Hike for Healing: Ephraim cancer survivor plans long journey to lighten the load for others
LEHI—The road to recovery for cancer patients can be a long one, but a cancer survivor raised in Ephraim is planning another long journey to lighten the load for others with the same diagnosis.
Signe Gines, 53, daughter of Richard and Norma Olson of Ephraim, who was diagnosed with large cell B-lymphoma in 2015, is planning a “Hike for Healing,” a 2,650-mile trek running the length of the Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico.
Gines is a graduate of Manti High School and Snow College and was Miss Ephraim 1981. Her family was in the turkey business, and as a youngster, she made the Guiness Book of World Records for raising the largest turkey recorded up to that time.
She has lived in Lehi since 1993 and is the single mother of six children, four of whom are married. She also has 12 grandchildren. She currently teaches at Lehi High School.
An experienced backpacker and mountain climber, Gines plans to begin her extraordinary solo trip July 1 and expects it to last nearly four months.
“I am going to be hiking across some of the most beautiful trails in the Pacific Northwest,” she said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it will also be a very spiritual trip for me. I can’t think of any place better to be close to God than in the wilderness.”
Her goal is to raise $500,000 for leukemia and lymphoma research and to help the cancer patients who can’t afford the medical care they need.
Gines underwent months of chemotherapy to treat her condition and ultimately won the battle. One month after completing her treatment in May, 2015, she was back on the trail doing what she loves, backpacking for 178-miles over two weeks along the Selway River in Idaho.
A 178-mile backpacking trip is par for the course for Gines. But the border-to-border hike will be an epic journey, even for her.
She said the trek was inspired by a singular event. Shortly after Gines’ cancer went into remission, she was invited to a benefit event called “Light the Night” put on by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a nonprofit organization committed to fighting cancers of the blood.
At the event, the society passed out colored lanterns: red lanterns for people affected by cancer, yellow lanterns in honor of people who had died from cancer and white lanterns for cancer survivors.
“I was one of the lucky people who was holding a white lantern,” Gines said. “Out of so many lanterns, there were so few white ones. I knew right then that I had been spared for a bigger purpose. I vowed at that moment that I would do something to give back to the cancer community.”
Gines said she knew she was good at one thing: hiking long distances. She immediately began gathering food and supplies, making arrangements for permits, and working out the logistics of the trip.
Gines says her trip will take her through temperatures as low as freezing or below, and as high as 100 degrees.
“I am very confident in my hiking abilities, but the weather will be one of my biggest challenges,” Gines said. She admits to a strong distaste for hiking in the rain, but has accepted that all sorts of weather will be thrown at her on the trip.
She will hike across all varieties of terrain, including a side trip where she will ascend to the summit of Mt. Whitney, a 14,505-foot climb.
To make it through the trip in less than four months she said she will have to hike at least 25 miles per day. To cover that much ground in that little time, having an ultra lightweight load is very important, Gines said.
So Gines is having her family mail supply packages to predetermined checkpoints along the way. The “care packages” will contain supplies such as dehydrated food, socks, toiletries and mosquito repellant.
“I’m the type of person to use something until it’s on its last leg,” Gines said, “but I expect to even go through an few pairs of shoes along the way.”
Although Gines is packing a bare minimum of gear, she has been wavering over whether to bring a gas stove for preparing hot food.
“I’ve really debated over it a lot,” she said. “With this type of trip you need to be as light as possible but I just really love a warm meal at the end of a long day. It’s rejuvenating and comforting.”
Hot food isn’t the only comfort Gines hopes to squeeze into the trip. She said if she makes good time, she may even stop at a hotel a few nights to punctuate her arduous hike with a soft bed and a warm shower.
Gines has set the ambitious goal of raising $500,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Part of the money raised will go towards cancer research, but Gines has arranged for a portion of the money to go to a fund to help pay for medical care for cancer patients unable to afford treatment. Those wishing to donate can do so at http://events.lls.org/pages/ut/aHikeforHealing.
She also has a GoFundMe account set up to help her recoup her own considerable costs from the trip. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/a-hike-for-healing to contribute toward those costs.
Gines says she does not have to have the full $500,000 pledged before she leaves. In fact, even if she doesn’t meet her goal, she said she will still take the trip.
The Hike for Healing, Gines said, is about more than the money. It’s about awareness too.
“I was a very healthy person all my life,” she said. “There was nothing to indicate I was at risk for cancer and that only proves no one is beyond its grip.”