Marissa is a 40-something "flattie" in sunny SoCal living with metastatic breast cancer, her boyfriend (and high school sweetheart) and the memory of her not-so-mini schnauzer, Heidi, who was taken too soon by canine lymphoma. She enjoys reading, stress baking and roller skating. She hopes to inspire others with her stories about life with cancer.
A woman with metastatic breast cancer describes a recent zip lining adventure she took with her dad, who is a cancer survivor.
Growing up mostly in the 1980s, I, like most other kids my age, enjoyed reading the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series. As you would read, you would be given a choice of where to go next in the book thereby creating your own unique story each time you read it.
I am not an adventure seeker by any stretch of the imagination. Most days I find living with cancer to be a big enough adventure.
A few weeks ago, my dad, a prostate cancer survivor, showed me this brochure for a zip line tour and asked if I would be interested in joining him. Zip lining has always been on his bucket list and his 78th birthday is at the end of the month. I am not a fan of bucket lists myself. I prefer to call them life goals instead. Zip lining was not something I ever thought about doing and it was definitely not on my life goals list. What is on that life goals list, though, is making memories. After a couple of weeks of thinking about it I said yes, I would go.
Margarita Adventures is where we took our flights on a zip line tour over vineyards started by Robert Mondavi interspersed with beautiful old oak trees. The area is rich with California history from the Chumash Indians to Father Serra and his missions and even the railroad. The tiny town of Santa Margarita, California, where the zip line is located, was founded in 1889 with a population of around 1,200.
Margarita Adventures is nestled in one of California’s oldest continuously operated cattle ranches. After a two and a half hour drive up the central coast, we arrived, checked in and weighed in. The staff was polite enough not to announce your weight, just that you were good to fly. After some brief instructions by the driver we were on our way to the zip line course.
Once we arrived at the start of the zip line course we were outfitted with a harness, helmet and gloves and ready to board a vintage Hummer for a wild, dusty ride to the first flight. The Hummer ride felt a bit like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland – the loud engine noise combined with the rutted, dusty roads making you mash your feet into the floor and grasp at whatever is close so as not to go bouncing out.
The first zip line was named “The Double Barrel,” on which you fly in tandem on two 2,800-foot lines. I took my flying leap off the ledge at the same time as my dad. Somehow, I ended up ahead of him for a while until he passed me up and I needed the robot to come out on the line and pull me the rest of the way in. Weight and winds factor into the speed and momentum as you are zipping. As we finished on that run, we were unhooked from the line and left to carry the carabiners, straps and handles slung around our necks to the next adventure. In order to get there, we crossed a 300-foot suspension bridge over a deep canyon.
The next zip line had me soaring over vineyards where I could see workers down below tending to the vines. In between each zip line was a short hike on a hot, dust-covered trail, some with steep switchbacks and all with hydration stations along the way. The whole tour includes six zip lines spanning more than 7,500 total feet over a picturesque property filled with a variety of wildlife and the stunning beauty of nature.
I will try anything once. I try to keep an open mind: open to possibilities, open to having fun despite cancer. With summer coming, it’s time to get outside in the healing sunshine and make some memories with those you love. Just don’t forget the sunscreen because, well, you know, cancer.
So, the question remains, what adventure will you choose? It’s all up to you. Say yes to making more memories. Say yes to more adventures. Where to next, Dad?
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