Category: Travel

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).

Share

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!

Share