Filed under: Uncategorized
Last night, I cried myself to sleep.
Bert still has some of his things in the spare bedroom. I have a friend staying here and wanted to get Bert’s things out of his way. There was a stack of books and notebooks near the door. I picked part of the stack up and set it on the bookshelf. I realized the top book of the remaining stack was a yearbook. I opened it and searched for Bert. He was in 6th grade. He was so cute! I looked for and found him in the each one of the yearbooks in the stack. As I turned to his page in the 9th grade book, I saw how much he looked like he does now. My mind flashed back to the adorable little boy 3 years earlier. My mind then went to June, when I miscarried our second child. Tears streamed down my face while a lump in my throat made it hard to swallow. Was it a boy or a girl? What would he or she have looked like? Who’s quirkiness would he or she have had?
I looked thru the other books. I continued to cry. After drying my face, I put on some make up. I believed that I wouldn’t let myself cry anymore, because I didn’t want to mess up my mascara. It didn’t work.
3 days ago marked 18 years ago I had emergency surgery to remove an abdominal ectopic pregnancy that was causing significant internal bleeding. The aftermath was quite traumatic for me.
Why did I cry myself to sleep?Maybe because Friday I was thinking about all 7 of my miscarriages, including the one Bert and I lost in March of this year? Maybe because of seeing Bert’s yearbook photos and wondering about the details of the child I will never meet? Maybe all of it. But I know – because even though there were financial and health reasons not to have another child, no other time, did it feel so right. The deep love and connection we both felt and the intoxicating love making that resulted in conception, had never been better.
Once again, the lump is back in my throat, my bottom lip is quivering and the tears are streaming down my face.
Filed under: Hiking | Tags: Cancer, Dreams, Gratitude, Hope, Inspiration, Love, Naked, Perspective
It took me a month to write this. I found out my 7 year old, little super hero friend had died. Too many of my friends die. Because I’ll probably never know why, I like to find the positives…the benefits to them being out of my life. It’s never easy, but definitely easier when I’m by myself in nature. I didn’t bother to ask anyone to go with me. In fact, my hiking partner texted me while I was gone, after not talking to him for a couple weeks. He started climbing and I’m not ready for that. I’m guessing he “felt” I was doing something without him. Since I was going by myself, I decided to go to a trail that he and I had done before. Surprise Lake. We got a late start when we went together, so only made it to Surprise Lake. I was starting earlier, but wanted to go farther. It would change my 9 mile hike to 11 and I would get to hike on part of section J of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It was a 75 mile trip each way, so I had time to think on the drive too.
I forgot to get the Northwest Forest Pass from the kids, so stopped by the ranger station to get another one. There are hiking rules on the counter, telling what to do and not to do. DO NOT HIKE ALONE! I asked if there had been bear sightings and of course the answer was yes. We had such a dry summer, the animals were hanging out at lower elevations. I didn’t have bear spray, but didn’t really care either. Every time a friend dies, the stupid “Am I next?” question circles through my head. It would be way cooler to die from being eaten by bears, than dying from cancer in a hospital bed!
Hiking by myself always seems like the trails are longer, without having anyone answer my questions. I take longer, but eventually either answer my own questions, or ask new ones to find a different way. The last time we hiked it, there were so many wildflowers, butterfly’s and bumble bees, we had a lot to talk about!
This time, the hike to Surprise lake was full of fungus! It was a lot wetter. I don’t have enough knowledge to know which ones are okay to eat, so I only took pictures. I thought about my little friend, but also the many friends I’ve lost to cancer over the years. Last week I was at a store where I know all the employees. There was a donation box on the counter for the family of one of them. He was overwhelmed with finances and a new baby and decided to overdose on pain meds. He died. I understand being overwhelmed by finances…or rather, lack of finances. Alternative cancer treatments are not covered by insurance, and at times when I’ve been too sick to work, the bills still need to get paid. With so many of my friends, giving everything they know to give and dying anyway, and myself, constantly searching for what’s missing and altering my own protocol…I don’t understand purposely ending it all. I saw a chipmunk eating the seeds out of the “cone” in the middle picture. I’ve never seen anything like it. In the next picture, it looks like it’s from a blue spruce tree. I ate one. It tasted good, with a pine scent. I didn’t eat anything else away from my normal diet that day, but about 12 hours later, I was violently puking. That rarely happens!
I was excited to see the “No Campfires beyond this point”. Those signs are at 5,000 feet elevation. Closer to the lake!
Surprise Lake was a prettier color this time, I’m guessing because of the clouds. There were people setting up camp, so I kept going. I hadn’t seen Glacier Lake yet and was determined to get there. I was excited when I saw the PCT sign. I didn’t know I was going to be on it. Maybe not a big deal to some people, but someday I want to do the entire trail, from Mexico to Canada.
I enjoyed the change of scenery along the route. I kept seeing water through the trees, but didn’t know how big Surprise Lake was and how long it would take to get to Glacier Lake. I felt like Forest Gump…I kept walking, and walking, and walking. I was finally getting close to the clouds. I was almost to the top of what I later found out was Pieper Pass. A couple was walking towards me. I asked them if they made it to Glacier Lake. They said I passed it about a half hour ago. They were camped there and would take me. They were probably in their 60’s and were walking so fast I thought they were trying to lose me. After about 10 minutes, I heard something behind me. A voice called out. I offered to let him pass, but he continued along behind me. His name was Saul. He had started section J of the PCT at Snoqualmie Pass
and was headed to Stevens Pass. Talking to him made the time go quicker. He continued on when we got to the turn off for Glacier Lake. The sign said “CAMP”. No wonder I missed it. About 20 feet down the trail, was the sign. It was only a minute down the trail before Saul came back. He asked if I was headed back to Seattle. I told him I was going north of Seattle, but not into the city. He asked if I would give him a ride near I-5 and he could get a ride the rest of the way from there. I asked if he was creepy. He said he wasn’t. He was wearing what looked like spandex shorts with his other shorts tied onto his backpack. I didn’t notice until we got to the lake and he was putting the shorts on. He apologized for not having them on already and was concerned it would eliminate his chances of getting a ride. I thought it was funny that he said anything. I told him I needed about 30 minutes to enjoy the lake and eat, before putting on my layers for the hike back in the dark. He climbed on the rocks while I ate. It took me several minutes to decide if I wanted him to take one of my signature pictures. The temperature was 62 degrees. The fog was hanging above the water. Glacier Lake just sounds cold. Getting in wasn’t going to happen! I didn’t want him to think the wrong thing, since I had told him I’d give him a ride and we’d be spending the next 6 hours together. He wasn’t weird about it.
I spent the first half of my hike, thinking about life, thinking about loss of life, thinking about old and new goals and so many things in between. The second half was spent learning about someone who had traveled to places I’ve never been and had experienced things I never thought of as possibilities. I shared my thoughts. I felt safer being with him than I would have hiking in the dark alone. He appreciated the company and the ride back. I didn’t take him all the way home, but over 60 miles closer than he was.
I didn’t figure out why my friend died. I haven’t figured out why any of my friends have died. I will continue to do everything I know to do to not only beat the beast, but thrive in a bigger way than I ever expected of myself. I love my life! I am grateful for so much! My mistake added about 2 miles to my hike, taking me from 11 to 13 miles, but I did it! And…I love taking my clothes off at alpine lakes!Love, gratitude and blessings
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A few days ago, I told a friend I was going on a road trip with 2 guys I barely know, to watch night skydiving. She said “You do so many cool things!” Another friend said that even with cancer, my life is better than hers. Another told me I’m lucky!
I agree! I am lucky! Recurrent metastatic melanoma. Most would say that’s not lucky. It has taught me to cherish every day. Cherish my family and friends. Cherish all that I’ve been given. Cherish all of the positives and all of negatives that show up in my life.
I’ve had more friends die from cancer than anyone should have to deal with. All of those deaths, helped me find good in every situation. I appreciate so much more than I did before cancer. I LOVE my life!
Cancer taught me to be a risk taker. Nobody knows how much sand is left in their hourglass, but cancer taught me to believe I may only have a little left. If that’s the case, I have a lot of things to accomplish in a short amount of time. Aside from accomplishments, a short amount of time means having fun needs to take up as much of what’s left as possible.
I heard that drop zone was having night skydives. I’m nowhere near ready for that! I need my daylight landings a lot better before I attempt landing in the dark!
My 2 friends and I hadn’t ever spent several hours together, so we had fun telling stories
and laughed most of the way. They were both going to jump, but I wasn’t. I don’t know how nervous they were, but I was nervous for them. Once we got there, they focused on getting on the list, getting prepared mentally and making sure their gear was ready.
I wandered around, saying hi to people I know, saying hi to people I didn’t know. In between two buildings, I saw the wreckage of the crashed jump plane. Even though I’m thankful the people are okay, I was sad for ‘her’. 10 years of service as a “Perfectly Good Airplane”. Countless people made their first skydive out of her. Countless people got their skydiving licenses with her. She’s broken. She will never be what she was. Her dad/owner was examining her. He was not the pilot when she landed in the madrona tree.
He was taking parts off of her. (She was an organ donor.) He was going to move her out of the way, so people could camp overnight to continue day jumps the next day. The best camping location is right where she was. We got a few other people to help us move both wings and get her body off the trailer and onto the ground. I was amazed at how little she weighed!
Her dad talked about some of her missing and broken parts. He sounded sad. I don’t know exactly how the conversation went, but I asked him if I could take his picture with her. Apparently, he and I both come to life when there’s a camera around. As sad as it was, he started to joke around and play. He wanted to fly her again.
Losing a friend. A messed up situation. Being silly, having fun and playing in the midst of tragedy is something few people allow themselves to do. Cancer taught me to do it anyway. Feeling good is at the top of my priority list.
Put “Feeling Good” at the top of your list and see how much better your life becomes!
Love, Gratitude and Blessings,
Filed under: Uncategorized
2 days ago, I posted on Facebook, “Anyone want to hike Mt Dickerman tomorrow?” I got a response. We agreed to meet at her house at 7. I was a little late. Totally my fault. My gall bladder decided it was going to have a secondary dump about 30 minutes after my coffee enema. Yes, even on hiking days, I still get my treatments in. Being in the car, especially in someone else’s car when your gall bladder decides to dump is not a pleasant scenario. I’m glad it happened when it did. We got to the trailhead at 8:45am. All the other hikes I’ve done in the last 2 months, I’ve gone with a friend who doesn’t seem to get to the trailheads before noon.
I’ve hiked Mt Dickerman several times. I knew it was going to be tough, but also knew I would keep going and not only get to the top of the mountain, but enjoy it and get back to the car.
Mt Dickerman’s peak is at 5,760 feet. The top offers views of Mt Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt Rainier, all of the local Cascade mountains and thru the haze, glistening Puget Sound waters. A 4,000′ elevation gain in 4.1 miles is steep for me and a great cardio workout. My new friend hiked slower than my normal hiking partner, which made things a lot easier for me.Normally, he’s speed racer, then I have to stop and rest to breathe. I think we wait longer than if we just walked slower to begin with. There weren’t a lot of people on the trail, which I like. It frustrates me when people who appear less physically fit than me, pass me on the trail.
Most of the trail is steep. There were several areas that should be creeks and small waterfalls, but it has been so dry, the soil and sand weren’t even damp. We saw a few chipmonks, birds, grasshoppers and butterflies along the way. Mt Dickerman normally has tons of blueberries this time of year, but with the lack of snow last winter and rain this year the berries were far from bountiful!
We were trying to get home at a certain time, but once we got to the top, the views distracted us. Mt Baker to the north, Glacier Peak to the East, Mt Rainier to the south and the Olympics to the west. Jagged rocks, smooth mountains, meadows, glaciers and various shades of green as far as our eyes could see! Just before we were about to head down, 3 other girls made it to the top. I asked my hiking partner to take a picture of me…topless. She did. I rarely care who sees me topless. I didn’t care that day either. I heard the other girls talking about my ‘pose’. I asked them if they wanted to join me for a picture. They all did! I seriously doubt any of them would have done it without me instigating. They appeared to have fun!
Filed under: Hiking
I had a coworker and another woman, both on the same day, tell me how beautiful Vesper Peak is. It was already at the top of the list for hiking choices the next day. The trailhead is on the Mountain Loop Highway in Granite Falls, 3 miles past the Big Four Ice Caves. Recently, a group of people were buried in the ice when the ice cave collapsed. One person died. As sad as it is/was, all of the risk taker hikers who’ve been to the Big Four, have also been inside. They are closed indefinitely now, but there were signs warning people to not go inside the ice cave. It’s no different than cancer or bankruptcy…nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them. 5 years ago, a family was there, but not inside. They were quite far, compared to how close I get, every time I’ve gone. If I’m remembering correctly, a giant chunk of ice broke off and before they could get out of the way, the little girl was crushed. I took this picture on June 7, this year. We rode the motorcycle and did the hike wearing long pants, jackets and carrying our helmets. Easy hike!
Back to Vesper Peak. The trailhead says Sunshine Mine and Headlee Pass. That’s the trip report I should have read! Either I wasn’t paying attention, or I skipped vital parts, but I found nothing on the Vesper Peak or Vesper Lake trip reports telling about the REAL details of this hike.
While I was lying on the picnic table, waiting for my hiking buddy to get his backpack situated, I stopped everyone who was finishing the hike and asked them how it was. The 4 people who passed, said it was too hot and they only went to the lake. “Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy” I thought to myself. “We are going to Vesper Peak!”
I dont know if my L-1 burst fracture hinders me or if it’s just an excuse. I don’t know if 3 weeks of cancer treatments 3 months ago hinders me, or if it’s just an excuse. I don’t know if eating under 30 grams of carbohydrates per day hinders me or it’s just an excuse.
That hike tried to kill me! Right from the beginning, tree roots crisscrossed across the dry and dusty trail. Less than a hundred yards in, balancing a fallen tree is the only dry way across the creek. More tree roots. Another fallen tree to get across the creek at a higher elevation. The trail was steep and dry, so loose rocks and dirt rolled down the hill with almost every step. Once out of the woods, we noticed large areas of smashed down vegetation, as though animals had been walking off the trail. Don’t they know the rules?!! The trail runs up between 2 major peaks. It felt like we were in a bowl, with giant mountains on 3 sides, like a horseshoe. The first quarter of the trail is obvious. After crossing the creek for a third time, the trail is a large boulder field. People have build cairns on both sides of the trail, showing the way. It wasn’t long into that section when one of the rocks I stepped on shifted. I tried to flex my back to protect it, but it decided to go into spasm instead. I leaned over to stretch it out and continued on. 2 guys on their way down were warning me how treacherous the hike was. Jack was challenging himself and going different routes along the boulders. When I told the guys I broke my back 8 years ago and had already tweaked it, they insisted I give Jack no other options than to turn around if my back got worse. They apparently didn’t realize I didn’t need that type of coaching. They needed to be telling Jack!
Towards the top of Headlee Pass, the switchbacks are gnarly! It’s steep, loose gravel and dirt. Every few seconds, piles of pebbles rolled down the hill out from other people’s feet. Because my doctor installed flexible plastic rods in my back, I am extra careful, trying to stay upright. He didn’t know how strong they would be and I prefer to never have another surgery! I saw a girl in her 20’s fall and slide about 2 feet down the mountain. Shortly after, a man in his 60’s slipped. A group of 4 couples, all in their 60’s, headed down, almost sliding on purpose and skipping across the boulders. They had gone to the Vesper Lake AND Vesper Peak. They made it look so easy!
By the time we got to Headlee Pass, it was already after 5pm, the time we had decided we would head back. Neither one of us wanted to hike it in the dark. We were told that the Lake was only about 300 yards away from the pass, so we decided to continue to the lake. We needed to eat and with most of the trail in the 90’s, I wanted to get in the lake to cool off. Vesper Lake is beautiful!
There were 6 people at the closest part across the lake from us. Some of them were in the water and the others on the boulders nearby. They were talking, laughing and splashing each other with the water. A few minutes later, 2 more hikers showed up, then 4 more. I couldn’t help but notice all the people in the water were wearing clothes. This was the first lake I’ve hiked to where there were other people there. It’s an alpine lake at 5,200 feet elevation. WHY are people wearing clothes in the lake?! I wanted to swim naked! It seemed a little awkward, taking all my clothes off when everyone else was covered up. I asked Jack if he cared either way. He said “Do whatever you want to do!”
He just wanted to eat and didn’t want to swim. I figure he doesn’t want me to see him naked. I took my hat, shorts and hiking boots off. I still had my shirt and bike shorts on. I walked to the edge of the lake, in search for a more private swimming area. It’s a circle. Almost every area of the lake can be seen from every other area. I found a large boulder in between me and the other swimmers. I took everything off except my thong. The poor thing was soaked from sweat and stretched out to fit a woman 3 times my size from lifting my legs to climb to get there!
The water was so clear! I could see the sand sloped down, then there was an obvious drop off. I couldn’t tell how deep it was. It looked about 3 feet deep, but I knew it could be much deeper. I had a pair of rubber shoes on, wanting to get out without cutting my feet on the rocks or logs along the shore and under the water. I slowly walked into the water. My foot slipped on my second step and with a loud splash, was up to my neck in the water. I started treading water. The giant thong made it feel like I was swimming naked. Across the lake, the melting ice sounded like a waterfall, cascading down the rocks and into the water. IT WAS COLD! I rinsed the dust and sweat off my face and hair. I only swam a couple minutes, when I decided to get out. Since the cancer started, my body temperature doesn’t seem to regulate itself like other people’s. I didn’t want my body temperature getting too low to warm myself up. I swam to the shore and tried to climb out. What I thought was sand, was more like slippery silt. my rubber shoes weren’t gripping. I kept slipping back into the cold water. Jack is all about wanting to rescue someone with a rope, although I haven’t ever gone thru his pack to see if he brings one. I was NOT going to need to be rescued! After the fourth try, I started treading water again. I went farther into the water to see the other swimmers. Sure enough, they were all still in the same place. I watched them walk into the water, so I knew I could get out by them. Have you seen my pictures? The other girls in the water, were not shaped like me! I didn’t want their guys getting in trouble for staring, but it seemed the only way out of the water was to swim over by them and walk out. No. I was going to try again where I was at. I got closer to the edge and grabbed onto a boulder. I still couldn’t get traction with my feet, so carefully got closer to the rock, and lifted myself up, then higher onto the rock. I lifted my leg onto the same rock and moved my hands to another rock that was mostly on the shore. I wanted to get out without scraping my nipples or any other important skin off on the rocks. I was successful and very happy that nobody was behind me as I was bent over and had both feet and both hands on the rock with my butt being my highest point. The little struggle probably only took 2 minutes, but my heart rate was up. The swimmers were at least 30 yards away and by that point, I didn’t care. I scooped up my clothes and started to walk back to where Jack was enjoying his snack. As soon as I emerged from the giant boulder, the talking, laughing and swimming all came to a screeching halt. It sounded like I was there all by myself. I felt ALL their eyes on me! I thought about looking back and waving, but watched where I was going and went back to my backpack instead. Apparently, they didn’t want Jack to see them looking, so stopped as I approached him. I asked him if he’d take pictures before we headed back down the mountain. We went back to where I had already gotten in the water. We were talking and no longer paying attention to the other people around. I was more graceful getting into and out of the water this time. We took a few pictures, then headed back to our stuff to get ready to head back down the mountain. As I got dressed and Jack got his stuff ready, we were talking about filtering more water to fill our water bladders. We didn’t think we were talking loud, but a guy on the other side answered my question. I guess he wasn’t embarrassed to talk to a naked woman.
It was about 7:30 and we were just starting our descent. Jack was stressed out that we were going to be hiking in the dark. I didn’t want to either, but I know getting in the cold water helped fix my body temperature from the hot hike to the top. About 10 minutes out, I slipped on the dirt. My left leg went forward and my right leg bent back, twisting my knee and ankle. PLF went thru my head! PLF is Parachute Landing Fall – using lessons learned in skydiving to benefit me now! I leaned to the left (away from the 500 foot cliff) to land on my butt cheek instead of my tailbone. I continued sliding, but only about a foot down the trail. I sat motionless for several seconds. Jack crouched down and grabbed my backpack to prevent me from sliding more. I straightened out my right leg, but sat for about 10 seconds to make sure I wasn’t hurt, or trying to stand up dizzy. I always wear knee wraps when I’m descending a mountain. I’m sure the knee wrap prevented my knee from getting hurt! I was okay so we continued down the mountain. I was overly cautious after the fall, but continued steadily. Headlamps have been our friends on every hike we’ve done! The loose rocks, gravel and barely visible trail on the boulder field were all more difficult in the dark. When we got to the meadow, I realized the reason Jack was so concerned about walking down in the dark was because on the way up, another hiker told us the smashed vegetation was from bears walking thru it. I didn’t bring it up.
Around 10:30 pm, we came to a fork in the road. Neither one of us remembered it. We took the trail to the left. As we got close to a creek, the trail changed. It looked like a 10 foot dirt wall with tree roots to use as a ladder to get down to the creek. Once again, I was thankful for my headlamp! We went back and took the trail to the right. It wasn’t much better. Neither of us remembered either trail. We went back to the fork to look at the GPS and try to figure out where we were and where we needed to go. The trails were so close together, we couldn’t tell if either or neither were the trails we needed. We didn’t have gear to camp out, but thankfully, it was still warm. I was starting to think we would be sleeping there and leaving after sunrise. I think Jack was thinking about potential bears and other critters. He was determined to find the trail. He has a really bright flashlight and kept shining it in different areas trying to find the trail on the other side of the creek. He climbed over rocks, a fallen tree and over the creek. He found the trail and yelled for me to come across. Once we started moving again, we checked the GPS. We were on the right trail, headed toward the car. The rest of the hike was uneventful.
I made it up the mountain, swam naked in an alpine lake and made it safely back down the mountain. Another amazing day, challenging the limits of my body and mind. Life is good!
Love, gratitude and blessings
I originally joined Toastmasters in 1995. Toastmasters is a speaking club. You get to prepare and give speeches and get feedback from the other members. I had already been competing in bodybuilding competitions and thought that since my dad had been pestering me since middle school to be a speaker, it was time. After all, bodybuilding posing suits are made out of about 6 inches of fabric. If I could be on stage posing and doing a routine in that tiny suit, hiding almost nothing, in front of lots of people and a camera later playing on ESPN, I could speak!
I completed my first 10 speeches, then took about 15 years off. I’m back in the same club I originally joined, “Early Opinions”, with 2 of the original members. One of my favorite things about the weekly meetings is “Table Topics”. The person in charge asks each person a different question. You get to stand up and answer the question in 1-2 minutes. You don’t have time to prepare an answer. Immediately, it’s show time.
I’ve been told that the ketogenic diet helps with brain function, along with the multitudes of other things it helps. I have no way of knowing if my diet has anything to do with it, but my thinking has gotten quicker over the years.
Earlier today, my phone rang. It was from an unavailable number. Since I started going to Mexico in 2006, I usually answer the phone “Bueno”.
A man said “Susan, do you know who I am?”
“Do you shave your balls?” I asked.
After a short pause, he said “Ummmmm…yeah.”
“No. I don’t know who you are.” I said and hung up the phone.
He didn’t call back and I have no idea who he was.
I’m still laughing!
Love, gratitude and blessings!
Filed under: Uncategorized
I used to be afraid of the water. Several years ago, I decided to face that fear and bought 2 sit on top kayaks. I was hoping to get someone to go with me. It’s rare. My hiking buddy was going to go with me this am, but his sense of time is lost somewhere. Instead of bailing, I put one kayak back in the garage and left for the water. It’s only a mile down the hill. I’m so glad I went! It looks overcast today because of the fires on Vancouver island and winds out of the northwest. It was still really bright. I saw fish jumping from the water and heard a harbor seal or sea lion, but every time I turned in the direction of its breath, it went back under the water.
I’m writing this on my phone, while rocking on the swing master, having a Gerson coffee. The first picture is a jet I’d love to fly in! Chips Ahoy is a barge Boeing was loading with railroad cars. I don’t know what’s in them, but it reminded me of putting chips ahoy cookies, Nacho cheese Doritos, Bologna and mustard on Mrs Baird’s butter top bread. I loved it! I’m guessing it would make me puke if I ate it now!
Love, gratitude and blessings,