Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Unexpected Journey

For twenty years, TeamBoltz has researched, planned, trained for, and executed some of the world's most challenging treks (to include):
  • Crossing the Gosaikund in Nepal,
  • Summiting Kilamanjaro,
  • Trekking the unknown Choquequirao in Peru,
  • Circling the Torres de Paine in Patagonia,
  • Tackling the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermat,
  • Conquering the 216 miles and eleven, 15,000 foot passes of Bhutan's Snowman Trek,
  • Crossing England; first Coast-to-Coast (Wainwright's walk) and later along its spine (Pennine Way),
  • Realizing the amazing, magical, indescribable magnificence of Tibet along Heinrich Harrer's historic high-altitude escape route to Shan-gri-la (Lhasa), and most recently;
  • Traversing the length of Offa's Dyke (Coast-to-Coast / S-N) in Wales, in one stretch.   
This next series of blog entries was, in fact, meant to cover Offa's Dyke.  That is, until we launched on the Unexpected Journey Friday night, a week ago . . .

. . . the night of 2 August was a long and sleepless one for me.  Agonizing pain in my abdomen left me with no way comfortably to position myself for rest.  Finally, at 2:00 a.m., I called our insurance-affiliated, nurse consult line to describe my symptoms and get advice.  This was the worst pain I ever had experienced -- agonizing twisting and stabbing in my gut.  Truly a 10 out of 10 on the pain scale.  

The nurse's questions seemed to focus on a cardiac event.  Did I have pain in my chest?  Was I nauseous?  Did I have cold sweats?  Her eventual advice was to wait until urgent care opened and go there.  For the next seven hours, I alternately wandered the house, and tossed and turned in pain 'til the sun rose.   

From urgent care, I was sent to the emergency room with extreme hypotension, intense abdominal pain and increasing weakness . . .

And nearly ten years after I became on IronMan, a year after TeamBoltz crossed an 18,000' pass in remote Tibet, and fewer than eleven days off Offa's Dyke (196 miles), our next challenge began to materialize: Stage 4 colon cancer.

What does a trekking team do when they discover themselves far advanced along what may be the most difficult trek of their lives with no prior research, no planning and no event-specific training?  We execute.  Without looking back, questioning why (or why me), we wholly open ourselves to the present experience, assess the situation, increase awareness of our new environment and go forward from the only point so far charted on this journey: the here and now.

⇒Why would I choose to blog this very personal journey?
  1. For self-accountability and self-efficacy.
  2. With the acknowledgement that it is a way to keep family and friends informed (without keeping the onus of that mission on Cliff alone).
  3. On the chance that my experience somehow may serve another being who finds him- or herself on a similar path. 
⇒ And why blog it here, on the "We'd Rather Be Walking" pages?
  • Because we truly would RATHER BE WALKING.  In fact, really we'd rather be doing almost anything else.  But this is where our feet have landed this time. 
Each blog entry, I plan to include a colon cancer fact (part of increasing my own education in a
safe space where honesty, reflection, connection and affirmation build ballast). 
Since the mid-1980s, the colorectal cancer survival rate has been increasing, due in part to increased awareness and screening. By finding polyps and cancer in the earlier stages, it is easiest to treat. Improved treatment options have also contributed to a rise in survival rates.

Survival Rates

  • The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the local stage is 90%.
  • The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the regional stage is 71%.
  • The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the distant stage is 14%.
There are currently more than one million colorectal cancer survivors alive in the US.
                                                              Source: Website, The Colorectal Cancer Alliance

Each blog entry, I plan to include an inspirational quote, starting with my true north Emerson quote: "Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you."  I know, strangely redolent of the US Army's old, "Be all you can be," slogan .  . ..  To me it says: Tap into every resource within one's being to learn, grow, succeed, flourish, thrive (and survive).

And I'll always sign off with, "Via Francigena, 2020!"  That is, after all, the next TeamBoltz trek:  A 1,200-mile pilgrimage from Canterbury England to Rome, which we'll start in 2020.  I hope when you think of us, that you'll send us a "Via Francigena!" blast of best energy (and consider joining us for a leg next year).

Completing Offa's Dyke on the Irish Sea, Prestatyn, Wales (22 July 2019)
Finally, consider this: I apparently completed a 196-mile walk (quite a strenuous one even by Cliff's accounting) with Stage 4 colon cancer.  Any doubt I'm gonna crush this?

Via Francigena, 2020!

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