The Camino: Hopes and Fears of a Cancer Survivor

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“May your choices reflect your hopes and dreams, not your fears.” -Nelson Mandela
I’ve found that I must be very intentional to not let fear paralyze my life. When it does creep in, I quickly switch to my gratitude list, taking one moment at a time and reminding myself of Mandela’s quote.

In 2012, I completed half of the El Camino de Santiago (or simply, “the Camino”), a 500-mile path across the northern part of Spain that people (called pilgrims) have been walking for over a thousand years. Camino means “path” in Spanish, and there are several of them throughout Europe that all end at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, only a few miles shy of the Atlantic coast, which was once thought to be the end of the world. The origins of the walk are religious, but people do it nowadays for all kinds of reasons and purposes. I have been blessed to have done a fair amount of traveling in my life, but the Camino is one of my most treasured chapters. For years, I have been wanting to go back to finish the pilgrimage, but there was always a reason to put it off until next year, when the circumstances would seem right. But when next year isn’t guaranteed, your entire thought process changes.

Last summer, I made some new friends who were getting ready to go to Spain to walk the El Camino de Santiago. Being around them as they contemplated equipment, logistics and the physicality of walking 10 to 20 miles a day was a bittersweet emotion. I could not bare the thought of never finishing the journey I began, and I swore to myself that as soon as I was healthy again, I would complete the Camino. So after finishing chemo and recovering from my second abdominal surgery, I put it on the calendar. I began buying equipment and telling people about my trip, but still part of me was holding back. I knew it was a risk, but I scheduled my departure one week after a check-up and results appointment. I did this because I wanted to go with my doctor’s blessing and to be told I was was good for another three months.

However, like many cancer survivors, I’ve developed a bit of a doomsday syndrome. I bought all my stuff from REI, but left the tags on. Fear. I bought travel insurance so I’d be reimbursed when I was told I shouldn’t go. Fear. I wrote this post and held it back until I got the all clear from my doctor. Fear.

All of those acts of fear were completely useless because my scans were clear. As I complete my final draft of this article, I’m excited to be sitting on a flight to Paris. I’ll be spending three weeks making my way through France and Switzerland visiting family and friends who I haven’t seen in over two years due to not being able to travel while I was sick. Then on May 16th, I’ll head to Spain where I’ll spend the next three weeks literally walking across a country, landing in Santiago de Compostela somewhere around June 2.

Cheers to living out hopes and dreams!

To read all of my articles with Cure, click here.

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