Joy and AJ in the cancer free zone on April, 30, 2012. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A cancer free zone. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something like that existed for people battling this insidious disease?

Joy found one. On occasion I would go there with her. Almost always with AJ, her dog. Sometimes it would be just me and AJ, as I was the official dog walker when Joy was battling cancer. After Joy died in August 2012 I couldn’t go there. It was too sad.

But I went back in July. It was too important not to. Fortunately, our mutual friend Lisa accompanied me on my journey to put some of AJ’s ashes along the north edge of the Upper Truckee River near the mouth of Lake Tahoe.

AJ had become my dog after Joy’s death. It seemed only natural the two should be together in this way. The river is where Joy’s ashes were placed by her sister.

The cancer free zone was where Joy went to escape all things having to do with her cancer treatments. I doubt she ever could. But she tried. When I was with her in the CFZ there was no talk of cancer. Not a problem. We had so many subjects we could cover, mostly political in nature—local and national. I miss those talks. I miss our email exchanges. And I miss our dog.

A search of CFZ (cancer free zone) in my emails turned up 17 between me and Joy, as well as others who were on some of the string of correspondence.

One from April 30, 2012, by Joy says, “… instead of waiting for the call from Barton, I looked at the dog, she looked at me, we both put on our raincoats and said screw it, we’re going for a long walk. We went back out to the lake to the point where Trout Creek empties – my original Cancer Free Zone – and enjoyed the solitude, the drizzle, the bird songs, and the scenery.”

An email from me to Joy on March 18, 2012, said, “And it’s because of you I like going to Trout Creek/LT … since you are the one who first took me there. AJ and I talk about you (in good ways!) when we are there. I feel connected to you there … I think that’s why I like to take AJ there. I don’t ever go without one of you.”

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