Bert’s Journey

Cancer survivor Bert Koning makes the long trek to Barkerville

  • Sep. 20, 2013 11:00 a.m.
With the support of his family

With the support of his family

On Aug. 26, 2013, I walked from Quesnel to Barkerville, starting at the Gold Pan at the bottom of airport hill.

What made this trip seem impossible was I have spent many years fighting liver disease and the last few years fighting colon cancer. When I got the all clear from my doctors, I decided to celebrate this victory and to prove to myself it was really gone. I was going to walk to Barkerville.

I’m sure some people thought I may have set the bar too high, seeing that I’m already 61 years old.

My family was behind me all the way but when you are fighting this relentless disease, you are alone and somewhere deep inside you have to find the strength and desire and will to overcome this terrible enemy. You need hope and some never get the chance.

The first day, I walked to the other side of the Mexican Hill. My daughter came to check on me and best of all brought me a Tim Horton’s coffee. My wife picked me up and we marked the spot with a ribbon and slept at Cottonwood House. Some people don’t know you can rent cabins there. It was more than reasonable and very clean. In the morning, we set off again from where we had stopped the previous day. Half way through the day a car stopped on the side of the road. It was a family friend who was also an ambulance attendant here in town. She had heard from my daughter what I was trying to accomplish and came to check on me. She brought me a Tim Horton’s coffee.

As I walked, people waved, some honked. A lady from Wells offered me a ride but that would have defeated my intention of walking to Barkerville, I explained and sent her on her way with thanks. I finished the second day at the 2100 Road, about half way down Devil’s Canyon. My wife picked me up and we slept at Cottonwood House that night. The next day I walked into Wells and my daughter came to check on me and, you guessed it, brought me a Tim Horton’s coffee. By now my knees and feet were sore. I think sometimes it’s easier to walk up hill than downhill. I was almost ready to quit, thinking to myself, Wells is good enough. Then I saw them, signs made by my grandchildren and family, pounded into the side of road “Go Grandpa Go”, “We Love You”, “We are so proud of you”. It made my heart swell. This gave me the push I needed to finish my journey and when I got to Barkerville, my two daughters put a sign that said “You Made It” and crepe ribbon for me to cross. Barkerville staff found out what I had done and they presented me a book about Barkerville, gave us free entrance and a stagecoach ride. Thank-you to the staff at Barkerville for their generosity. It was a perfect ending.

So why did you do it? So many people have asked me. This week many places are celebrating Terry Fox’s journey. Every May, my family and I take part in the Quesnel Relay for Life. I felt that my journey might bring hope and I felt that it was appropriate to show folks that cancer can be beaten. The C word is hard to deal with but there are many people who are there to help us fight this insidious enemy.

They are in your corner all the way.

To those on the second floor of our hospital – thank you for all your help. To the doctors – thank you.

And if you think you are having a bad day, go up to the second floor and see such courage that I can never describe and a zest for life that I still can’t put into words.

Most of us know someone who has been affected by cancer. Something happens when you come face to face with your own mortality that changes you.

Thank you to all my friends and family for their prayers on my behalf. Even as I write this, another friend of ours succumbs to this disease.

My word of encouragement to all that are facing this enemy, remember, you are not alone.

– submitted by

Bert Koning