An introduction, the Why and How, more Why than How.

I tend to write journal entries on one of a few devices, jotting down ideas, it helps me to recall thoughts that I had, ideas, some I don’t even recall until I reread them. And so I will start this blogging experiment with a few of these ramblings on the WHY. I think most of these start with the “why” or a gear list. I don’t have much advice to offer and so there won’t be too much of that.

At the heart of it is “why not”. Ever since the cancer diagnosis, particularly the diagnosis of metastatic disease in the end months of 2016 I’ve told myself I need to change, not to cure myself, that’s not up to me, or at least entirely up to me, very little to do with me, but a realization or question, how do I live now, the same? Yes, but no. Do I work until I’m dead? Even if dead is ten, twenty, thirty years off? I love work but of course there’s more, needs to be more, should I stop? what do I do? stop what I’m doing? A realization that time may be limited, or it may not, at that point I thought it most certainly would be. I think many with a diagnosis of this affliction, or a multitude of others that have to do with mortality, the answer to the question of what to do now is to just do what you did yesterday and today and keep doing that until you can no longer do what you do, it’s the default. Of course there is comfort in that, routine, stay the course,all is well. 

Certainly there are numerous stories of cancer survivors dropping everything to reverse course, to get busy living in some way new and unique to them. At the time I certainly made a point to follow through with some travel plans with my sons, my wife, Greece and Prague, Dresden on bikes, Budapest by night train, Bike and Barge in the Netherlands and Belgium. On my return I got busy with more house rehab projects, which was just as much a part of this “doing” in the face of a mortal threat, this feeling of being unafraid to make a complicated mess and then rearrange and reassemble. A form of omnipotence, watch this oh cancer gods, certainly ego driven, confrontational, try and stop me, catch me if you can.

I can’t think I can cure myself, I’ve been there, I’ve researched, I’ve fasted and tinkered, I’ve been vegan and Keto, there’s merit to both. Active is better than not, certainly better than not. I do like the idea of my body burning calories all day to the point I cannot refill them, which is essentially controlled starvation, the body does well with this. That inability to replenish nutritional needs runs more along the lines of keto and fasting, it’s kind of fascinating science, but not for here. The body in near constant motion. This stoking the engine may not cure me, may or may not slow down or speed up the cancers progress. There’s simply nothing to lose except time away from family, and the forgoing of some income. 

This should not be mistaken for anything having to do with a “bucket list”. Aside from really disliking that term I don’t see any point in trying to rush around the world to see and do as much as I can before I die, just to say just before I die “ look what I did”. I do like travel and I want more of those experiences but it’s not a collection, it’s a series of moments absorbed. I know what those moments feel like, a moment in the sun standing in a strange and-new to you-city, when all is quiet and the hordes of other tourists have momentarily disappeared, the discovery, even if it’s a fleeting moment, not a moment easily relatable as a bucket list brag.

It is simply about living before dying, or living while living, aware. This is true of all aspects of life, it is in a sense absorbing what life is, the beauty, the pain, the mystery, time with loved ones, friends and strangers, humanity, the elements, feeling it all before no longer feeling. Dirt and rocks underfoot, a trail that stretches on to somewhere, and no rush to get there.

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Comments 8

  • Avatar
    pearwood : Feb 21st

    Harry,
    Asking myself similar questions at age 70. Part of my answer will be an AT NOBO in 2022.
    Blessings,
    Steve / pearwood

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Harry Campbell : Feb 22nd

      Steve/Pearwood,
      I appreciate that. I’ve enjoyed reading your replies on other posts and glad you’ve checked in here. If I do this it will be a flip flop, north first and then south. The SB may not be until 2022 so perhaps we’ll cross paths. You and other of a similar age are an inspiration, there is a wisdom and acceptance with age that I am getting a taste of.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Slinky : Feb 22nd

    Harry,

    Similarities… i had prostate cancer in 2017 and started hiking trails like AZT, CT, and LASHes on AT and CDT. Built out a Ford van last year with me wife and the intent to travel more. Always working on creating that opportunity vs. waiting for it. I like just north of Baltimore if you would ever want to hike together.

    Slinky

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Harry Campbell : Feb 22nd

      Slinky,
      The most important word here is “had”, and I hope you keep it that way. Not into offering unsolicited advice, but do me a favor and get that blood test every now and again if you aren’t already. The van thing is fun and altogether different from renovating houses, I enjoy the learning curve, I’ve been tinkering with it for two years and it continues. I am headed north from Rockfish, see how it goes, perhaps I’ll be in PA in May or so. Stay in touch.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Russ1663 : Feb 22nd

    Harry

    I marvel at you attitude in the cancer battle. It’s like, ok you are there. I’m busy and you are in for a ride. I have been fortunate not to cross the cancer trail. Best of luck and long life.
    I live in eastern Virginia. Rockfish Gap is a starting point for quite a few adventures since I retired.
    I’m gearing up for a flip flop section hike out of Damascus in September. Hoping to Summit Mt. Rogers, 5729′, for my 72nd birthday.
    Take care of yourself. Stay safe.

    Russ

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Harry Campbell : Feb 22nd

      Russ,
      And appreciate your attitude as well. I’m hoping and working for the long haul as far as the cancer thing goes, staying one step ahead for as long as possible. I hope you will be posting about your flip flop, would love to see that summit on your 72nd. I’m coming up on 58 and I suppose I should summit something. Thanks for the inspiration.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    J.D./ La Loon : Feb 23rd

    I finally found your post.
    Living while living is far better than a bucket list boast. It’s the moments we hold on to; the thing of memories and feeling, of being aware we are, indeed, alive. The beauty of having the very real understanding that time is our most precious commodity is the lens through which I live my experience. – I believe you understand.
    Standing where I do I almost feel I’m privy to a secret few others have. If you are not living in the moment, appreciating it as it occurs, you are either living in the past or always waiting for a better tomorrow, and in doing so the moment slips away and all possibility of memory creation is subdued. Blunted.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Harry Campbell : Feb 24th

      J.D.
      Thanks for your thoughtful response. Yeah, I don’t think I have a profile yet, think I need to have three posts before that happens. Yes, you definitely get it, and your words and message may be even more direct and poignant than mine. I had a friend once tell me I was looking at the world through a different lens, so you are spot on, and although I’d rather not deal with what I have to deal with there are gifts that come with it if you keep your eyes and mind open. Thanks for this.

      Reply

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