The problem, for me, was that it was my favorite time of year in Yellowstone.
Nearly every weekday morning I'd get up at 3 am and drive a couple hours into YNP to look for wildlife. Scheduling radiation as late in the day as possible, usually 4 pm, meant that I needed to be headed out the North Entrance by 2:30 in order to make the one and a half hour drive to Bozeman to get zapped. Afterwards, another half hour drive back home to set the alarm and crash for a few hours. Weekends were spent entirely in the park.
Meanwhile, I would come in giddy with stories of the bears, wolves and other wildlife I had seen earlier in the day.
Apparently, she had experienced a “life lesson” with a porcupine and her right front paw was full of quills.
She would walk on her knuckles so she didn't step on the quills, and lean on her elbow to dig with one paw.
Still, she persisted.
Through weeks of radiation, I kept doing what I loved and never felt the exhaustion or depression that seemed to be crippling other patients.
Hoping to share a little of the joy that buoyed me through it, I started printing photos to share with other patients and staff.
Visitors tagged her with “names” and Bear Management fitted her with a collar and corresponding number. She had cubs, lost some, but she's figuring things out...and her current cub is starting its third Summer. (typically born in February, “third year” cubs are actually about two and a half years old).
Wild stories don't always end so well.
Human nature doesn’t always work that way...but I had made a choice long before "meeting" this little bear.
After surgery, I remember standing in front of a mirror and thinking “this is just what it is now”.
Chin up and carry on.
Nine years have passed since we first crossed paths. She has no sign of a limp and my scars have faded.
We’re both older, tougher, and (hopefully) wiser.
There is no shortage of tragedy in either of our worlds,
but she still romps and plays…and I am still laughing.
Against the odds, we have both survived.