An Early Birthday Present

As I ascended Bald Mountain alone in my chair lift, I thought back to almost two years ago. It was then in May of 2020 I was suddenly struck down by cancer. My world changed virtually and literally overnight from being a cancer specialist to a very sick cancer patient. Disabling weakness, fever, sweats, dyspnea and chest pain became my new reality. My prognosis was grim, my cancer was not thought to be curable. Surgery, hormone shots, chemotherapy and radiation followed. Somehow, by God’s grace, family support, prayers and “fate” I slowly, gradually improved, gained back strength and incrementally returned to normal life. In March of this year my six-month checkup at the cancer center was good. There was no growth of the six-centimeter tumor that was still in my chest.

Elizabeth and I decided to take another cross-country trip to Oregon, to join up with my daughter, son- in- law and two granddaughters. They rented a cabin on Mount Hood and had an extra bedroom for us. I had never skied out west before. We packed the car in Pennsylvania and hit the road on a Monday. On Wednesday afternoon we noticed that we were only about one or two hundred miles from Sun Valley, Idaho, one of the nation’s premier ski resorts. My wife, a non-skier and designated driver graciously offered to give me an early birthday present and drove me to Sun Valley Lodge. We arrived almost at midnight and settled into a very luxurious room. Early in the morning I went to the lobby to get information about the mountain and to purchase my ski pass. I was fortunate to be connected with a staff member who was an expert, competitive skier. Sun Valley has two mountains, one for beginners to intermediate, and one for more experienced skiers called Bald Mountain which the locals call Baldy. After asking me several questions about my past skiing experiences and the type of slopes I had skied in Pennsylvania and Vermont, she thought that I could “probably” handle Baldy.

I neglected to tell the instructor that I would be skiing alone and I did not tell my wife that I noticed in the brochure that there was a warning that skiing alone was not recommended.  

Needless to say, at age seventy, recovering from cancer, never having skied out west, never having skied at this altitude, never having skied on a mountain with a vertical drop in excess of three thousand feet, I was a little anxious.

At nine in the morning, I boarded the shuttle bus. In fifteen minutes, I was at the base of the mountain. There was no line at the lift and off I went. The chair began its ascent. It was a beautiful day, clear blue sky, little wind, temperature in the mid-twenties, ideal weather for skiing. The views were breathtaking. As I skied off the chair lift I was at the highest point of the mountain. Below me in all directions were magnificent snow-covered peaks. I was filled with a sense of wonder and awe.

Twenty-two months ago, I was at the lowest point in my life and now I was on top of the world. The beauty of creation, the presence of the Lord, the excitement of the moment and the miracle of existence itself, filled me with renewed strength and confidence. I skied for another three hours until exhausted and then returned to the lodge, grateful to have experienced another chapter in my life.

4 thoughts on “An Early Birthday Present

  1. Absolutely Beautiful story! And your description made it totally real in my mind. God is Good and you are Always in my prayers 🙏🏻💗. Enjoy Life!!

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  2. i like to say that for a skier, the cycle of injury/illness is always the same. it begins by losing, sometimes in some humiliating way, the ability to perform basic activities of daily living. but it ends on top of a mountain. cheers to on top of that mountain, uncle!

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