by Douglas Beckstein
At dawn, I drove to Mt. Tam to join other hikers for the 10th annual Peak Hike fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Fund. Kids in sneakers drank Red Bull. College students shivered in the fog. A few seniors were ready to climb 1000 feet.
I am a sixty year old colon cancer survivor, diagnosed stage III in October 2003. I completed abdominal surgery and six months of chemo and radiation. Chemo treatments were like dying and coming back to life. Angels were there. I experienced a rainbow of emotions including the fear of dying and the joy of living.
Today I am free and clear from cancer. The Mt. Tam hike would be easy, I thought.
I began my hike in grey damp fog and high grass. Admired spider webs glistening in the morning dew. Crossed over quiet streams, up through lush forest.
At two miles, I hiked on a fire road in full sunshine. Joggers and mountain bikers passed by. We hikers pressed on. Our steady climb to the top of the mountain would take another hour. Close to the summit, I sat under an oak tree in the shade and looked back at the Pacific Ocean covered in fog. Helped a women hiker hydrate.
Hearts pounding, everyone reached the peak. Sweat stung my eyes. Couples kissed. Digital cameras captured the moment. We gobbled huge helpings of healthy snacks. We stood on top of the world.
Now for the descent. Legs aching, I started back down the trail. I remember seeing the last mile of switchbacks and peering down at the hikers below. Then came that one false step, perhaps a root or rock. I tumbled face first into dry weeds, rolled over, and looked to the sky.
Two angels arrived. “Are you okay?”
“I think so . . . can I borrow your handkerchief?”
I cleaned the blood from my left ear.
Other angels arrived. “Need some help?”
“Yes! Can you give me a hand?” I reached up, grabbed a wrist to be lifted to my feet. Wobbly at first. Angels still staring. “If you want, we will stay with you.”
“Thanks.” Time to use those hiking poles, I mused. Paying close attention to the narrow trail, I crossed the finish line shadowed by angels.
Two worried medics raced up the trail. “You the guy who fell?”
“Yup.” Embarrassed and bleeding, I was escorted to a medical tent. The nurse cleaned my face. The doctor checked my brain function.
“Keep ice on that wrist.”
The concerned park ranger completed the accident report form. The wise doctor suggested I eat something and rest, but stubbornness prevented me from following his advice. I grabbed a portable lunch from the caterer and a Ziploc bag of ice for my wrist.
I began this hike in this meadow able bodied. Now I was injured, bleeding, and in pain. I wanted to go home and be tucked in my own bed safe and sound.
Highway 1 was an obstacle coarse of black SUVs heading toward my old Honda and brightly colored bike riders wobbling uphill in my lane. I shared the road, driving with my left hand.
At my apartment building, two young women waited at the elevator with their little dog. Their jaws dropped and their eyes widened.
“What happened to you?”
“I fell on a hike.”
“Did you know you have blood running out of your left ear?”
“I do? Thanks for letting me know.”
Reflected in the bathroom mirror, my face looked ready for Halloween. I washed up and plopped down into my bed. My cell rang.
“Hi, honey, how was your hike?”
I told my girlfriend the whole story.
“Sorry you got hurt! Do you need to see a doctor?”
“I need some ice and a bag of frozen peas.”
“There is traffic on the bridge. I have to stop at a store. I will be there as soon as I can, sweetheart!”
My guardian angel, Patti, arrived in twenty minutes. She gave me a kiss and cleaned the cuts on my face. She placed a bag of frozen peas on my wrist and rubbed my back. I’m not sure how long I slept but when I woke up, I asked if she could hold me and comfort me. I felt her healing power of love and touch.
In a few days I healed and was back to normal. I raised over $1000 for BCF.
Bio: Douglas Beckstein is free and clear of cancer for seven years. He is the author of Semicolon, a book about his colon cancer experience.