned your teeth gray? Interesting. My teeth are a bit yellow now and have never been like that in my life. My friend is a hygienist with her own practice and she's tried to bleach them for me but they don't change at all. It's the last thing I should concern myself with but it bugs me a bit. They're still a normal colour but I always had very white teeth.

Jan

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

I call it gray, but I am more than a bit color blind.  Maybe it is yellow or brown.  But, like you, I had nice teeth and now I do not.

Sestra17's picture
Sestra17
Posts: 42
Joined: Jan 2018

Wow, that's amazing!

myAZmountain
Posts: 275
Joined: Apr 2018

Hard to describe the feeling of hiking in such stunning places like The Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion, incredible accomplishment! Thanks for posting!!

Annabelle41415's picture
Annabelle41415
Posts: 6242
Joined: Feb 2009

Love your pictures and how you have a passion for hiking.  That has to be quite a journey that you did.  I'm so glad that you still are able to be able to participate in a hobby that you love and you can see all that beauty.   You are truly blessed.  Thank you for sharing such wonderful experiences with us all.

Kim

flutemon's picture
flutemon
Posts: 17
Joined: Jan 2019

Your pictures are beautiful!  I can't even imagine going down into the Canyon.  We've seen it from the 'top' a number of times but I don't have the ability to hike it.  Thanks for letting us all enjoy it through your eyes and story!

 

My bucket list is short because my life has been full.  Wife and I love to travel and have done it extensively - 42 of the United States, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Nigeria, and  Mexico, as well as cruising the Caribbean and visiting the islands.  I'd still like to see the Holy Land but that will have to wait until cancer is paid off.  The main thing on my list is to spend as much time with my 3 grandsons as possible, and live to see them as adults - they are 7, 3, and 3 months.  I get to take care of them while their parents work so I'm really invested in their lives.  I think that may be what has kept me going through all of this.  

 

AnneO1965's picture
AnneO1965
Posts: 67
Joined: May 2019

Go you!!!!

I can imagine the sense of accomplishment you must have! Even without cancer, it's an impressive feat. Congratulations and what's next on your bucket list?

beaumontdave's picture
beaumontdave
Posts: 1003
Joined: Aug 2013

Walking/hiking was a big part of my youth, and a therapy for me when I wanted to step back from partying, back in the day. Any night/day there was a social scene that might suck me back in to things I wanted to escape, I walked for miles and miles. When the diagnosis came for me I walked until I was too tired to worry, many days, alone or with Cindy. When her chemo started after the steriotactic surgery, I walked Palm Springs and vicinity for miles while she slept. Now I would love to hike/walk as you do Sandia, but alas my ankles and feet suffer enough from what work I do, and while I can have ankle replacement surgery, the want me to fully retire first or the ten year lifespan of the joint won't make it that far. Hows that for irony, I've survived so much to find that I can't do the one thing I both love and can afford. I'm glad your in such a good place to pursue your passion and dreams, you deserve all the joy you can grab.........................................................Dave

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

Thank you one and all for your kind comments.

Buddy

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

I will close-out this post with this: this week I had an opportunity to repeat the rim-to-rim-to-rim hike.  But with temperatures in the Canyon topping 100 (37.7C), and the R2R2R basically being two back-to-back marathons, I decided instead to do a one day pleasure hike to the river and back.  The rim to river to rim is still a substantial hike in hot weather.  My backpack thermometer topped out at 112 (44.4C) in the sun, and the hike is 16.1 map-miles and 20 fitness-tracker-miles, with a loss and gain in altitude of one mile.  I took my handicap placard down to the river for a photo to tie into the original post.

The hike was great, and strolling the rim after the hike, there were two California Condors (a rare sight), one of which swooped up within twenty feet of where I was standing.  The Condor is a massive bird, with a wingspan of 10 feet (3 m), so it sounded like a huge flag unfurling.  Unfortunately, it happened so fast, I did not get a photo.

My rental car for this trip was a Mustang convertible, and on the way out of the park, with the top down, I was treated to a group of juvenile male elk frolicking.

I meditate on mortality every morning.  I accept that my life will end and that with the heart problems chemo caused and the chance of recurrence, it may end quite prematurely.  But I am striving to live life to its fullest and sometimes things are just great.  I will save the repeat R2R2R hike for cooler weather in the Fall or next Spring.  That will keep it special.  But for now, life is good.

myAZmountain
Posts: 275
Joined: Apr 2018

So wonderful to feel good and enjoy the beauty and peace of such a breathtaking area. itching to get back out there too! You look strong and healthy for sure!

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

Thanks.  Post some photos when you get out in nature.  Let's use the forum to discuss our triumphs as well as our challenges!

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 4890
Joined: Jan 2013

I am in love with our Yellow-bellied Marmots, and got this great capture of mama with one of her babies. 

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

Awww, how cute!  I know nothing of Marmots.

Twinzma
Posts: 216
Joined: Jan 2018

Wow Sandia, you really are a true inspiration to us! How amazing that you have been able to do this! You did touch a nerve, I used to have a convertible Mustang....darn I miss that car! Imagine going from a muscle car to a minivan.....it stinks! Anyway the pictures are so beautiful and your hiking the rim, that's awe inspiring! I will definetley be sharing your story with my hubby tonight. I have asked him join the board but he doesn't want to but he loves when I tell him about triumphs and this here is one of the best that I have read. Absolutely amazing! 

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

I keep thinking about buying a Mustang--but actually it is much better if I rent one.  I mean the rental is only a fraction of the depreciation, plus, they keep the latest model.  The new one has a ten speed automatic transmission, adaptive cruise control, and a 310hp/350 ft. lb torque engine, and it got 34mpg highway on its best tank.  Technology is amazing.  But minivans are great for active families.  Mustangs not so much.

Butt's picture
Butt
Posts: 323
Joined: May 2018

Sandy’s is stage 3 and if my memory serves me correctly and has been  of treatments for a long time. There are people with stage 3 who promptly will be able to return to their normal life. I knew those people persinally. Sure, they can work,travel and do  normal activities they used to do before cancer. It is actually not that surprising. It is different from stage 4 patients that are constantly into treatments. There  is a huge difference here.i was into outdoors and in a great physical shape. Sure, I want a hiking trip too!!!!!! Can I do it?  No. Butt.

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 4890
Joined: Jan 2013

I see this thread as a celebration of living life to the best of your ability, regardless of where you are in your Cancer journey.  While we all can't be hiking the Grand Canyon, we celebrate Sandia's abilitly to do so, in spite of some of the scary side effects he suffers as a result of treatment.

And even us Stage IV folks are at different stages. I am Stage IV, and hike almost every day though my little canyon.  

I think this is an important thread. Regardless of where we are in or out of treatment, we need to see that life can be lived to its fullest at some point. It gives hope to those who are still in treatment, that there is light at the end of the tunnel - even if some may never get to that stage, just thinking they can, helps. 

Let us all celebrate the joys. There are enough tough threads on this forum. 

Tru

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

Thanks, Tru.  My heart bleeds for the challenges and set-backs so many on this board face.  But I also want to say to those on the front side of the disease that there is hope for good days, no matter what challenges you face.

myAZmountain
Posts: 275
Joined: Apr 2018

Am also a Stage 4 with mets to 2 different areas-but am feeling great as I am down to 2 tiny lung mets that are stable and off chemo since November--hike around my little mountain area frequently--it does a heart and soul good to savor the moments when you are feeling "good" and not dwell entirely on the negative--in my humble opinion.

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 4890
Joined: Jan 2013

Sandia, you suggest posting some pictures, and I think I will start my own little 'Happy' thread.  

Tru

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 907
Joined: Apr 2017

I look forward to it.

marbleotis's picture
marbleotis
Posts: 696
Joined: Mar 2012

What a nice post.

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