Author: LiFE is NOW...®

Help Support Gary & MPN Research Foundation

This story is the epitome of a LiFE is NOW… moment, and we are pushing to help support Gary and the MPN Research Foundation. We are pledging $10 of every select Mountain High product sold will go to MPN Research in Gary’s name. Click here to purchase Mountain High gear and support Gary. Rather, however, than try to write the story we will let Gary tell it as he has on is Facebook account.

Gary in his Mountain High tee for MPN research

As an avid hiker I assumed the pain in my toes was from my descents down the mountains but when it didn’t go away I assumed it was something else. I tried insoles. I went to the podiatrist but the burning still occurred. The frequency increased. This past December 2021 my doctor ordered blood tests. Those tests detected an elevated platelet count and I was sent to an oncologist who did more blood tests that detected a JAK 2 mutation. I had no idea what that was. The oncologist told me I had Essential Thrombocytosis, a blood cancer known as a Myoproliferative Neoplasm. Once I heard “blood cancer” I think I heard the doctor’s every-other-word. I was shocked and couldn’t believe it. I decided to go to Boston to get a second opinion. Dr. Hobbs, from MGH, ordered more blood work and a bone biopsy. I was then diagnosed with Polycythemia Vera, another Myoproliferative Neoplasm, a blood cancer that elevates red blood cells and can effect platelet count. PV trumps ET. She recommended I immediately start phlebotomy therapy every two weeks. Having a fear of needles this was, and still is, a harrowing thought. When the doctor told me I had a rare blood cancer, that word “cancer” hit me hard. What did I need to do? How much time did I have? What will Jess do? Is my will in order? Should I arrange my funeral so my family doesn’t have to? I need to repair everything on the house that I’ve been putting off. Do I tell my kids? My Dad can’t lose a third child before he passes!

The word “Cancer” holds so much power if we let it. I asked my doctor how much time I had. She said as long as I follow all of the recommendations I should live at least another 14-20 years, if not longer. I needed to do everything possible to combat a blood clot and hope that it did not mutate into Leukemia. Okay, what do I need to do?

She gave me a list:

1.Lose weight; (I then dropped 30 pounds since Christmas and the Cougars Den’s profits fell 33%)

2. Follow a heart healthy diet and stay away from iron-rich foods

3. Stay away from sugar

4. Stay away from red meat

5. Take aspirin every day

6. Undergo phlebotomy treatment

7. Exercise every day

I felt empowered. It’s a “Cancer.” It’s one that can be managed but not cured. I started to realize I had some control. This was not going to define me or stop me from living a happy & joyful life. “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what” (Lee; To Kill a Mocking Bird). I believe optimism and hope are disciplines. I refuse to let go of them. With the constant support of Jess we carved out yet another plan. I told the kids. Yes, I started repairing the house, No, I haven’t told my Dad, there’s no need. I will not burden him with this. What next? I have hiked all over New England and New York including the “The New Hampshire 48- 4000 footers,” and “The New England 67- 4000 footers”. I have also done some hiking in Scotland. In my life whenever I face struggles I take to the mountains. It allows me to focus my mind and spirit on my “next steps.” It’s where I go to recharge. I needed to have a positive impact on my circumstances.

I decided I would attempt to hike a big one on my bucket list- the Long Trail in Vermont; a 272 mile (with 65,370 feet of elevation gain) hike from south to north through the entire State of Vermont, as a fundraiser. I always wanted to hike it- why not do it with a purpose? I have never attempted anything that would place me on the trail for this long. Success is attained step by step much like hiking. While hiking you will slip and fall, you will deal with pain and discomfort. You will be wet and cold, you will descend and ascend but you will also witness bucolic vistas, magnificent sunrises & sunsets, babbling brooks, majestic waterfalls, cooling rivers, industrious wildlife, smells and scents that feed the soul. Hiking is an easy metaphor for life. One that fuels my spirit. Once you ascend to the mountaintop you invariably descend to the col or valley only to eventually ascend another mountain. In Life we will have successes but “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Churchill. Those times in the valley, literally and figuratively, that is where we reflect, where we gain our strength to ascend again; to gain perspective and understanding. The trail trains my approach to life. Although the trail is long and the seed is sowed I’ll meet you further on up the trail. One sunny morning we’ll rise I know and I’ll meet you further on up the trail.

If you feel so inclined I would appreciate if you would please consider donating to the Myelproliferative Neoplasms Research Foundation (MPN Research Foundation).

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Diluted Drinks and a Watered Down Life?

Imagine sitting a bar with excited anticipation. It’s Friday, it was tough, productive week and the bar is buzzing. The bartender has already visited and taken your order. It was your favorite “start the weekend drink” and you are ready for it. You look around; people are mingling, conversations abound and everyone is starting to relax and open up. You see the bartender; they are selecting the correct bottles and mixtures; you know it’s your drink they are making and your mouth begins to water. Oh, this is going to be great; can’t wait. You hear the shaker, the ice makes a mouth watering sound as it sloshes around with the alcoholic mixture in the shaker. Now it’s being poured into the ice cold glass. It’s almost here. Just some finishing touches of garnish and it’s on its way. The bartender then gently lifts the elixir in its crystal carrying case and moves in your direction. Here it comes. It is placed lightly on a crisp white cocktail napkin with a smile. The bartender then walks away and leaves you with your favorite cocktail. The anticipation is intense. You reach out, carefully grab and lift the glass and move the elixir to your lips. The smell is vibrant and intoxicating. You take your first Friday sip ready to savor the feeling, but NNNNNOOOOOOOO!!! The bartender has watered down your drink. Your favorite Friday elixir has been reduced by dilution! ARGHHHH!

Well, the same can be said for life. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to give 100% into life rather than multi-task and water down the experiences that are happening right now. Diluting our senses by splitting our mind into past – present – future only reduces the full enjoyment of the moment you’re actually in. You wouldn’t accept a watered down drink so why accept a watered down life!!!!???

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Off the beaten path in Procida, Italy (video included)

Since we were young our parents and family preached that we must have a path in life; to get from point A to Point B in the most efficient manner, and have a goal to strive toward. While at the time it seemed like sage advice and even now holds some value, parents would always say, “stay on the straight and narrow” or, “we must guide our children; when they wander off the path it’s our job to gently guide them back”. But looking back, while it kept many of us out of “trouble”, it certainly did not spark the wanderlust creativity that some of us don’t even know we need to feed. It was boring don’t you think?

Marina Corricella, Procida, Italy

An interesting example of staying on the straight and narrow is traveling to a foreign country and going on a tour. Sure you might learn all the history behind why doors in a certain town are painted special colors or what the local dish is. But you may never learn that the painter that originally picked the color and painted the doors was doing so as part of a feud with the local restauranteur who was attempting to change the local dish! Getting out on your own, getting lost and getting to know the locals gets you off the beaten path and gives you a vacation memory that you and only you will have; not the same vacations that all of the members of the tour will have. The photographs will be yours. They will be different. And, they will tell the story that you created; not the one you followed along to.

We visited Italy one year ago and made our home “base” the crazy and wonderful city of Naples (but that’s another story). Naples, as you may know, sits on the coast and offers access by sea to other parts of Italy and several small islands in the area, most notably Capri. Yes, we visited Capri. Who doesn’t when in Naples? But our shining “off the beaten path” moment was Procida. Ah, beautiful Procida. Smaller, and less traveled than its sister islands of Ischia and Capri; but uncrowded, peaceful and breathtaking. And, one of our favorite memories was created when we rented a Vespa and took on the narrow (some times one way), cobblestoned, streets and wound our way from the harbor up into the mixed residential and commercial streets, avoiding other Vespas, people, delivery vehicles and opening doors. Life seemed to stop and focus on only us as we headed up toward the sun and out of the shaded corsos. We were unstoppable and determined to conquer the streets of Procida. Faster and with more confidence we rose from the harbor and then it happened! We found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. We stood at the precipice and looked down. Then we looked back and realized, “We missed the turn!”. We had been gaining as much speed as confidence on the ride up that in our excitement we rocketed right by the turn we needed to take to get us to the other side of the island. We were headed to the beach.

Well, life had thrown us off the path and we had no parents or tour guide to guide us back, so we looked around and what we found was unlike any other vista we’d seen. One end of the island to the other was panoramically laid out for us, and only us (remember life stopped and focused on us). It was unbelievable and for a brief moment we were speechless; but this was quickly followed by several jaw dropping expletives and furious photo taking. The image of what we witnessed is shown below.

Perhaps the moral of the story is evident. But if not, LiFE is NOW… sometimes you need to get off the beaten path, immerse yourself in life and create memorable stories for yourselves.

Check out the video below for a sample of the fun ride we had from the harbor!

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Early Bird Gets the Worm; and the Fog!

It’s 7:00 am eastbound along the Cape Cod Canal. The sun has just risen over the horizon as we make our way into the light of the orange glow. If we had been driving along on auto-pilot it may have been missed. But, in the early mornings along the canal memorable reminders bubble to the surface; auto-pilot is manually shut off and we begin to take in the quiet morning as it awakens for the day.

And, there it is!!

From the time we were young, we were told you have to get up early to see it. If you were 5 minutes late it may not be there. Today, timing was perfect. Like a lot of good things in life you first have to be on the look out and aware; and secondly, the timing needs to be right.

Sunrise on the Cape Cod Railway

We love early mornings. The world is quiet and serene. You get to watch the day as it begins to unfold. Fishermen make their way along the docks (chatting and laughing of yesterday’s events) heading to ready their boats for today’s adventures. Shop owners, sweeping up, unfurling awnings and opening their doors to unveil the enviable aromas of coffee and freshly baked bread and pastries. Other early risers are out getting an exercise jump on the day as they jog, bike or walk with friends. The dew isn’t yet burned off by the rising sun and everything in its path glows in that sunrise flat light while it whitewashes the world until it rises higher in the morning sky and changes day from slumber to awake.

It’s a time to review and reflect, anticipate and plan; and most of all recharge and be grateful for everything that is life; oh yeah, and drink really good coffee while doing it all!!

Sunrise, birds and early morning fog on the Cape Cod Canal

Back to the original topic at hand. Turning the corner, the sunrise hit us smack in the face and with the windows down we began taking in the sights and sounds of the early morning; and, there it is. We pulled off the side of the road down into a bumpy parking lot and parked; figuring a little effort might get a big reward. The reward was there but the effort was slightly larger than little. In flip flops we carried our trusty phone camera as we traversed down a steep embankment, through a thicket and onto slippery rocks to the spot. The effort and time paid off as the photo below reveals.

The sun shrouded in mist lit up the shining steel of the bridge while the early morning fog hovered above the water and rolled beneath the bridge.

Sunrise and early morning fog on the Cape Cod Canal / Sagamore Bridge
Sunrise and early morning fog on the Cape Cod Canal / Sagamore Bridge

We smile every time we get to witness this event as it not only reminds us to be present, but it also reminds us of those that have gone before us. So, the next time you’re up early, head to your local gathering spot, marina, beach, lake or waterway; watch the world awaken and smile at the fog.

LiFE is NOW… get out of the fog and SEE THE FOG!

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