What is NOT Cancer 10

This post is a bit of a fudge, because it has a little bit to do with cancer. UCSF has a fabulous Cancer Resource Center where you can get a free fitness evaluation, take yoga, tai-chi and pilates, learn about nutrition, sample the patient library, meet for a knitting circle and many other things. If you wanted to, you could spend half your time attending all the education and lifestyle programs offered there.

So, a couple weeks ago, I do the fitness evaluation. I know I need to lose weight; and there’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to give me a kick in the pants to really do so. The exercise consultant’s advice is to stretch, do light strength exercises and walk, walk, walk, and then walk some more. Running, cycling, rollerblading—and all the jiggling implied—don’t work for someone still recovering from breast cancer surgery.

So, most weekdays after I drop my daughter at her school in Corte Madera, I now go for a hike on Ring Mountain Nature Preserve, which is, quite literally, across the street. The cancer makes me start doing the hike, but everything about it is NOT cancer:

Rustling past the dry grasses as the dog and I make our way through the lower elevation marshland, well at least it’s a marsh in the spring before the rains stop.

Inhaling the smell of dust and live oak and grass, the smell of home.

Being grateful that the dog ignores a fawn hoof attached to part of a leg lying in the trail, a reminder that while nature is beautiful, it not always benign.

Scrambling up a grassy, rocky ridge and thinking that if it were just a little wetter, it could be a British heath.

Comparing the various mosaics of lichen on the boulders we pass.

Feeling the trickle of sweat down my back and the warmth of my thigh muscles working. Hiking Marin County is usually straight up, then straight down.

Pausing at the top of the ridge to enjoy the view.

Not the highest point on the ridge, but a magnificent view south, the downtown SF skyline on the left.

Feeling the cool wind from the bay dry my sweat.

Starting back down, and remembering to be careful of middle-aged knees.

The dog's happy to go down.

Wondering if the live oaks nestled in the folds of the mountain have been here since before Marin got fabulous, since this was Miwok territory.

One of the trails winds down through the trees.

Watching the dog lap a bit of water from what will be a creek come spring. Marveling that any water can remain this late in the dry season.

Stretching on the last bridge before the trailhead. Enjoying the feeling of slightly tired muscles.

Being grateful that hiking is so easy here. I have missed this for 20 years.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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