Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Dreamer" has Prostate Cancer and we are Thankful.....

Yep, we're on a new adventure... fighting cancer. We are thanking God for the cancer and the circumstances we now find ourselves in…

“In all things, give thanks to the Lord.”

Of all the kinds of cancer Tom could have, prostate cancer is a pretty benign option. We could have been told he had a grapefruit sized tumor in his brain and to go home and put his affairs in order. But, no.  We got a good diagnosis.

He has had this for a while, but it’s been quiet and quite manageable. More recently, his PSA spiked and he had another biopsy, which showed advancement of the cancer and a change in his Gleason score. For those of you unfamiliar with prostate cancer, a Gleason Score is determined from the analysis of tissue samples taken from the prostate during the biopsy and a physical exam. It was evident that the time to do something had arrived.

Having researched many options for treatment, we decided to see the physicians at RCOG, in Atlanta, Georgia. The doctors here in Michigan were all about surgical intervention, with pretty high odds of encountering side effects, which wasn’t an option for us. RCOG, (www.rcog.com) who has successfully treated over 16,000 men over the past 20 years, was the option we chose. As a man with a strong family history of prostate cancer, this probably was inevitable. So, a word to the wise fellas…. Get checked. It’s a sneaky cancer, that’s mostly silent, especially in younger men who don’t typically warrant PSA checks.  It’s a lot like ovarian cancer in women… silent, until it’s already there and raging.

So, tomorrow, Tom will start the first of 35 daily radiation treatments to kill the cancer. Two weeks ago, he underwent surgery to implant 35+ radioactive ‘seeds’ in the prostate, which began initial treatment. Now the 7 weeks of daily radiation will complete his treatment. Hopefully, Christmas we will be rejoicing that we’re on the other side of cancer. We won’t have accurate ‘cure’ level for approximately 2 years, when the PSA remains at 0.2 or less.

 We have an extremely strong faith and this has only given us more opportunities to be on our knees before The Lord. We thank Him every day that this is all we have to deal with, knowing that He is in control and will work out all things for His Glory. We covet your prayers for successful treatment, no complications or setbacks and a quick return to normal life afterwards.


All this to say…. Women, get your men to get checked. Any man over 50 should have a baseline PSA. Men with a family history should have a PSA at 40. Men, don’t ignore urinary issues…. 

Should you want to encourage him with notes, cards or even a care package of goodies, I'll soon post an address where you can send things to him. We are so thankful to all of our hiking followers for your love, encouragement and prayers. Bless you!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

TNT on the Farm: Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving Day, a chilly 22 degrees, our first snowfall of the season and this is the beginning of life on the farm in the winter.... where it's usually very cloudy, grey and cold. The trees have lost every tender, green, red or golden brown leaf and things appear lifeless and still. Charlie now walks from one side of the pond to the other....

The grasses are brown and will now be covered under a blanket of white for months. The lawnmower will now be blowing the white stuff from the drives, instead of throwing grass to the side. 

BUT, we are thankful. Thankful for so much.... 
  • Thankful that we were able to take much of this year to walk amongst the other vagabonds along the Appalachian Trail, discovering more about ourselves and our life together.
  • Thankful that we have such an amazing family, that supported that dream and prayed for us and encouraged us along the tough road.
  • Thankful for all the incredibly strong, determined, interesting and unusual people we met along the way... some of who just this past week, FINISHED the trail... almost 8 months later and 45# lighter. (Karma, you're inspiring and amazing!)
  • Thankful for the life we have back here in Michigan, on the farm. We live a simple, pretty private life, without much glitz or glamor.... and we like it that way.  We are comfortable with that. And since hiking, are even more comfortable just being alone. It's a good thing, as "Martha" would say.
  • Thankful for our health. Even though we're getting along in years, we're still pretty healthy and have lofty goals of getting back out to hike on the AT again in the spring. Hopefully, Socks' knees will hold out!

We are truly thankful for the life we live and the many great blessings that have been bestowed upon us, even though we are so unworthy. Only by the grace of our great God, we have been given these earthly riches and hold onto the faith that one day, we'll meet Him face to face and enter into Heaven to enjoy true riches of eternal life. Until then, we press on... doing our best, loving completely, giving wholly and rejoicing in all God has for us.

Life in the winter here will be comprised of mostly Dreamer working outside.... 
He has big dreams of getting both orchards completely pruned. (A HUGE job for the west orchard. Trees here haven't been pruned for 15 years and are HUGE! He'll need a big ladder for this one!)

WEST ORCHARD- apples, peaches and pears

He's creating a path around the property that he and our granddaughter, Lydia can enjoy this coming spring. He's clearing a 10' swath around the perimeter of the 17 acres, meandering through maple groves, along the back of the pond, over the creek in back and even creating berry picking patches along the way. He's made a picnic spot, where they will take a sack lunch and visit on their walks. It's a huge undertaking, but he's made great progress and enjoys every chilly minute he's out there chopping and clearing brush.
He's clearing some dead trees and creating lots of brush pile for the bunnies to enjoy all winter long!

As for me, Socks.... I've put my gardens put to bed for the winter. Finally dug the last of the red beets from the frozen ground and said good-bye to the soil for another year. The gardens are all covered with leaves, manure and compost, ready to be tilled into commission in the spring. 

I will spend most of my time during the winter, cozied up by the wood stove, knitting socks or working on some sort of handiwork project or cooking in my lovely, comfortable kitchen, creating some delicious, but simple meal from our pantry/cellar of canned goods.

When we moved to this place, some 30 years ago... we dreamed of being self-sufficient and worked towards that goal initially. We had sheep, goats, chickens and ducks. We had an orchard and grape vines. We had solar heat and all the land we needed to grow whatever we wanted. BUT, kids came along and life got busy and complicated and those things fell by the wayside for convenience and necessity.  BUT now, time is all we have. We can again, move in the direction of being self-sufficient. When the weather warms, little chicks will again bring life to the barn. The green shoots of plants will begin to emerge from the black soil and life will begin again. We'll enjoy the fruits of the labor of winter, as we watch the apple and fruit trees flourish with life and the pond begin to again show signs of turtles, fish and muskrat.  

Until then.... all is quiet and we are thankful. So VERY thankful.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Our Other Life....

Many of you know us from the Appalachian Trail. We, well mostly Dreamer hiked 1200 miles this year on the AT and we've established this blog to share our journey. We'd like to continue to share with you parts of our lives until we return to the trail in the spring of 2014. We plan to leave from Duncannon, PA sometime mid-April or early May and go for a month. Wherever we end up then is fine... we are now section hikers and that's OK with both of us. We'll finish someday...it's the journey folks, not the destination. Hopefully, before we're both unable, we'll summit Kahatdin.

As you have read, our lives were turned upside down after our hike this year. We came home fatigued, mentally and physically, broken spiritually and hungry for rest...in so many ways. We embarked upon a journey of simplification, elimination and rejuvenation. We had a giant yard/garage sale, getting rid of so much 'clutter' in our home and earning a substantial amount of money along the way. We simplified our lives with both of us pretty much retiring from our jobs. Tom (Dreamer) has a bit of work to officially be 'done', but I've stepped back from the non-profit I founded and have become an occasional photographer for The Oldham Project. (www.theoldhamproject.org).

We've been spending time with those we love most
... entertaining in our home, spending time with our kids and investing in the future of our granddaughter, Lydia... creating a legacy for her and all those to come.

We've been caring for our home, which has been neglected for so long... with both of us being consumed with working over the past years, it's needed some attention. We've tackled a garden when we came home and have seen produce that's needed to be eaten and placed in canning jars for future use. Dreamer just built us a new raised bed for our garden which is hopefully, the first of many, which will make my knees happy and our garden more productive over the years.

He's taken on the job of creating a 'path' of sorts around our 17 acres to take Lydia, our granddaughter on hikes. He's eliminating years of brush and overgrowth, like he took on the trail...with a vengeance.

We've put new siding and roof on, spruced up the outside and given a little attention to the decorating in the inside.
Life on the farm is easy and relaxing. Exactly what we needed... 
I'm not sure how many reading this have actually attempted to hike the AT or have hiked it or are wanting to hike it, but know this..... IT WILL CHANGE YOU!
Like it or not... life will never be the same.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Team TNT is BACK! Livin' like there's no tomorrow!


The Appalachian Trail should come with a warning label, much like a pack of cigarettes. It will change your life THAT much.
I know that this blog post has been a long overdue entry and I hope that all of our faithful followers are still there to read what's coming from our hearts. To say this has been a difficult transition, would be a monumental understatement. Coming home from the trail at the end July was a difficult decision, a difficult adjustment and has continued to evolve into a new lifestyle for us, personally and as a couple.

Our last days on trail were absolutely miserable, to say the least. We were caught in the worst heat wave to hit the trail in recent history. 98 degrees, with humidity and blazing sun, the rocks of Pennsylvania and the mosquitos had just hatched... plus, if you remember, I, Socks, had blisters which turned my already tender feet, literally into hamburger. Almost losing my little toe to some rotten infection, we reluctantly left the trail at Duncannon, PA. We'd packed the packs to return to the trail that day, hoping that the weather would break and cooler temperatures set in. We sat at the UPS office ready to ship our 'bump box' to the next destination and Dreamer said, "There isn't anything in me that wants to go back out there again." He was done. He likened to Forrest Gump running and running and running. Then one day, out of the blue, he said he was done running. Dreamer was the same. He'd hiked almost 1200 miles, most of it alone without the rest of Team TNT, endured horrible weather and terrain and was just DONE. He was really having trouble watching me struggle physically, limping with each step due to the blisters. We together decided to turn our car towards Michigan and head home. The decision made; we excitedly talked about home and all the things we'd missed for so many months, our life back here in Michigan and all the things we wanted to do.

In what seemed like endless hours hiking, spending time inside your own head, we both had 'spiritual' experiences so to speak... meeting our God and hearing His voice. We are some of those crazy, whacko Christians and spend much of our afternoons listening to spiritual music on our iPods, feeling the presence of God,  and listening for what He was trying to teach us each day. Each and every day we hiked we prayed and asked for safety and that God would show Himself to us in the beauty and people around us. Should you chose to hike this, or any long-distance trail, you WILL meet your maker. I don't care what religion your profess or none at all. There is no way you will spend that much time along with your own thoughts and see what's around you and NOT come to believe in some 'higher' power. Unless you're mentally incapable of hearing that 'still, small' voice in your head, you will meet God. You will call out to 'someone' for physical strength when the terrain gets tough, your feet hurt and you think you can't take one more step. You will seek our 'someone' when you are so lonesome you think your heart will break. You will call out to 'someone' when you find yourself scared and alone in a dark, wet shelter in the middle of the night. You will be changed spiritually.

I couldn't be more proud of Dreamer and all he accomplished. Almost 1200 grueling miles, enduring most of it alone, spending endless hours hiking forward, waiting for the day when I could return and join him. He persevered through loneliness, horrible weather, boring hiking food, extreme weight loss, and most times, no phone signal.... with our communication being very limited, sometimes going for days without speaking to each other. For any of those who know us or have followed this journey, we've been married for 33 years and haven't spent much time apart. We're hopelessly in love with each other and being separated was the absolute worst part of this entire journey. Should you decide to hike: YOU WILL BE LONELY. Even if you're hiking with a group of people who become your friends, you will miss home and family and sometimes it will be very painful and will cause you to think about leaving the trail. Make sure your relationships are solid at home before you leave on a journey like this and make time to stay in contact with those you love. Your journey will be much more pleasant.

I found both extremes of my physical limits on the trail... I was amazed at what I was able to do physically... at 58 and not in terrific shape to start with, I could hike. Not as fast as the young people, but we could do some respectable mileage and stay on schedule.... UNTIL the injury. In one instant, in one day, my hike went from a 'thru-hike' to surgery. Although I fought hard and tried to deny there was a problem, I had to make my way back to Michigan for surgery on my left knee to repair two torn meniscus. I'd managed to tear both the medial and lateral meniscus, injuring one so badly, they removed much of it. I highly recommend that you take care physically and when you encounter an injury, deal with it. I pushed myself to hike another 60 miles on a debilitated knee, ruining it forever. I will ultimately be looking at a second knee replacement sometime in the future. But all this to say, the trail will test your body. It will batter your feet, it will hurt your legs, back and shoulders. You will be brought to your knees physically, especially those folks who are older and not in such great shape. You will have to plan ahead, pace yourself and care for your body. Treat it right, and it will carry you far.

So, where is Team TNT now? What is life like for us? What has changed?
We are still "LIVIN' THE DREAM". We came home profoundly different people and a renewed couple. As I stated in the Warning Label, you will be changed. Our priorities in life changed dramatically and we are working together to achieve these new goals for the final third of our lives. Tom celebrated his 60th birthday on September 14th, the day we'd anticipated and planned to summit Mt. Kahtadin... He didn't say anything, but I'm sure, certainly a day of reflection.

We surmised all of our goals to:
1. SIMPLIFY (and all that entails)
2. Spend time with those we love and care about
3. Make the most of the time we have left.

#1- Learning on the hike, just how little we actually needed to survive, we came home to SIMPLIFY our lives, both in terms of physical 'things' and commitments. We've been selling 'things', cleaning our clutter, both in our home and lives. eBay has become my new best friend, as we get rid of the things that just weigh us down. Much like we spent hours getting our pack weight down to a minimum, with the least amount of things, we're doing the same in our lives and our home. We have accumulated so much STUFF in our 33 years and it's become 'weighty'.... takes up space and doesn't give us joy. So, it's the Salvation Army, eBay and Craig's List for many things. We've gone through and cleaned out the house, the barn and garage. There is such freedom in having less things. It's less to take care of, less to manage and less to worry about.
We've also pared down our commitments to our family and our God. Tom decided to retire upon coming home. It's something he did once over 10 years ago, but then started another company and became busier than he ever was before. NOW is the time to truly retire and say goodbye to 'work'. Once before we were forced to cut our income in half and we survived, we'll do it again and we'll be fine. We certainly won't live the lifestyle we have in the past, but our priorities have changed and those things aren't important anymore. We can live a simple life, doing the things we enjoy, with the people we love....and that's LIVIN' the DREAM for us.
I came home and planted a late garden. I wasn't planning on having one this year, as we were hiking...and it would have been the first time in 35 years that I hadn't had a vegetable garden. But, my beets, green beans, kale, collards and tomatoes are thriving in the cooler Michigan temps! I love my garden. (I've always said, when I die, cremate me and till me into my garden.)

#2- We've been available to spend time with our kids, our new granddaughter and friends who are very special to us. That's important to us. Invest time in those we love most. All the rest is just busyness. We've had Lydia for an overnight visit and although exhausted, we LOVED every minute of it. She is the light of our lives and we are thrilled that we've had the opportunity to have a grandchild. Grandchildren will change you too. Watching your children be parents will rock your world....and make you see your mortality a little bit closer. We want to watch our children grow as adults and guide them through life as we are able.... spending time with our kids is the most important time we'll ever make.
We have a lot of friends, but a handful of very dear friends, who we've spent years with, lived through tragedy with and love with all our hearts. They are important to us and we want to continue to invest time in them and their families. This is a goal we will actively pursue and have already spent some wonderful times making memories with some of them.

#3- This is where it gets personal.... we're both about 60. IF, we're lucky, we're in the final third of our lives. God willing and continued good health, we might see 80? We both have faced our mortality and are both thankful to be here now. We are both profoundly aware of time and the fragility of life....Tom with prostate cancer and me with Lupus, we've been thanking God for each day for a long time. But, we as a couple, want to spend our remaining time, whatever that is, being together, enjoying doing the things we love and continuing to build our relationship. We have lived a life LARGER than most will ever know, doing things and traveling places that most will never see. We ARE blessed beyond measure.

We do plan to hike again next summer and are planning our return to the Appalachian Trail, hopefully in May 2014. We so enjoyed doing trail magic this year and want to coordinate our trip east with some trail magic and visiting special places to us, like Wood's Hole Hostel.
We are profoundly grateful to all of you who have come alongside us, cheered us on, send notes of encouragement and watched our videos' so faithfully. NO, we didn't finish the trail, NO we didn't touch the sign.... but we didn't need to. We'd accomplished all we'd set out to do, personally, physically and as a couple. This was our journey, our story and we hope that it has in some way provoked you to think about challenging yourself in a similar way... maybe not with a physical hike, but challenged you personally to examine your life and your priorities, your dreams and aspirations and your belief in a God who can do all things.
Please keep watching for continued updates on next year's leg of the Appalachian Trail adventure. We'll go into this one a little more educated, mentally stronger and knowing what the trail will hold!

As our 'theme song' says... we are living like there's no tomorrow and loving like we're on borrowed time. We are all on borrowed time! Make the most of yours!

Hang on for a wild ride next time!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Team TNT feeling the HEAT!

As we SLOWLY make our way northward, we are feeling the heat...figuratively and literally. Plagued with these continual blisters has kept us moving slowly, making small miles. THEN, as if we haven't experienced enough 'weather' related issues this season... ( below freezing for all of March, record rainfall for April and May), and now record heat!!

We have been driven OFF the trail due to the persistent blisters and the oppressive heat! Water in Pennsylvania has been skimpy at best, so to jeopardize ourselves and Charlie out there in this heat isn't wise. Our last day hiking, poor Charlie literally was dragging so far behind us, we carried his pack for him. The rocks in Pennsylvania, we knew would be an issue and we really tried to make lite of them with daily 'Rock Updates" from the trail.... But they seriously have almost driven me mentally over the edge. I'm sure it's a combination of the heat, blisters AND the rocks, but I've been close to running off into the woods screaming. What lunacy keeps us out here???

We are seriously asking ourselves that question.... Actually making a list of pro's and con's to keep going. Due to the deadly temps, we've been held up in a hotel room with air conditioning for the past four days. We're going stir crazy, but the heat isn't supposed to break for another couple days. So here we sit. We ARE making plans to head back out Saturday morning, doing some small miles on day one, then bumping it up again. 

I've managed to secure some new hiking shoes here in Carlisle and hopefully, with all the soaking with Epsom salts, loss of a toenail and cooler temps will keep us moving forward. The blisters are now all dried and ready to go again. I just pray that the new 'kickers' will cause less pressure but enough defense against the sharp and HARD rocks!
Part of me REALLY wants to just stop all this craziness and go home to love on our precious grand baby Lydia...

Part of me wants to continue the adventure, spend this time helping Tom to realize this dream and part of me just questions if I'm strong enough mentally and physically. We've learned so much about ourselves and each other and have apparently inspired so many others to consider such a journey...I'd hate to quit early or with the wrong motives.

We prayerfully ask for God's direction, safety and guidance daily... And selfishly ask for you to pray with us. This has been the most difficult undertaking of our lives and we can't do this alone. We have so much support for family and friends back at home and the community of support from those watching our YouTube (www.youtube.com/tntonthetrail) videos and Facebook page, (www.facebook.com/tntonthetrail). 

Somehow we'll find our sanity and make some progress in the next couple weeks or we'll bag this and head home. It's been quite an accomplishment already and we've done more than many will ever venture to do. We've learned how much we LOVE being together... Sweating, working hard, crying and especially laughing. 

We hope you'll continue to follow this as it all works it's way out, hiking or home.

New video upload at YouTube! #27 is loading as I type!! Please subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you'll get automatic updates as we create them!! www.youtube.com/tntonthetrail

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Team TNT reaches the 1/2 way point!! Several times!!

1100 miles is nothing to sniff at, whether by car or plane, or in our case, on FOOT. we've crossed the 1000 mile mark, the arrival at Harper's Ferry, WV....the psychological 'half-way' point and in most recent days, the ACTUAL half-way point near Pine Grove Furnace State Park!! It was a tearful celebration for Dreamer, Socks and Charlie. We arrived just as another hiker friend, Acorn arrived, so we were able to get some pictures of us all together.   

Quite a milestone for this Team! Plagued with all manner of obstacle over the past 1100 miles, from the winter weather, injury, surgery, rehab and the constant mental challenges, rain, blisters and now blistering heat, Team TNT marches on northward, albeit a slower pace than most or we'd like, but continuing to put one foot in front of the other!
We continue to meet small goals set each day, but taking time to rest, enjoy the scenery and even stop to eat a few wild berries along the way. God blesses us each day as we ask for His direction, safety and  wisdom.

Since the Team has reunited, we've passed through the end of West Virginia, Maryland and are now 1/4 the way into Pennsylvania!! Poor Pennsylvania is known for its 'friggin' rocks.... But early on, it hasn't been too bad, but we will be doing daily "Rock Reports", live from the trail to keep everyone updated on our progress through one of the most difficult states. We'll encounter everything from pea sized gravel on the trail, to house sized boulders we'll have to scale. Watch Facebook for updates!

We're adjusting to being together again and finding our routine,, but trail life continues to be good. We're thrilled with the simple things, ga-ga over things like a road side stand, ice cream and each other! Neither of us would rather be anywhere else. Don't get me wrong.... This is way more of a mental challenge than either of us ever considered. We thought the physical part would be the most difficult and it is, but mentally keeping it going is a daily battle. We ask for prayer support that regard; that we would mentally be strong and able to keep up a pace that would enable us to finish in time.

We are so thankful for this time together, taking this break from 'real' life and for our family and friends, old and new who are supporting us on this journey. We receive daily comments and encouragement notes on our Facebook and You-Tube sites and we are thankful. Over 30,000 people have visited our blog and over 1000 people a week are watching our videos. We are humbled.

New video coming as we speak.... Zero days are video days. Tom has been busy working on producing two new videos that will upload later today. I work on laundry, repacking and organizing the next food boxes and mail drops. 

Thank you again for your support and please keep following! Your encouragement and notes are the fuel that keeps us going. Several have asked about how to send things to us. We would love that, but please keep in mind: we can only carry so much. We have chosen to travel light and endure when we come to towns. But, notes of encouragement, homemade cookies, treats  and the like would be most welcome anytime we zero. 
So, our next location for pick up will be Duncannon, PA. Any packages/ envelopes can be sent to: 
Tom and Terri Shaver
c/o General Delivery 
US Post Office
Duncannon, PA 17020
**PLEASE HOLD FOR AT THRU HIKER (must appear on package)
We are expected there by July 13th.

Next drop will be:
Tom and Terri Shaver
c/o Day's Inn
Any packages must arrive by July 18th.

We are profoundly touched and grateful for your support and treats!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Team TNT re-joins the Appalachian Trail!

1019 MILES!! I major milestone and the almost 'half-way' point of the entire Appalachian Trail. Even though Socks has been 'absent' physically from the trail.... we've done it together!


As we run around the house packing up last minute things, cleaning out the fridge and making notes, we are both thrilled beyond belief at the thought of leaving in the morning! After spending a marvelous week, packing in time with family and friends, we will return to Harper's Ferry, WV tomorrow and again starting hiking as a full TEAM on Saturday!

I'll admit, I'm pretty nervous, as surgery was JUST 8 weeks ago. I'm stiff. It still hurts, but I don't think I can be any more ready mentally. It's the physical that will really challenge me! Thankfully, the terrain after coming out of Harper's is much tamer than previous stuff! As I sat here 

at this picnic table, near Cheoah Bald, not quite understanding the extent of my injury, I had no idea what lay in store for me over the next couple months. Living alone at home, surgery, recovery, physical therapy and a trip back to the trail to pick up Dreamer! All these tribulations have only prepared me for the reality of coming back to the trail.

We've learned so much about ourselves, our relationship and exactly what we can do if we put our mind to it.... lots of lessons learned up to this 'half-way' point. We'll be sharing our hearts as we move forward.... 

I want to thank my sweet friend Margaret Ross (www.margaretrossjewelry.com) for her support, encouragement and for this adorable 'inspiration' bracelet she custom made for me, just for the trail. It has an angel on it and two other 'charms' that say, Perserverance and Determination.

I think that pretty much sums it up.