After two surgeries, chemo and radiation, my father had no evidence of cancer for a year but every three month check up we held our breath and hoped that our luck wouldn’t change. In June we received official word that my father’s cancer was back. Like many patients and families with cancer, it was a hard dose of reality. We did not win the cancer lottery. The odds were never in our favor.
I received this news in June sitting on the pier in Port Angeles, Washington while visiting Olympic National Park. I was in the midst of an epic journey that I had given everything up for including my running and my job and the only place I really wanted to be was home. In part, my father’s cancer had inspired and prompted the trip. So many people I met along the way waited until retirement to do this but cancer had not waited for my father’s retirement so there was clearly no guarantees that I was going to make it that long. I also knew that the risk of reoccurrence was sooner than later. I took my trip with some urgency hoping to complete it before cancer might make its appearance again. I do a lot of racing but never before have I lost a race with such significant consequences.
The reality was that there was no point in rushing back. There was a lot that needed to be done before any treatment could start. My job was to be home in time to join my parents on a trip down the Grand Canyon, one last adventure before chemo threw our lives into uncertainty. During the long drive home, I could already feel the anxiety creeping in, the same suffocating feeling I got before every shift. The spontaneity and freedom I allowed myself on the road was wiped out as I considered where to live and work when I returned while supporting my parents. There was no question that I wanted to be there for my parents but with it was a cold plunge back into the life I had tried to escape from.
Doubt crept in that I would be able to complete my task. I was stuck at 33 parks. Would the remaining 26 remaining parks be mysteries forever? I gave myself a deadline to see them all because I never wanted this goal to be left to “someday”. I fought a feeling of failure. My grand plan was crashing down. With it, I lost my voice and my ability to write. I could find no words sufficient to express my anxiety, frustration, and more than anything, my fear of losing my father.
Chemo has started. With it have come complications, both expected and unexpected. I have spent a lot of time over the last month sitting, waiting, and thinking, not unlike how it was in the parks other than this time I am in a gorgeous place called Sedona and hanging out with my parents. Oddly, I find myself feeling the exact same thing I felt in the parks: I am right where I need to be right now.