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F*** Cancer!

Redemption! (Or Maybe Salvation?)

By About Eileen, Affirmations, Backpacking, F*** Cancer!, Follow Your Dreams, Goal Setting, Making It Happen

Declan and Eileen at the site of the makeshift helipad

July 2022.

My son Declan and I set out to finish our hike of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite. (Recall, last summer we were helicoptered out after my chemo ass fainted twice about 24 miles in….)

Well, this year we did it!

We started from the same trailhead, descended 3,600 ft, and waxed a little nostalgic as we camped in the same sites and trekked over familiar ground. Once again, we crossed paths with bears and snakes and marveled at the many beautiful wildflowers growing out of the rocky terrain.

Bear! (Gorgeous creatures!)

But upon coming back to the site of the makeshift helipad we both were struck with emotions. A mix of “Fuck yeah, we did it! We’re bad asses!” and “Now what?” (Recall in Finding Nemo after the Tank Gang plop into Sydney harbor in their Ziploc baggies?)

We hiked another 12 miles and 3,600’ back up the canyon, past some breathtakingly gorgeous waterfalls and mountain vistas, to the other end – completing our journey, both physically and spiritually.

I won’t lie. This hike is extremely challenging. 40 miles from end to end. 7,200 ft of overall elevation change. Granite staircases. Water crossings over downed logs and branches. Lots of sections exposed to sun, wind and freezing rain. There were times when we were both exhausted – physically and emotionally – and ready to call it. I’m so glad that we took turns encouraging one another to keep pressing on and finish.

My battle with cancer has been life changing in so many ways. That sounds trite, but I’m not just talking about me and my outlook on life. I hope that I’ve shown Declan (and by extension his sister Caitlin) how important it is to follow through on a goal, despite whatever obstacles life might throw your way. You might not make it on the first try, but try, try again!


Eileen atop Glen Aulin


Maybe Chemo isn’t the Best Time for Backpacking?

By About Eileen, Backpacking, F*** Cancer!, Follow Your Dreams, Making It Happen

Not how I wanted to end the trip!

July 2021.

My son Declan and I set out to backpack thirty miles through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in Yosemite. When I got the wilderness permit six months ago I didn’t know I’d be going through chemo and still wanted to make a go of it. I’d been hiking and cycling and swimming in chemo, so I figured I could make this happen through sheer force of will.

Spoiler alert: I couldn’t.

We hiked about 24 miles, over 4,200 ft of elevation change in 85+ degree heat before my body gave out on me. On the third day I fainted twice on the trail. Declan was clearly scared but kept his wits about him and pushed back on me when I insisted that I could keep going. (Six miles and 2k+ feet back up the canyon to go – WTF was I thinking?!) Declan rang the SOS button on our Garmin satellite device and took charge. He communicated our situation clearly to the Yosemite rescue dispatch team as they mounted a response over the next few hours.

Ultimately, we got flown out of the canyon by helicopter by a great crew who feted Declan and didn’t make me feel like a totally crazy person for having tried to make the trip in the first place.

I’ve never been a person who took “No!” for an answer. It’s more like a challenge. Cancer and its treatment have been humbling. I am at once pissed off at what I’ve had to sacrifice physically and emotionally in the fight while also thankful for the fact that the treatments, while harsh, exist for me to suffer through and live.

Declan has promised to return next summer to the same spot from which we were rescued, to complete our trek. Stay tuned….