I suppose that you have all been waiting anxiously to hear the news of the Mickey Boys outing on The Greenbrier River. So here is a recap of the trip. We left the Mickey home at about 5:00pm on Sunday and headed north to Renick, West Virginia where we decided to start our trip. Now this part of the river can be to low to canoe and kayak at this time of the year, but as luck would have it the rain fell hard on Saturday night so the river was actually up a few feet out of its banks. That is great for floating, but bad for the fishing so we did not do any fishing on this trip. We put in at Renick around 6:00pm; four boys in Kayaks and Dad in a canoe. This will make sense later, but canoes for the most part are best if operated by two people, but none of the boys wanted to ride with old Dad so I was left to fend for myself. It really wasn’t that bad though; I grew up in Wisconsin and remember paddling canoes before I started kindergarten. In fact, at one point on the river Patrick cracked a joke saying, “Hey guys look at Daddy he thinks he is Sacagawea!” as I swiftly paddled past of all of the youngins in my trusty canoe.
We stayed that night at the camp of the McClung family in Spring Creek and had a wonderful time! We put up the tents and started a camp-fire. The boys handled dinner and made Hobo Packs with venison, potatoes, carrots, etc. and roasted them on the fire. They were awesome. The boys stayed up late, but I crawled into the tent fairly early only to be awoken in the middle of the night by a pounding rain. I mean it rained hard, but the tents we had are pretty good ones and we stayed dry. Well most of us stayed dry; Patrick and Keegan had decided they were going to sleep under the stars in their hammocks. I think they ended up on the porch of the McClung cabin for most of the night.
We woke up the next morning, got our stuff together and headed back down the river. The plan was for Mommy to pick us up at Anthony later in the day. Because of the rain the night before the river was flowing pretty high and what can be a four hour trip was probably only going to take about two. There also is a solid Class III rapid a little above our take out point at Anthony that had me a little concerned because of the amount of water that was flowing down the river. The morning was pretty uneventful and the day started clearing, the sun came out and we were all having a fun time. As we started to approach that Class III I was telling you about it quickly became apparent that on this day it was closer to a Class IV than a Class III. For minute I thought about telling the boys to pull over and we would go around, but by the time I had that common sense thought it was to late the boys were already in it. I came down last. Now remember I am in the canoe by myself and for a brief second I had a wise thought of moving to the middle of the canoe to help balance it, but by the time I had this brilliant idea it was too late and I was into the rapid. There were a few scary seconds, but we all came through the rapid with no problems and it was pretty much an easy float the rest of the way to Anthony or at least I thought it would be.
Ryan reminded me that there was one more little rapid before we got to Anthony it was usually just a Class II, but it was most likely going to be a Class III on this day. I wasn’t to worried though, we had all just come through a Class IV with no problem. Patrick went though the last rapid first and it really didn’t look that difficult, in fact it wasn’t. I went next. This is where the part about being only one person in a canoe really comes into play. As you are going through the waves and rolls of a rapid the front of the canoe will pop up fairly high because there is no weight in the front. I did have some camping stuff and a cooler in the front, but not enough to balance out my 215 lbs that was in the back. So when the front of the canoe pops up for a brief second you can not see the water directly in front of you, all you see is the empty front seat of the canoe. When the front drops back down you can see the river again. Well as my luck would have it I picked a bad line through this last little rapid and about a third of the way into it the front of the canoe popped up and as it dropped back down I noticed that the rock I thought was deep enough underwater to float over was not! With no weight in the front of the canoe I ran right up onto the rock until my fat butt in the back of the canoe caused it to bottom out. For a fraction of a second I thought about jumping forward to help the back of the canoe clear the rock, but it was too late. The last possible rock I could have hit, the last possible spot in the river that I could have tipped got me. The river got the better of me and I went for a swim.
I don’t know how many of you have went for a swim in whitewater, but when you get to Class III and above you better keep your wits and pay attention. If you get stuck between the canoe and rock it can end badly, if you get your foot hung in rock it can end badly, hit your head on a rock…anyway you get the picture. The first thing I thought as I came up for the first time was, “WOW I didn’t touch bottom the river is deeper than I thought”. The second thing was about shoving the canoe away from me down river. You might think trying to grab hold of the canoe would have been better, but that is not a good idea. An upside down canoe in a rapid is not your friend. After all it just tossed you into the river! The third thing I thought was, “MY FOOT JUST TOUCHED A ROCK, BAD”! So, I quickly got my feet up and pointed down river and back stroked on my back. This is the safest way to float through a rapid (well that’s not exactly right; the safest way would be to stay in the canoe in the first place.) the only problem with this method is every time you hit a wave in the rapid you go under, but only for a little while, if you remember to hold your breath when this happens your OK.
Luckily Patrick caught the canoe before it floated away down the river and after a few hundred yards I made it to shore with my paddle still in my hand and my ball cap still on my head. I still wonder how in the world that cap stayed on my head. Patrick had managed to pull the canoe over to the side of the river another couple of hundred yards down river. As I started trekking down to meet up with him and the others I was taking inventory of what was probably floating down the river, cooler, the extra paddle, (That's why I held onto my paddle. Haven't you ever heard the expression, “up the creek without a paddle”!), camping stuff, water bottle, life jacket. Yes, I said life jacket. You don’t think I would actually be smart enough to wear the darn thing! To my surprise when we flipped the canoe back over everything was still in it! I can only assume that the canoe flipped so quickly that when it did everything just floated up underneath and stayed there nicely for us. Nothing was lost. Well actually one thing was lost, the pictures of the trip. The digital camera was in my shirt pocket and although the camera made it, it and the pictures on it did not survive the dunking.
We straightened everything up and I got back in the canoe and we headed down to Anthony all joking about Daddy going for a swim and laughing. However, we all knew that what had just happened could have gone bad really quickly. I had a few seconds where I thought this might not end well. When the river is up like that and the water is moving through the rapid faster than an Olympic sprinter can run things can go wrong quickly. It wasn’t until I was out of the rapid and swimming towards the shore that I relaxed a little. For a few seconds there was fear, there was that little voice in my head, “I could die”. But, then I was out of the river and the boys were safe and everything was fine and my fear quickly went away.
I have spent a long time telling you about a river trip to make the following comparison. I spent a lot of time this week thinking about that fear I felt for a few seconds. It was real and it was scary, but it only lasted a few seconds. I have watched Brady have good days and bad days over the last two and half years. I know that there are times when he doesn’t think about the cancer and he just enjoys life, but I know there are also times that he can’t help think about his cancer. I am going to be more patient and understanding when Brady has those days where he doesn’t want to talk much and doesn’t seem to want to do much of anything. Maybe, just maybe, those are the days when he is dealing with his own “rapids”. And no matter how much you know that everything is going to be OK when you are in the “rapids” it is impossible not to be scared. You’re my hero Brady and I pray your river is nothing but calm water from here on.
Medical report: all continues to be good, counts, numbers, etc. and chemo continues to go smoothly. One little funny story that Peri will kill me for telling; on the first day Brady started to take his oral chemo again Peri had a “Peri moment”. They left early that day for Roanoke because Brady also had infusion chemo scheduled on that day as well. Peri took the oral chemo with them so she could give it Brady later in the day. This is the funny part, she only took ONE PILL! Seriously, I’m not kidding after I joked about it in the last post it came true! Don’t worry we are getting it right now and Brady is doing fine! We travel to Cincinnati on August 10th for scans and tests and meet with Dr. Geller on the 11th.