Staircase is a campground in Olympic National Park in Washington state. It is named, “Staircase” because there used to be actual stairs put into the hillside in order to access it. Staircase is one of the the first places my husband and I went camping, some time in the late 80’s, before we got married. For some reason, we decided to camp there for Valentines’ Day in February! Staircase is on the Olympic Peninsula. It is not only rainy but really really really really really rainy. To make a long story short, my sleeping bag got sopping wet that first night and I ended up crammed into John’s sleeping bag. It was not a large sleeping bag. This is not as romantic as it sounds.

We returned to Staircase last weekend. It was the first time we had been back, since that time. We didn’t stay at the campground but rather, we made a hike to one of the backpacking campgrounds. My brother, James and his wife, Meagan were with us. In fact the trip was James’ idea. He wanted me to be able to go on my very first backpacking trip and since I had heart attacks last spring, my family carried all of the heavy stuff. I was required to carry anything but felt strong enough to carry my own things, in a small backpack. We had a wonderful time. I was so glad that we took on the challenge. I was pretty tired when we got back, though and it took a day and a half to re-adjust.

My return from backpacking coincided with the beginning of cardiac rehab. Cardiac rehab is three times per week. Counting my commute time, it is 8-9 hours per week. Most of it involves doing cardiac exercise. We also use hand weights, as a group. We are hooked up to heart monitors and get our blood pressure checked before and during exercise. We are supervised by nurses and exercise physiologists. They are skilled and caring.

I originally put off cardiac rehab because I thought it would be too easy. However, it is individualized to each patient. I sincerely enjoyed my workouts during the first week. By the weekend, however, my ass was kicked!

I am still figuring out how to pace myself. This is an ongoing process. I am so grateful to have the support in my recovery. However, I find myself during the last two days thinking, “Really? I have to start over AGAIN!?”

Although my cardiac recovery has been somewhat different than my recovery from cancer treatment, there are some similarities. For one, there is intermittent heavy fatigue. There is also forgetfulness and spaciness. Stress and fatigue can do a number on the brain. It is real and it can be difficult.

There’s always a staircase. I’ll keep stepping as long as I can.