Welcome to my journey with Neurofibromatosis type 2, known as NF2, a genetic mutation which causes numerous tumors to grow within my brain and spine. Since 2004, I have undergone radiosurgery and 3 brain surgeries for 7 brain tumors. Life with NF2 is definitely a test of faith and a challenge to keep positive. Join me on my harrowing adventure to keep active and live life to the fullest!
In memory of Wilhelmina Barron (with 3 of her now 4 grandkids)
Two weeks following the marathon last October we did a tower race for the American Lung Association in honor of my beautiful aunt Willie. In mid-September she was diagnosed with lung cancer and given just a few short weeks to live unexpectedly. But with God's blessing she was able to defy the doctor's prediction and enjoyed just over 3 final glorious months of quality time with her family.
This precious photo is one of the last taken of her with all her grandchildren which she carefully planned out to make into Christmas cards for family and friends. I get really emotional thinking of her love behind it as she passed away due to a brain hemorrhage on Christmas Eve. The chemo had failed so they were giving radiation a final attempt to beat the cancer which spread to her brain.
Although hard on the family, this was the golden homecoming she had been waiting for over the last 20 years. In January 1991 (less than 2 years before my cancer diagnosis), her daughter (my 10 year old cousin) was overtaken by a very rare form of childhood cancer. I don't have kids (the human kind ;-)) but from what I have been told, it is the worst emotional pain to endure. How fitting to be reunited with her daughter and meet Jesus on such a significant day?
Amazingly she had it all planned out. On Christmas day we received packages she had sent with meaningful and special gifts picked out for each of us. It was like she was right there standing next to us. At the moment of celebrating her the sun's ray shined through the house onto the centerpiece of white lilies decorating the dining room table. She was there comforting us and telling us things would be ok. I believe she was sending a message to let us know she was happy and was home finally.
So how does this even relate to right now?
Well in the midst of our training for Rainier, it is time once again to shift our training to include preparation for the next tower race which is in less than 3 months!! We will again be doing the Climb for Clean Air and dedicating the Gold's Gym team in memory of my lovely Aunt Willie who is now looking over the dogs and I when I am hiking and running. She was so proud of my marathon accomplishment and I know an important motivator for me to get through training despite leg pain from my last brain surgery and to finish the race! Thank you Aunt Willie! You will always be very loved!
View from the top of the 51 floor tower in Seattle, WA
Well hello! I may have been absent for awhile but that doesn't mean things have been going poorly. Just the opposite. I am stronger than ever.
The photo above is from my 2011 hike finale with Merrie and Pedro one week after I completed the marathon. It was my biggest hike of the year with almost 3800 feet of elevation gain. That is a little prelude to what I have been doing, where I've been, and where I am going.
Although mid-October was the close of hike season, in NO WAY did climbing stop. As a chapter closed, a new chapter re-opened. Can that happen?
Well anyway, last fall near the end of October and early December, I picked up 2 more tower climbing events bringing my tower climb events up to 3 from once yearly. So when the marathon training came to an end, I got right back to training but of a different nature - focusing on speed for fast ascents of 50+ floors in under12 or 12 minutes. Then, there was a brief pause for the holidays and snowshoe season in the mountains started in the new year. Very happily I got in 10 snowshoe outings this year!
Before that came to a close, it was time to start (or shall I say continue to maintain) my training for tower racing as our Grand Daddy climb of 69 floors was in March.
No sooner did I wrap up the climb, it was almost time for hiking season to start! In reality I could have started anytime in the cooler wet weather on closer and smaller mountains. But I really wanted to get the most out of the snowshoeing season which was what I was doing the last few weekends of March.
The first week of April we kicked off the start of hiking season with my group of cancer survivor friends. Since, I have been a hiking FIEND! Pretty much I have averaged almost 3 hikes a week consistently. I am unsure really what the exact number of hikes I have done over the last 3 months. I kind of cooled it this week by not hiking on Sunday and instead opting to dive for crab.
So amazingly I am stronger than ever! Of course I still have imbalance but my strength is better than it has ever been. If I did not have to contend as balance and vision challenged, I would be climbing mountains for sure!!!! Yet, with my obstacles to overcome, I have been making monumental strides! I am up to doing training hikes carrying a stunning 33 lb pack! I cannot fit anything else into it and need to upgrade to a bigger size!
What a sweet miracle! I am so overwhelmed with gratitude every time I am in the woods. I am now doing many hikes on my own and taking the dogs out on several adventures they have not been on before or that we missed out on for several years. It is joyous indeed.
Although I do still run short distances 1-3 times a week for maintenance, I opted not to run any marathons this year as it was too taxing to keep up with hiking which is what I really love. With my strength the absolute best it has been in 8 years, I wanted to put my full focus into my hiking potential.
As such, I have decided to finally go for camp Muir on Rainier which has been been my desire for YEARS. Yet before the NF2 tumor growth melt down in 2004, I never took the chance to seriously go for it. Now that I finally have the opportunity to give it a real shot, I am not going to let it pass me by!
So in August, Harley and I are planning for a push to the 10,080 foot climber's camp on Rainier! Of course I am not going to climb without a cause! This will be my "Hiking to Muir to bring cheer" event of our foundation's "Never Give Up!" campaign. I will elaborate with the next couple days.
So I am back! And I plan to document my training for the biggest hike of my life! Although I went to Kilimanjaro, our daily hikes were of a lesser elevation gain than we will be pushing for in one day to reach the camp.
Keep checking in! :) Have a happy 4th and stay safe! :)