Healing from cancer, inside and out, with hiking

After being diagnosed with an invasive, aggressive, triple-positive Stage I breast cancer in the fall of 2012, Patti McCarthy wasn’t sure she’d be able to continue her beloved hiking. And she’d had plans: She and her husband spent the previous months preparing to hike the whole Pacific Crest Trail, all 2,650 miles of it from Mexico to Canada.

“After the diagnosis, I had a lot of concerns about being able to continue. I knew, as a nurse, what chemo could do,” she says. “Initially convinced my hiking days were over, we took a ‘last’ hike before surgery. I literally kissed the ground, and with tears in my eyes, said goodbye.”

But she found that she didn’t have to give it up, she just had to make adjustments and relearn what her body could handle. The process of hiking helped her heal emotionally and mentally, too. She found herself writing in a journal again and turned her journal into a book, “Hiking Cancer,” to inspire others with her illness and those who are just considering hiking.

“Hiking became my sanity, my saving grace. I had wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for years. We’d started the May before and had I not finally convinced my husband we could do this, I certainly would not have started after being diagnosed. From May to September, we started with baby steps, 5- to 11-mile daytime hikes until we felt comfortable doing overnights. We ended the summer with a five-day trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary. By this time, we had hiked 122.5 miles over six trips.”

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