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  • On Tuesday, July 5, I woke up and thought of Rob Hall on top of Everest. Rob Hall was a Mt. Everest guide from New Zealand who had John Krakauer with him when an expedition turned deadly in May 1996. Rob Hall’s pregnant wife was put on the satellite phone with him to try to convince him to get up from where he was sitting at the summit without supplemental oxygen and walk down. I heard a tape of the phone call on a television show about the expedition. It was so vivid—I felt like I could see him sitting there, could hear his wife calmly trying to talk him down, even up to the time she realized he wasn’t going to get up and go down. He froze to death on the top of that mountain.

    Last Tuesday, I was both characters. I was seeing the silhouette and calling “Come on, Rob Hall. Just get up. Just stand up and turn and take step by step. You’re not even that far from base camp, from oxygen. Just stand up and take a step."

    It was the day before my last chemotherapy treatment. Eighteen weeks, every week. Six rounds, three treatments each. In early weeks I'd bounced back by Sunday, but in the final rounds I was still having trouble rallying by the day before the treatment. Early on I could go to work for 6-hour days on the day before treatment, but this week I was having trouble getting out of bed. The week before was the first time I didn't make it in to work at all.

    I was Rob Hall, stuck on this summit. I needed to get out of bed and get showered and dressed and go to work on the energy of my final steroid dose. Getting to the kitchen and eating and taking that steroid was safety and oxygen.

    I was worried about what I would find at work and overwhelmed, but I had someone to drive me and pick me up and needed to just get there and tackle something for my own sanity. And I did. At work at my desk, I had some moments I put my head down, willing my brain to work. And I did tasks: financial, customer service, registrations, packages mailed, beds remade, towels put out, fridge cleared of a few things, stationery ordered, office cleaned, documents shredded and boxes recycled. My job is not getting done without me. It will be much better when I’m back at least a 6 hr day and 4 hr day. Then I will also have the hard work of finding someone to replace me when I’m gone for surgery.

    Now I am rallying my resources. Digging deep. Calling to myself. You’re close. You’re so close. Just stand up Rob Hall. Get off that mountain. It's time to descend to clearer air.

    Everest photo from
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