by KELLEY GUSICH | photo by Soul of Photography

Glow in the Dark

Thursday night, Oct. 4, 2012, 9 p.m. is a night that will live forever in the memory of Patti McCarthy. That was the night she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A nurse for the past 30 years, Patti was now on the other side of the hospital bed. She credits much of her success in the battle to those around her. “I was amazed at the number of family and friends who supported us,” Patti shared, “I had no idea how much people truly cared about us.” She continued on to say, “My kids were wonderful. My husband was the most amazing source of support for me. He told me all the time, even in my worst moments, I was beautiful.”

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Her fight has taken her on two roads: one to the library and one to the trails. Patti began writing a journal on the night of her diagnosis and continued throughout her cancer fight. The McCarthy family learned to love hiking and backpacking on a “bucket list” trip to the Grand Canyon, and then they heard about the Pacific Crest Trail. After a bit of trouble convincing her husband Lynn they could do it, they started with baby steps in May of 2012. First were day hikes around Warner Springs, then confidence building for an overnight or two through Mount Laguna to Campo, the trail’s south terminus. “Finally we worked up to a five-day trip Labor Day weekend from Big Bear to Lake Arrowhead to celebrate our 25th anniversary,” Patti explained. “This completed 122 miles.” Her trail name was “Glow in the Dark” – a nickname she earned for joking about the amount of X-rays she’d had since her diagnosis.

Initially, Patti wanted to blog about her hikes and dealing with cancer effects and treatments, but then she added bits from her personal journal, and slowly but surely, a book was born: Hiking Cancer. The personalization made the book difficult to complete. “It was so much harder than I imagined,” she said, “but it also made the book raw. It is not sugar coating.” Patti’s favorite chapter is called, “I’m a Survivor, Now What?,” which “pulls together the anger I felt, the determination I had to find a focus to get through it, and how I learned to embrace what I went through and accept the changes,” she shared.

Patti’s advice to those fighting cancer? “You can get through this! You are stronger than you think.”


Name: Patti McCarthy
Profession: Registered nurse
Awards & Recognitions: Nurse of the Year 2008, Values in Action 2012
Community: Encinitas since 1994
Hobbies: Backpacking, travel, reading, crochet
Favorite Local Spots: Moonlight Beach or Swami’s