I will never forget the wonder of that day. There my friend and I were on our second week on the road, not yet halfway through our epic road trip from coast to coast. A little VW Jetta was packed to the gills with all we needed for five weeks on the road. Finally, finally, we had arrived at the place I had always dreamed of visiting: the Redwood forests of northern California. I had to pinch myself to make myself believe I was actually there!
But underneath my excitement, I couldn’t shake my sadness. You see, to do this road trip, I had to take a six-week break from my chemo treatments. By this time, I was three years into a cancer diagnosis that still had no end in sight. The cancer I had, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kept coming back again and again. Each new therapy I tried meant one more option gone. How much longer would these treatments keep the cancer at bay? If they failed, what was next? Could I find a new treatment after this one stopped working?
This coast-to-coast road trip was a major item on my bucket list. And while it was a great adventure, I felt an inner panic: so much to do, so little time. Only age 27, diagnosed at 24, I knew far better than most 20-somethings how desperately short life is. There was so much I wanted to see, so much I wanted to do. I wanted to hike the 5-mile trails, do the day-long horseback ride, and head into the beautiful, remote areas of the West. I couldn’t. 3 years of treatment had already wreaked their havoc on my body. So little time, so little energy, so much I was unable to see or do. My sad panic pulsated beneath the surface.
Upon our arrival in the Redwood forests, we found a campsite and spent a few days exploring, either from our car or easy walking trails. On the second day, I walked into an old-growth stand of trees. A sense of wonder and awe settled over my spirit. I walked slowly, reverently, the ageless trees forming a huge, green cathedral around me. Far above, the wind stirred the leaves, but down below, all was breathless silence. In these huge, ancient trees, I could literally see and feel time. In that moment, I understood and peace came over my spirit.
Later, I penned these words: “Today we took the time to walk through a forest of giants. I observed both the living and fallen trees all around me and saw how death is the cycle of life. The fallen trees bring life to their neighbors, often spawning young trees from their root systems. I felt the heaviness of the past few days fall away. Life or death, it’s okay. Life or death, God has a purpose for me. Life or death, it really makes no difference: it’s all life, eternal life. Life or death, I’m part of a bigger plan, a bigger cycle than my small mind can ever imagine. Everything really is going to be okay.” My sadness dropped away, and I threw myself into my adventure, determined to live with purpose and joy no matter how long or short my life.
When I went on that western trip, I didn’t expect to be alive later. I didn’t expect to ever be able to return to the amazing places and wild beauty I experienced on that trip. My friend and I kept saying “Next time….,” but we didn’t believe it would actually happen. Miracle of miracles, it’s 3 years later, and I’m very much alive. Yes, the donor transplant last year was purgatory. I wasn’t sure I’d survive it, and if I did, whether or not I’d have a good quality of life afterwards. Well, I did survive it, and I have an acceptable quality of life.
Since the transplant failed last September, only 7 months after the transplant, my future is still very uncertain. Can we find treatments that keep working? Last September, I was looking at only a 6-month lifespan if we couldn’t find another treatment. Praise God, we did, and it’s working far better than I had dared to hope. Statistically, I’m more likely to die of my cancer because transplant failed and treatment options are running out. But, since I know God and that He can work miracles, I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. I’m choosing to live my life as fully as I can during whatever time I have left, whether that time is long or short.
I grew up in the plains of the Midwest where big blue skies, flat land, natural beauty, and silence connected me with God when life overwhelmed me. When I first moved to Lancaster County, I felt claustrophobic. I felt hemmed in by all the people, overwhelmed by all the noise, and trapped when I didn’t have nature to escape to. In time, I adjusted, but living a calm life with a restful spirit has been difficult for me when the silence and beauty of nature have been so hard to find on the metropolitan East Coast. In addition, due to physical limitations, hunting up a park on the weekends and going hiking is no longer very easy for me.
I do not know how long I have on this earth. If that time is short, I would love to spend it living my dream. I long to travel, to no longer be chained to one spot but be free to roam in nature and beauty and silence. I want to experience all the remote beauty that so fed my soul on my western trip. So, I have a dream of traveling the country in my own 4×4 camper to all those beautiful, remote spots I had to miss because I didn’t have the energy or strength. A 4×4 camper would get me off road into the silent, remote locations that feed my soul.
There is only one big problem with my dream. I don’t have the funds to buy a camper. Once the camper is purchased, I should be able to fund my own travel by basically living fulltime in my camper while traveling. I would also focus on my writing while seeing the country. I simply need others to help me get started. As a result, I’ve set up a funding campaign on the crowdfunding website GoGetFunding. Here is the link to the funding campaign if you want to contribute to my dream: https://gogetfunding.com/mytigeradventure.
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Thank you for your interest in this blog and my journey. You can forward this funding campaign information to others to spread the word. Comments? Questions? More ideas? Either comment below or check the contact page on this blog for my email address.