Cancer survivor dreams of backpacking

Daily Herald Health Writer

For the past three years, Barbara Goetzelman has focused on doctor appointments, chemotherapy and surgery.

Now it’s time for the 59-yearold Antioch woman to start thinking about other things. Pileated woodpeckers. Herds of moose. Sunlight glinting across a lake.

Goetzelman’s goal this year is to lose weight and launch a physical training program for a backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior in August 2008. The trip will mark a return to a life that stalled with her bladder cancer diagnosis nearly four years ago.

“This is going to be my time,” said Goetzelman, a church secretary and mother of two grown children. “I know you don’t accomplish everything you want to in life, but if I get to be 90, I don’t want to look back and say ‘I should have.’ I want to say ‘I got this done, and I got this done, and I got this done.’”

Goetzelman has the drive. In 1998, she and three friends hiked seven miles down the Grand Canyon and eight miles back out, carrying 25-pound packs.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot until you’ve got it on your shoulders for 12 hours,” Goetzelman said.

Since then, Goetzelman and her friends have returned each year to a hiking trail on Lake Superior in Minnesota. She relishes the beauty of the outdoors and the glimpses of wolves, moose and woodpeckers. The trips renew her spirit and her friendships.

In May 2003, after finding blood in her urine, Goetzelman was diagnosed with bladder cancer and began chemotherapy. Eventually she had surgery to remove her bladder and to create a neobladder out of a piece of her small intestine. Now that her cancer is in remission, Isle Royale is a fitting prize to tempt her to lose the pounds that have crept onto her 5-foot-5-inch frame. Her current weight is 234, and she’d like to lose 75 pounds. Her blood pressure and cholesterol are a little high, and she hopes to control those without medication.

Goetzelman wants to stay physically active, and losing weight is key to that goal. She has already made exercise a priority. She joined Curves several years ago as a way to improve her bone density. She works out three days a week, and will add outdoor hikes with a weighted pack as soon as the days grow longer.

Her biggest obstacle is crafting quick, healthy meals she can make after work (ones that her husband will like, too). Too often, Goetzelman grabs whatever is easiest, even if it’s bratwurst and beans.

“I know that’s not a good way to eat,” she said. “I need to figure out portion control, how to plan meals for the week so I’m not grabbing the easiest thing. I know I need to learn to eat this way for the rest of my life.”

Sensible snacks under 200 calories