Hitting Day 100 of My 14 Month Project (And An Unexpected Biopsy)
Day 100 came during a cancer recurrence scare and I decided to go hiking instead of staying home to wallow in fear and self-pity. (Going hiking was the right choice.) The weather was pristine, the trails were not. I’ve hiked this short three mile loop before in 2020 and recalled the trails being broken out. This time, however, I was not so lucky. The heart shaped lollipop that I struggled through at a 1 mph pace ended up being a real testament to how far I’ve come as a hiker. As I drove out of Pinkham Notch to go home, a rainbow arched across the sky. It was a sign.
Although I wanted so badly to believe that my biopsy would be benign, I was equally as afraid to believe that I wouldn’t have cancer again. 100% of my biopsies came back positive for cancer, odds were not in my favor. But when I was almost home, an email came through that I had test results back. Quickly, I scanned the document for the words, “invasive ductal carcinoma” and instead I saw words that I didn’t recognize. Words like, “fat necrosis” and “benign” - a word that I had never seen on a biopsy report before. The choice to go hiking both days after my biopsy was hard. In 2020, while awaiting the results of my biopsy I had stayed home, anxiously awaiting what I knew deep down would be a cancer diagnosis. This time, I felt something different. Something I wasn’t familiar with. I felt hope. I felt at peace. I was right. It wasn’t cancer.
The first 100 days of my hiking journey have been surreal. They seem to have gone by in a blur and yet at the same time I can remember so many individual moments that make up this journey, it’s hard to imagine how I will ever find the time to process and reflect on all of the memories when this is all over.
I started in June feeling completely unsure, anxious, and not at all convinced that I would actually make it to day 20 let alone 100. The first 3 months were hard physically, hard in ways that I never knew I could get through, and they tested my body, asking it to perform over and over again at a level that I have never asked before. While the summer built my body into a hiking machine, the fall would serve as a time to build my spirit. I entered fall deciding to turn inward. I have a lifetime of trauma to process and one half of this hiking project was always intended to be a time of healing. On September 23, I started that process. The Speckled Wilderness, Mahoosucs, and Baldfaces will always be where I began a journey 3 decades in the making and as fall turned to winter this journey continued to evolve.
Physical and emotional growth is what this process was about for the first 6 months. By month 7, I was deep into the winter weather, pushing my boundaries as a solo hiker, and started the process of facing my fears instead of running from them. Hiking solo in winter has always been very scary to me. As the first flakes began to fall in mid November, I told myself I was going to learn to love winter hiking this year. 3 months into winter hiking I can say that while I don’t love it, I am becoming more and more comfortable with it.
A person who follows my social media asked me what I was going to do to celebrate my 100th day hiking. I’ve never been one for celebrations and with the potential recurrence of cancer, that day felt less worthy of celebrating at the completion of my 100th hike and more worthy of letting out a huge breath of air. My clear biopsy bought me another 6 months of freedom, just enough time to complete this hiking project finally.
When I dreamed up the idea of hiking all the trails in The Whites in a year back in 2019, I never imagined that I would be still working on it in 2023. I also was grossly unaware of how much it would take to complete this goal. It’s one thing to plan something, it’s another thing altogether to execute it successfully. Every individual hike is a piece of a massive puzzle, and with 100 pieces put down, I still have over 100 more to go before it is complete.
To answer the question of the woman who wanted to know how I would celebrate my 100th hike, I will celebrate when I am at 100% and not a moment sooner.