Walking a higher road

I’ve spent a few days walking, talking and scouting walk routes with Luke. Wow.

Day 1- “Danger Luke Robinson”.

These roads are just downright scary. The route 101 highway from Oreck to Patricks Point was a part of the route I walked with Luke. The hills, the narrow “shoulders”- more like fingers in my opinion, are just dangerous. Combine the hairpin curves with speeding traffic, distracted and well, rude drivers that won’t move over create a hazardous scenario for our fuzzybutt friend and his Papi.  “zigging and zagging” along the road, yep, I get that now.  Luke is cautious and protective of his kids and from what I’ve witnessed, I think he would risk his own life to save theirs.

Day 2-The choir

As we walked from Patricks Point state park to Trinidad, we were serenaded by the beautiful sound of sea lions in the fog. We were off of route 101 and walked along the coast.  I felt fortunate to hear the sea lions singing, but sad that I couldn’t see them through the thick, dense fog. Oh and yes, more hills, up and down and back up and then down.

The Digs

I actually enjoy camping out as it reminds me of my youth, when my family would go on camping adventures in our 1972 Chevy station wagon, loaded up with gear!  Those were the days.

I have mastered setting up and breaking down my tent in record time. (Actually, I think I’m quicker at it than Luke). What I bring to the campsite- lights, fun and purposeful battery operated mini flower multi colored string lights. They seem to be the funnest thing our fellow campers have seen.

My sleeping bag, pillow (yes, I brought my pillow from home), sleeping pad- not nearly thick enough as I can feel every stone, root and etc through it. The downside-the dirt factor.

Trust your instinct.
Believe what you see is real. Example, if you think you have just seen a bear on the other side of the campsite across from you, then trust that you have.
If your gut tells you to go right vs left, listen to no one. Trust your gut. And yes, I did spot a young black bear and when we walked down to check him out, we noticed his sibling/friend with him. Climbing trees for apples and not caring about us as we marveled at the peaceful coexistence.  2 black bears, 2 young bucks, 2 fawns and a few doe. The bucks, standing stoic as they protected the fawn and doe, and yes they were more cautious of us, than the black bears.

Believe in yourself.
You CAN do what you put your mind to. Walk at your own pace.  Focus on you and your goals and let the naysayers kiss your keester when you finish.


Note: the days I cranked out some miles walking with Luke were for my bestie, Kate, who has terminal cancer. Diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, which spread to her bones in her spine and skull. She’s in pain. As I walked with Luke and Indy, I thought of Kate. I dismissed the aches and pains felt while walking and post walk because, well Kate has aches and pains on a daily basis. I know Kate will continue her fight and stay strong. I am hoping next year, we can do our cross country adventure and kick up some dust along the way. Just like old days.  

Papa K.  This walk and trip has also inspired me to plan a cross country trip with Papa K.  He is living vicariously through me on this trek and wants to see the sights before his days are up. I will be part of that wish for Papa K.  Perhaps he joins Kate and I!  It would be a blast  for us driving across country in an RV, at our own pace, visiting anywhere we want. Papa K- wants Vegas to be part of our trip. And I can’t wait to see him taking in the sights of Sin City, the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. 2015 will be a defining year. 

Cancer doesn’t have a conscience. It takes precious things from you and leaves a dark aftermath. I figured that out when Malcolm exited this world. For months I stood in a deep pit of sadness with so many unanswered questions. It didn’t take long for me to look around and see others sitting in that dirt right beside me.

To honor the great undaunted spirits of our friends taken by cancer, I started a calendar back in 2009. It was a simple and beautiful way to make some sense of these dark experiences, and the goodness just keeps growing. People write to my foundation (Puppy Up) with their stories and pictures every year. Puppy Up publishes the calendar and uses the proceeds to help fund major comparative oncology studies. It’s an overlooked but critical area of cancer research that can give us endless information. 


My own Murphy appeared on one cover. If you want to tell us your story and join the fight against cancer in people and companion animals, I’ve posted the rules below.

Every single story helps, and we appreciate anything you can do.

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Welcome to the 2015 Cancer Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down Calendar Contest!This contest gives you a way to honor your canine cancer hero while helping the Puppy Up Foundation raise funds for cancer research to benefit pets and humans.
How Does It Work? 
Register your dog. Simply upload your dog’s story and photo. For best results, use the best high-resolution digital photo you have. Please also be prepared to submit a high resolution digital photo of the same image (minimum of 500kb) upon request for reproduction in the calendar. Then provide a brief summary of your dog’s story. The more you show your dog’s personality, the more votes you will receive!

Who Can Enter? Anyone with a dog who currently has or has had cancer (living or passed) can enter, including dogs who have entered in previous 2 Million Dogs/Puppy Up calendar contests.
Get started right now. Or for more info, keep reading.
Voting Begins As Soon As You Enter
Your $10 registration becomes the first 10 votes for your dog.
To add more votes, share your dog’s page on your favorite social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and encourage everyone to vote for your dog. (The first vote is $5. All subsequent votes are $1 each.)
The 13 pets with the highest number of votes will win a Dog of the Month slot on the calendar. ALL photo entries will be included in our 2015 Calendar Photo Gallery. 
Your participation helps fund vital cancer research for dogs and humans. 
Begin here and follow the directions. Be sure to write down and remember your user name and password! 
For questions about the contest, please contact Erich Trapp at erich@puppyup.org.
 FAQ
Where Do My Voting Dollars Go? 
Your voting dollars go to fund cutting-edge research in comparative oncology, that branch of research that benefits both companion animals and humans in our fight against cancer.
What Makes a Puppy Up Calendar so Special?
Puppy Up Foundation uses our annual calendar as an educational tool about a critical and often overlooked area of cancer research called comparative oncology. There are important clues in the connections between human and canine cancers, especially since the resulting treatments benefit both species. One of the best ways to call attention to the need for this research is by telling your stories and showing your photos. It also helps transform our losses into information that helps fight the world’s deadliest disease.
Why Do I Need This Calendar (when it’s published)?
First, every dog entered appears in the calendar. No one gets left behind. We have a whole section of gallery photos dedicated to all of the dogs entered into the contest in addition to our winners who are featured as each month’s “model.”  We also include regular ‘people’ holidays and special dog holidays like National Puppy Day, Pet Theft Awareness Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, World Animal Remembrance Month, Pet Cancer Awareness Month, etc.
Each calendar is a one-of-a-kind keepsakes.
Start right here today: look for the Register Here button on the left of the page. Click it and follow the directions.

Have fun and good luck!

I leave my loves at home and go West for a bit. 


Famous Last Words.
“See you in a couple months”  When I last saw Luke and the boys about 5.5 months ago, I had intended to fly to Vancouver in May to see them off as they started their journey. Yes, renewed my passport and was planning my flight.  Stuff happens! (My beloved Papa K. was hospitalized and sent to a rehab facility).  The best plans can change due to unforeseen circumstances.  FYI, Papa K. is home and wreaking havoc in town.  Good for him, but poor Mom. 

Preparation
Luke and I discussed the walk in depth and agreed, that if I trained, both physically and mentally, I could do this.  Heck yes, I CAN do this.
I have a full one page list titled “California Trip Prep”.  The categories on my list include:  “Luke’s suggestions”, my camping/hiking gear, camping items (yes, they are different from the gear portion of list!), “MY list”, Personal Care and Food/Bev. 
The highlights of this list seem to be in the “Personal Care” section of list and some make me chuckle…..Toilet Paper, Cleansing Wipes(yes, both ends!) and “Sponge or wash cloth”.  Benadrylnever leave home without it, and my Albuterol Asthma spray is another must have at all times.   
Shoes:  Critical as Luke’s stated.  My new Merrell hikers fit and feel as if I’ve had them for years.  I’ve probably put about 25 miles on them since last weekends purchase.  It may not seem like a lot, but considering I worked about 55 hours last week, it’s a good amount!  Yes, I looked like a dork at the gym with tall hikers on the treadmill and elliptical.  Toe cramps suck, and I’m not sure why the cute Vasques caused them.  Luckily, no cramps in the Merrell.  
I do have my list covered, except the rain poncho.  Need to pick that up this week.  Packweight is a concern and yes, I’m an over packer.  We’ll figure out what I need to leave in basecamp SUV when I get there.  As of course I need my flat iron, hairdryer, hair products and some other critical girly things for when I meet my friend Janet in Napa at the end of my trip for a couple days of r&r.   
Food/water:  It’s going to be about zone bars and nuts for me.  And yes, I really am taking the jar of Nutella Luke!  It’s already in the pack and accounted for in pack weight. :
Next post will be about the emotional highs and lows of prep and training.  One low happened yesterday at work, when it hit me hard that I will be away from my furkids (aka my loves) for 12 days…..12 days!
Tears flowed and flowed. 

Last minute questions/concerns-how do I cope w/missing the furkids for 12 days????  The lack of showering, girly things and etc seem so trivial compared to lack of snuggle, snuggle with my kids….

Till we meet again.

 V


Saturday, August 9, 2014

One Week Til V Day

Valerie
A week from today our good friend Valerie from CT is flying to CA to join us on the road for a week.  In her words she wants to experience what our life is like out here and not just walking a mile or a day.  Yep pack, tent, she’ll be carrying her on weight.  I’ve invited her to guest blog here so we can discuss last minute preparations and she can share her side of the adventure.
V – 
I shed my base layers, tops and bottoms in Brookings & I’ve regretted it since.  Temps in Northern California, or at least this stretch of it ave low 60s in the day and 50s at night.  Sweltering heat from the rogue valley pulls high afternoon winds and fog banks and unless I’m in my tent snuggled up with the boys I’m chilled by the damp air.  
But as I’ve found along the coastline from Newport OR to here there are different microclimates distinct to each of the areas.
The redwood forests are right around the bend and I can’t speak to the climate there yet.  My suggestion is pack lightweight base layers – silk, which I prefer, or wicking synthetic.  Fleece just adds more pack weight & don’t think you’ll need the heavier fabric.
Shoes – hope you have that worked out by now. Don’t know why the vasques cause toe cramping – I love mine – but each foot has different demands.  But that has to be resolved ASAP.  Like fletcher wrote – footwear is the foundation – get that wrong and you won’t make it a week.
Don’t worry about packing first aid sundries – I keep sufficient supply.  Also I pack a multi tool, extra carabiners, zip ties etc.  
I’m worldly enough to know NOT to tell a woman what grooming/cosmetics to pack but since you’ll be carrying your own food and water the pounds add up.  I have nail clippers (since I have to keep toes ultra short) razor & cream (travel size) and axe spray for when I’m in public and haven’t had a chance to shower or do laundry.
You’ll probably want to bring soap since most campgrounds have showers but I wouldn’t expect that luxury more than once during the week.  
Other essentials in your pack – a cpl of ziplock bags to keep your electronics dry, poncho (even though I’ve only used mine twice in the 3 months on the road), a chamois or microfiber towel, sunblock (I don’t carry any), a pkg of wipes or rinse free hand soap, bug spray (though I haven’t had much of a problem thus far and I recommend skin so soft rather than a deet based product).  
Pillow – if your body contour requires it but I don’t afford the space for one and instead use my clothes sack plus my pack for a head rest but it’s not terribly comfortable but comfort is a notion you’ll have to divorce yourself of quickly.  
Once you arrive next Saturday and pick us up from the road we’ll have the balance of the day to do a gear check and purchase any last minute provisions.  But these are mostly small coastal communities out here – no walmarts, best buys or REIs.
Hope your training is going well but don’t push yourself after Thursday. Stick to stretching exercises.  As cell service is questionable up in the forests, post your questions or last minute concerns here…
As I spoke about in a previous vignette about how if we weren’t tested that first two weeks on walk 1, it’s doubtful we would’ve made it.  That may seem counter-intuitive to some.  

You see most people will look for any reason to fail at things and they have a whole litany of excuses to justify it.  

A few, however, search for that one way, any way, to succeed.  It may take months.  Or years to find it but they do.  

——–

We were trekking the Rails-Trails to DC in 2009 and I met a man who stopped us for a conversation for the ‘who, when, why, and what about the walk’.  I answered as honestly as I could about our mission and our cause and his hapless almost helpless response was, ‘You know, I’d love to do something like that.  But I have a family and a job and responsibilities.’

I suppressed the great growl within and merely responded, ‘What makes you think that I don’t?’  

——–

I’ve met many people on our travels that would’ve, should’ve, and could’ve embarked on a grand adventure, traversed the AT, or climbed K2, and though I’m no scholar on the matter, my best guess is that why they didn’t or why they did and failed can be reduced down to one simple phrase.  

——–

Colin Fletcher, the Godfather of modern backpacking wrote that within two weeks of an adventure, you’d know if you were going to succeed or fail.  I read his books before the launch of Walk 1 and they were only academic to me at the time.  

But in our lonely tent along the TX highways, I learned what he meant.  There was one night I asked myself what the hell was I doing there and why.  I was beat down and in a bad way because I began to see for the first time not the finish line but the thousands of miles til then. 

A few sponsors had bailed, we’d been battered by unrelenting storms, setbacks, and other challenges, too.  

——–

There’s a moment at which faith crosses the threshold of self doubt and uncertainty and the only thing you need to decide is whether you have the will to continue.  There is no Glory without the Grind.  

——–

YBD’s Notes 1:  No longer will I chapterize Book 2, The Ripple.  As I plan and prepare for WALK 2, the past and present story will unfold as it’s meant to, unscripted and non-linear.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  One should never give up on the aspiring to inspire in all walks of life. 

Back in the backlot of an architecturally unassuming Westchester industrial park is the brainchild of two neurologists, Drs. Joseph and Berg, both brewed from the great crockpot of talent that is Manhattan’s AMC.  


The Animal Specialty Center is in many ways not unlike the dozens and dozens of veterinarian clinics I’ve toured around the country.  Dedicated  staff. Check.  Exceptional and compassionate care.  Check.  


One things stands out, however as the focal point.  And it stands tall.  

Say ‘Hello’ to my lil new friend, the Cyberknife.  

——–

Blake and Dr. Sue

To frame the entirety of this part of our story accurately, a bit of history is in order first.  I met Dr. Sue, one of ASC’s medical oncologists back in San Diego 2010 while giving a presentation about our Walk 1 – Austin to Boston – to the attendees of the Veterinary Cancer Society (VCS) Meeting.  

Come full circle, last October at VCS Twin Cities, we met again and she extended an invitation for me to visit their clinic in Yonkers.  A reunion perhaps of greater prescience than either of us could’ve known at the time as Blake, one of two beautiful rescue labs and part of the 2 Million Dogs family was diagnosed only weeks afterwards with meningioma becoming an ideal candidate for the Cyberknife.  

Blake’s mum, Chris, is one of our PUPS out of Baltimore and last week I spent time at ASC filming their story and learning about the relative benefits of Cyberknife vs. fractionated radiotherapy vs. stereotactic radiosurgery.  


Since I’m no scientist, I always try to reduce things down to their most basic elements and from my understanding, the differences between the three are merely a matter of time and precision.    

——–

Murphy

When he was DX’d with nasal adenocarcinoma just weeks after the conclusion of Walk 1, I chose  IMRT  once Withrow at CSU ruled him ineligible as a surgical candidate. I chose a slow course of radiation for an inoperable tumor and not only did it fail, Murphy developed a secondary Sarcoma in his nasopharynx.  

I got the best clinical advice at CSU but ultimately, I made a decision as a father rather than a patient and that faultline proved fatal and Murphy didn’t even make it a year.  

——–

That’s the trade off between the three types of radiology at least from a textbook perspective.  Time and precision and clinical outcome.   Blake underwent three days of Cyberknife treatment and godwilling, that’s all she’ll ever need.  

I firmly recommend exhaustive research and due diligence for the best most effective long-term treatment plan if you have a companion animal with cancer, along with the wise counsel of a vet oncologist.  

——–

I was grateful to be an honored guest at ASC last week; to herald in their 6 year anniversary, and most importantly, be there for friends of ours, Chris and Blake.  

And although I didn’t get a slice of their birthday cake, I have bigger sights in mind.  To a few trusty friends I texted the image of the Cyberknife and it scared the hell outta them in a RoboCop sorta way.  

Not me.  I’m from Texas and all I could think of was mounting it and riding it like Slim Pickens did a nuke in Dr. Strangelove into a blaze of glory.    

Thanks to the staff of ASC for being generous and accommodating during our time there and to Drs. Joseph and Berg for being pioneers in the field of veterinary medicine.  

I failed Art History which, if ya know me, it’s kinda ironic.  But I didn’t get an ‘F’ for lack of trying.  Quite the opposite actually.  I loved it but the course design was graded on writing not exams.  And I never turned a paper in.  I couldn’t.  

Caravaggio was one of the topics and I became fascinated with him and I spent weeks researching his life and works.  And a five page essay became ten then twenty and then it was too late. 


Walking on the rails trails from Pittsburgh to DC was one of the most special times during the walk and I spent a few days in the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the Potomac this weekend.  Its beauty indescribable just like that famous painting of Byblis. 


There’s so much I haven’t written about and I have hundreds of drafts on my blog and dozens of notebooks and journals still unpublished because, truthfully, I don’t like most of what I write.  And so I throw things out there in pieces and parts most of which ends of confusing the hell outta people, even the ones that know me. 


But my weekend taught me one thing.  We’re all busy, inundated, I hope, pursuing our passions and dreams and just trying to keep a sense of self throughout it all.  And my blog has sort of been one long continuous thread of stream of consciousness.  

I tried to separate and maintain several blogs but that became untenable and unbearable, especially since the adventure continues, so I’ve pared it down to just two now here and Chef Big Dog.

I have a lot to do and say but I realize now, I only have mere moments of your time to share this story with you and I’ll try my damnest to respect them more. 

This weekend is already a long time ago.  Sail.
Though initial path results were favorable, we’re going to do some additional analysis just to be sure, thanks to the advice of our good friends.  
Since the tumor is traveling about now trying to find out who and what it is, it seems a decent thing to give it a name other than, ‘Haired skin and subcutis’.  
BTW – Toomey and Poly are taken.  
AMC Awarded Research Grant From 2 Million Dogs Foundation

(New York, NY – September 17, 2013) 


The Animal Medical Center is proud to announce that it has been selected to receive an $80,000 research grant in comparative oncology by the 2 Million Dogs Foundation, an organization committed to discovering the common links between canine and human cancers and the causes of these cancers through comparative oncology research.

In dogs, transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is the most common tumor of the urinary tract.  TCC typically presents at a very advanced stage and the majority of dogs diagnosed with this tumor are euthanized due to failure to control the local disease within the urinary tract.  Current therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgical debulking but none are able to consistently produce lasting remissions.

The AMC research study being conducted in affiliation with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center will be led by Dr. Chick Weisse, head of Interventional Radiology Service.  This study will compare systemic chemotherapy levels experienced by a canine patient following intravenous (typical route) versus intra-arterial (image-guided) routes of chemotherapy administration in the same patient.  

“At The AMC, recent advancements in interventional radiology techniques enable us to administer different drugs into the arteries feeding the actual tumors via minimally-invasive approaches – in order to achieve very high regional drug concentrations within the tumor – without the systemic side effects that would occur had these levels been administered  intravenously,” said Dr. Weisse.  The investigators hope to demonstrate higher achieved levels of chemotherapy within the targeted tissues as well as improved tumor remissions in canine patients with naturally occurring transitional cell carcinomas of the urinary bladder and urethra.

“2 Million Dogs is proud to be working with the Animal Medical Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, two of the most prestigious institutions in comparative oncology,” said Ginger Morgan, Executive Director and President of the Board of 2 Million Dogs Foundation.

About 2 Million Dogs Foundation


2 Million Dogs Foundation is committed to discovering the common links between canine and human cancers and the causes of these cancers through comparative oncology research.  The organization will accomplish that mission through education and awareness, empowerment and mobilization and investment in research.  For more information:  http://www.2milliondogs.org

About The Animal Medical Center


The Animal Medical Center (AMC), located on the Upper East Side in New York City, is a non-profit veterinary center that has been a national leader in animal care since 1910. As an academic veterinary hospital, The AMC promotes the health and well-being of companion animals through advanced treatment, research and education. The AMC staff is comprised of over 100 veterinarians who utilize an interdisciplinary team approach combining expertise across specialty areas and services to care for your pet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For more information: http://www.amcny.org
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YBD’s Notes 1:  Chip Weisse, the principle investigator provided us with a Power Point Presentation that I wanted to share with you.  However, how to convert it  and post it here has been a serious pain in my arse, hence the delay.  


“Cast before a silver sheet,
Tracing lines that never meet.”

Those are the first two lines to a poem I wrote a long, long while ago, even way, way before Malcolm was diagnosed, and they made little sense to me at the time. 

They do now.

——–
YBD’s Notes 1:  Though I have plenty more ridiculous things to say and do, I’m done with this chapter and it’s time to move on and bring the first book, The Rock, to its conclusion.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  Sailing is an inexact metaphor for life.  Ashore, the time to jibe or tack doesn’t always translate but I’ve come about now.

YBD’s Notes 3:  Next chapter I’ll talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of sponsorship and that’ll set the stage for the final chapter.