Trees on the Ridge
When I looked over the photos I took at Bryce National Park memories come flooding back. I can remember one of the walks from the car to the path, there were small banks of snow I had to cross as well as muddy areas I had to skirt. To most people it was a short walk measured by yards and not miles but I was towards the end of my chemotherapy treatments and it was daunting. By the time I reached the pathway I was out of breath and needed to rest. I remember looking out at the canyon and letting its grandeur sink in. The red rocks with white snow on them were a sight to see. As were the magnificent trees that lined the ridge. Their twisted roots above ground somehow found a home in the harsh environment.
In a way I felt like those trees. It had been a long hard battle; the form of lymphoma I had was rare, very aggressive, and it hid well. Before my diagnosis, I went to several doctors and each time I was prescribed a stronger dose of antibiotics. I was always hopeful that this time it would work, that I’d be able to walk up the short flight of stairs outside my apartment without it feeling like I had just ran a marathon. But each time I was disappointed. However, like the trees at Bryce the buffeting made me want to hold on to my life, to fight for the strength to continue.
When I first received chemotherapy it was amazing how fast it started to work. In just five days my lungs had cleared enough that I was able to lie down on my bed. It was Christmas day and after a month of sleeping sitting up it was heaven. That first week I also lost twenty pounds of fluid. I was luckier than I could have imagined, without chemotherapy I probably wouldn’t have lived to see New Year’s Day. And while at first chemo was a miracle and I thought it wasn’t so bad each treatment was harder for my body to take. I needed a reprieve, a chance to forget about the fight and just live.
Thankfully two of my sisters and my niece were able to travel with me to Bryce. While there, my older sister told me about when she had last she visited. She and her family walked the trail which led to the bottom of the valley and then back up. She said it was a great hike that wasn’t too hard. Obviously I wasn’t up to it then, but I remember thinking when I am feeling better, I will come back and take on that trail.
I wanted to see the valley from below, I wanted to immerse myself into the surroundings, to feel alive and healthy again, and now that I remember this conversation I have a renewed desire to go back to Bryce and take on that trail. We drove around to several lookouts and saw the valley from many angles. My little sister and niece ran up to the higher viewpoints but I was content to stay below and take pictures of the canyon and its amazing trees.
Chemo was hard but it didn’t last forever. It was something I had to deal with and like the trees I had solid ground below. Doctors, neighbors, coworker, and especially family who took care of me in the days following each chemo session all buoyed me up and kept me strong. They were like roots; helping me survive on a rocky ridgeline.
That little trip rejuvenated me and helped me endure my last few treatments. It was also quality time with my family and I’m very grateful that I’m still around to appreciate them. Whether they are near or far vacation can bring out the best in you. They can make you braver than you are and connect you with people from both around the world and your own back yard. I have been cancer free for two years now, and while my life isn’t perfect, I hope that I have deep enough roots so that I can brave whatever trials the future holds.
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