Young Lymphoma Patient Finds Therapy In Epic Hike

At 23, Andy Lyon has already gone through multiple cancer diagnoses and treatments. He was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008 while a first-year student at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied astrophysics. Tired of treatments, Lyon decided to make the most of his youth and go on an epic trek known as the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, all by himself.

Lyon is still about 300 miles out from the finish line, and so far his quest has been running fairly smoothly. His lymphoma flared up near British Columbia, but he is hoping that a quick treatment along the path will get him right back on the trail.

Lyon received chemotherapy the first time he was diagnosed, but after only a year the lymphoma returned. He received a stem cell transplant, but after a 3-month remission, the cancer reappeared in March 2010. The doctors were running out of ideas.

Lyon's 'healing quest'

"They still wanted to do more chemo, but I said, 'No thanks, I’m gonna explore some other options,'" said Lyon in an interview at the Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. "I kind of went on a healing journey, a healing quest."

Andy (nicknamed Astro for his major at UC Berkeley), set off on an exploration of nature, meditation, alternative nutrition, and a huge hike to get his mind off the chemo and cancer. He describes his decision to hike the Pacific Crest as not "just an idea; that’s what I was going to do. It’s almost like I didn’t have a choice. I knew it was going to happen."

He began his hike on April 7, with only a lightweight backpack, sleeping bad and tent, and food and water. All in all, only about 20 pounds. He has been averaging about 20 miles a day in often-grueling terrain, but even so, Andy claims that the mental challenge was tougher than the physical.

If the hike gets too physically challenging, the Pacific Crest Outfitters in White Pass is providing horses and a wrangler if Andy will need it. He says, "I don’t think I’ll want to ride a horse the entire rest of the trail. I began it walking, I intend to do it walking, and I’d like to finish the trail on my own two feet."

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