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I can’t believe its been four weeks since Andy finished the PCT!

After his finish we decided on a more leisurely pace and visited Vancouver for a big city fix.  It was great for Andy to have some “real food”.  His big craving was for sushi and what better place than Asian-infused Vancouver to pacify his fixation?  We ordered out for pick-up — more food than what four people could ever eat, when there was just two of us and somehow Andy polished it all off.

The stimulation of the city wore off quickly, so we decided to ditch the car and catch a ferry to the beautiful and quaint Victoria.  On our way out of town Andy yelped a cute little vegetarian dive and we met up with an extraordinarily persistent fan.  A young woman had been emailing me every couple of days since learning about Andy’s side trip to Yakima with offers of rides, housing and general support in the hopes of meeting Andy.  Finally, I thought it must be fate, and suggested Andy call her.  I guess it’s nice to meet with your fans now and then.

We had a quick visit to Victoria, cut short when we learned the Clipper (fancy boat that would take us to Seattle) only left port once a day and we’d need to leave the next night.

While in Seattle we visited the Chihuly glass exhibit. A dose of culture always does a body and mind some good and this was awesome. Incredible outside glass garden too.

The clipper was a smooth ride into downtown Seattle, full of ease for crossing back into the states without the hassle of customs.  Our hotel happened to be in the complex of a Whole Foods market, which was our first stop after checking in.  We did a quick stock up on fresh fruit, veggies, gourmet cheese and of course, pizza.  Pizza has turned out to be a constant craving since Andy’s gotten off the trail.

The next day, after a visit and lunch to Pike’s Market and the Space Needle, we were picked up by our favorite trail angel Deon who works for Seattle Genetics (Seagen).  She had invited Andy on a tour of the bio-genetics company that makes the newly advanced chemo-drug for relapsed Hodgkin’s disease.  Vidoten, the drug he had to walk all the way to Yakima (2,200 miles) to find out about.  (I have a real bone to pick with City of Hope)

After Andy finished the trail we stopped off in Seattle to visit Seagen with our trail angel Deon. We also had a chance to visit with Gourmet and Dave.

So, there we were at Seagen, Andy still scruffy from the trail with wild hair and an unruly beard, refusing to wear close-toed shoes, so in flip-flops with socks on.  But at least Andy’s has his European flat cap that that gives him a little air of dignity.  We’re feeling a bit awkward around a formal company who engineered a chemo-drug after we’d made an informal pact to shift gears from western medicine, its scare tactics and toxic chemicals and now coming full circle and meeting the two chemists who made vidoten.  We were put at ease right away with the laid-atmosphere and friendliness of everyone.

Andy’s first question was did they have the ball and stick model of the components of the chemical configuration?  Only Andy would ask that.  We had a fun little tour of the lab and a historical prospective of the company and the 10 years plus it took to develop and get it FDA approved.  The corporate employees made up an intimate little reception where Andy shared his story to a receptive group in awe of his journey.  They were so happy to meet an ‘end user’, seems that Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patients don’t show up at corporate headquarters often.

We happen to live within a two hour drive of the Pacific Crest Trail and were up around the Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead area and decided to take a hike and reminisce about life on the trail. Andy seems happiest when he’s outside in nature, surrounded by trees and a big blue sky!

Fast forward to home . . . two days after we got home it’s a trip to the oncologist to meet yet another new Doctor.  Our criteria this time is a small office that is close to home, a Dr. who is accessible by phone and doesn’t have a barrage of staff protecting him/her and is open-minded to alternative therapies.  It’s been such a long time since we were in a regular Dr.’s office.  Those small little rooms where you sit there waiting, our eyes darting around the room, searching for something encouraging to say or looking for something to distract us from the reality of what is soon to come – a walk down a familiar path of getting treated for cancer.  You can just feel the various emotions arise – fear and dread being uppermost on the list.

Three days later it’s infusion number two.  The morning is tense with expectation and anxiety.  Not this again.  It seems as though Andy woke up that day nauseated.  This is totally normal and predictable in all patients that have been treated with chemotherapy.  The psyche is conditioned to remember the past trauma associated with what happens during an infusion – the unsettled stomach, the itchy skin, sometimes a hot flash or two and then . . .

We make it all a reality.  Clearly we weren’t prepared.  I blame myself for not insisting that Andy have a practical lunch, instead I rely on an inner mantra “he’s 23 and can make his own decisions”.  What I come to realize later is that the fear of what is to come sort of paralyzes him from thinking rationally and taking care of lining his stomach with some good absorbing foods.  He did not eat lunch.

We settle into the infusion room, get the chair to just the right angle and avoid eye contact or conversing with the other people nearby, one getting an infusion, the other there to support him.  It appears to be a husband and wife and clearly they are not there to socialize.  We can take our ques.  Andy gets his first pre-med, dexamethazone (a steroid) and then some extra-strength Tylenol for good measure.  Then we begin the vidoten.  Shortly into it Andy begins to perspire, then the bright red hives begin to appear on his forehead.  The room somehow gets smaller and feels a little intense with anticipation.  Andy begins to get agitated and says he’s nauseated and going to throw-up.  And before we know it he has.  Stop the infusion; let’s get some benadryl.

The couple that was next to us has quietly moved to another part of the infusion room.  Apparently no one wants to be so close to vomit – it’s so messy.  Our little corner starts to settle down a little as the benadryl works its magic and we restart the vidoten.

Here we are at the top of the Cougar Crest Trail where it intersects the PCT. It was fun to get out there and feel really nostalgic about the trail. In our own way all of us hiked this trail with Andy (Astro) including all of you — thank you for your words of encouragement. If you’re reading this I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! So much to be thankful for!

Andy says it was much easier being on the PCT, surrounded by nature and wondering about where the next water source was, how many more miles to go and what am I going to eat at my next stop?

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16 Responses to Back Home

  1. Candace Hurley says:

    Feeling thankful to be getting these beautiful updates while you continue your journey. Hugs and LOVE to you.

  2. Dambara says:

    Thank you for the update (was really wondering!)—and bless you, Andy, for your continuing courage, and successful treatment.

  3. Ann Quilter says:

    Andy, you are an inspiration, our own Brave Heart. Thanks to FB, I discovered your journey and read all the older blogs while in Austria. See you got a typical Seattle “welcome” at the end of the trail: rain!. I’m glad you and your folks got to have some quality time in Seattle (my old stomping grounds in the mid 70’s before I married and moved to Laguna) and that you took time to visit and thank the researchers who developed the drug that enable you to complete the trail. It hurts the soul to hear you are back in treatment so soon. We are thinking of you and continue to pray for strength. Your Mom is a rock star for sharing her personal journey, fears and hopes during this time. I know her love and that of your step-dad have helped sustain you. Emily, my daughter (the tweezer fanatic in Costa Rica) sends a big hug to you from Georgia where she now lives with her college beau. Embrace Thanksgiving. We’ll hoist a toast in your honor. We love you, kiddo.

  4. annamce says:

    Andy and family. So glad you posted again. I have been wondering how you all are doing. Glad you had some fun before going back to treatment.
    It is really good for me, an Oncology RN, to hear about your experience with the Hodgkin’s and the treatment. I see people every day going through chemo for all types of Cancer and some how being able to read your description of your experience has given me some insight into what many of my patients are experiencing. Thanks so much for sharing.
    You may have tried this already but I wanted to share with you something that one of my patients does for anticipatory nausea. He carries around some peppermint or orange essential oil and puts a drop of it on a handkerchief and breaths in the scent. It seems to help interrupt the message that his brain is getting that makes him nauseous. There is also ativan, zofran, emmend from the western medicine cabinet. Just an idea. And of course, eat something before you go to get chemo!
    Good luck!

  5. martha says:

    Martha here Betsy and Andy. Thank you so much for the update.
    This post is very touching to me. I know how Wolverine is when he’s off a trail….like a caged animal. He’s always looking for places to walk. I can’t imagine finishing a journey and then having to find a doctor and get more infusions.
    I hope and pray and wish those infusions work!!!
    Andy–your strength and courage through all of this is amazing. I am awed by you. Thank you for showing me what can be accomplished even when there is pain involved.
    Betsy-thank you for being a fierce mother lion and watching and helping your son on his amazing adventure.
    Peace to all.
    Happy THanksgiving.

  6. Debbie says:

    Thank you so much for the update, I have thought of Astro often since he has ended his quest. May god bless you all and give you strength! May you have a Happy Thanksgiving, and manys thanks to you for touching all of our lives! God speed.

  7. Jeff Robins says:

    I never write notes to a blog like this one, but I am so taken with your courage and your adventure – and use you as an example to my kids when their worlds present them with problems -you are a hero in my book and I write to let you know that I have you in my thoughts with continued wishes for health and happiness. All best to you and your family . . .

  8. Cindy Maglietti says:

    I have been following your adventures and sharing your extrordinary story with others. Now people ask me for the latest news. I’m glad for the latest update. I’m a nurse so am interested in the medical stuff and work near Yakima so first heard about you there. My husband and I are hikers and have a son who is telling us he’s thinking of doing the PCT. Our paths have crossed on the trail, Yakima and in Seattle. We live within minutes to an hour of being able to have our boots on the trail and into those bea

    utiful mountains and see the lakes
    and wildflowers. Best wishes Andy and family.

  9. Dorothy says:

    Still following your brave journey and sending you thoughts of love, strength and courage.

  10. Lin Beers says:

    Betsy, Thank you for the latest post. It was so good to hear about the first post PCT chapter. Thinking of you all, Lin

    Sent from my iPad

  11. dana says:

    Thank you so much for the update. My sister and I have been following your blog with great interest. She is currently being treated for cancer, I am a cancer survivor and a PCT enthusiast, and we are both moms. We empathize so deeply with both of you and send our very best wishes for continued strength, love, and healing. We know that the peace and wonder of nature are always inside you (but can be hard to access in an infusion room). I’ve often imagined that if I’m in such a situation, I’d like to have a soundtrack of footsteps walking on a trail on my ipod! Sending you our energy and love. Go get ’em, Andy and Betsy!

  12. Carol says:

    Great to read your post. I have been wondering. You are both so brave and make so much of each day. I relate to the he is 23 stuff and you are so right about the trauma disrupting the strategic thinking, maybe for each of you a bit. I am thankful and admiring of how you each soldier on with so much zest and creativity.
    PS I love Chihuly’s work. Made me smile you got to see it.

  13. Michelle says:

    My daughter Sara – aka “Blood Bank” hiked too- and said she thought Astro was maybe the only one who understood what she went through on this hike! After reading this, I believe you truly do. And I truly understand and fell like I have walked with your mother through your incredible journeys. Live YOUR life Astro- you rock!

  14. Hi Andy,
    I hope you are doing well in the New Year… I am so glad you got to finish the trail, and I hope the treatments are going well.

  15. Sue McDonald says:

    Please update us on how Andy’s doing.

  16. demuzeekmon says:

    Betsy and Andy, often think of you all and wonder what you are up to in your lives now that the PCT is behind you. More hiking? A new calling? Just a curious follower who was inspired by your PCT journey. God bless and take care.

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