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!