She was the kind of crazy that made me feel boring.
“I did climb Mt. Evereset during chemotherapy.” She confirms while pulling up pictures on her Iphone.
Mt. Everest under the chemotherapy influence, I think to myself, growing scared to view what has already happened.
“I got diagnosed with cervical cancer a couple months prior to the trip,” she continues while handing me her photos.
“My friend called me and said, ‘I’m climbing Mt. Everest- come.’ He had the trip all set up.” She smiles. “I hemmed and hawed for a couple days and then said to myself, It’s all set up for me! If not now, when?” She looks up smiling.
Somewhere in her 40’s, she carried a youthful look with her Birkenstocks and head of perfectly messy curls. She stood tall and athletic, sporting a Budhha t-shirt and a flowery ankle length dress. She was quirky, with a touch of spunk.
I know very little about her cancer history, her treatment plan, how long she was given or when it all began. Her visit with me today was simply to draw blood work, which I finished minutes ago.
“That’s admirable,” I finally respond, looking up from the beautiful Everest landscapes.
“I had just gotten the kiss of death- I didn’t know how long I had…and still, I deliberated.”
“Yeah, well you were going through something very big.” I offer.
“Which offered me the bigger picture.” She retorts.
I nod, without response.
“I likely would not have gone without cancer,” she adds, almost crediting the cancer for her accomplishment.
It’s amazing what it takes to give us the big picture, I think to myself while spoting a beautiful sunrise on her Iphone.
“I would have waited for that ‘perfect’ time in the far off future, you know?” She adds.
“So I spoke with my Dr. and she approved it. I pushed my next treatment back a week and it all just fell into place. So, I did it.”
She becomes less crazy the more I hear.
“I was definitely more fatigued than the rest of the group. But we hired a top notch guide who carried my bags for me. I needed to take regular breaks. But I am so glad I went.”
I am overflowing with questions I don’t ask.
“If not now, when, right?” She smiles while handing me a postcard-like invite entitled Himalaya Adventures. It is for a yoga retreat in India. We covered our shared love for yoga upon meeting. The invite looked worn in, almost as if it had been passed along before.
“Come,” she demands as I immediately think of all the reasons why I cannot.
“Oh wow, thanks.” I accept, clearly noncommittal.
“I finally decided I am going. I mean, again, here I am, stage 4 Ovarian cancer,” she pauses, “and I still deliberate.”
Fears can cripple us. But fears can also be warranted, almost as a directional compass. I suppose the balance lies in recognizing the difference.
“You like that picture?” I am still holding her photo of the sunrise.
“Love it.” I respond, eager for its’ story.
“That is the peak.” She pauses, “they told us we would get up at 3 am to start that climb, but if it was raining, we would go back to bed and instead start the climb down, at our leisure.” She chuckles.
“I secretly hoped for rain. But there was no rain. And Im glad because it was the trip highlight.” She pauses, smiling at the days’ memory.
“We climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more. I got dizzy at parts, the higher we climbed. We arrived a bit before 5. When we got to the peak it was cloudy and foggy. We waited a couple of minutes and my friend and I both gave an, ‘oh well, enough waiting, lets head back down’- you know, typical Americans, in a rush to nowhere”.
I laugh, knowing that act all too well.
“The guide looked at us and said ‘Patience.’ So we waited, and waited, and waited some more. And then suddenly, the clouds opened up to an amazing sunrise. He knew.” She smiles.
“He looked at us and said, ‘Some things are worth the wait.’ And this was. The view was breathtaking.” Her smile expands as she loses herself in the memory.
She finally looks up. “It sure as hell beat my living room view.”
I chuckle and offer an ‘I bet.”
For my patient it took her cancer to see the big picture; to take her from the bubble of familiarity and routine to tread oceans to somewhere new.
But Mt Everest was more than just a feather in her cap. It was finding that adventurer inside, that strength when she was weak, that dose of crazy.
We all have that adventurer inside. Yet, sometimes, wait for life to come get us, or our friends to join or for romance to enter and accompany us. Sure, there are finances, and logistics and the unknown, but a little tinge of fear is what keeps things exciting.
We part ways as I hand her back the yoga invite.
“No, keep it. Maybe you’ll make it,” She offers a smile that says, “Someday.”
I smile knowing.
Knowing that, for each of us, it takes something different to get us outside of our living rooms, to a sunrise atop Mt. Everest, to a yoga retreat in India, to the big picture.
And some things are just worth the wait.