Iceland Trek2019


Laurie Culligan

Reflections on the Training Hike

June 30, 2017

I had absolutely no idea last December when I applied to attend the Iceland Fire and Ice excursion that this would forever change my life. I remember the interview day on the phone with you and then wondering if and hoping that you would pick me to be a part of the team. Then in January, I asked Dr. Martin to sign the release form knowing very well that exercise has not been my recent strength and leaving my house – especially flying on airplanes – lands me in the hospital each and every time. But I kept marching on, planning and learning all I could about this opportunity ahead. The months that followed were filled with so many changes in my personal journey. Repeated hospital stays, adding my Megan to the training hike, losing one of my best friends to cancer just before leaving for training hike, last-minute flight changes, then ultimately losing the Iceland adventure to my upcoming BEAM transplant plan in Arkansas in July. I had no idea what I was really going to be missing, so I just kept marching on.

Fast forward to our training hike weekend. The 2019 Iceland team, now people I will forever call “family” gave me hope and determination that has been dormant these past few years. Once a healthy overactive type A busy mom, athlete, coach, employee, community volunteer and person who hated napping, I have found myself living my days these past three years on my “perch" (aka the chair by the fireplace) living in a bubble – away from germs; napping hours a day often with no relief; walking instead of running; meds, meds and more meds; frequent admissions to the hospital (aka the “slammer”); breaking bones without even a good story to tell; and wondering what my future will look like with this multiple myeloma in my back pocket. That weekend I recognized pieces of the old me that I had almost forgotten existed. I felt safe, but not coddled, tired but able, and filled with hope for 2020.

My Megan, I don’t think I can accurately express my feelings of the love she felt that weekend from all of you. She now has an extended family of sisters, moms, aunties and even a pastor watching out for her. She is strengthened by all of your love.

These next few weeks will be filled with training and prepping for all of us. Just a little different for me. I find myself completely confident in the doctor’s treatment plans, but really just bummed on the effect it will have on the current and future life I have worked so hard to rebuild.

So together, let’s spend these next several weeks training and preparing for our different upcoming journeys, entering our big events with eyes wide open, prepared and ready to take on the world and coming out of it a stronger happier healthier person in every aspect.

My thoughts are simple really. Thankful, grateful and blessed. Thankful for my current and new family of friends and doctors who have given so much of themselves to better my life and the lives of others like me (and John and Erik). Grateful for Jane, Laura, Jen and the MMRF and GSK for their financial support and lifelong dedication to finding a cure for myeloma and to Nina for dedicating her life to helping patients like us. Blessed and filled with hope for the life that still lives within me both in 2020 and may many years ahead. (Jane please accept this as my official application for Iceland 2020).

Team, family and friends: Thanks for taking me with you to Iceland! I can’t wait to do this adventure with you all!

I can’t wait to take this journey with you. You have all strengthened me in so many ways.

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