Yesterday was the one month anniversary of me hearing my formal diagnosis is terminal stage 4 lung cancer with average life expectancy of one year. Since then, it’s been a roller coast ride with multiple moods and levels of acceptance. It’s really quite amazing what your mind can go through in such a short period of time and how quickly your basic thoughts about life can change – and then change again.
But with every day it has gotten a little more real. I accept what the tests show. I still am glad I don’t even have to consider chemo. But I’m still basically in denial that my body will be dead in a year and I will no longer exist on this earth. Maybe because I’m still feeling relatively good, although I definitely do notice a decrease in energy, increase in coughing and more difficulty in taking deep breaths. All that had actually been going on for a while but I just chalked it up to getting older and being a former heavy smoker.
When I left Tucson this year on the anniversary of my birth (April 30, 1951), I was still convinced I could carry on with at least most of the plans I had for the summer in Colorado. But by the time I got to Durango, either the higher elevation, the smoke from the wildfires – or the cancer – was making it difficult to feel like doing much of anything. So I switched gears and decided to get on to Oregon and bypass the rest of the Colorado plans with Rochelle which would have taken us to even higher elevations. I grieved a bit over missing Mesa Verde, Telluride and Rocky Mountains National Park, but I had to conclude it was wiser to get on to Oregon instead. I knew the slowpoke way I travel and the rest I need between travel days would mean at least 10 days to just get there. But at this point I’ll be in Phoenix, OR tomorrow where I’ll settle for at least a month to figure out next necessary steps to establish residency there. I’ll also see a different oncologist for second opinion and tests to see what has changed or grown since the last tests were done.
I still haven’t found the words or time to answer individual messages and comments on the blog posts. I can’t get through them without major crying jags. Especially while I’m still on the road, the best I can do is keep posting daily on Facebook so the largest number of my family and friends can keep up with where I am, what I’m doing and how I’m feeling.
But from the anniversaries of the ridiculous to the sublime: In direct contrast to that diagnosis anniversary, the week before (June 13), when I was checking into a campground and asked the date, I realized in a brilliant flash that that day was the 17 year anniversary of when I left Austin to start my journey as a fulltime RVer.
When I look back at what I wrote back then in Inspiration’s Journey about how my travel dreams started and took shape, it still cracks me up and amazes me that I actually pulled it off despite what seemed overwhelming odds against it.
And my question to anyone craving to follow their own dreams remains the same: “What Are You Waiting For?!” Don’t think that all your ducks have to be in a row, the stars and planets all aligned perfectly, and your bank account overflowing. Even if you get all that done, I can’t count all the stories I’ve heard from people who had planned for years, was almost to their “finish line” of things to do before they could really start their dream life, and then something catastrophic happened to put the kibosh on the whole deal.
I know I wouldn’t be nearly as peaceful about my diagnosis and shortened life expectancy if I didn’t have these 17 years of amazing memories behind me. I said back then that I didn’t want to be filled with regret for the things I hadn’t done before I died. And I can honestly now say that was a great instinct. Maybe I didn’t do it all, but I certainly did enough to be grateful instead of regretful.
So since I left Colorado on June 13, my travel mode has been pretty gentle and not trying to push myself too much. I’ve mostly kept it under 200 miles a day and rest at least a couple of days inbetween.
But along the way I’m exploring as much as I can, even if on a more limited basis than I used to do. So when Salt Lake City was an option for a short stay, I rested a day then spent the next day walking around the Temple Square. To me, it doesn’t matter what religion or prophet you profess to believe in, it’s still pretty impressive and inspiring to see what lengths man will go to in order to express their connection and appreciation for the divine.
I truly enjoyed my entire day here, starting with being right on time for a recital of the magnificent organ in the sanctuary. I had a delicious lunch and leisurely walked around viewing all the buildings and several of the visitor centers which are incredibly well done.
As I was sitting on the bench watching other people get their pictures taken here, I heard from inside, “Reach for the hand that is always there, Malia.” So I asked someone there to take my picture doing exactly that. There was a tingling throughout my body as I did this and the truth of that statement ran through me.
I shared a few more and details in the pictures and comments in the Temple Square Album I created on Facebook (it’s public so you don’t need an account to view them).
After leaving Salt Lake City, my route took me past Bonneville Flats by the Great Salt Lake, and wow, is that an unusual environment! I had been driving for miles with that great expanse of white on both sides of the road. There’s a great rest area here and I was glad for the chance to get out and really look around. It looked more like snow, and hard to believe it’s all salt!
The Bonneville Salt Flats are really an incredible sight! Here’s a little video that pans around for full effect.
With as much as I’ve seen and heard of from other RVers in all these years, it wasn’t until I landed in Elko, NV for a couple of days of rest that I heard about Lamoille Canyon.
It’s now on my top ten most beautiful scenic drives, and with as many of these type roads I’ve driven, that’s saying a lot!
Mountains still holding glaciers, interesting and varied rock formations, green fields and trees all provide contrast and continued interest.
Here I’m posed between an avalanche chute on the right and a glacial waterfall on the left. All of these pull-offs are easily accessible and don’t take much effort to get out and walk around.
With as many times as I stopped to gawk around and just sit a while sometimes and soak it all in, it took me almost 4 hours to go the entire 13 miles and get to where the road ends and you get to turn around and see the same great scenes from the other direction. There are several trail heads there that looked especially enticing with destinations like Island Lake. I admit times like these gives rise to some resentment that I just can’t do that kind of hiking anymore. At least not now while I’m just trying to get to Oregon in one piece and start experiencing what my “new normal” might be.
But at times like those, I try to revert back to an attitude of gratitude. And this 4 minute YouTube video has my favorite part of the day where I was happy to have my feet dance in that cool, clear glacial water!
That definitely helped the transition from mad to glad. 🙂