About a year after Pedro returned from the hospital and his successful stem cell transplant, I woke up one morning and decided I’d had enough. Enough moping around the house whining about my weight. Pedro had regained his pre-cancer weight—but I hadn’t lost mine.
I’d walked 10,000 steps a day for a year, and although I felt healthier, I still hadn’t lost a magical ten pounds. I’d lost a measly one pound. I keep of my school picture from that year somewhere (I hide it from myself and only come across it occasionally) because it’s a reminder of who I had become—an unhappy, overweight, grumpy woman who had received so many blessings that she had no reason to look like she’d been sucking on lemons.
I’d post it if I could find it. Really. I also suffered from Chemo Brain by Proxy—and Pedro’s last chemotherapy treatment had been administered more than a year before. For the first time, I actually felt prepared for change—and a seed of hope that maybe the cancer nightmare had finally ended seemed to grow within me.
Pedro’s one-year checkups revealed nothing wrong with him (in fact, at his appointment with the UCSF Hematology/Oncology clinic in San Francisco just about every nurse and doctor who had taken care of him during his stay on Eleven Long dropped by to ‘see the walking miracle’).
One thing kept me sane through all of the trauma, recovery and craziness. Each and every morning (except for a few weeks during Pedro’s darkest hours when I didn’t have time to journal) I spent time reading my Bible, praying and writing in a journal. That time alone served as a lifeline to me—a drowning caregiver, wife, mother, teacher and friend.
But I’d had enough with just surviving. Now I wanted more. I wanted to have energy to play with our girls. I wanted to hike the beautiful trails near our home and go mountain biking with Pedro (who was slowly gaining his strength and coordination back and eager to pursue pre-cancer activities).
Clancy had grown enough that she could advance from walking with me to jogging with me (German Shepherds aren’t supposed to do serious running until they’re at least a year old). I went on a low-carb diet and learned to ‘Stress Less, Move More and Eat Healthier’ (I read a book and followed a plan—I can’t remember the name of the book right now, though).
Wonder of wonders, it worked! I felt energized and ready to take on the world each day. The weight steadily slunk away. I discovered that I enjoyed running (and having an active dog that needed exercise prevented me from making excuses).
That spring, my dad invited Pedro and me to climb Mount St. Helens (an active volcano near my parent’s home in Washington that we had climbed when I was pregnant with our second daughter) in July—a year and seven months after Pedro’s transplant. I thought it would provide a perfect goal for my quest to regain my health. Pedro, whose post-cancer motto is “Try anything once!” agreed to come along.
On July 25, 2004, we summited Mount St. Helens—after an arduous five mile hike with 4500 feet elevation gain. Although Pedro’s refrain during the last three miles of hiking to the parking lot on the way down consisted of, “I’m so stupid. I’m NEVER. going. to. do. this. again!”, we reveled in our accomplishments.
I’d lost 30 pounds. He’d gained 30 pounds. We had weathered a storm of monumental proportions and come out stronger on the other side. It wasn’t just about losing weight or climbing a mountain—it was about a grand gesture to show the world how God had carried us through—from first to last.
“God, treat us kindly. You’re our only hope. First thing in the morning, be there for us!” Isaiah 33:2-4
Have you ever felt like celebrating a difficult journey by doing something arduous or audacious?
To find more comfort for caregivers, start here.
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