Sat the 22nd & Sun the 23rd, Beginning the Final Leg of the Journey North to Phoenix.

Dear All, I can’t believe it is time to begin my journey north toward Phoenix. People ask me how I can walk long distances. How I can walk from Yuma to Tucson to Phoenix. The truth is I just take one step at a time. And I don’t focus on the end of the journey or on the destination at the end of the day’s route.
It is true that the journey is not easy. I sometimes experience pain, like blisters; or discomfort, like a day that is too windy or too hot; or fear, like running head on into a rattlesnake; or challenges, like scooching under barbed wire fences or climbing up a steep embankment with my heavy backpack; or uncertainty, like will I be able to find a safe place to sleep tonight.
I want you to know that this journey is like a walk in the park compared to my little Jada’s journey to defeat Acute Myeoloid Leukemia! The physical pain that she endured as an infant from the disease itself and from the treatment of the disease was unbearable at times. The discomfort of being in the hospital 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the first year of her life, with nurses, doctors coming and going all hours of the night and day was invasive and disruptive. The fear, I cannot speak for Jada and the fear that an innocent baby experienced, but I can speak to the fear that her Mommy and Daddy endured facing Jada’s possible death day after day for that first year of her precious life. It was untenable. Jada continues to face challenges everyday of her life as a result of the chemicals her body was exposed to as the doctors raced against time to save her life. She had a re-occurance of graft vs host disease a few years ago which resulted in debilitating seizures but she fought her way back one step at a time like a champion. Uncertainty, well we all live with that everyday don’t we. Our Jada’s uncertainty brings out a beautiful zest for life in this remarkable young woman I am blessed to call my granddaughter.
So how do I endure these long walks to raise awareness about the great need for bone marrow and stem cell donors on registries around the world? I walk with the inspiration from my hero, Jada. I walk with gratitude to those who came before, knowing that there are many who died because medical technology was not advanced enough to save their lives. I walk with determination for those patients who are in desperate need of finding their match for a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. I walk with aspirations that all of those who are in need of a stem cell or bone marrow transplant now and in the future will find their perfect match and have a second chance at life just like Miss Jada. This inspiration and determination, this gratitude and aspiration, this is how I am able to take each step forward on my long distance walks.

Friday Feb 21, Bone Marrow and Stem Cell donor Education Day in Tucson

Dear All, It has been an amazing and productive day amidst a fair share of dead end leads. The key is to keep going, to thank those I meet even if they are not able to help meet my needs right now.
I will not give you the blow by blow details but after traveling from floor to floor, room to room, elevator to elevator, department to department I was not able to locate the person or department at Banner University Medical Center that could help me today. But I did get to talk to alot of folks about how to join our national marrow donor program, Be The Match. And my meandering lead me to come up with some new ideas for working with hospitals across the country which I am already working on with Be The Match. So all in all my visit to Banner University Medical Center was very satisfying.
After my work at Banner University Medical Center I went over to the University of Arizona, which is just a short walk from the medical center. There I was able to visit with so many students: students from the nursing Dept, students from sororities, pharmacy students, students on the walkways, students in the ASB office, students, students and more students. The folks at the University were very receptive. It was an amazing and rewarding afternoon.
After Stacie picked me up. I was exhausted. I felt like I had walked 14 miles carrying my heavy backpack! I apologized to Stacie and Doug and went to bed early so I would be ready to begin walking north in the morning.
In evaluating my experience in Tucson the only thing I would have done differently is I would have arranged more days to do my “bone marrow and stem cell donation education.” The changes in my schedule did not allow me enough time. 😦

Thursday Feb, 20, A very needed catch up day.

Dear All, I couldn’t believe it when I reviewed my route I have walked for 11 days straight. My pattern is 4 days on and 1 day doing what I call bone marrow transplant education work. In rerouting myself around the Tohono O’odham Tribal lands I had to push myself a bit to make the schedule work. I also walked two extra days to cut the mileage per day down. That helped me a lot.
So today Stacie and Doug both went off to work. Stacie got out her laptop to help me catch up on some Steps To-Marrow 3 work and I got my laundry done. I even had time to go sit in the shade of her porch, which was delightful!
One thing that happens to me when I walk long distances is I start to feel uncomfortable, cramped when I am indoors for too long. I love the spaciousness of being outside, close to the earth. Earlier in the walk I remembered that feeling from my other two walks but it didn’t start right away but gradually I feel it more and more. I don’t think it is a good thing or a bad thing. I have always felt that it is a very natural human thing to feel. As one of my hosts on my first walk, a doctor, Patrick Sullivan, from Vian, Oklahoma told me, “It is in our nature, our species is the best walkers on the planet.” So for me it is quite natural to walk on the earth everyday, to breathe in the air, feel the sun on my back, to listen to the songs of the birds, and to connect with the vastness of the universe.

Tues 18th and Wed 19th of Feb. Walking into Tucson.

Dear All,
It has been good to be with Stacie. We’ve been sharing lots of walking stories. Stacie owns her own landscaping company. Working outside in Tucson means you must start early before the heat of the day comes full force. That is especially true in the summer here in Tucson but it is also followed here in the winter. So Stacie has to get up an hour and a half early to get me out to my route and back in time to start working with her crew. That means I have been getting early starts which I like very much.
I like to have quiet walks but I am also committed to spreading the word about the need for diversity on the Be The Match registry which means I have lots of phone calls to make, emails to send and answer if I am going to meet with the folks that can help the Steps To-Marrow 3 walk have a lasting impact
On Tuesday and Wednesday I did a lot of that work during my walk. I am still trying to reach the right person from the Tohono O’odham Nation; working with the 5500 district governor about giving talks at local Rotary Clubs along my route; finding the right person to meet with at Banner University Medical Center when I arrive in Tucson; contacts at University of Arizona; and contacting radio, TV and Newspapers to help us spread the word about how important it is to increase the diversity of the Be The Match registry, how easy it is to join by texting LIFE to 61474 and what it means to be a stem cell or bone marrow donor.
I walked into Tucson on Wednesday afternoon. I stopped by the Flowing Wells Fire Department to talk with them about joining Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474
and taking an I Stand With Jada photo holding up the digits 61474. They were very accommodating. They shared water and a comfy place to rest. I finished my route at a Circle K about a mile away. Stacie picked me up and when I got to her home I crashed for a 3 hour nap.

Sunday Feb 17, A Safe Haven

Dear All, It is rare when I leave a host family that I have another to pick me up at the end of the day but this is a unique situation. After my walk today Stacie Eichinger will be meeting me at the intersection of N. Casa Grande Hwy and E. Missile Base Road.
Stacie is a fellow walker. She walked across the United States in 2013. She walked from the Pacific Ocean at Ocean City, WA to the Atlantic Ocean at Savannah, Georgia. Stacie walked for Beads of Courage. The Beads of Courage program is designed to help children facing life threatening diseases. Each child is given Beads of Courage for procedures and surgeries, etc involved in the treatment of their illness.”Their Beads of Courage experience begins when each child is first given a length of string and beads that spell out their first name. Then, colorful beads, each representing courage during their treatment experiences are given to the child by their professional health care provider as determined by the Beads of Courage Bead Prescription. As beads are added to their Beads of Courage collection, children and teens can RECORD, TELL, and OWN their stories of courage.”
I got a message from a friend of mine on facebook, in 2013. The message said that a woman was walking across America and she was close to my house. I know how important hosts or trail angels can be to a solo walker so I contacted Stacie that day. When my friend Shayne and I met up with Stacie, she was 8 miles outside of Wilbur, WA crossing the desert. Stacie walked with a cart instead of a backpack. We loaded up her cart and took Stacie back to the Blue House in Deer Park. Stacie had a fever and was feeling achy so she stayed in bed resting and healing for two days before she went back out to the road again. Because Stacie had a safe place to stay she didn’t have to push her heavy cart she could carry her light backpack with just the things that she would need for a day’s walk. Shayne and I took her out to her route in the mornings and then picked her up in the evening. Shayne knows members of the Hutterite community out near Reardon. The Hutterites invited Stacie to spend an evening with them. She had a wonderful time meeting the folks in the Hutterite community. It was a unique and rare opportunity to spend sometime with a fascinating group of people.
We picked Stacie up again in Airway Heights. She walked all of the way through Spokane and Post Falls, Idaho before we dropped her off for the last time and I watched her walking east toward the foothills of the Rocky Mountains pushing her big cart ahead of her with each step.
This time it is Stacie picking me up from my route and being my trail angel! I am anxious to see her again and feeling blessed to have a safe place to sleep tonight!

Sunday Feb 16, Getting intimate with the Desert Fauna

Dear All,  Before leaving the Feezer’s house this morning Becky gifted me a hat.  Wow! What a gift! Yesterday, I wrapped my rain jacket around my head and neck to keep from being exposed to the scorching sun all day.  The Feezer’s, Ross and Becky, will host me again tonight so I am carrying my light pack for the day.  The light pack has plenty of water for the days walk, bandages for my feet and toes for blisters that I have and/or to prevent blisters, sunscreen, an extra pair of shoes so I can keep my feet cool, my ID in case I am stopped by ICE or the local police (which has happened several times), tissue and Jada Bascom Foundation business cards to share information about the steps To-Marrow 3 walk and how to join the Be The Match registry by texting LIFE to 61474. I also carry rain gear when necessary. Oh, I forgot and snacks for nutrition throughout the day when I have the snacks. 

Continue reading “Sunday Feb 16, Getting intimate with the Desert Fauna”

Sat, Feb 15: Arizona City to Eloy

Dear All, I feel rested, energetic and ready to walk. Yesterday, I got a call from a member of the Casa Grande Daybreak Rotary Club, Ross Feezer. Ross said that he had received an email from the President of his club that talked about the Steps To-Marrow 3 project, it mentioned my needs and contact information in case any of the members would like to help me on my way. Ross offered me a place for the night and to pick me up from my route when I finished for the day. It is a blessing to know that I will have a safe place to sleep for the night. Thank you Ross and his wife, Becky, for that.
You all have heard of the 6 degrees of separation, that proposes that any two individuals on the planet are 6 or fewer acquaintances apart. So here is how Ross and I were connected.
I asked Gary Bowe a rotarian in my club, in Deer Park,WA if he knew any Rotarians from our district who travel down to Arizona for the winter. Gary connected me with Mike Payson a member of the Spokane Valley Rotary Club. Mike and his wife travel to Prescott,AZ each winter and attend the Prescott Frontier Rotary Club, Mike put me in touch with the District Governor for Rotary District 5500, Ellie Patterson. DG Ellie Patterson sent an email to all of the clubs in her District about Steps To-Marrow 3 and my needs for a safe journey through the Sonoran Desert. The president of the Casa Grande Daybreak Rotary Club, Sheila Chavez passed on the email from Ellie to all of her club members and Ross responded.
Ross later told me that he likes to help others when he can. He has projects in Ecuador that he has been actively involved in for over 30 years both individually and through Rotary. He served in Ecuador when he was in the Peace Corps and helping the Ecuadorian people is a mission close to his heart. Then he said, “I can’t do everything but when I see something that needs to be done or someone who needs help in my daily life. I like to do what I can.”
I think this is a pretty common feeling for the average Rotarian. Yes, we do projects together and we raise money for folks in need but in addition to that Rotarians respond to the needs of others as they arise. And I love how Ross framed it. “I can’t do everything but I like to do what I can.”
This giving nature, this desire to help others as we meet the need is part of Ross’s Rotary Story.
This giving nature is part of my Jada’s donor’s story too. He gave his cells to a stranger and saved my precious granddaughter’s life
Take a look inside today if this a need that you can meet. If so text LIFE to 61474 and find out if you are someone’s perfect match!

Fri, Feb 14: Perfectly Imperfect Hearts

Dear All, I decided yesterday that I would not try to find a ride out to I-8 this morning. I do like to walk every step of my route contiguously but getting a ride out to Montgomery Road and then finishing my route 9.6 miles out in the middle of the desert and having to rewalk the remaining 4 miles to I-10 exit 200 just didn’t make sense so I decided to walk my 9.6 miles along a desert nature trail that I could pick up right behind the Love’s Travel Center.
A bit into the walk I spied a little heart rock embedded into the pathway. I studied it and thought, ‘well, it isn’t shaped quite right on the left side. It isn’t perfect’ but it inspired me to begin looking for heart shapes to photograph as I walked along amidst the desert beauty. Being present with the rocks and flora, the dead wood and eroded sand, the heat of the sun and the earthen winter smell of the desert I began to realize it wasn’t perfect hearts I was looking for. No, it was not a matter of searching at all. I was looking at, communing with, surrounded by every day, ordinary perfectly imperfect hearts. The day unfolded so sweetly with each step.
My husband of 23 years left our marriage while baby Jada was fighting for her life against Acute Myeoloid Leukemia. It was a daily life and death struggle. All of us lived not knowing, not knowing if this tiny little baby would live through the day. I dare not speak for the motivations of another but lots of marriages break up when a family is facing this kind of medical crisis. I just never imagined that it would be my marriage. And I can tell you I had some pretty miserable Valentine’s Days in the years that followed. Grief, loneliness, rejection stick out like neon lights on Valentine’s Day. Emerging from this dark grief and heavy sense of lacking slowly steadily, step by step over the years made this peaceful light-hearted communion with the desert on Valentine’s Day all the sweeter.
Make someone’s day sweeter and join the Be The Match registry today! Text LIFE to 61484