It follows me everywhere. Cancer. There is no real break. Its been a bad week for my stage iv cancer sisters. Two of them have departed their earthly home, for their new heavenly home. So many have followed the journey of Jen Burgess Thompson and her loss has been felt 'round the internet and back again. While breast cancer claimed the life of Hutch, another online cancer sister, two more breast cancer sisters have been told they are near the end of their battle. I can't help but be profoundly sad. My mind swirls with the weight of all that I can't possibly know...
Yet, it steels me, girds me, fills me with resolve... somehow... hurry up and get on with living.
A week ago, Sunday, Rick and I left for Idaho. Having lived in Twin Falls for nearly 10 years, we are no strangers to the drive between Minnesota and Idaho. Its 1135 miles, 18 hours, with few stops. And its no cake walk.
Our most intense day of driving turned out to be the first day of our trip. Rick had reserved a room for us at Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone Park. Without stops, the drive would take 13 hours. Even with an early morning departure, the sun began setting before we entered the park. The entrance, tucked in between two mountain ranges on either side, was fraught with switchbacks, rockslides, and ever increasing elevations. The threat of colliding with wildlife moving within feet of our tiny blue car, met us at every corner. It was pitch dark and spooky. The last 100 miles of our trip were slow and plodding, the whine of our Prius engine grumbling every time it was urged to to make the hairpin turn as the sides of the road fell away into steep gorges and canyons.
It was breathtaking and nerve-wracking all at once. And when I say breathtaking... I was quickly reminded what high elevations were going to do to my lungs. We arrived at 11 pm. I loaded up with several bags to begin the walk to our second floor room. My breathing became labored almost instantly. I wheezed with every few steps, my lungs burning as they attempted to adjust to this sudden change in altitude.
We tumbled into bed and woke early, as the sun ascended above the horizon. I had to stop for a nose bleed, but with Old Faithful scheduled to go off, we quickly grabbed our photo gear, and headed outside.
It was crisp, cold, but clear. And awe-inspiring to see Old Faithful, sturdy and reliable, spouting streams of vapor hundred of feet into the sulfur- infused air.
Invigorated, we decided to drive to a few sites and viewed more of the geyser basin. We're treated to the sight of a herd of buffalo grazing near the road. We stay in our car and watch and shoot. The buffalo are unphased by the crowds of people and lines of cars. They walk right in between the cars on the road, roaming the land freely.
But the altitude was taking its toll on me. Climbing the stairs to our room took major effort. My heart beating rapidly, my air coming in gasps, the tears stinging my eyes. Are my lungs scarred from all the chemo drugs I've ingested? Am I just deconditioned- suddenly out of shape? Are more tumors rearing their ugly heads? I simply don't know. I'm tempted to collapse in bed in defeat.
And yet, curiosity gets the best of me. I can't refuse when Rick asks if I want to explore the Inn with him. My camera is firmly affixed to my neck.
We take it slow, his presence calming, his words soothing. You can do this. And I push ahead a little more...
It hasn't yet occurred to me... but Yellowstone Park is teaching me... I'm learning to stand... stay tuned...