Action Hero Survivors  :  Susan Garlow, Adventurer

Susan Garlow PhotoFor my life…I have been in the mountains.
The flowers have been my Louvre
The waterfalls my symphony
The stone my pillars
The wildlife my joy

Sometimes in the mountains
I am cold and and tired and hungry and it hurts
But the journey and the destination
Give me strength

Last year, I am skiing everyday for work
And I am tired…really really tired
In the spring, I am climbing And I am in so much pain
Finally in July 2011 I am coughing up blood while on a climbing trip.
I don’t think I will die that day
So I finish the climbing trip and go home to the doctor in Jackson Hole
In two days I am going to the Huntsman hospital in Salt Lake City.
For a week.  But they can’t diagnose me.
Three biopsies later…they decide on Lung Cancer and remove a liter of fluid.
Finally I can breathe a little!

August 5, I can hardly ride my bike a mile or breathe August 18th I start chemotherapy.
In a month, I have no hair but I can ride my bike up the pass in 70 minutes!
I do all 6 treatments, I keep working, I ride my bike and my friends keep me rock climbing.
It is the climbing that makes me the most happy.

I finish the chemo the end of December.
The cancer is gone from my lungs and my femurs.
Only in my lymph…I thought.

I go on adventures hiking in Patagonia. Then plan a trip for April and May to Nepal.
Everything I want to do before I die!
But how to decide between spending all the time with friends making memories or follow some dreams…it is a choice!
At the beginning of April…I start to feel a pain in my abdomen.
I know it is bad…but I go to Nepal anyway.
I eat tomato soup for a week and unable to use the toilet…lots of pain medication.
But I am now on Kala Pattar, Nepal.  And I am loving it!

By the time I land in Denver on a Saturday, I can hardly sit, stand, walk Another scan on Monday…then my appointment…
The doctors still don’t understand my extremely high pain tolerance.
They think it is a UTI
I drive back to Jackson.  I work the next day.  I go to the doctor that afternoon.
The next morning May 17th…an 8cm tumor from my ovary is removed
The Pathologist works on my case and determines it to be Ovarian Cancer.
This makes more sense.
I am in the hospital for 6 days.  In bed for 5 more.  
Then work for a month managing 70 volunteers.

A week later, I am walking around the Mont Blanc.
Then climbing mountains in Zermatt
Then climbing in the Brenta, Italian Dolomites.
Next week to Chamonix to climb then Austria.

I chose in May not to do chemo again for awhile.
I chose to listen to my body
And I know I couldn’t manage it again so soon.
I return on Sept 3 to decide what to do.

The love of my friends and family
Keeps me alive
It is harder for them than for me
I try to ask for nothing
I graciously accept what they can give
Because I know this can be hard.

Sometimes…I really hurt.
I forget that there is cancer in my lymph.
And I must rest.
Most of the time, the mountains heal me
And I feel no more pain.
When I am climbing
I feel no pain
Only life

I want only to be in the mountains
Climbing
Feeling no pain
Forever.

Love and Light and Flowers,
Susan

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