Commentary, In the community

Trials and trails: A Nyssa woman’s journey

As an avid hiker and backpacker, I’ve been on many a trail – Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and in several wilderness areas – Eagle Cap, Bob Marshall and Jarbidge, as well as stomping around in the Owyhee country. There have been beautiful meadows colored with wildflowers as well as obsidian scree, boulders, downfall and snow.  

None of my previous hikes, however prepared me for the “trail” I would walk in the fall of 2022.

The journey started in the spring, with an annoying “poke” in my side and a general feeling of malaise. I ignored it for several weeks until I also noticed that my nails, usually strong and long, were breaking, chipping and splitting. I made an appointment with my PA and after explaining my symptoms, she ordered an ultrasound. 

There it was, the culprit, a small tumor inside my uterus. Next came a referral to an OB/GYN surgeon to discuss options and perform a biopsy. 

 The month of October is designated “pink” month in reference to breast cancer, which has been given the color pink. Ribbons of various colors, as well as a designated month, are used to bring awareness to the public regarding specific cancers. 

Peach is my color with June as the awareness month.

– Susan Barton, Nyssa

The good news – benign – came on a sunny day in July and surgery was scheduled for September. I was confident that fall would bring hikes following my husband around on a deer hunt and hopefully getting our young pup out to find some chukar. We both breathed a sigh of relief and planned for the 4-6 week recovery from surgery.

Surgery went well, but the trail took an unexpected and scary turn at my two-week checkup. The surgeon had received the pathology report that morning. Not only was the tumor cancer, but an aggressive endometrial cancer. 

We left the doctor’s office in shock. This was not the wildflower strewn meadow or a peaceful walk in the woods. Next came a meeting with an Oncology GYN who explained the path before us, namely chemotherapy and radiation. He mapped out the next six months of treatments, explaining the aggressive nature of this cancer and recommending it be treated aggressively. The trail quickly became dangerous and covered with boulders and downfall. My map didn’t include these dangers!

In studying scripture, I’ve noticed whenever God was preparing someone for a twist in their trail map, He would say “Be strong and of courage” (see Deut. 31:6 and Joshua 1:9). As we told family and friends of our latest adventure, we received hugs, encouraging words, cards, flowers and food. Many also shared their favorite encouraging scripture and some, stories of their own cancer journey. 

The thoughtfulness of others greatly encouraged us.

Our trail map over the next seven months took us through six rounds of chemotherapy, the first round included the discovery of an allergy to one of the drugs and adjustment in the recommended therapy. A new year brought the adventure of radiation, both external and internal. 

Then, finally, a road map leading west for a long-awaited visit with my Mom. How exciting, not only to see Mom, but to drive somewhere other than to a medical appointment!

As summer approached, therapy was complete and the healing process began. No big hikes or wilderness adventures were planned for a while; I felt happy with a half-mile walk or an hour in the garden. 

Now, it is fall and change is in the air. Strength and stamina are returning with two to three hours in the garden, a 5K walk/run fundraiser for Angel Wings Network and plans for an elk hunt. I’ve passed the one-year mark and each test, whether blood work or CT scan, has resulted in positive news. 

It’s been quite the journey! Along the way, I’ve been blessed with a husband’s loving care, friends who surrounded us with love and an amazing medical team of doctors, nurses, medical technicians and staff. While many wilderness adventures have taken me to places I hope to visit again, this adventure is one I hope to leave behind. 

To those who are currently on this journey, “be strong and of courage.”

Susan Barton is a Nyssa writer. Her Nyssa News column appears regularly in the Malheur Enterprise.