Last year I suffered from a life-threatening illness. In the past year, I have had 7 facial surgeries thus far, plus chemotherapy and radiation. Physically and emotionally, it has been a very trying 12 months.

Facial disfigurement is exhausting.

The stares.

The questions.

The reflection of a “new” you in the mirror.

These things all change you.

Understandably, you would expect anger and self pity. However, I found something different: I found gratitude and peace. Through gratitude and peace, I learned about the pleasure of slowing down and smelling the roses.

Hiking Past the Roses

Before my cancer diagnosis, I would plow up a mountain and then head back down. I never looked up from seeing my feet moving, unless it was to check my watch and see how many miles I had slogged that day. I’d seek out the hardest backpacking trips, the longest hikes, the ones that would make me feel a little better about myself.


Forced to Slow Down

And then, along came cancer. And the ability to even walk some days became a chore.  Still, my dog Marley and I would go into the hills, one mile sometimes taking an hour.

In that time, I spent a lot of my hikes bent over gasping for air. I spent the rest of the time marveling at the beauty that surrounded me, talking with fellow hikers as they sped by, communing with other doggy parents. I gave out WHS stickers and encouraged women to join our group.

I also spent time watching Marley chase his ball in the snow and laughed at the pleasure of being alive, of being blessed to meet these like-minded people on the trail, and of being in awe of how lucky I am to have learned such valuable lessons.


And in slowing down, I saw things that I would never have seen prior. I watched for five minutes two mountain lions sitting in the snow but a stone’s throw away from where I was standing. I saw the beauty of Earth with new eyes: wildflowers in the spring that I’d never noticed before, the curve of the mountains, the blue of the sky. I found a beautifully formed love stone while on a trip with the WHS in Sedona. And I finally stopped to speak with a woman that I had seen on the trail many times, who now is my friend.

Sometimes in life, we do not pick our journey; however, we can choose how to journey it.  I choose gratitude.  So whether you are battling an illness or coming back from an injury or simply getting older, it’s okay to slow down and smell the roses. You should try it: it’s amazing what you see.

Hike with Kari

Kari leads hikes for women 50 and over. Her over-50 hike on May 15 is full, but there are still spots on her over-50 hike in June. Click here to sign up.