After decades working as a hospital rehabilitation coordinator, Kathleen Gordon got the blindside of her life. “At 42 years old, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage one [breast cancer] – two tumors were found on a routine mammogram,” the Chicago resident and frequent Arizona visitor says.
With no family history, a negative BRCA genetic test and no patience for being a patient, Gordon was shocked. “I was challenged not only mentally and physically by my diagnosis and the procedures that followed, but I now had to navigate being a patient.”
Inclined to gravitate to nature for fortitude, the self-described outdoor girl incorporated hiking into her healing process. “Hiking provides me time to focus on my thoughts, strengths and well-being… [to] organize my goals and concentrate on my overall health.”
Three months after surgery and radiation treatments, Gordon was ready to hit the trails. She started on the easy Hieroglyphic Trail in Apache Junction. This scenic trek in the Superstition Mountains has just enough elevation gain, rocky terrain and inspiring vistas for Gordon to build endurance toward her ultimate goal of hiking Camelback. “I had no idea how challenging that first hike would be,” Gordon says. Later, on Camelback, Gordon was encouraged by hikers giving her the thumbs up and “You’re almost there!” reassurance. “I think it took me close to [three hours] to summit on my first hike,” she says. “It was an emotional experience.”
Gordon’s hiking therapy seems to have helped. “I am quickly approaching my five-year survivor status and feeling so much stronger.”
IF YOU GO
Hieroglyphic Trail – Superstition Mountains
LENGTH: 3 miles roundtrip
ELEVATION: 2,050-2,620 feet
GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take US 60 east to Apache Junction. Between mileposts 202 and 203, turn left onto Kings Ranch Road and go 2.8 miles to Baseline Road. Turn right and follow Baseline a third of a mile to Mohican, turn left, and go another third of a mile to Valley View. Turn left and follow Valley View (turns into Whitetail Road) to Cloudview Avenue, turn right and continue half a mile to the trailhead.
NEXT MONTH: A therapy cat hikes Papago Peak.
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