From Cancer to the Camino: One Step

In the spring of 2022, as I began training for my fall Camino Portuguese and Camino Ingles, I was hampered by what I thought was an outsized hemorrhoid. Off to the doctor I went – Fix this! Turned out to be cancer. A colonoscopy verified the cancer on July 22. Stage III anal cancer. Treatment was two rounds of two chemotherapy chemicals and 32 radiation treatments – every weekday for 32 treatments. On November 7, 2022, I was finally strong enough to arrive on the trail for my first recovery-from-cancer walk. One mile on the Turkey Creek trail.
Follow my training log here.

Giving up on the Portuguese

“I don’t think anyone has a choice. They have to come. And here they are.”

9/19/2022 Well. I had planned to be walking along in Portugal today. In fact, I would be spending the night in Rubiaes, Portugal.

It’s felt like I’ve been pushing myself to walk the Portuguese because I’ve walked the Frances twice, and I “should” experience a different route – a different country. But then, it struck me: This is the second time I’ve totally booked airfare and lodging for the Camino Portuguese and had to cancel – once for covid in 2020 & this time for cancer. hmmmm

The Frances continues to beckon, and now I’m thinking, why not? Why not go back for a the third time? I made an honest effort to walk the Portuguese, and here I sit.

I won’t be on a Camino until fall 2023, so there’s time to change my mind, but I’m thinking my feet will follow my heart, and I’ll be back on the Frances.

Enjoy!

Why we walk the Camino

I read this post on one of the Camino Facebook groups, and the author gave me permission to copy it here.

Why we walk the Camino by Kirk Springer

A coworker asked me why people walk the camino. I answered every person has their own reason – some happy, some sad, some simply for the adventure. As I was walking this morning, my memories took me back to my first service in the cathedral at Santiago. We all meet pilgrims along the way, seeing them here and there and building a pilgrim community. Sometimes in the conversations, others will reveal the reason for their pilgrimage.

As service was about to start, a friend from Brazil pulled me aside to talk for a minute, and when I returned, I had lost my seat and was now several pews behind my pilgrim family. My eyes touched the back of their heads and I thought of their stories: this woman’s husband recently died of a heart attack, next to her is a younger woman who’s husband succumbed to cancer in his early 40s. Here is a priest who has taken off the cloth for a sabbatical and is walking as one of us to renew his strength. Here is an Australian actor, hoping to jump the pond and become a Hollywood superstar, who has shot a pilot in L.A. and is now burning nervous energy while he waits for the results. Here is a mother with a neurological disease who has only months until she is confined to a wheelchair, walking with her daughter for one last Hurrah. So many stories, so many reasons to be there.

And as I looked at them, I thought, “We all did it. We walked 500 miles through snow, rain, sunny days, laughs and tears so we could sit here before God.”

I wept. The girl beside me asked why, and when I shrugged, she started weeping too. The Australian actor asked what was wrong with us, and when we both shrugged, his face turned red as he struggled – but he wiped away the tears and said, “Nope. Not going to do it.” And he moved to another pew.

It was such a beautiful moment. To rephrase a classic quote, “There are a million stories on the camino.” Every day more are added.

Veterans on the Camino

Posted by a member of the American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook Group:

Warriors on the Way is an organization that brings together combat veterans for a 180-mile walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, coupled with a structured program that has a moving and measurable impact on the healing of their PTSD and Moral Injury. (Within the context of military service, particularly regarding experiences of war, “moral injury” refers to the lasting emotional, psychological, social, behavioral, and spiritual impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and behavioral expectations of self or others.)

Veterans on the Camino also assists military veterans making an extraordinary journey towards healing on the Camino de Santiago.

Veterans on the Camino. Veterans on the Camino is a project that provides Veterans with the means and the resources to take the ancient pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago.  This 500 mile journey starts in southwestern France, follows the northwestern coast of Spain to Santiago de Compostella and ultimately ends at the coast.  The place people once considered to be the end of the earth.

https://www.facebook.com/VeteranswalkCamino/?show_switched_toast=0&show_invite_to_follow=0&show_switched_tooltip=0&show_podcast_settings=0&show_community_transition=0

November 9: It’s all about the feet

Gear: It always comes down to feet. Yesterday, I took the boots I wore on the Camino to REI to compare the wear to a new pair of the same brand/make. They are still in good condition and up for another Camino. They certainly don’t need more “breaking in” since they’ve pounded out nearly 1,000 miles. So! I bought a pair of trail runners for local trails, and if the terrain is rough, I’ll wear my 2019 Camino boots. Putting the 2021 Camino boots on the shelf until the next time.

La Sportiva Jackal Trail-Running Shoes
La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots: 2021 Camino
Oboz Bridger Vent Mid WP Hiking Boots: 2019 Camino

November 8: Cedar Niles Park

About 3 miles. Our hike was a bit short because a trail bridge was out. We left the trail and followed a deer path for a while. It was a beautiful day, so just wandered through the tall grasses for in the glorious weather. Thanks, Sheryl Proehl Vasquez for introducing me to this trail. Next time we’ll enter the mountain bike path from the south and see how that looks!

Trail ends at the creek and continues on the other side. We need the bridge!
Took off into the tall grass and followed a deer path until we ran into private property

My Stats

  • Lost a whopping 4.5 pounds.
  • Lost 2.5 inches around my middle.

According to my Fitbit:

  • 🥾 Walked 630 miles. (Rest days, airport days, and walking days)
  • 🥾 Averaged 14.5 miles per day on the Camino walking days,

September Camino Stats

In September 37,465 pilgrims collected the Compostela: 18,736 women, 18,728 men, 1 unknown.

Of this number 35,152 travelled the Camino on foot; 2,240 by bicycle, 41 on horseback, 29 by sailing and 3 in a wheelchair.

The most travelled was the French Way (Camino Frances) (20,793)

The main starting points for the Camino Frances were: Sarria, St Jean P Port, O Cebreiro, Leon and Roncevalles. (I started in St Jean P Port)