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Hiking and healing: Survivor finds self and God in the wilderness

Posted Jan 03 2013 6:52pm
January 3, 2013 - Posted by tamilb

Marybeth’s wilderness adventures have been vital to her healing.
I have always been a nature lover. For me, being in the wilderness is the closest I’ve come to God and my true self. I don’t rough it like I did in my younger days, but I gain so much serenity when I hike in the woods or even just see a deer in our neighborhood. So when Marybeth Haydon, an outdoor enthusiast and author, contacted me about her own healing from breast cancer through nature, I was intrigued. Here’s her story:

It was after my bilateral mastectomy that more cancer was discovered in my lung, near the esophagus.  Although the breast cancer at stage three was a concern hopefully dealt with through the surgery, the lung cancer was a new terror for me.  I immediately called a coworker who I knew to be a Christian and asked to be placed on their church community prayer chain.

Meanwhile, during recovery from the mastectomies, I started hiking. I discovered that while stepping beyond my familiar parameters, that the exciting wilderness held me positively captivated.  Not only was I (finally) building a healthier body but developed a love for the challenge of the more strenuous hikes, the excitement of discovery and love for sighting wildlife in their natural habitat. I became wonderfully addicted. I instinctively began thanking God for this fascinating world that we inhabit. The more I pushed and was rewarded with an intense sense of accomplishment while summiting an arduous mountain, the more I recognized that my Creator was intimately involved in my life with all of its concerns, needs and desires. I began to rediscover my faith.

Again, I asked for prayer and was surprised the following week by my doctor’s bombshell.  I was clear of lung cancer, she even repeated the studies.  I was healed.  Cancer-free is profound.

Unfortunately, cancer is such a “common” word, that I rarely gave it much thought prior to getting cancer. Yes, it was terrible that so & so got cancer, but I was so disassociated from it that the far-reaching implications simply weren’t ever considered. Now, my understanding of the incredible repercussions; the hell that loved ones go through, the hell that the patient goes through, the worry, the pain, the embarrassing exams, the devastation. It’s no fun preparing for your own death, getting all the affairs in order.

But it wasn’t just the physical healing in my lung and freedom from the breast cancer that captivated and transformed me. It was the mental change as well. You see, as I traveled among the wilderness, my entire perception changed. Previously a sedentary adult, I never even considered going for a casual walk, much less hiking the forests and mountains! While in the wilds, I discovered imagination, challenges, achievement. I discovered an inner strength that I had not recognized, much less known. I
discovered that as I intuitively began speaking aloud to God, at first with “wow’s” over the spectacular views, then with praise for His wondrous works and for Who He is, that I was developing a vital relationship with Him. He would speak to my spirit and as I developed a listening ear, He began training me while I was in the wilderness.

I’m training to be an even more involved parent. I’m training to think beyond my own little world, that there’s an entire populace with needs, loneliness, health issues and so much more. I’m training to appreciate the little things, the hues of wildflowers, the melodic songs of the birds, the humorous antics of a hungry chipmunk.  He is training me to pay attention to His clear interventions in my life, and to be thankful. It may seem strange, but I’m thankful for my bout with cancer if that’s what it had to take for me to wake up and appreciate life. Not just my own life, but life in its totality.

There is so much to appreciate, so much to learn, and so very much to enjoy and to share.

For more information about Marybeth and her Wilderness Training initiatives, visit .

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