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Double mastectomy is complete and I want to thank everyone who expressed concern and good wishes.  You are appreciated.

 Outpatient surgery took about 2 hours and after a couple hours in recovery I was home around 2pm yesterday.    My sisters are taking great care of me as are a couple of good friends.  I am fortunate to have good people around me that are here when I need them.  I also have good people far away keeping in their thoughts and I am truly touched.

So now I am home, healing from surgery and wondering what the future holds.  I suppose that will be revealed soon enough. Image

The Seminole Wekiva Trail is almost 14 miles of paved recreational throughway on top of what was once the Orange Belt Railway.  It snakes north from Altamonte Springs nearly all the way to Sanford.  It has been my preferred outdoor exercise venue for the past 10 years which is as long as I have lived in Seminole County.

I have had religious experiences out there, scary experiences, eaten more bugs than I care to remember and made my share of “deposits” along the way.  I have fallen down, wrecked my bike, hurt my knees, endured blisters and been savaged by mosquitoes.

Fox, turtles, cows, horses, hawks, eagles, squirrels, snakes and deer are common sites.  So are all kinds of people.  There are those just like me who drive to one of the many parking spots along the way to launch our bike our just set out on our run.  And there are those who actually live alongside the trail who walk their kids, their family or their dogs.

Over the course of the past 10 years, many of the users become familiar to me.  Some will be out there for weeks and months and years, training for an upcoming event.  The novice runners eventually getting 10 miles regularly.  The bicyclers advancing from leisurely pleasure rides to death defying time trials.

Several years ago, I logged hours and miles on that trail, training for half-marathons.  I would always schedule my long run for a weekend morning.  During the week I would dash home after work, change clothes and head to the trail to get anywhere from 3 to 7 miles.

In the winter, daylight doesn’t hang around much after the dinner hour so I would often be finishing my run as darkness fell.  Once the light fades, every noise is amplified.  Fellow exercisers become scarce and that last ½ mile can feel lonely and long.

But not once Cookie showed up.  My final ½ mile was always at the same spot because of where I parked my car.  And it took my past a neatly kept home with a handsome boat parked in the driveway.  And that was Cookie’s house.

Cookie was a cute little buff-colored snorting pug.  Her mom, Brenda, told me that Cookie preferred to walk at dusk because it was cooler and because she could get a whiff of all the forest creatures that were making their way out of hiding.  Every other week for almost two years, I would find Cookie and Brenda out walking and they would always accompany me until they reached their house but then they would stay by the side of the trail and watch until I reached my car.

Seeing the two of them was reassuring in so many ways.

After my 4th half marathon, knee pain prevented me from running and eventually I had knee replacement surgery.  I did not venture out on my beloved trail for 3-4 years, and blew up like the Michelin man as a result.

So now, here I am fat and 55 and worried that I will keel over any minute if I don’t get a little leaner and a little fitter.  What better place to start my personal renewal project than the Seminole Wekiva Trail.  I have biked and/or walked for each of the past 3 weekends.  The people are all different, the landscape is different and even the car parks are different, but the Trail itself is the same. Comfortable and reliable like an old friend.

This past weekend, my third outing on the Trail, there were lots of people out walking, running, biking, rollerblading, and bird watching.  For the past three weekends I had passed Cookie’s house and wondered about her and Brenda.  The cars were different and the boat was no longer there, so I suspected that Cookie and Brenda were long gone as well.

But as I approached this time, there was a cute little buff-colored snorting pug and a woman about my age at the other end of the leash.  This woman was a little heavier than I and the pug was slightly heavier than the Cookie I remembered but I just had to ask.

I pulled off the path and, looking squarely at the dog I asked if this might be Cookie.   Brenda turned and said “yes” and then asked how we knew each other.

Thrilled,  I explained how she and Cookie had escorted me those many years ago and how grateful I was for the company and the security of knowing someone had my back as I was finishing up my late runs.  Brenda remembered or at least lied well enough to convince me she remembered.

As she began to speak, I noticed the tell-tale scar indicating a long ago tracheostomy had been performed. I also noticed she walked with a decided limp and wore some kind of brace on one leg.  She went on to explain that she had been in the hospital for almost a year and a half, had been clinically dead, still suffered lingering effects from Guillain-Barre syndrome but was happy to be home and well and able to get the now 12-year old Cookie out for her constitutional.

We chatted a bit longer and I thanked her again. Both for her kindness a few years before and again today for chatting with me.  She wished me well as I went on my way, and bid her and CooKie the same.

Time passes, things change, people come and go.  But I am glad to have a Cookie for a North Star.

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