Strange Breed and Head Shaking

Thankfully, we have a sense of humor in our family!  It really helps when things get crazy and things are a bit crazy — or is life just crazy?

We are in this wonderful little town of Yakima in Washington State and the people here are so friendly and caring.  At the hospital they learned of Andy’s story — scruffy hiker with scraggly beard limps into ER and wonders if he can get his leg checked out.  Less than six hours later they realize he has cancer.  First the ER Doc, then the Oncologist . . . thinking “we gotta a strange breed on our hands here.”   The story started to trickle down from the nurses to the physical therapist’s to the care takers to insurance claims officer to the social worker then to the PR department.  I think it was the questions like, “how did you get here?” and answers from Andy, “I walked here from Mexico” then weird looks and some head-shaking.  Or was it the request from Andy to the oncologist asking, “What’s it going to take to get me outta here and back on the trail?  I’ve come this far, and by gosh, I’m going to finish!”

I settled in his hospital room the morning after hearing the news that Andy’s tumor is pressing against his spine and causing pain, numbness and tingling sensations that shoot down his right leg.  I was holding vigil.  After living with cancer with Andy for over four years now I kinda get the routine.  Hang out in the hospital room, chat away with the staff, distract ourselves from what’s really happening and enjoy our time together while waiting for visits from the Dr. and other specialists for them to give us their opinions on how we can make this thing called cancer go away.  My first surprise was a young male nurse named Jamison who came in and sat down and told me that they were arranging for a horse for Andy in order to finish the Pacific Crest Trail.  A horse?  Soon after that was a visit from the staff social worker, who wanted me to fill out forms for the Dream Foundation to get a grant to pay for the series of horse outfitters that were going to support his intention to finish the PCT.  I was overwhelmed – by their kindness, their compassion, by their generosity.

Next thing I know I get a phone call from a Horse Woman who owns the Pacific Crest Outfitters that wants to set Andy up on the trail with her horses and a wrangler to support him in whatever way he needs to get him back on the trail to finish this thing.  He can ride, he can walk, the horse can carry his pack – whatever, let’s get this journey going.

Just a short time later, the hospital public relations coordinator is in our room asking if the local press can come and do a story on Andy.  All this before we have seen the doctor or the radiologist.  Andy’s kinda enjoying all the attention.  I think he said something like, “I’ve walked all this way suffering, its about time someone noticed I’m in pain.”  We laugh again, because that’s what we do.  It’s serious, but not so much, because Andy has been moving beyond pain so often in his life, it’s really not worth it feeling sorry for himself because, really, where does that get him?  And, hey, he’s been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for six months seeing on of the most beautiful, most spectacular parts of America, and Who Does That?  Not many people have that kind of courage or understand what it means to be on a pilgrimage.

So, we agree to a story.  And some photos.  Next thing we know  . . . is it okay if the local TV station can come and do an interview?  Well, we’re not there quite yet, because we don’t want this thing to go viral.  We need some privacy for the inner journey, let’s not let that get lost because that’s where the healing is.  Going within, finding peace and safety to return to wholeness is really our only way out of here.

Today Andy will receive a new treatment that has just been approved by the FDA, especially effective in cases such as his where he’s been through a stem-cell transplant and had a reoccurance.  It’s much less invasive than chemo-therapy, less distructive to the rest of the body and can reduce the size of tumors quickly with just one treatment.  If you’d like to read more about just click here.

It’s a big shift from the vow Andy made 2 1/2 years ago to leave behind the western medical model, but we’ve made a decision to give it a go and at the same time making a decision not to do radiation which was presented as an option, but we quickly denied because it’s so toxic.  And now it’s off to Yakima Valley Memorial!

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14 Responses to Strange Breed and Head Shaking

  1. Linda says:

    Dear Betsy and Andy,
    Betsy, thank you for your loving updates and continued sense of hope. Andy, you have been on my mind since I heard of your side-triip to the hospital, and I am amazed at how people have responded. I was trying to think of how I could come up there and help with at least one leg of the journey, and now I hear you have a team of horses and wranglers!!! Wow! See how you inspire?!?
    I was gratified to hear of the alternative treatment. Sounds like just the ticket! Please advise me of where that annoying tumor is located so I can focus my Reiki on the right spot. And thanks for keeping me posted. You can do it!!! Lot of love, Linda

  2. Dambara says:

    Wow! Grace in action. Very inspiring how just holding to high ideals, you inspire–who knows–hundreds? Thousands? Keep following the joy. 🙂

  3. Jack says:

    We’re following along here at the Pacific Crest Trail Association and rooting for Andy! One of his nurses called us a few days ago. Can someone shoot me an email? I have a question.

    Enjoy the rest of the trail Andy!

  4. annamce says:

    Andy and Family,
    This is your neighbor’s (Sharon and Roger) daughter Anna.
    I want you to know that I have passed your blog on to several of my colleges at Hopkins (I work as an RN in the chemo infusion center). We are in awe of your courage, strength, and faith, and we are all rooting for you as well.
    I hope the Adceteris works really well for you.
    Good for those medical professionals and trail angels for helping you along!
    Go team!

  5. Betsy Frank says:

    Hi Andy —
    Helped you and your Mom yesterday at Garden Dance (Reese’s pnut butter cups?) – then opened the paper this morning to read your amazing story. So happy that Yakima has welcomed you – the Memorial oncs are an amazing bunch. All the best to your and your lovely mother. (I am Betsy with a son, Andy – go figure…)!

  6. GO ANDY. I’ll be following along…best best wishes on your journey (the whole thing…not just the trail).

  7. josh meier says:

    Hey Astro,
    Wishing you all the best as you push forward in your amazing and inspirational journey.
    -Gesh, PCT ’07

  8. Nayaswami Premdas says:

    Aum, Aum, Aum. I and many of your spiritual family around the world have been & are praying for you, Andy, our inspiring friend! Ananda Healing Prayer Ministry just sent out a major mailing for even more devotees to pray for you and your Mom. Love, Nayaswami Premdas

  9. Evenstar says:

    Hey Astro –
    So glad to hear that you’ve made it up to White Pass and you are planning on finishing! We met just after Sonora Pass, and camped at that nice spot above a creek (and I think you scared the crap out of me in a meadow, and about an hour later, I returned the favor 🙂 ) I was hoping you’d catch me – I left super early the next morning. Onward to Canada!

  10. What an inspiration you both are!!! Keep the faith.

  11. Greta says:

    Never give up! Most “healthy” individuals don’t have the courage or confidence to thru-hike a long distance trail, let alone consider trying it. I’m proud of you, you can do it!! – Greta Melvin, PCT ’07

  12. We are praying for you Andy…I love the idea of you finishing out on horseback – Classic western!
    I love this old song – It’s not an exact fit, but probably some of the younger nurses are falling in love with you, so it’s close enough, in their heart of hearts…….lol

    Enjoy and get well soon.
    All my best…

  13. Fran Abel says:

    Hi, Andy/Astro you inspire! My name is Fran and I’m dbBrad’s (Freestyle’s) mom. Freestyle, Bodybag, and others hiked with you late July and early August according to Brad’s blog. The blog has lots of pictures of you that you might enjoy, as it appeared you all were having a fabulous time. Blog: There are photographs of you on Day 85, 86, 91 & 97. I hope you’ll be on the PCT again soon, but with your determination it seems a certainty. Freestyle, Bodybag and others were expecting to make Manning, BC today (10/4/12).

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