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Hindsight 20/20 on Life Insurance

November 8, 2019

 

Today is actually the eight -year mark of my seizure at Starbucks were Goliath first made his presence known.  The good part is that I am physically as healthy as I have been since prior to this day eight years ago.  The blog below was actually written quite a while ago, but I just have never posted it.  Mainly because its not a super exciting topic.  It like me is very practical.  I also just listened to a seminar about how to take advantage of the tax benefits that life insurance provides, so this just seemed like a good time to finally post this.  I hope this might push at least one person to take a deeper look at life insurance.

Life insurance is one of those things that most people never want to talk about. The entire process is sort of silly, you are basically making a bet with a major company on when you will die. You are banking on the fact that you will die before making enough payments to cover the payout your family will receive. On the flip side the company is actually betting that you live longer. So to “win” you have to die. Which to most everyone, dying is not “winning”. That in a nutshell is why people do not like to talk about life insurance. It requires taking about your own demise. Granted we all know that someday we will die, but that still doesn’t make life insurance a more palatable conversation.  Life Insurance is also one of those things that you need to get, long before you need it, because if you wait until you need it – you can’t get it.  It is also something where your need for it will change over the years, so you need to be constantly looking at it to make sure that it still fits with your needs.

Before Colby was born, I decided that Jessica and I needed to get responsible and get life insurance since we were going to soon be parents. We wanted to make sure that if something happened to one of us, the other and our soon to be child would be taken care of financially. Both of us were healthy and fit, and the concept of something happening to one of us was totally foreign. Not possible! On a side note: life insurance actually has some really cool tax benefits – the biggest one being that the proceeds are tax free. Thus if you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and receive the proceeds –  it is 100% tax free! Not a bad deal at all. The other really cool tax piece is that if you have a whole life policy (or some others that build cash value) you may have a way to borrow against the policy and again – no taxes are attached.  I don’t want to get into tax code in a blog, but I am happy to provide details on how to make this work if anyone wants to reach out to me.  I am totally capable of turning into a tax code nerd if asked.

My purpose of this blog is not to get into a conversation about the different types of life insurance policies and the pros and cons of each one. And as a disclaimer: I do not sell life insurance. I do recognize that there are some cool things about life insurance. Although my overall take is life insurance should be set up and should be part of a financial plan as a necessary component. However I am not too keen on people who try to sell life insurance as an “investment tool”.  In my opinion, it’s great if you get some other investment benefits by having life insurance, but that is not why you should buy it!  It should be bought to cover your loved ones when you die, or used as a way to protect assets and provide cash liquidity later in life.

The picture is from the summit of Dragonback Mountain in the Mt. Waddington Range, BC.  It’s doing things like this that increases life insurance rates, for someone like me.

top-of-dragonback

Back to my point. We decided to be “grown-ups” and get life insurance. First off I was shocked at the cost point for me, since I was classified as risky because I climb mountains. We did a mixture of whole and term for Jess and then just term for me.  Women are cheaper than men too as they live longer. The idea was that we would increase the amount or convert my term into whole in the future, once we became rich and famous! Ha! Easy to say, but really hard to do.

We both got life insurance though prior to Colby’s birth. I really didn’t think much about it until November 2011. The difficult news – you have brain cancer. Which by the way means that you will now no longer ever be able to get life insurance and you will also be at-risk with health care for “pre-existing conditions”. There was a point when I totally went into panic mode about the life insurance as I knew that I just had term, which means that it will expire at some point and thus, when I die, my family would get nothing. Funerals are super expensive. I can remember after my Dad died, we were at the funeral home going over the burial costs and options and I just about lost it. The costs were crazy high and I was super angry. I was ready for a throw down with the funeral director. It felt like highway robbery. What are you supposed to do? You really can’t do anything  but pay them, as they have you, you are stuck. His plot was already paid for as well. Thus the costs did not even include the burial plot – which should be the most expensive part of the deal. They have all of these weird rules and things about what you must purchase, liners, vaults, etc. Needless to say, it’s expensive. Dying is a huge financial burden to those left behind. Which is why life insurance is so important to have. Months later after the shock of brain cancer, I knew that I had to deal with the life insurance issue. Thankfully the policy I had included an automatic waiver that allowed me to convert the term policy to a universal policy, within ten years, regardless of health or any other issues. Thus I was able to get some form of “permanent” life insurance, just no cash value option. They had also changed some of their policies on climbing – thus I was also able to be placed in a lesser risk class – which was all great news. They decided that I am not as risky anymore!

My reality is that now I can’t get more life insurance, which means the policy I bought many years ago, is all I’ve got.  For some types of cancer, if you go into remission for a certain period of time, you can become eligible again.  However I will never go into remission, thus I will never meet those parameters.   I can’t leverage things for my family financially with more life insurance after I die. The amount I have is not “enough”, much better than nothing but obviously not what I would have done if I had a crystal ball and knew that I would get terminal cancer. Probably the biggest “downside” is that we will be in our house for the duration of my lifetime – no new bigger house! The amount of life insurance I have totally works with my current mortgage. However looking to get more house and thus more mortgage, doesn’t fit in with fiscal responsibility that is needed now should something happen to me, especially given the current home prices in the area. Granted I do like our house, but I will say that it seems to get smaller every year as the boys get bigger.

The morale of the story is this, you never know when a life changing event will occur or your health status might change, thus be smart and make sure that you have more than enough life insurance. If you wait until you actually need it, then it’s too late. You can end up like me, with cancer at 34 and can’t get any more. I know that hindsight is always 20/20, but be smart, be responsible, and get some life insurance! The price of it only goes up the longer you wait. The rates are based upon your current health, lifestyle risks, age, and family history. Each year you wait, the costs only go up.  Thus be smart, and think ahead.  Don’t wait, as if you do it might be too late.

DH

DG

Alone

August 31, 2019

PBS has this incredible documentary called Alone in the Wilderness, it was about a guy – Dick Proenneke, who lived alone in the Alaskan wilderness.  He built his own house, used local resources to live off the land.  Survival type shows have been around for a bit – think Bear Grylls and Les Stroud.  However, Dick was like the original survivor.  Anyhow there is a series, a movie and a book about Dick’s life.  The videos are completely fascinating to watch.

https://www.aloneinthewilderness.com/

I have often marveled at how much of an incredible experience that would be.  Head to Alaska and survive off the land.  Maybe make my own version of “Into the Wild”.  Though it would require lots of time alone.  I have done many solo runs, hikes, climbs, camping, etc.  I think I do just fine on these types of adventures, however going alone into something like what Dick did, is completely another thing.  Just because I think I could survive on my own, doesn’t mean I should.

Buck Mountain

Buck Mountain and a lonely moon – Glacier Peak Wilderness

Recently I have been reminded, that despite my own tendencies to “go it alone”, I need people, I need community.  Really it is how we were created.  Yes there is some excitement to going solo, but in the end we are not built to always been alone. Maybe I am just tired of feeling alone and lonely at points in my life.  It’s just not how we should feel and be.

Recently I was a leader for a Young Life Camp at Canyons, which is in Antelope, Oregon – aka the middle of nowhere, aka the site of the Rajneesh movement.  At first, I think I resisted the call to be a leader, but things seemed to align and felt that I was supposed to go.  Once again I learned that part of the reason I was supposed to go had nothing to do with the kids, but everything to do with me.  Most of the time when we are called to serve, we tend to think it’s all about those we are serving, however it is often more about the condition of our own hearts.  I digress as that has enough importance to be it’s own blog post.  So back on topic.  Here is a link to an older post of mine the talks about my connection and the importance of Young Life in my own life.

https://davidheyting.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/young-life/

At Camp they had a singer named Clayton Jones who was there for the week.  A very talented musician.  Although his music is not typically the genre that I listen too, he really captivated me.  He talked about the meaning behind his original music.  Some deep, raw, beautifully intense stuff.

His Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/claytonjonesmusic/posts/

Listen to the song here:

Here are the lyrics from his song “Odd Man Out”:

“fifth week I’ve been home alone on a friday night
just watching the TV
in hopes that my phone will light up
but no body’s callin’
is it me thats the problem?
or did all my friends forget again that i exist?

I’m so tired of feelin’ like I’m standing outside the crowd
its like nobody thinks… nobody thinks I’m worth it
i ask God “how long is the lonely gonna last? or will i always be.. i always be the odd man out?”

i just don’t fit in
no, i’ve never been the kind
some people just walk in and the whole room begins to light up
guess I’m not wired that way
or but maybe thats okay
i accept myself even if no one else could give a damn

still I’m so tired of feeling like I’m standing outside the crowd
its like nobody thinks.. nobody thinks I’m worth it
i ask God “how long is the lonely gonna last? or will i always be.. i always be the odd man out?”

i ask God “how long is the lonely gonna last?”
He said “look at me, I’ve always been the odd man out””

 

It’s raw, it hits home, it’s good.  I think we all have had times when we felt, excluded, lonely, left out.  Alone in a room full of people – isolated from everyone, yet so close to community and to acceptance.  Yes, being the odd man out is difficult and really it’s a horrible place to be.  I am sure that we all can relate to feeling alone.

For me it is a reminder that sometimes, I choose the lonely road, I choose to be the Odd Man Out.  I think that because I can endure, because I can be alone. I fall into the trap of thinking this is how it’s supposed to be.  That my path, my journey is supposed to include loneliness – because I can endure, that being alone is simply part of my story.  We are not meant to be alone, we are not created to be lonely, we are not supposed to be the “odd man out”.  We were created to be in community, to be in a tribe, to have people around us to go through life together, to prop us up, to support us, to have our back, to protect us.  We are not supposed to do it alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:11-16 The Message (MSG)

11 Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.

12 By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

 

Just because I can doesn’t mean that I should.   Just because I think, ok I know I could be alone in the wilderness and survive, doesn’t mean I should.  No one should feel lonely much less choose to be lonely.

DG

DEH

 

Rejection

July 11, 2019

Rejection:  noun  – the spurning of a person’s affections

I was digging around in some old files and came across the start of a blog from probably about 3 plus years ago.  I’m not quite sure of the date, but that would be about the right time. He was in elementary school then.

I was in the car with Cade, and he mentioned that he was bummed that tomorrow was Tuesday, which meant art.  I asked, why would you not be excited for art in school?  Shouldn’t art be lots of fun? You get to create, draw and have fun doing things.  “Yes, but want if I make something that I really like and I think is great, but the teacher doesn’t like it and tells me that is sucks.”  My first thought was, I don’t think that would be the case of an elementary school art teacher. My response: “I think with art, you will just be graded on how much effort you put into the project and finishing everything that you are supposed to do.  I don’t think they are going to be grading your project based upon the outcome.”  “That’s not how it is Dad, she is not very nice.”  I thought, here we go, not even middle school and we are dealing with issues of rejection.  And it’s not even about girls or not making a sports team, starting line-up, etc. its about an art project.

As a parent, one of the things I am not looking forward to is watching my kids having to deal with rejection, as yes, one thing I know for sure, is that rejection will happen, it’s guaranteed.  And it will for sure happen with girls.

WrigleyII

Dogs are awesome anti-rejection tools!

Rejection is one of the most difficult things to deal with in life.  We all long to be accepted, loved and part of the “tribe”.  We want to be “in”.  But the reality of life is that we will all go through situations in which we are rejected.  It can be work, school, sports, friendship and most often relationships.  No matter the venue, it can be extremely difficult to endure.  And now in the world of social media, this issue seems to be more and more prevalent and can be part of a trigger event that leads to catastrophic results.  Rejection leads to a lot of things, including anger and aggression.  Several of the recent shootings and attacks, can at some levels be traced back to the perpetrator being impacted by the sense of rejection, which then leads to an act of violence.  Rejection also takes a huge tool on our own self-worth.  It leads to feelings that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t matter and don’t measure up.  We then beat ourselves up, with negative self-talk and negativity.  From an article by Guy Winch on Ideas.Ted.Com  “The greatest damage rejections causes is usually self-inflicted.  Just when our self-esteem is hurting the most, we go and damage it even further.”

We need to try and avoid self-criticism after dealing with rejection.  We have to try and avoid making a list of why we don’t measure up.  Yes, we should take an inventory of the situation and learn from it on how we can make changes makes things better in the future, but we should never spend time just putting ourselves down and punishing ourselves.  Instead of telling ourselves after a first date gone sideways, “I’m worthless and not lovable” we should think, maybe next time I won’t jump into a political tirade as the first thing out of my mouth on a first date.  We need to learn and improve but that shouldn’t include punishing ourselves.

Often rejection occurs based upon a fit or circumstance issue.  I remember my sophomore year of college, having a great conversation with my freshman roommate in which we both decided that we were now way better friends since we weren’t sharing a room together.  The issues/tension that occurred had nothing to do with our personalities, but more to do with our habits.  I am a morning person and he is a night owl; being complete opposites like that doesn’t work well when you share the same dorm room.  We always got along; however, he would get annoyed when I would wake him up at 6am in the morning and I would get annoyed when he was up until 2am.  The fit was just off, thus we were probably better friends when not living in the same room together.

Granted not every case is like that, but it’s important for us to learn how to recognize factors in rejection and try not to let the rejection destroy our self-esteem and self-worth, as often the situation really wasn’t all about us.

The feelings we get when we feel rejected stay with us much longer than any good feelings we get from feeling “included.”  We carry the bad memories with us as they leave scars on our heart.  I wish it was different, that the scars would be the happy times and the good moments in our lives. Those are there, but the negative times, the rejection, is what we carry even closer to our hearts and those are generally the emotions that are easy to conjure up.

I have already written a bunch about my own transformation from middle school to high school and my dealings with self-worth and acceptance.  The quick recap:  I went from a 5-foot 2-inch eighth grader (yes a little pudgy kid) to being a sophomore at 5’ 8” 140 pounds then to 6’ and 190 pounds as a senior.  Yes, I grew up, lost weight and looked completely different.  It’s still easy for me to recall events and incidents that occurred when I was a “big boned” kid, from taunts of “Big Boy” to having to get special baseball pants because the league issued sizes didn’t fit.  The feelings of rejection and not fitting in are easy for me to recall.  Here is a story of early rejection that I will share.  Honestly, I am pretty transparent with my good friends, as we have known each other forever and there is not really much I haven’t shared, but this story, I actually haven’t told anyone.  My sister is the only person whom I have ever discussed this story with.

It was fall my sophomore year of high school and it was getting close to Homecoming.  At this time in my life I was still going through a physical and really a self-confidence transformation, but it really wasn’t complete at this time.  I decided that I was going to ask out girl whom I thought was cute.  I really didn’t even know her very well at all.  Somehow, I got up the courage just to ask her.  I did and she said no.  I won’t list names, because it doesn’t really matter – she ended up moving away and didn’t graduate high school at Cedarcrest, anyhow and I don’t hold any grudges towards her as I really didn’t know her very well, so I totally understand her response.  I do remember the feeling of rejection, especially as in my mind it was supposed to work out: I was going to have the courage to ask and she would say yes, and the perfect ending would be provided.  But that is the movies and not life.  I do remember the feeling of rejection as that is not something that is easily forgotten.  I didn’t tell anyone, not my friends, nobody.  That feeling would only be known by me.  I didn’t want people to know that I had put myself out there and was totally shot down.  A few days later, my sister mentioned it to me, as the girl had told her about what happened.  I can’t remember her exact words, but what I remember was that it was reassuring and sort of a “don’t worry about it, you will be just fine” type of response.  In my circle of the world, she was the only person who knew.  I am sure that a few of my buds, who might read this will be interested in more details, as I really didn’t tell anyone about what I was going to do or the results.  But I think the fact that this event is something that I still can recall at 42, tells you the power of rejection.

My goal was to hide the rejection, if no one knew, then it didn’t happen.  It’s a great theory, but not the case at all.  The rejection sticks with us; we can’t hide from it.  We need to learn and then move forward.  Remember that even if we are falling flat on our face we are still moving forward.  We need to learn how to limit the self-inflicted pain that rejection can bring so that we can hopefully move forward with confidence to be ready for the next time when rejection might be lurking.  One thing that is certain, is that rejection will happen again.

DG

DEH

 

Terminal

December 5, 2018

Recently I attended one night of a trail running festival that is sponsored by Rainshadow running and developed by James Varner.  Back in 2015, I ran my first ultra-post cancer diagnosis, the Orcas Island 50K was my race.  It so happens to be part of Rainshadow Runnings’ events.   It was my fourth overall.  What is super cool is that Jessica is about to embark on her first Ultra this coming weekend, running the Rainshadow Deception Pass 50K.  She has been working hard and training diligently and I know that she is going to rock this race.  I am proud of her and excited as I have been telling her to come over to the “dark side” and leave the pavement behind and stick to the trails, for quite some time.  50K’s are more fun than marathons, IMO.  I have run both and would rather go longer with lots of hills on dirt, than fast and flat on pavement.  Anyhow she has been on it, training like a beast to get ready for this weekend.  It’s some cool stuff for sure!  I know that she is going to do awesome.  I believe in her.

Back to the film festival.  One of the films we saw was called “Proof of Life” and featured a guy, Brad Thiessen, from Spokane who had been training for 50K, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was a brilliant film that really hit home with me.  The film featured his recovery from surgery and treatment and his goal to train and run the 50K that he had planned to regardless of brain cancer.  He decided that he was going to do what he did before regardless of a tumor – sounds familiar for sure.  He talked about how the goal of running that 50K gave him purpose and hope to battle through by physically and mentally.  For obvious reasons it was my favorite film of the night.

Proof of Life Documentary

The cool part was that he was actually at the showing, so I was able to introduce myself and talk with him.  I learned that he has an Oligo, like me.  He mentioned that he had not met another person in the flesh with an Oligo (Oligo’s are only about 3% of brain cancer world – pretty rare).

One of the first parts of the film really struck me as he talked about how his diagnosis was terminal.  Which is true, there is no known cure for an Oligodendroglioma.  In the brain cancer circle, these types of tumors are typically slower growing and not quite as aggressive, however despite treatment, they always come back.  When they do, they become more and more aggressive each time.  Generally speaking there are two paths, one where a surgeon is able to perform a complete resection and remove 100% of the tumor, so the patient, waits to see if the tumor will return.  Or the other path is that not all of the tumor can be removed, so the waiting game is to see if the tumor is growing or changing.  I am in the second category.  I am waiting and watching to see if Goliath grows and changes.  This did occur at the end of 2015, which is why I did proton radiation back in 2016, 3 ½ years after doing 12 months of chemotherapy.  Goliath was growing again, thus additional treatment was done to try and keep Goliath at bay.  The likelihood that Goliath will grow or change again is extremely high.  Science says that I am not done with Goliath yet…

Brad had mentioned in the film that several people had made comments to him about having terminal cancer, along the lines of “We are all going to die, so does it really matter that you have terminal cancer?”  I am paraphrasing here by the way.  I have heard comments like that before as well.  Typically when you hear the term “terminal cancer”, the idea is that the person has days, maybe months to live.  People with Oligo’s, it’s more like years, versus months.  But what people fail to realize is the mental shift that occurs.  The diagnosis is like a black cloud that is always there, hanging over you.  It’s like the Peanuts character Pigpen, who leaves a trail of dirt and dust behind him wherever he goes.  He can’t escape it as it’s always there.  It follow him around, just like a brain cancer diagnosis does.  It changes your planning, your outlook on life, your thought processes.  You have to think about and plan for your family after your death.  I can tell you that I didn’t give those types of thoughts, much time prior to Goliath.  At age 34, I was unstoppable, I had the world at my fingertips, and anything was possible.  After cancer, I had to think about things, such as how would my family get by without me?  What would I do if I started to become incapacitated and couldn’t work or function properly?  Do I have enough life insurance?  How will this impact my ability to work?  When you leave surgery and the left side of your body does not work as it should, it’s scary.  That fear is hard to ignore.  Yes I am not going to die tomorrow, but I can assure you that I never thought much about dying or what I need to do to prepare my family for my death, prior to Goliath.

DcmTOHBUQAA83VL

2018 Brain Cancer Walk – a fitting quote to think about after watching Proof of Life

So let’s not trivialize the feelings of fear and unknown that come along with a cancer diagnosis, especially when it’s something without a cure that can have a very nasty and brutal ending.  Yes it’s true that we are all going to die, however when death comes to live in your head, it for sure changes how you see the world.  It would be like attending a memorial service and walking up to the mic and saying, why are all of you crying and sad – we all are going to die so it really doesn’t matter.  Add the “We are all going to die anyway.” comments as things not to tell people with cancer.

I finish with a big high five and “go kick some butt” to Jess as she goes after her first 50K on Saturday!  I am excited for her.

DEH

DG

Andy and the PCT

November 27, 2018

Andrew Martin, he is a fine young lad.  He is also absent from social media, thus will probably only see this as I am pretty sure it does follow my blog.  Anyhow this past summer, he did a pretty amazing trip and accomplished something that is truly remarkable.  He thru-hiked the PCT.  The PCT covers 2,653 miles from Mexico to Canada and features 420,880 of elevation change.  He went North, hiking through California, Oregon and Washington.  What is even more impressive is that he had a Go-Pro camera and documented the entire trip.  He has tons of great video clips of his journey, some beautiful scenery, some funny moments, some showing the struggles he faced.  It’s some really compelling and unique stuff.  I think that it should be shared with people.  It’s all been uploaded to You Tube, but since he won’t be broadcasting the links anytime soon, I am not sure how many people will actually find it.  I decided that I would do just that – share it, at least to my little footprint of people.  He might be annoyed at me for sharing some of this, but I really think that some of the footage he took is too cool not to be shared.  And he did post it to his You Tube channel, so it’s meant to be viewed, I am just bringing it out through other social media avenues.

Andy Finish

Andy “Knoxville” – Suns out Guns Out at the US/Canadian Border:  aka the finish.

We have known each other since before kindergarten, so basically our whole lives.  He was the High School ASB president our senior year as well as the president and founder of the Unexplained Phenomenon Club.  We watched the X-Files and talked about the power of the pyramid once a month.  We made a potato gun launcher for a school science project and had visions of a great class period, having the class watch us shoot potatoes all period.  We were advised that a potato gun launcher is really a weapon and should not be on campus, meaning they would call the Duvall Police if school knew it was on campus at all. Our teacher asked if it was on campus of course we said “no sir, we would never bring a weapon to school. (Truth be told it was sitting is his truck ready for action!)   We had figured out that we could shoot golf balls through plywood with the “Velocitator.  I could go on and on about things like the “Coyote”, the Bearcat sign, a nice porcelain toilet, a “real one”, a Courier, Moss Lake, missing keys, the senior wall,  a rock meant to pee off of, Getting the red ass, red devil eyes, the stories are endless.  Lots of great memories and fun adventures.

CA Picture

A very unique cloud formation taken by Andy on the trail in CA.

We have been through the highs and lows of life and I would say have both been resources for each other during both the good and the bad.  Our first outdoor adventures occurred just off I-90, near Snoqualmie Pass at a beautiful lake called Mirror Lake.  The PCT actually crosses directly by Mirror Lake.  We would pack in an outrageous amount of gear and live like kings.  We had music, huge 8 person tents, rafts, and lots of soda.  We would hike up towards Tinkham Peak to find leftover patches of snow, which we would “harvest” snow to make slushies with our soda. We would have backpacks and have both arms full of gear.  Looking back we would be shocked at the amount of gear we carried and the weight, considering how efficient and lightweight we travel now.   For quite some time we have always gotten out for at least one outdoor adventure per year.  From climbs of Mt. Rainier, Mt Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Baker, a cool camping trip to Spider Meadows, to lava tube caving in Bend.

Chill

Jared and Andy Chilling at camp.

We always do something fun.  Over a year ago now, Andy told me that he was going to thru-hike the PCT.  I was equally parts pumped for him and honestly jealous of that amazing journey that would await him.  As mentioned above, for those that do not know much about the PCT, it is a trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada, it’s 2652.6 miles long and takes most people about 5 months to complete.  Yes that is hiking for 5 months straight, living in a tent, finding your own water sources, carrying your own food.  Averaging 15-20 miles of hiking per day.

His permit had him starting his journey towards the end of March.  Jared Hanley and I had planned to meet him in the High Sierras.  Typically this is one of the most demanding stretches of the trail as the Sierra’s will still have a fair amount of snow, meaning lots of snow travel, it’s cold and everything gets wet.  The path can also be hard to follow as the snow covers the way.  Our original plan was to hike from Reds Meadow (mile 907) to Sonora pass (Mile 1018) with him.  We both had a window during May to join him.  Andy was equipped with a GPS tracker, so we were following him each day during his progress on the trail.  We soon started to realize that we had overestimated his speed and he was not going to be near the area we were hoping during our proposed window.  Thus our plan to help him in the cold and snows of the High Sierra was not going to happen.  So we pushed back the timing.  The next plan was the Trinity Alps near Mt. Shasta.  However as some of you many have seen in the news, the area around Redding went up in flames this summer.  Thus we pushed our meeting point further north to Central Oregon – just north of all the bad fires.

Rap

Setting up to rappel down from Mt. Washington

Andy had already met up with Jared, when I got there, they spent a “zero” day for Andy, (a zero day is just a rest day – no miles on the PCT, but it sounds cooler to say zero day, versus rest day) at Smith Rock doing some climbing.   Although I am not sure a rest day means going rock climbing at Smith for most thru-hikers.  We met up super late near the Hoodoo Ski Area, where the PCT passes by.  We dropped a car there and then headed to Bend for some sleep.  We set off the next day.  Our path took us to the summit of the South Sister, where we camped for night one.  The South Sister’s summit is at around 10,300 ft.  We found an awesome pre-built shelter area to pitch our tent.  Andy just decided to cowboy camp it.  From there we descended a different side of the mountain, down to Green Lakes, then headed towards Camp Lake.  Andy had to add some miles as he left his Nalgene Bottle at a rest spot and decided he need to hike back to retrieve it.  Can’t be losing that with more than half or Oregon and all of Washington still to go!  This brought up some interesting conversations about the quirks of thru-hiking.  First off everyone gets a trail name.  That is how you are known the rest of the trip.  Andy’s trail name is “Knoxville”.  Most through-hikers will hike solo, then meet up at camp with others to have some company.  One of the cardinal rules is that you are not supposed to take even once step off the PCT once you start.  The valid theory being that over the course of 5 months those steps here and there add up to miles and miles over the course of the trip.  If you walk an extra quarter of a mile each day, that can add up to 50 miles and really 2 extra days on the trail over the course of the PCT.

Mt. Wa Summit

Summit Selfie on Mt. Washington

Andy really never followed this rule.  Which I thought was fantastic.  He decided the adventure was more important than the trail.    Meaning he took side trips to enjoy, soak in the beautiful scenery and landscape.  He figured that he would never again go to some of the areas, so might as well enjoy the journey.  He climbed Mt. Whitney, The South Sister, Mt. Washington, McGregor Mountain, Mt. Daniel and the Golden Horn, none of which is on the PCT and all include lots of extra hard elevation gains.    When he would take a video, he would  start out saying with the day of his trip and “on the PCT”.  However when he was with Jared and I, it turned into “just off the PCT”, then it was “nowhere near the PCT”.  It was a running joke during our time together.  We took a lot of steps off the PCT.

So far on our trip, we had not set a foot on the PCT and we were now at night 2 camping at Camp Lake, which is a beautiful lake nestle in between the South and Middle Sisters.  From Camp Lake we set off on some climber’s trails and then descending back towards the PCT.  In the meantime, we had just about circumnavigated the South sister from our starting point to the junction in which we met up with the PCT.  From there we had a fairly long mileage day as we cruised by the Sisters, through the Obsidian trail area.  We made some stops to take a dip in a small Lake, enjoy the obsidian rock, watched Jared try to help Andy with some IT Band issues.  It was comical watching him “roll” out the kinks (there is video of that!”)   So far most of the time on the trail Jared and I were moving faster than Andy.  We looked at each other, both surprised, as we thought he would smoke us desk jockeys after all the time on the trail, we figured that he would be a machine.  So we asked him point blank about it.  His response:  “Honestly, I have been hiking for some many days now, I really love all the parts of this trip, except for the hiking part.”  We cracked up about it.  It made sense, the people, the sights, the smells, the sounds all were amazing, but after so many days on the trail moving North, it made sense, that the hiking was getting a bit stale.

tree

Lone tree in a sea of lava rocks – near Belknap Crater, OR

We camped at a small lake that had limited camping areas.  It was crowded, but we found some fellow through hikers that Andy knew and then let us pitch tents on their marked camping site.  A crazy lady was there and told them that it was one tent per campsite.  The through hikers (Pony Express and Leg Day) were chill and said they read the sign as one group per campsite and if the was a ranger present who disagreed, then they would pay the fine.  She got the “red-ass” and was hollering and making a ruckus.  The next day we cruised through some amazing landscape that was marked with lava rocks and trees. We learned these are called “Kipukas”.   We summited Little Bellknap Crater (not on the PCT) and had a great time, hiking catching up and just relaxing.   We watched Mt. Washington as the PCT wrapped around the mountain.  We all knew that it was for sure going to the our next objective.  It was eye candy all day as we saw it from various vantage points on the PCT.  We finished our trip at my car where the PCT hits Highway 20.  We then headed back to Bend for the night.  We cleaned up and decided to take a zero day.  So we went bouldering in Bend and then inter-tubed the Deschutes river through the man-made rapids near downtown Bend.  It was lots of fun.  The next morning we headed back to just about the same point we ended on the PCT and hiked the PCT south (Yes for Andy that is going the wrong direction and hiking a section twice – things thru-hikers just don’t do) to the Mt. Washington climbers trail.  We followed that up to the base of the rock climb.  Mt. Washington features a 4 pitches of low 5th, mostly fourth class climbing.  Almost all of which is on loose crappy rock.  The first pitch, which is the most fun and hardest has really no good places to place any protection in the rock.  Basically it’s just a “hook em’ horns” section, where you place webbing over a rock “horn” and then hope it doesn’t break-off if someone falls.    We had a great climb, a picturesque summit and an uneventful rappel back to the rock base, which is how you like a rappel.  Then we scree skied down the west side of the peak, back to the PCT.  The scree skiing was some of the best you will ever find.  Some great stuff.

After the climb, we spent a few more days doing some local hikes, we hit Tumalo Falls, we took the Paulina Plunge (a natural water slide) and hit the Big Obsidian Flow trail (which is really the place to go to see obsidian rock – way better than the Obsidian Trail -IMO).  After hanging out with the fellas.  Andy reminded me of one of the reasons I do the outdoor stuff.  “You go to the mountains to learn how to live in the valleys.”  I had written about it many years ago, but sometimes I lose track of that myself.  It was a great reminder, to me that I need to make sure to keep myself centered.

Jared had to head back to work, I dropped Andy back off at the PCT, were we had finished and he was back on the trail.  He hammered through the next sections of Oregon to the Bridge of the Gods and Washington.  Then about a month later he ended up in Canada.  It was quite the trip.  Granted he does have a section of trail in Far Northern California and Southern Oregon to hike to finish the trail as fires forced him off the trail in that section.  But a really epic journey.  He is a stud!

Here are some more great clips of some cool points on his journey:

Knife-edge Ridge, WA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXfGwd7YbWQ

The Golden Horn, WA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4j5PS925JU

Scree Skiing down from Mt. Washington, OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkzf3yOvssE

Summit of Mt. Washington

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMMBjX7FGDo

The Paulina Plunge, OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOA8cQJlgO4

Snow at Kearsage Pass, CA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjVC6BuK7XI

Mt. Whitney, CA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BLa51zlxIg

 

Here is his You Tube Channel:  Andrew Travels

 

It was a trip for the ages and I am glad I got to be a part of his journey

DG

DEH

 

Cancer Guilt to Cancer Event

June 17, 2018

The past few weeks have been a bit challenging, I have witnessed the negative impacts of cancer on others.  From attending a memorial service of a wonderful woman, who received her angel wings much too young.  To seeing a true brain tumor warrior at the UW brain cancer center while getting my six month MRI. My results came back stable by the way – which is good and means another six months until my next check-up.  All the while thinking how fortunate I am to have only have an Oligodendroglioma tumor.  Yes I am totally and completely lucky to have an Oligo brain tumor.  It’s true that there is not a cure for an Oligo, but it’s not like some other types of brain cancers, that have much worse survival rates or since today is Father’s day – it’s not what my Dad had.  His cancer was far worse and his battle and pain was so incredibly worse than my own path, it’s hard to take in at times.  Yes it’s true, I feel guilty that my cancer is not worse than it is.  I can work, do the things I love and function completely as if nothing is wrong with me.  Why am I so fortunate??  I have always told myself that there must be some bigger and grand purpose for me. That there has to be some type of reason why I was given brain cancer.

Sometimes I am all in on that thought, and other moments, I am not sure if it’s true at all.  At times, I really just don’t get why I am blessed with just an Oligo and I don’t really understand why it’s not worse.  The crazy part about how I feel is that I would not want anyone to ever feel guilty about my diagnosis.  NEVER EVER!  I have been able to deal with Goliath on my terms and in my own way, thus I don’t want anyone to ever feel this way about my and my plight.  It really makes me worry that my thoughts are silly and just plain dumb.  So how to help deal with this guilt?  Try to do something cool.

Defeat Goliath is holding an event on June 27- which is a Wednesday Night at the Maison DeLille Wine Lounge in Kirkland  – 15 Lake Street  – 10% of all proceeds generated from 3pm until 9pm will go to support the Alvord Brain Tumor Center at UW.  Which is where all of my treatment has been.  More information can be found here:  Charity Event

You can also join Defeat Goliath at the Head for the Cure 5K run or walk on June 30, by going here:  5K Run Walk

Here is a mountain picture that  all of my posts need to have.  This is on Mt. Ruth in the North Cascades taken this past Memorial Day Weekend. It’s Jessica and Colby heading up towards the summit.

Photo May 27, 7 45 05 AM_preview

 

Hope you can join us!!

DEH

DG

The Walk

April 29, 2018

Last year Team DG ended up taking the year off from the walk as I went to Palm Springs for a post tax season mini-trip.  I feel like this year’s walk is sort of coming full circle.  The first Seattle Brain Cancer walk that I participated in was in 2012.  That year I was going through chemotherapy – I was closing in 10 months.  Back in 2012, the walk was held in September.  It was moved to May as May is brain cancer awareness month. In 2012, I was helping out coaching the Mt. Si Wildcat junior football program’s varsity team, which is made up of 7th and 8th graders.  The last of those 7th graders will be graduating from Mt. Si this year and in the fall I will be coaching Colby at the varsity level.  That is a time frame of about 7 years.  Colby had just turned 7 when I was diagnosed with brain cancer and this fall he will turn 14.  Its crazy how time flies by.

Team Defeat Goliath has always had a huge support both in terms of people and financial support over the past 7 years, which is amazing and humbling.

I walk, because I can, because I am able to, because some of the chemotherapy options that are still being used today are the same drugs from the 1970’s.  I walk because the survival rates off brain cancer survivors hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years.  I walk because each year since 2011, I have met some amazing people who are brain cancer survivors, who had their lives tragically cut short. 2018 is already no exception to this rule. I walk because each year I have been able to say these same things.  What I really want to see is for something to change, for a breakthrough to happen.

Being apart of events like the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk is one way for me to stay involved and feel like I can try to make a difference.  Though it may be small, every little bit helps.

If you would like to join Team Defeat Goliath this year, here are the details:

 

DG image

 

The Walk is Sunday May 6th at the Seattle Center – Walk starts at 9am.

To register or donate go here: Join Team Defeat Goliath