The Finish Line
August 19, 2017
I like my sleep. It is surprising that having spent a 23-hour day of travel (yesterday and early this morning) to get home here in Western New York after our Fire and Ice Trek in Iceland that I am able to put words together for this blog. I am however, feeling compelled to do so because of what needs to be shared.
First of all, the presence of a divine blessing permeated our team experience. Our training hike in June initiated a sense of purpose and belonging that was palpable. That beginning was only enhanced as we gathered in Reykjavik and looked forward to our hike. I think we all felt excited and happy. Multiple myeloma is a terrible disease but the tragedy that brought us together was going to be overcome by our hopes and commitment.
Secondly, the weather we encountered was perfect. Oh, it was chilly and sometimes windy and bone-cold but the sun was out for us each day. Blue skies were an appropriate companion for how we felt. The challenges were real. The trek demanded hard work and concentration as we carried our packs up and over mountains, across snowfields and rocky paths near steep drop-offs. Through it all, we kept a very positive outlook and took care of each other with genuine compassion.
Thirdly, I think our journey taught us individually and collectively life lessons that were and will continue to be invaluable. Personally, I learned the hard lesson of humility. I wanted to be able to keep up with those on the team much younger than myself - but couldn’t. At 66 years old and a veteran of the battle with multiple myeloma I have changed. I took my training for this event seriously but my lungs just couldn’t keep my oxygen levels at a comfortable level on the uphill slogs. I had to slow down. When they offered, I allowed our guides to carry my pack on the second day when the trail was mostly uphill. I was reminded of the scriptural admonition “Pride goes before the fall.” I considered how true those words were for me as I focused on keeping upright.
Everything came together in a magical moment as we approached our finish line - the Skogarfoss Waterfall. Not as high or wide as Niagara Falls but Skogarfoss offered a unique experience. We walked right up to the falls itself and got as wet as we wanted. The amazing moment was enhanced by the appearance of a rainbow! This rainbow was not a mile high – it seemed to hover right over our group! While my body was sore and tired, I felt a surge of energy as we were lifted together in a moment that will never be repeated.
The finish line of our trek was a celebration that included a sense of accomplishment. Not only for having finished the hike but also that our team raised over $208,000 for research to combat multiple myeloma. That total continues to grow. Other finish lines are ahead. A new school year, children growing up, jobs and for me a continuing journey with multiple myeloma. Until a cure is found I will remain focused on what will unfold for my life and the challenges of living with this disease. For today, I am thankful for each and every member of the 2019 Fire and Ice Team. I would like to thank Adventure Fundraising and Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma. I am thankful for generous sponsors like GSK that underwrote the event as well as Celgene, MMRF and CURE.
P.S. The Finish Line at Skogarfoss has given me a new appreciation of the land and the earth we live on. The magnificent snowfields and glaciers of Iceland are melting. Where last year there were thick fields of snow this year there was bare ground. Our guides who traveled the same route last year as we did this year were astounded at the changes. My humble opinion is that we all need to work together not just as Americans but citizens of this earth to do what we can to keep the ice in Iceland.