My walking schedule has gone to the dogs since we moved a month ago. My main exercise has been moving boxes around, unpacking boxes, walking up and down stairs, organizing things. I did manage a short hike to the top of Mt. Davidson, the highest point in San Francisco, the day before infusion 4, but that’s only a mile or so round trip. The giant cross at the peak is impressive, though, a monument to those killed in the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century. The views are panoramic, of course, even in the rain.
The storm clears the morning of my appointment and I get ambitious. I never feel more vigorous than when I’m going in for another infusion. I’ve had three weeks to heal. I’m a little tired, sure, but mostly fine and eager to take on the world. So instead of driving to the Mt. Zion campus of UCSF, I decide to walk. My iPhone tells me it’s 3.8 miles and should take about an hour and ten minutes. That’s just a modest hike in exercise-mad Northern California. No problem.
So off I go: Down the stairs that cascade through our neighborhood, Forest Hill, down to Laguna Honda, which skirts a reservoir.
Laguna Honda eventually turns into Seventh Avenue, and I walk about five long blocks through the Inner Sunset toward Golden Gate Park. This neighborhood was pretty plain vanilla when I was growing up, but the hardware stores, pizzerias and bars have been augmented by spas, independent cafes, ethnic restaurants and quirky boutiques.
As Seventh Avenue ends at Golden Gate Park, I pass a woman in mittens, clogs, leg warmers and a giant Siberian hat with ear flaps, walking two designer mini-dogs. It’s only 58 degrees! Drop ten more thermometer points and San Franciscans will start getting out the long underwear.
Entering Golden Gate Park, you come across some ball fields. In the distance you can see the undulating green roof designed by Renzo Piano for the new California Academy of Sciences. The twisting rust-colored tower is the new DeYoung Art Museum. Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin County to the north, peeks up in the far distance.
I turn right, following a dog walk path through some wood that parallel Lincoln Avenue, the southern border of the park.
Though I’m only 15 yards or so from traffic, the dog trail feels like it’s remote.
Emerging from the dog trail, I get a good view of the main UCSF campus on Parnassus Street.
Then past Kezar Stadium. The Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers used to play here. Now it’s used mostly for recreation, amateur sports leagues, and high school matches.Walking east, I come to the Haight Ashbury.
It flirted with respectability during the real estate boom, but I’m glad to see that it’s just as wild and scuzzy as ever: Amazing numbers of head shops and second hand stores, old hippies panhandling in wheelchairs, goth skateboarders doing tricks off the curb. This is the point at which I realize I’m going to be late for my check up appointment at the Breast Care center. I call the front desk to let them know. The assistant who answers is amused. You’re walking to chemo?
Apparently 3.8 miles in 1 hour 10 minutes does not apply to someone who’s childhood nick name was “piston legs.” My leg are short, and generally fast, but not fast enough for iPhone. I start to trot, clutching my large messenger bag. This not a form of exercise the oncology team recommended. Still, I manage to take in some Haight Ashbury details:
Hulumphing and puffing, I get beyond the commercial part of Haight. Hurry past Buena Vista Park. Don’t remember this being so far! Finally, finally I make it to Divisadero. The hospital is on Divisadero. But about three-quarters of a mile north. I break into a true jog. Past the best car wash in the city…
Divisadero used to be a little dangerous back in the day, but as my lungs start to burn a little, I pass wine stores and bistros and boutiques, but also reminders of what this area used to be like.
11:05. 11:10. 11:15. 11:20. Divisadero goes on forever!
FINALLY, I get to Mt. Zion.
They make me wait for an hour or so, but I messed up their schedule so that’s OK. It’s a good thing that this time there are four hours between my check up and my poison party. Plus, it’s a holiday week, the Breast Care Center and Infusion Center are deserted. Most folks are on vacation. Waiting gives me a chance to stop sweating, catch my breath, read a bit of The Economist, one of those “year in review” issues that I never seem to finish.
About 90 minutes after my scheduled appointment, Tara, one of Dr. Rugo’s nurse practitioners, walks into the exam room. I brace for being scolded about walking and running to chemo.
Tara laughs, “Oh that’s not me,” she says. “That’s Bridget. But you know, you could have walked that last mile. We would have fit you in.”