Are We There Yet? Why Aren’t We There Yet?

When are we leaving? What’s going on?

I should be on the AT by now, but I’m not. My trekking poles are wondering why they haven’t been loaded in the car for the long ride to Damascus. My back pack sits silently in the living room waiting to go. It hasn’t moved in a week. The date my feet were supposed to hit the trail, May 2, has come and gone.

I really don’t know how to write this, but I have to for all of you waiting to read about my adventures on the Appalachian Trail. It seems life has a different path for me to take right now and the timing couldn’t be more shitty or perfect depending on how you look at it. The high I was on just six days ago is gone. It has been replaced by a dull acceptance of something that is happening to me that is out of my control.

Let me explain

I’m used to call backs for a second mammogram. No big deal, I thought on my April 26 visit. After a diagnostic mammogram and an ultra sound and a stern motherly talk from the radiologist I walked out of the Woman’s Pavilion in shock.

“You shouldn’t go on this hike.” she said. “I really think you should reconsider going. It’s not a good idea. This is serious. This is cancer.”

I know this is the first time some of you are finding out about this and there is no other way to tell all of you. My intention is not to make you feel bad. My intention is to let you know why you won’t be hearing about my adventures on the trail. When a 4″ 11′ oriental female radiologist tells you not to go hiking, you listen.

So, I am on a different journey now. I’ve had six days to process this and believe me my head is spinning. I say six days because I was supposed to leave on April 30 and be on the trail May 2. I learned about the breast cancer on April 26. Terrible timing, right? Not really when you consider what could have happened if I would have gone hiking for two months and not have had my regular mammogram done.

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle my blog now. I really don’t want to write about my cancer recovery journey here. That is not what this forum is for. If all goes well and it should I see a fall hike taking the place of this spring hike. What’s six or seven months?

Just know I am in good hands and have fantastic support here at home. Friends and family have already reached out to start the healing process with me. I’ve met some great doctors who are going to get me through this. I wish they could take away the sadness of not being able to go hiking right now. My long awaited dream has been replaced by an intrusive nightmare.

Staying positive!

Despite everything I am positive about what is happening to me. I am positive that it was caught early. I’m positive that it is curable. And I am positive that I will get through this.

If any of you that know me personally want to contact me please do so via email, or text, or just call me. I would love to hear from you. Every positive, upbeat message is needed right now. Prayers and good thoughts are accepted by all.

I will be back on the trail in the fall to write about my adventures on the AT. Instead of writing about the beautiful spring blossoms and the swelling streams I will be writing about the many colored leaves that are crunching under my feet and the crisp smell of the air waking up in the early morning. I have been on the AT already during both seasons. It’s the beautiful memories and pictures that will sustain me through this new adventure I’m on.

Until later fellow trekkers. Keep on hiking.

Peace in Nature,

Waterfall (JoAnn)


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Comments 14

  • Stan Stasiewicz : May 7th

    Here’s hoping that you found the cancer early and that your treatment, while a bother, will be successful. As they say, “hike you own hike” (or something like that), your hike is taking you in a different direction. Having faced cancer myself 21 years ago, there are successes. Time to just focus on yourself and accept that your world (the world) revolves around you and that your comfort and needs for the next few months (hopefully) are all that matter. You can make it up to all your friends and family once you are done with treatment and recover, but for now, it’s all about you. Good luck and God bless.


    • Waterfall : May 9th

      Thanks Stan for you kind, encouraging words. As one who’s been through caner, you know the ropes. I’m still learning and being led. It all looks good. Just nerve racking at times.

  • Paul : May 7th

    I will look forward to the day you beat this thing and reading about your trail experiences. I was an avid backpacker in my younger days but back problems limit me to day hikes. I backpack vicariously through other’s posts, especially about hikers of a “certain age’. ? Wish you well and hope you are back on schedule soon.

    • Waterfall : May 9th

      Thanks, Paul

  • Brenda Lynch : May 7th

    Oh wow–You certainly have your “own hike to hike”–just a little change of venue. My prayers for the cancer being caught early and your dream of the thru hike on the AT will come sooner than we think. I for one would love to follow and encourage you on your new journey, but if that is not possible I will be looking for yo back here soon.
    May God Bless you and Keep you in the days to come.

    • Waterfall : May 9th

      Thank you, Brenda, for you encouraging words. We’ll see what comes out of the keyboard in the next couple of weeks.

  • Ann Wolf : May 8th

    I wish you an easy and strong recovery. Although I was planning section hikes, not a thru hike, I went through similar issues last spring. Your otherwise good health, and desire to be on the trail will help speed your recovery. It did for me. 3 weeks post chemo and radiation, I was day hiking on the AT, and 3 months later, backpacking. If I can be of help, to section hike or just listen, let me know. May your recovery also be amazing.

    • Waterfall : May 9th

      Thanks, Ann, for your story and encouraging words. I know I’ll be back on the AT soon enough. I’m just taking a big detour! After reading your cancer story I know I’ll get through this.

  • Helena : May 10th

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year two weeks after I turned 27. Found the lump the day after I decided to step out of my comfort zone, go a little wild for once, and explore life. Lol…different plans indeed.
    All is well now. Which considering it had spread to my lymph nodes already, is amazingly good news.

    What follows is sort of an information download. It’s what I learned through my breast cancer journey.

    My advice to you is to try to look at this year or so that you’ll be under treatment as time to explore a different side of yourself, a chance to remember how to do self-care, a chance to put yourself first.
    And, I know everything is scary and overwhelming. Trust me. It will get better (and worse and better again) sorta like the stories of the hills on the AT. Surround yourself with people that will lift you up and not make you feel weak when you are needing help.
    And I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but give yourself time to recover from the treatments and radiation. It usually takes a good 3 to 6 months after treatments end to get close to your “new-normal” energy levels.
    And if you need hormonal meds afterward (like, I’m on Tamoxifen for the next 5 years – no kids yet for me)…you’ll have to plan how you’ll do the medication pick-ups/delivery on the AT when you do get to go.

    But above all, care for you. Do you. And remember no matter how you feel, how you look, how scared you get…you are a Rockstar! Rock on!?

  • Janice brinson : May 10th

    As an 8-year breast cancer survivor, I feel your pain. It’s God’s hand that it was discovered at this point in your life. I can see God’s hand all over my cancer journey, as well. The blessing is that you have something to look forward to to get you through the dark days…a light at the end of the tunnel, as it were. If there is some way I can follow you, I would love to do so. I like the way you write and I know your fall hike will be epic!!! God speed, my friend…

  • Monica Sweeney Aka " packsrocks " : May 10th

    You are in my prayers. I love your positive outlook. Your dreams have no time limit. The trail will still be there. Heal your body so your sprit and soul can return to the trail. I know how you feel about being forced of the trail. I have a broken neck from a fall. Waiting on surgery so I can return to the trail. Stay strong!

  • Gamera : May 10th

    Take care of yourself and be well! <3

  • Pam : May 11th

    You’ve got this…let me know when you are back and hiking. I want to follow you journey.
    I had breast cancer at 38. Scared the Dr’s. they put me through the ringer.
    I’m now 15 years free. I want to be on the AT in two to three years. So you have got this. You have a great outlook. My thoughts are with you.
    Can’t wait for your return.

  • Madison Billingsley : May 11th

    Hi Waterfall,

    My name is Madison (trail name is Acorn) and I am currently thru-hiking the AT. I’m actually writing you from Uncle Johnny’s hostel in Erwin, TN. I just came across your post on FB. I am very sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, at the age of 24, about a year and half after my mother passed away from breast cancer at the age of 43. I had surgery and chemo and I have to take Tamoxifen daily now (which is definitely a pain on the trail). I know it’s a tough pill to swallow, hearing news like that. And I will be sure to keep you in my prayers.

    Similar to hiking, breast cancer takes you on a journey. I can honestly say that I would not be attempting a thru-hike if I had not gone through that journey. It gave me a whole new outlook on life and a greater understanding of just how precious it is. I know the next few weeks to months may be overwhelming for you. But the bad days are only temporary, just like in hiking. Please know that you are in my prayers and that you CAN get through this.



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