Cambridge Karen Is Here With Great News!

Karen at Finisterre, the End of the World.
(photo K Kelly)

I’m off to Spain in ten days to spend a month walking my beloved Camino Frances before starting six months of chemo in early September. My cancer is ultimately life limiting and I’m probably as well now as I’ll ever be. A friend is going with me and I’ll be walking just 10km or so a day. I’m not strong enough at the moment to do more.

It has been interesting to experience people’s reactions. These have ranged from “you go girl” to “are you mad” to “you are putting other people’s life at risk”.

I’ve sat with the question of going. If I had all the time in the world, I’d delay til next year. But I don’t. I also I think have a different attitude to risk than some. Yes, there is risk involved. But my entire life is risky these days. Living is risky. I think many of us including me have been insulated from life risk. We haven’t had wars or famines to deal with. So the “new normal” feels frightening. I have many healthy friends who won’t leave the house at the moment.

But we have to choose. I have to choose. Do I engage with the world with all it’s wonderful and beauty and also with its Covid risk. Or do I hide. I’m choosing not to hide. I’m choosing to go to Spain and walk. I won’t be stupid. I’ll be wearing my mask and keeping my distance, but I’m going.

And it’s given my life a new urgency and joy it hasn’t had for a while.

Karen, Cambridge. Caminoheads England Bureau Chief.

13 thoughts on “Cambridge Karen Is Here With Great News!”

  1. Hola! Cambridge Karen!

    Yours is the most uplifting and hopeful message I’ve seen in a long time! Kudos to you. good Lady, on your courageous decision to commence your Camino. As a lifelong farmer, and former US Marine, I can fully relate to your attitude toward “risk”. We fellow farmers always joke that we gamble the farm every Spring. We accept the risk that the crop will sprout, grow, and make it to maturity to be harvested in the fall. There literally are NO guarantees. It’s a risk we know, and a risk we willingly accept. When ol’ Phil and I were youngsters, we both knew it was a serious risk to volunteer for the Marines, especially considering the events in the world in 1968. We accepted the risk. No second thoughts. I like your language of “we all must choose”. Our life basically is an endless series of choices. I applaud this choice of yours.

    LIfe is meant to be lived. I don’t know (or care) how old you are physically, but your mind and heart are youthful in their hope. I hope we can keep track of you during your Pilgrimage.

    Semper Fidelis,
    Pilgrim Farmer John

    1. In a weird way, joy in life is one of the most beautiful gifts of my cancer journey. And that way of living simple, day by day was something I gained walking my first Camino five years ago…

      Bien vive!

  2. Dear Karen,

    As I read your post, there is thought that came to me, and it is “how fiercely you are living your life”.

    I had this conversation about what the pandemic means to us, 21st century citizens, with some friends who have this ability to live more in the frontiers than most of us: a 70 years old priest, a palliative care doctor, an oncologist and in intensive care doctor, and all of them, like you do in this post, highlight this fact that most of us living in these countries without wars, have never lived in a situation of threat to our lives as prolonged as this one, and have never read about this many people dying daily as we know now. And we are not used to talk about death and about being frightened, and somehow now, we have been forced to. All of us, and not only a priest who has experience sitting bedside of something dying, or a palliative care doctor who has to have discussions about how to die with others, or an oncologist who has to discuss chances of survival with his/her patients, or an intensive care doctor who deals daily with maneuvers of reanimation to fight death.

    But ultimately, death is a part of life, and that is something we will all have to go through sooner or later, and we never know when it would be, even those with a life threatening disease -they may know statistics, but not a date-, so like Ryck wrote in his post last Friday: will we be waiting for it, or will we live until we die?

    To me, it sounds like you are doing the latter: you are definitely living. It is sad to think that many of us -me included- may just be waiting for… (fill in the blanks with whatever) to then… (fill in the blanks with whatever), while you have made this conscious decision of not waiting, but actually living. That is a fierce decision.

    Are you at higher risk than others? Not at catching the disease, any of us has the same chances. And you don’t need to go to Spain to catch the virus, you can also catch it groceries shopping around the corner in your home in Cambridge. Are you putting others at risk? Definitely NO.

    Would this be something that all of us should do, or better said, can do? Definitely NO. I see you as an essential worker… you have to go! And I see me as someone who should do my best to allow you to be safer on your work. With this, I am trying to say that I should stay at home, so I am contributing with “one less folk out there” so you, who have to be out there, can be a bit safer. I stay at home not for fear of myself, but to care for the others who have no other choice than being out there.

    I love how you finished your post! And I will close my comment with a line from Dr. BJ Miller who is a palliative care doctor (and no, he is not related to me!), who said: “Let’s be death what takes us, not lack of imagination”.

    More than ever, Buen Camino!!!

    PS: please take a journal, or a Vblog, or record an audio in whatsapp for us… we will LOVE to hear about this amazing adventure!

    1. Dear, Dear Cris!
      I fully knew we would hear from you! And as ever, you did not disappoint! I’m sure you have helped reassure Karen, as you always do with us.

      Blessings on you,

      1. My prayers are with you, Karen! Buen Camino! Your sharing is an inspiration! During this pandemic, fear seems to often have a hold on me. How awesome that you are letting go and letting God!

    2. I’ll be posting on FB and I’d love any of you who aren’t already friends to friend me.

      Living fiercely i like that. Lots of people tell me I am such a strong fighter against me cancer. I don’t think I’m fighting it, I’m maybe Felipe said it, dancing with with it. But do I live fiercely. Oh you bet!

      Muchas love

  3. Karen, thank you for a beautiful post. You have asked your self all the important questions, weighed and considered your answers and have chosen to go while you are able. I reside in the “you go girl” camp. I will hold you in my prayers. The Irish blessing seems perfect: “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rains fall soft upon your fields, and may God hold you in the palm of his hand.” Buen Camino.

  4. We are sure looking forward to seeing you in Astorga and maybe walking a day or so with you. isn’t life interesting in how we are able to move forward on our journey while others have such varied reactions to our joy in going.

    You have two here who love you and think that your plans are great!

    1. Thanks. Looking forwards to seeing you both. It would be great to walk toge5her a bit…



    SLAINTE MHATH ( Scottish Gaelic )

    William C.C.B.C.

  6. Karen,

    Blessings upon you! This will be such a transformative journey for you. As someone who has done the Cancer Dance before I applaud you for living your life RIGHT NOW. Awesome choice! The Camino will be blessed to have you. Safe and amazing travels to you.

    1. Debra ~ this is Felipé. I thought that I would answer this for her as you guys have not been properly introduced. Not that that is a major problem but some of us just learned from Face Book that there are some new travel restrictions between England and Spain that are putting a crimp in these plans. Perhaps there is a plan B in the making, hope so. I hope that this helps. Felipé.x

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