The Ascent

It was nine months away, and I knew I had to start training as the man I was dating had made reservations for us to camp and hike at Yosemite National Park. Having had multiple conversations regarding what we would do on this mini-vacation, I knew it would include a couple of very strenuous hikes. With this in my mind, the goal was to get into a better level of physical fitness. Having an apartment in a lovely and hilling neighborhood in southern California lent itself to more strenuous physical activities. To achieve my nine-month goal, I implemented a plan which included jogging and biking through the hills.

As the months passed, my mind would wonder what we would be doing upon arriving at the Yosemite Valley. The valley had something for everyone. The sights ranged from walking through the fields of flowers to observing the incredible wildlife – Black Bears, coyotes, and Bighorn Sheep, which I planned to avoid. But for us, the attraction was hiking. The park has two incredible rock formations,

El Capitan and Half Dome, and hiking both was our goal. Click To Tweet

The reality was that El Capitan is a 15.4-mile day hike, and Half Dome is a 16-mile day hike, so my mind was focused on training, knowing that I wasn’t close to doing these distances.

 The Training and the Disappointment

I trained for several months, running through the hills feeling good about my progress when receiving information that rocked my world. I was diagnosed with cancer and would need treatment. The good news was the cancer was caught early. After more tests, my oncologist recommended treatment that only involved surgery. I found myself having multiple procedures, and I did not want to cancel the trip. I needed something to look forward to, and I kept telling myself that I could do it. With the procedures behind me now, my recovery could begin.

But, after a two-month pause in my life, I again began to think about the trip. Not being able to do any physical activity had put me on a physical deficit, and now I had to start over with my training. I was deconditioned, had surgery, and needed to get stronger quicker with only four months to go. I knew it would be a race to try and get “hike ready,” but I was up for the challenge.

I began my course of walking and running, changing over quickly to just running the hills. I started feeling better, and before I knew it, it was time for the trip.

We left at the crack of dawn, and six and half hours later, we arrived at the Yosemite Valley campground.

We were tired, and after settling in, we took a walk to get acquainted with the park appreciating the beauty surrounding us. Looking around, I was excited and overwhelmed by the valley’s beauty. The valley sits at 4500 feet elevation surrounded by Black oaks, Ponderosa pines, white firs, and abundant wildflowers. I would have been happy to walk around the valley, but there was a plan, and all I had to do was Look Up.

And There It Was

As I glanced up, the only word that came to mind was majestic. I could see the mountain peaks at 8800 feet above sea level, and the views of El Capitan and Half Dome were nothing short of spectacular. Knowing that the next day would be physically strenuous, we laid down early and enjoyed the cold night breeze and the beautiful sky.

The morning came quickly, and we walked from base camp to Mist trail to begin our day hike to Half Dome. We encountered two impressive waterfalls on this trail, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. This section of the hike had rock stairs as far as the eyes could see.

It was steep and challenging, but the payoff was walking close to Vernal Falls, followed by the Nevada Falls. We stopped along the trail and appreciated their beauty; the mist was refreshing, and we finally had an excuse to sit, rest and enjoy the view.

As we began hiking again, I felt grateful that the steps had ended, and now the hiking was through switchback trails. Despite slowly climbing in altitude, this portion of the hike felt easier. But there was a schedule to keep if we were to make it to the summit.

The Plateau

Several hours later, we hit a plateau, and in the distance, you could see the summit. As we soaked in the beauty, what stood out was how steep this next part was. From a distance, you could see the granite peak, and

It looked like ants walking in a straight line Click To Tweet

up the side of the mountain. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s one thing to hear about it and quite another to see the 45 to 60-degree incline of the flat rock. The next thing that I noticed was the cables that you hold onto as you climb the last 400 feet, all to reach the summit.

Making our way to the beginning of the cables, I put my gloves on. As I looked up, I knew this was the reason I had trained for months. Starting to climb, you see wood planks every six feet. The planks enable you to brace and to rest until your next move.

Because this part of the hike is so strenuous, no one seemed to be in a rush to go around me. Realizing that people go up and down between the cables, I knew they could take several hikers with them if anyone fell. Several people made their way back down the steel cables as we climbed. When that happened, I would take a breath and hold on to one side of the cable. The passerby would grab onto the other cable and climb down at the 45-degree angle until they passed me.

I think back, and I know it didn’t take that long to climb to the top; however, I never let go of the cables, and before I reached the top, I was dreading the return. In my mind, I knew it was strenuous, but it never occurred to me that it was also dangerous.

The panoramic view of the valley and Sierra Mountains was spectacular, having climbed that last plank and making my way up to the summit. Spending over an hour just looking around, seeing the other hikers who had made it to the top, then the reality of what was still ahead of us – the return and the respite was over. It was almost two, and I thought the hike down the mountain would be a lot easier. The reality was that it was NOT!

The Descent

We began our descent on the cables, and it was terrifying. I remember doing one plank at a time, avoiding looking at the plateau, so my eyes were always focused on the next plank, the next plank, and the next.

Our hike continued when we reached the bottom of the rock face, and I thought the return hike would be less intense. I found that initially, it was, and my mind was enjoying the views. However, as the hours passed, the front of my leg began to ache, and I realized that I hadn’t trained enough, but all that I could do at this point was take a break every 45 minutes to an hour and continue.

I started this day hike knowing that completion before nightfall was necessary, and here I was struggling to walk down the mountain because of the shin splints. The hike that began with enormous anticipation ended not a moment too soon. Reaching the waterfalls, I knew we only had an hour or two left, and I found myself moaning. By the time we climbed down all the steps,

My moans were louder than the wildlife Click To Tweet

and all I could do was tell myself that it was almost over.

I Made It

When we reached our tent, it was dark, cold and I couldn’t get off of my feet soon enough. The good news was that my friend let me rest while he prepared some food and got some drinks. The hike that we estimated would be 10 hours took almost 13 hours. We spoke of the next day’s planned adventure to El Capitan having dinner. We both knew that I would not be joining him.

Despite how the day ended, I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment. I was diagnosed with cancer, received treatment, started and continued my training, and finished the 16-mile day hike. All I saw was a very successful but painful day.

Years later, a friend asked if I would do it again. I didn’t even need to think about it. The answer was YES!

Like It Used To Be

.Before the COVID19 pandemic and contracting the disease, everything was like it used to be. I lived a healthy, active, retired life as a widow. My days were filled with writing, hiking, attending events – movies, theater, concerts, and of course eating out with my friends. I would regularly meet a friend and her dog for a walk at our local state park to enjoy the lovely views, beautiful weather, and beginner trails.

However, once the pandemic had been with us for several months, it became clear that life would not go back to normal anytime soon. As our state parks closed, I started walking with a couple of friends throughout our neighborhood. We had a healthy respect for the virus, so our walks would be on opposite sides of the street. The separation ensured much more than 6 feet between us while raising our voices to be heard.

As with all things, time passed, and attitudes changed. The endless debate of wanting to go back to our lives was alive and well. Some people chose to go back to their former activities while I struggled to be safe. So I limited where I went, who I saw, and what I was willing to do. I was left with a handful of friends to meet with on rare occasions with this decision.

Then Came the Isolation 

Living utterly alone, after a couple of months of isolation and loneliness, I found myself getting together with a friend just for human contact. Every couple of weeks, I would drive to her house for dinner.

While we sat on her patio, grilled, and just talked. These outings were the highlight of my week and how we spent the summer of 2020.

Eight months into the pandemic, I was looking forward to seeing my friend on the upcoming Saturday.

This meal was going to be different as she had invited another acquaintance.


Everyone would bring something, and I volunteered to bring fruit for dessert. Thinking of this outing, I decided to get my nails done as it had been months and I thought well deserved. Friday came, and I made two stops. The first stop was to the grocery store, where I ran in and grabbed fresh fruit, paid at the self-checkout, and ran out.


The second stop was at the nail salon, which took much longer. But with all the precautions, I thought it would be ok. The workers who wore their masks sat behind a plastic shield while I wore my mask.

As I turned my head, I saw a patron a couple of seats over, pulling down her mask, talking, and having a drink.


I felt a pit in my stomach, and I knew this was a mistake. Click To Tweet

However, as the technician was close to finishing, I waited and ran out as quickly as possible. I reminded myself not to be so paranoid and that I would be fine.

Saturday came and went. The company was great and what I needed. To not spend another day completely alone and have face-to-face conversations was terrific. Everyone enjoyed the food, and it felt like life was normal, like it used to be.

And then it started

 Monday came, and I had body aches, and I was cold. By 10 p.m. I had a fever of 101 degrees, and I felt awful. The reality hit that I could have contracted COVID19, and the mental blaming began for going to the store and nail salon. I couldn’t shake the thought that, oh my god, could I have given it to my friends? The guilt and shame for going to the store and getting my nails done were immediate. I reached out to everyone I had been around to tell them to test as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, I called my physician, who ordered COVID19, Flu A, and Flu B tests, along with calling in prescriptions for azithromycin, Tamiflu, Tylenol, and zinc. On this day, my fever ran from 100.4 with Tylenol as high as 101.8. I found the fevers relentless and exhausting, and I tried to manage them by setting alarms to wake up and take more medicine. The physician stated that if the fever hit 102 degrees to go to the emergency room, so I became preoccupied with checking my fever every few hours.

Wednesday, I went to a lab, got tested, and came home to rest. My fevers continued all day, and it wasn’t easy to function as my body needed endless amounts of sleep. On Thursday, to my disbelief, my physician’s office called to tell me that all three tests came back negative. I advised them that my fever hit 102, and they told me to continue with the medications, call them the next day, and if I got worse, to go to the emergency room. On this day, the only good news was my friend saying that everyone got tested, and they were all negative.

I couldn’t believe it

 Having experienced a terrible night with 102.6, chills, and severe exhaustion, I packed a bag, got in my car, and went to the emergency room. I was there for 4 hours as they ran more tests, gave me IV fluids, and came in to tell me that my COVID19 test came back positive.


They prescribed more antibiotics, something for the cough, and sent me home.

When I got to my car, I started sobbing uncontrollably. In despair that I had been released without anyone at home to help me was unimaginable.


It just made me cry to the point that I was having trouble breathing. That’s when the fear took over as I had never experienced this kind of debilitating illness.

Saturday was a blur, and to my dismay, the only way I would wake up was when I was burning hot with a fever. My routine became checking to see how high my temperature was, drinking some water with more Tylenol, and laying back down. Sometime during the night, I realized that I was burning hot but debated whether to get up or sleep longer. I must have done this for several hours, and then a moment of clarity hit that

If I didn't get up, I would die in my bed. Click To Tweet

I think I’m dying

The thought that got me out of bed was realizing that I wouldn’t be able to take my dream vacation to New Zealand. With that in mind, I got up and checked my temperature.

As I glanced at the thermometer, I saw 104.8, and I knew I needed to get help. I grabbed my phone, called 911, and explained my situation. They asked me to stand outside as they would not enter the house because of the COVID19 virus.


I didn’t know how to get ready, but I pushed myself to start. To my dismay, I was having difficulty tying my shoes, and at this point, I chose not to. I mustered all the strength to grab the bag that I had taken to the emergency room on Friday, and I walked out to my driveway. The ambulance came, and for the first time in 6 days, I finally felt that help was here.

The EMT in the ambulance was caring. He took my temperature and reported that it had hit 105. He started IV fluids and reassured me that I would be ok and not worry.


Upon arriving at the hospital, the attendant took me into a room where a nurse helped me put on the hospital gown and began another IV. They wheeled me into my room, and they told me a physician would be coming to see me shortly.

Letting go of the blame

When he came into the room, I said, “But I’ve been careful, safe. I wear a mask wherever I go. I get groceries delivered. Rarely go into the store”. I remember speaking those words as I lay in complete isolation on the COVID19 hospital wing. The doctor just looked at me through his mask, face shield, head cover while wearing his gloves, gown, and shoe covers and said, “it’s just a virus, and it’s everywhere.” There was a calmness in his words and what I know is that it was no longer up to me to set the alarm to try to control my fever. I remember closing my eyes and resting for the first time without fear.

Day 8 in COVID19 hospital wing

The Unattended Concert

“Complete strangers can stand silent next to each other in an elevator and not even look each other in the eye. But at a concert, those same strangers could find themselves dancing and singing together like best friends. That’s the power of music.” LZ Granderson

Music was always something that my loved one and I had in common. Even though the genre we enjoyed was different, we loved listening to music at home, in the car, and especially at live venues. Some of my fondest memories continue to be our evenings out at a favorite restaurant followed by a concert. Attending these concerts was a fantastic shared experience and one of the many joys of our marriage.

Attending these concerts were one of the many joys of our marriage. Click To Tweet

Knowing how much he loved concerts and how tenuous his health was the last ten years of his life, we made a concerted effort to buy tickets several months in advance so we could have something to look forward to. However, as his illness progressed, we found that accommodations had to be made, including a place to rest, oxygen, and wheelchair access so we could continue to enjoy going out. There were times that these accommodations made things difficult and, on occasion, so much so that we were unable to attend. But we continued to try, and most of the time, we were able to enjoy the evening out.

My loved one was dead set on attending a rock concert. We both loved the bands playing, and the show was in this beautiful outside theater. The amphitheater seats were in the middle of a field of pine and oak trees. So, I bought two wheelchair-accessible tickets, and the countdown began for our next adventure. However, two weeks before the concert, he had pneumonia, and he never got better.

Today is the anniversary of what would have been the last rock concert that we would have attended. I hold these unused tickets in my hand, and feelings of loss immediately surface. I recognize that he is not only gone from my life, but so is the music that had once filled it. It’s funny how it took today to notice that this was missing from my life.

I hold these unused tickets in my hand and feelings of loss immediately surface. Click To Tweet

I summoned the courage to do something different and getting on my computer I found a concert I wanted to attend. As I clicked on the purchase button, I found myself smiling even though it was two months away. What occurs to me is that, like before, I now have something to look forward to.