Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Leaving Colorado

My first winter in the Colorado Rockies turned out to be rather mild with minimal snow in the valley.  Great for a non-skier like me; not so great for my brother and family who make their living in the ski industry and love to ski.

One weekend, I headed down to Denver to check out the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could spot some bison in front of the Denver skyline.  Yep!  They were there...and one even posed nicely for me!

But, I really wished I could do some ski photography.   There was no way I could get up on the skiing runs at Vail with my back back and lack of mobility (so no way to photograph my brother in action), but the upcoming Birds of Prey Men's Downhill World Cup Race at Beaver Creek looked promising.

The ski race offered fantastic ADA accessibility-- a snowcat transported me the last 500 feet up the ski hill, and a nice handicap viewing platform sat directly behind the finish line (even closer than the VIP's got!).

The course is so tall, it was impossible to see the starting gate except via the video monitors.  But once the racers came down over the final few turns, it was quite fun to see them whiz over the last hill at speeds exceeding 60 mph!

The Norwegian skier Axsel Svindal won the event-- and since he also happened to take gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics Men's Downhill in South Korea, it turned out to be a preview of the Olympics too!

But other than a few fun events like this, by late January, the stressful winter season began to take its toll on the family.  My brother runs a busy ski shop in Vail and works extremely long hours in the winter.  Meanwhile, his wife blew out both of her knees on her 2nd day of skiing (due to the minimal poor snow conditions on the mountain) and required multiple knee surgeries.  Add on top of that, trying to deal with my terminal illness and figure out how on earth to make their 2-story house with lots of stairs more comfortable for me and accessible for hospice, and we'd finally reached a breaking point.  Something had to give.

As much as my brother and I wanted to stay together, we'd have to find a better solution for the near-term.  While Vail is a popular tourist destination, it's still a rural community with minimal services (especially hospice), and frankly, I was beginning to get rather lonely not having anyone other than my brother, his family, and a few Denver friends to interact with for most of the past 8 months.

After talking to my family in Chicago, it became clear that the best place for me right now would be back where I likely should have planned to end up all along... my long-time "sweet home, Chicago."

My stepsisters immediately offered up their houses to care for me, and a growing cadre of Chicago friends also jumped in with further support.   So, on a cold (but blizzard-free) week in mid-February, I packed up the little yellow Tracker to make one final 1,000-mile drive across the Great Plains.

But not before heading out to the storage yard to say goodbye to Winnie!  Gosh, what amazing times we had in the past few years traveling thru the U.S. and Mexico!  Yes, I did cry as I watched her disappear in the rear view mirror that last time, but the good news is that she'll be staying in the family....

My brother has decided that he'd rather keep Winnie than have me sell her.  So if you see this sweet rig heading down the highway next summer, that will be my brother behind the driver's seat.  Give him a wave!

I decided to take the long drive slowly and spread it out across 4 days.  That was a wise call as my stamina had indeed declined (even since my December trip to New Mexico). 

I spent my first night in Brush, CO and woke up to a bit of snow and frost as I made my way to the McDonald's for breakfast.

I then enjoyed the fine sites of Lincoln, NE and Iowa City, IA for my subsequent nights' stays.   But I could not drive all the way through Iowa without stopping for lunch to visit with my dear old T@B camping buddies Judi and Kathy, who converged onto I-80 to meet up with me in Davenport.

We had a delightful time catching up-- remembering all the fun summer rallies we had attended with our tiny T@B teardrop campers.  One particularly miserable week, it had been near 100 everyday with humidity well above 90%.  But, thanks to T@Bs having oversized air conditioners (and us having plenty of wine!), we managed to still have a hilarious and very memorable week together!

I rolled into my sister Holley's driveway just before nightfall on February 15th.  She and her husband, Mike, got me quickly settled in and well-fed.

The next week, I established care with my mom's old oncologist, who promptly ordered up a series of new CT scans.  My plan had been to look for a condo to rent that would be nearby both sisters' houses so that they could visit frequently but not feel they had to care for me.  It'd also be a place where a 24/7 caregiver and my brother could stay when I got closer to the end.

But after assessing the scans (and my rapidly escalating pain levels), my oncologist suggested that the condo idea might now be a bit too late, and that I should just stay with family instead.

Thankfully, Mike and Holley have preferred this arrangement-- they'd rather just walk downstairs to see me every day than drive a few miles.  So, I'm now staying with them for the duration, and it's actually been a pretty wonderful experience for everyone thus far.

I started hospice 3 weeks ago, and have a very comfortable hospital bed set up in their 1st floor den (with a newly-remodeled adjacent bathroom no less!).  My hospice nurse is super-experienced, and an absolute delight to work with.  Within just a couple of days, she managed to migrate me to a set of drugs that have almost totally eliminated my pain without making me groggy, and this alone has probably added a few more weeks to my life!  Right now, I'm still able to drive and meet up with friends for lunches and dinners a few times a week-- still feeling somewhat "normal" even though my time is now down to a couple of months or less.

Both sisters and Mike are very involved with the Roselle United Methodist church here and have been helping me tremendously in my spiritual growth.  While I would sometimes attend church in the past whenever I visited, I made it a goal during Lent to attend every service I physically could (and I accomplished it!).  It helps that the pastor here is also phenomenal-- her words each week have been connecting with me in a very powerful and profound way.

When I first faced the task of moving 1,000 miles during this late stage of my life, I was filled with trepidation.  Would I even survive the trip?

But now that I've made it back here to Chicago, I can't imagine completing my life without getting to reconnect with all of my family and friends here.  The deeply moving conversations and spiritual awakenings during these past few weeks have been the most meaningful of my entire life.  I can't imagine not being able to experience what I am experiencing right now. 

I'll try to explain this all a bit further in my next post.  I've never wanted this blog to turn into a cancer journal, but I do hope there is value in hearing what it feels like from an emotional/spiritual sense to prepare for the final realm of life....spoiler alert:  it's not all pain and sadness as you might expect, but a time of some pretty downright amazing revelations too!


  1. May God continue to bless you on your final journey. You are an amazing woman and I have admired your strength thru all of this. Ann M

  2. Lynne I so appreciate your writing and journal of what you are gong through with 4 family members succumbing to cancer. Really helps me understand what is happening so sad but you are such a strong and positive person. Our prayers are here right with you on this final journey.

  3. Thinking of you and again thank for all you share with us who are armchair travelers. Your photography is amazing and someday I too too hope to travel and I hope share with others. Your enthusiasm for life is a great motivator for the rest of us. BTW that Denver picture with the Buffalo? Is poster worthy!

  4. I started following your blog when you were packing up to leave Chicago and start your adventures. And what adventures there were! Now,in a full circle move you are back again to end your days. I've been praying that God would move in your heart and give you peace. God is so good at doing that - I've seen it again and again. Thank you for the update, it's good to know that you are in a great place with lots of love for your final journey. Many blessings to you, you are an amazing person.

  5. Hey Lynne
    Yes, All the various turns a life takes can all be material for the blog. I so appreciate your honesty and willingness to continue to share your journey. Wishing you a safe and comfortable trip, all the way! Happy trails!

  6. I have been following your blog for a couple of years as suggested by my friends Jack and Trisha. I am so glad I did! I am a single woman also traveling in my class A. You are so inspiring in every aspect of life. You are an amazing woman and hope I can follow in your footsteps. God Bless!!!!!

  7. I'm reading this with my morning coffee and feeling so grateful ~ grateful for having run across you in the blogging world and following your adventures and grateful for your words as you end your journey in this part of the world ~ you are an inspiration <3

  8. Thanks for you blog! Prayers for you, Lynne!

  9. Thinking of your determination the day you joined us to make the hike down to Tripod Rocks... and back up...carrying all that heavy camera gear!!!! It's no surprise that you face the obstacle of cancer in the same way. Cheers to you, Lynn.

  10. Wow, that's all I can say about you and you photography. I do love the bison photo and the haze above him - so symbolic of our lives. Am so glad I did get to me you at Bosque del Apache. You have the soul and spirit that will live in eternity. May you pass them along to another. Bless you Lynne.

  11. I know what an effort it is to write a blog and I thank you every day that you find the energy to do it. I've been following along with you for years and you are an inspiration for me. I wish you pain free days ahead.

  12. Lynne, I have followed your blog for a long time, and have admired your spirit and your sense of adventure. How you are handling the end of your journey is nothing short of awe inspiring. So, so glad you are able to be in such a good place now with your family. God Bless You!

  13. You continue to be an inspiration despite the difficulties you are facing. You look wonderful in the pictures you share, with your beautiful smile. Bless you Lynne.

  14. I keep dropping in and feeling so happy that you are out and about, seeing and doing the things that you love not a hint of self-pity such as "So I said 'Goodbye Forever (clutches bosom)" to" or "Since this is my last visit" Winnie herself is an altogether different matter! She toted you and Millie around with gusto and good manners. Tears are only a fair homage.

    You look perfectly fine, you're running around the country solo - every time I read a new account, I wondered - are you sure those doctors were right? Even so I am so very happy for the reprieve that you have gotten. You're too great a photographer to blow out early.

  15. So nice to hear how you are doing. I have been a rather quiet, but long term follower of your blog. The year you published a calendar I enjoyed your wonderful photos every day at work. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  16. I only hope I can be as graceful as you when it is my time. You are my inspiration.

  17. I am so glad you are sharing your experience. Also glad you made the drive ok.

  18. Finally attended a game at Sloan Park, the spring home of your Chicago Cubs. Thought about you as Fran and I walked the park, it is a really nice stadium. ... and I had an extra ticket too. I did not discover your blog util you were here in SoCal at Guajome, but I can say I was inspired to go back and read all your 'Winnie-Views' from the beginning. Your calendar now sits on the side table, replaced by Gaelyn's on the wall., but you are indeed an inspiration for all of us who follow your journeys.

    1. Wow, I would have loved to see Sloan Park and go to that game with you Jeff! But, thankfully, the Cubbies are playing in Milwaukee this weekend, so I get to go see them one more time in the comfort of a covered stadium (poor Wrigley is still way too cold this time of year!).

  19. Wow, just wow. Thanks just seems so trivial! I wish you peace that passes all understanding. So glad you are with those you love.

  20. What an amazing adventure you've taken us all on, Lynne. Each day we get on this earth is certainly a gift. 😊

  21. Thank you, Lynne. God bless you.

  22. The photos are extraordinary. I'm relieved to know what your living accomodations are and that you have good skilled care at this time. Who knew when we met for lunch at Milagros in San Miguel, the journey that you would soon begin. I still remember your radiant smile then and I also do at this moment while I'm in Houston. The universe wisely does not let us know our path or destiny. You are an exception and your choices have been wise, to put it mildly. Sending un gran abrazo from Houston!

  23. So very good to hear from you. Sounds like the move to Chicago was the best. But I was so surprised that you made the drive alone. Glad all went well. Love your photo of the Denver skyline with the bison. Your strength and positive attitude are so uplifting. You are a woman of amazing grace>

  24. Lynne it is with amazement and gratitude that I read your post for you bring peace and inspiration in so many ways. May you always to be bathed in love, light and warmth during your continued awakenings. Hugs to you - Imkelina

  25. Indeed, the bison/Denver skyline picture is poster worthy. Lynne, your posts are always uplifting to your blog readers and at the same time teaching us to enjoy where we are and what we have. Thank you for the time and effort you have put into your posts over the years.

  26. May you be blessed as you journey onward,thank you for all you have given and shared, R.

  27. Lynn, I have read all of your blog post and will be so sad when they are done. You are a very strong willed person. Some days I feel so sorry for myself, and I read yours or some ones travel blog and it puts me in a better place. I will so miss you and pray that your passing is painless and you are with family and friends. You will be so missed.

  28. Thank you for posting, Lynne. I've been thinking about you. I'm glad your living arrangements have worked out o well. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts.

  29. Lynne, thank you for all your posts and beautiful pictures,you will truly be missed by all your cyber family. I pray that your final days be filled with much love,peace,and pain free. God Bless you.

  30. I love your buffalo picture yes it is poster worthy. I will always treasure your photos as they bring so much reality to the screen.

    May your days be pain free and you get to enjoy your family and friends until God sends for you.

  31. You are a truly inspirational human - I have followed your blog for the past couple of years and each post elicits tremendous wonder, respect, love and admiration, as well as a challenge to live my own life more fully. I am so grateful that you not only chose to live this lifestyle but also to share your quite wonderful photos, perspectives, challenges and life with us. Thank you, for all of it.

  32. Appreciate your honest and real sharing, even though it feels bittersweet. I cannot imagine you not around, and yet, you handle it all with such grace. So happy you're feeling better than expected and sending you a big hug from Georgia. Love you, Lynne!

  33. I was wondering about an update from you. Glad you had a slow wonderful problem free trip Home.
    Always love your blog and the free spirit you inspired in me. Keep us updated as you feel like it. I Speak for all your followers.. we love to hear from you and we send our love to you always.
    Gramma Dy... Northern Calif.

  34. Lynne, I just started reading your blog a couple months ago. Found it by accident researching some RV stuff. Like you and so many others, I just left a successful IT career early (at least 25 years too early!) so that I could experience life outside the cubicle farm. I'm currently rebooting in Mexico researching my next adventure. You and your blog introduced me to the View! You were the first to show me that Sprinter-based RVs are not just for weird people! After some research, I am looking into RVs similar to yours! And a Tracker will make the perfect Toad (although I'll look for an older 2-door, soft top, manual transmission). Your stories have inspired me and thanks to you, I've learned so many places I never knew existed. Now I have to include them in my adventures! I might even get the courage to drive to San Miguel thanks to you!

    Your time is ending way too soon. But I am so happy you were able to live the way YOU wanted! Your sharing of your adventures inspired me and many others. Thank you for your service.

  35. Lynne, I came across your blog a few years ago when i started thinking about retiring and Rv'ing. Although the times were to long between each time i checked your blog it made me so happy. my spirt would soar on how my retirement might be just reading about your and millie's adventures. Again it was to long since the last time I checked in and i now realize your on your final road trip. I want you to know that there are some of us who are older (60+) that still have to work that did read your blog, and dream. thank you so much for that!. i wish you peace on this final trip.

  36. Sweet lady, another RVing friend just recommended your site to me when I just posted about being diagnosed with cancer and how I'm gonna have to learn to deal with it as a fulltime RVer. When I got to your blog, I realized I had linked to it on my website of resources for solo women RVers, but I didn't know at that time about your diagnosis and the extent of it. I just want to thank you for writing about all this. I particularly love your last sentence: "it's not all pain and sadness as you might expect, but a time of some pretty downright amazing revelations too!" I've already found that out at least to some extent.

    I'm just starting my journey down this road and I'm glad I can follow yours. Very inspiring from what I've read so far. Namaste, dear one.

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