On the way back home from my trip across the Southeast U.S. I met a man and his dog, who were on their own journey.
Roman: I grew up on a dairy farm in a place called God’s Thumbprint. That’s actually where I’m hiking back to. I have some health issues. I’ve been diagnosed with Leukemia. I went through two surgeries and radiation this past winter. But, God provided, know what I mean? I could either sit home and feel sorry for myself or get back out here and experience nature.
BW: I used to dream about hiking the Appalachian Trail. I think a lot of people dream about it but very few actually do it. What made you do it?
Roman: I grew up around the trail as a kid and someone in school told me that it goes all the way from Georgia to Maine. So, I started hiking up on the trail when I was a kid and I told myself that one day I’d do it. When I got diagnosed with Leukemia I said, “you know what? It’s time for me to get out there, cause life goes by fast.” You never know what’s gonna happen.
BW: You mentioned receiving radiation to treat the cancer. What was that like?
Roman: It was hell. I’m still recovering. I’m not even back to 50% capacity.
BW: You think you’ll ever fully recover?
Roman: I don’t know. If I keep active the way I’m doing… these doctors don’t know everything. Sitting around the house all day isn’t gonna help me.
BW: Is there anything positive that’s come from having Leukemia?
Roman: Yes! Actually, in the next two years I’m going to be working on making Duncan a service dog. He’s too young and wild right now.
BW: What’s the best thing that’s happened since you’ve been out here.
Roman: I met a terminal cancer patient a couple of weeks ago. The guy was in his late sixties. I told him about my Leukemia and he told me he had about a year to live and he said, "this is the place for me to be. I already have all my affairs in order. There aint no more time left in my life.” Meeting him was powerful.
What about you? Where are you headed?
BW: This is the last leg of my journey around the southeast. I’m taking back roads home to Atlanta. I really don’t want it to end.
Roman: Yeah, man. Neither do I.