We got word via US mail just after my brother's birthday that we were successful in getting reservations to climb Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, this year. The bad news: it must have been my brother's birthday present, because we didn't get our first choice of my birthday (Labor Day weekend)! Instead, we got the only other choice I put in for: just after the 4th of July. So our training schedule just got cut short by two months. Meanwhile, all the peaks surrounding us here in So Cal still have snow on them! I am anxious to start training at the higher altitudes, but no luck yet.
As hard as it is to believe, it was almost exactly one year ago that I could hardly walk or breathe. I walked with a cane and couldn't even talk without gasping for air. Cancer had metastasized throughout my body; deteriorating my spine, invading my liver, compromising my lungs, spreading throughout my lymph nodes, and eating the bone in my pelvis, sternum, ribs, shoulders, and facial structure. Today, I am living with Stage 4 cancer, not entirely in remission but close to it; and I hope I am the healthiest and busiest "incurable" "terminally ill" cancer patient you've ever known.
And now I'm planning to climb Mt. Whitney.
I want to climb Mt. Whitney for one chief reason: because I've ALWAYS wanted to climb Mt. Whitney. I've just never bothered to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops to get the permits and go. But because of the diagnosis that dangles above my head like the Sword of Damocles, now seems like the time to actually DO IT.
Simply hiking at high elevations is excellent therapy for my lungs, so I don't even really care if for some reason I can't make the summit of Mt. Whitney. It's all good.
But the other reason I'm doing the climb this year is this: It was also one year ago that my precious daughter sat sullenly at the dinner table, having finally absorbed the news of the cancer's return, and said, "I don't want [you] to go through chemo again. And anyway, why bother, since IT'S HOPELESS?"
Let's see....chemo, or die. I think I'll pick chemo.
I have NEVER been without hope when it comes to this diagnosis. So what if the DX statistics say 'universal mortality'? Last I checked, that's what we all face when we come into this world. And when I do check out of this world and turn in my Earthsuit, I want it to be completely used up---not in some pristine shape like I never really lived in it. I have definitely lived.
So here I go again, starting from near scratch. And if I can survive, rebuild, and thrive, so can YOU.
Life is never hopeless.