Sunday, February 10, 2013

Update or... What a ride it's been!

“But on a purely philosophical level, we have always experienced darkness and bleakness and pain and angst. Anyone who’s lost a loved one will tell you this; anyone who’s had a chronic illness or been physically victimized will tell you this; any good Buddhist will tell you this. Life is change and entropy and upheaval and suffering, and then we die, and ultimately there is no reason. We have no idea why we’re here nor can we, but it’s in the struggle that meaning emerges.”

- Matt Sammet

It’s been a while… the four most used words of any tardy blogger…

But it’s been a rough couple of months since I last posted – much of which was spent in the hospital nearly dead, or close enough to wish I were. The Graft Vs. Host Disease came on fast and unexpected, like a rogue wave quickly carrying me away into a sea of suffering. The weeks in the hospital faded into a single feverish dream exacerbated by a morphine pump to ease the pain which flooded my bones and body. My skin turned red and burned like hell… then it blistered and sluffed off for days on end before turning red again and repeating the same torturous cycle over and over for weeks. The steroids used to treat the GVHD eventually overcame, but in turn sparked a rapid growth in the cancer roaming my bone-marrow. Back to the chemo I go. My last chance seems to be a Phase 2 Study involving a new type of radio-immunotherapy treatment (followed by an allogenic stem-cell transplant) being conducted at Fred Hutchitson Cancer Center in Seattle. Getting onto these trial studies is difficult with insurance and protocols, but I’m moving forward with it and with a bit of luck will be moving out to Seattle in a couple of weeks. If all goes well I’ll be out there for three months and done with cancer stuff. Wish me luck.

In the meantime I’ve submitted myself to hopefulness and feel resigned to whatever conclusion occurs. Being hopeful (I have to be) I have spent a lot of time looking over the atlas plotting epic rock climbing road-trips,  writing down tick-lists of routes I want to climb around the country – I’ve been waiting since September, 2011 and I’m feeling very, VERY ready.

I’ve also drafted plans and begun construction on an awesome garage gym in a little house my folks own/rent in old town, (and where I intend on living myself when this is over… I’m thinking about building a little half-pipe/pool feature in the backyard as well – I’ve been skateboarding in the closest for years). Obviously I’m very eager to get through this and to begin healing and eventually training again. The only thing I have managed to do the past seven months is survive and train finger strength on the hangboard, so hopefully that along with my ridiculously low weight, muscle memory, and time spent on a steep home wall will result in a relatively fast return to base-level 5.10 fitness. I’m jones’n for the mountains and cant wait to begin hiking and eventually trail-running again. Goddamn! It’s been a long road I’m walking… it’s taught me patience and discipline while allowing for a totally new perspective and appreciation for life. I’d do well not to forget it.

55 degree wall + campus board / systems board / roof cracks

Otherwise I’ve been obsessively collecting guidebooks to famous and obscure crags around the country and have outfitted my truck with a topper, cot, and 10 gallon water jug. Live = driving around from crag to crag for a couple years climbing thousands of fun, easy, classic and obscure routes – or die. Simple.

I’ve also obsessively been collecting Polish Pottery.

And reading A LOT OF BOOKS – maybe I should try writing some book reviews here on the blog? I want to be a writer when I grow up. Once upon a time I had a good job that I liked, and security. Once upon a time I moved to the highest town in North America to attend college. I skied nearly 100 days a season, learned how to climb on choss, spent weeks on end in the wilderness, met some of the finest people I’ve ever known, and drank way too much way too often. I learned a lot about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses…

A copy of the original 78 edition

I haven’t worked or gone to school in nearly a year and a half – to think I was falling behind and going nowhere before this all happened! A year or two spent healing (mentally/emotionally/physically) is definitely called for. But what then? So many things have changed and I’ve learned so much more about myself. I know now that I want the opportunity to amount to something – to be a positive force in this world and to help others, be a positive influence in my community, protect the places I love, and maybe leave this world (or a very small part of it) as beautiful or slightly more so than I found it. What more can anyone hope for? Who’d dare wish for more?