Susanne, Germany

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In January 2007, when I was sixty years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the X-ray before the operation, the doctors established a tumor in the left lung wing. So within a few weeks I was first operated on the breast, then on the lungs. A year later a metastasis had grown in the my left lung wing. Again I was operated and then made chemotherapy. Meanwhile, four metastases were formed in the left lung wing. An operation was not possible. I received a targeted drug therapy, a so-called growth inhibitor. In the spring of 2009 two metastases had disappeared and the other two had shrunk. Meanwhile my husband and I had decided to walk the Way of St. James in Spain.

My husband had the plan to walk the Way of St. James after retiring in 2009. I did not want to go with him even though we were both fond of hikring. In 2007 my illness intervened. The topic had come to an end, but it remained in the back of my head. When the retirement of my husband approached, we decided to start the journey, despite my cancer. And that was the best decision of all.

Two weeks before we left to Spain, the doctors again found a metastasis. I told the oncologist: "If you tell me that I will fall dead next week, I do not care. I'm going to walk with my husband now. You can think about what we're doing when I come back." He agreed. Of course the journey was exhausting, but the lung cancer did not matter because by walking my head was free and all negative thoughts disappeared. The important questions on this journey are: Where will I sleep today? Where can I buy something to eat? How will be the weather tomorrow?

We spent five weeks in Spain, walking from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. Every day we walked between 20 and 30 kilometers. The route from St. Jean Pied de Port in France is a little over 800 kilometers. We walked 660 on foot. Since 2009, we have run different sections of the Way of St. James in Spain, in France and in Italy. And there are many other great tracks!

After my diagnosis, my husband and I have recorded the events in diaries. On the pilgrimages to Santiago, we retained this habit. One day, my husband said: " Write a book about your history!" I began, initially rather for myself, to summarize everything. My husband asked if he could add a few comments to describe his feelings and point of view of things. So the project "Pilgrimage as therapy" slowly developed. In 2013 the book was publised.

Hiking has helped me to deal with my disease. Especially on our first tour I have learned to accept the cancer. Today I'm not afraid anymore, and I do not mind when I have to go to the control CT. Now I have been living for nearly ten years, and lived well - what more do I want? The relationship with my husband has become more intense, although we have been married for more than forty years. I have emerged strengthened from the disease. I know the cancer can come back anytime. But if I were to think about it forever ... no, thank you. I'd rather enjoy my life as long as I can.