Jeffrey & Silva Zonder
Jeffrey & Silva Zonder

Knocking a Hike Off My Bucket List and More
Monday, October 03
It's been several weeks since our glorious hike at Machu Picchu, and I find my thoughts drifting back to the trip on an almost daily basis. Sometimes it's just recalling funny conversations with others on the trip (does the fact that guinea pig tastes like chicken really justify eating it?), sometimes poignant moments from the hike itself (seeing Machu Picchu for the first time from the Sun Gate; breakfast together at 4:30 a.m. the day of the hike, bundled up for cool temps, reminiscent somehow of the morning I ran the NY marathon to raise money for the MMRF years ago).

Most often, though, it's thinking about the people we met on the trip. Jeff Stiles (a patient with myeloma) and his wife Amy are super people. Fun. Funny. Cindi McNair (a TEN-YEAR myeloma survivor) is tough as nails, and — I felt — spiritual somehow. Grounded. Grateful. Determined. Inspiring.

When patients ask me whether we can somehow adjust their therapy to accommodate a trip or an occasion of some sort, I always say, “We're not treating you so you can remain well enough to come back for your next treatment. We’re doing it so you can live your life.” I almost always tell them to take the trip if they're healthy enough to do it. I, of course, never had a firsthand view of those occasions, those life events or those amazing trips until this one. What an honor and honor it was for Silva and me to be there.

A special thanks goes to JoAnn and Gene Taylor of the Walking Connection for their attention to every detail of the trip —one of those destinations where having pros looking out for us made all the difference in the world — and also to John Waller and Ben Canales of Uncage the Soul Productions and Marty Murphy at CURE magazine for documenting the whole damn thing. I'll credit John and Ben for inspiring me to diet and exercise regularly post-trip, after watching them make the trek with 1,000-pound packs full of camera equipment and also for having the photojournalistic integrity they demonstrated by not photoshopping me to look at least vaguely in shape for the hike. I've lost 12 pounds since the trip. Seriously.

Finally, I've spent a lot of time thinking about "bucket lists." That term came up so many times on the trip and over a dozen times in conversation with people since. Machu Picchu seems to be on a lot of people's bucket list. It was on mine. Honestly, when I heard about the Moving Mountins for Multiple Myeloma program, my exact reaction was: "I can raise research funds for an organization I believe strongly in AND I can knock a major hike off my bucket list while I'm doing it!”

As is often the case, there was a lesson. The ruins looked in real life just like they do in the pictures: amazing and kind of mind-boggling. The journey, though, was what really was most beautiful about the trip. You can't put that in a bucket. I hope I have the chance to see everyone from the trip again in the future (on the trail or a good bar in some distant country, not just on Facebook). Thanks to all of you who made the trip so special for us.

P.S. The answer to the guinea pig question is "yes."
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