Often when Sue and I are hiking in the back country of the Sierras -- particularly over unfamiliar terrain -- we'll be trying to look and feel our way through, trying to find the best path to where we're ultimately headed, and we'll come to a place where the path ahead looks difficult, dangerous or even impossible. When that happens we are faced with a choice: forge on, or retreat. Always the underlying question is: Is there another way? Or maybe more correctly: Is there a better way?
Usually, though not always, there is another way. But what constitutes a better way? One that's less risky? Shorter? Easier? More scenic? More memorable? Usually the easier way is less risky, but also less scenic and less memorable. Sometimes you really don't know which way will be better, and once you pick one route over the other(and unless you later traverse the other route) you may never know whether the choice you made was the best choice.
People, like Sue, who are faced with life-threatening medical conditions are often faced with this question. Sue and I had to decide whether a stem cell transplant was the best way. There were alternative routes. But once we chose that STC trail, or at least once we were committed to it, there was no turning back.
It's been a hard trail -- especially for Sue. For a while there she was hecka sick, and majorly distraught and discouraged. But it's been a memorable trail (though there are parts of it that Sue doesn't remember). The big ups and downs, great victories, the high mountain passes, as well as the big valleys, the hardships and trials, tend to etch their circumstances into our memories. The hard trails are like that. The unusual trails are like that. And this has been the most unusual trail of our lives so far.
Did we choose the best route? Would Sue have been just as well off, or even better off, if we had not chosen the STC trail? We'll never know. All we know now is, this is the trail we chose; this is the trail we're on. So we're making the best of it.
Oh sure, like every hike we've been on, there's been pain and irritation. The pain of sore muscles, tired feet, blisters. The pesky mosquitoes and gnats that dog you on the trail. The tiredness at the end of the day, hoping the climb will end, hoping the day's campsite will appear so we can throw down our packs and rest. But we're waking up every day and giving thanks for another day on the trail. For another sunrise. For another scrambled egg and bacon burrito eaten over an open fire. For another breath of pure mountain air. For another beautiful vista. For the awe that fills us every time we are on the trail.
And we are thankful for our hiking companions. For each other, yes. And for each of you who have walked all or part of this trail with us.
Is there another way? Well, maybe there was. But not now.
Is there a better way? I don't think so.