Healing in nature

Britany Freeman’s mother on their backpacking trip. Britany Freeman/Courtesy

Nature is a frightening and powerful force. In the modern world, it’s easy to forget that, and just as easily, it is forgotten that power can also be healing and good. Especially in the lowest points of life, sometimes a re-submersion into nature is exactly what’s needed. 

That’s what Britany Freeman and her mother found while battling lymphoma. 

Freeman’s mother was diagnosed with lymphoma several years ago. It was a terrifying fight, especially for Freeman, who feared she would lose two people all at once: her mom and her best friend. 

“Well, my mother is the strongest woman that I know and awesome, so she beat her lymphoma and she really wanted to start getting back outside again and we had an opportunity to go take a trip to Washington,” Freeman says. 

They made plans to see Mt. Rainier and Olympic Park in Washington as soon as her mom received the green light from her doctor to begin returning to the activities she loves. This was key for her mother, as the outdoors have always held a place in her life and had become a large part of who she is. 

“I remember watching her not really struggle, but watching her push through a lot of things,” Freeman says. “The whole time I just saw her entire battle of what she had gone through unfolding in a different sense on the trail. I saw her trying to tackle all these obstacles and push through despite being tired and things like that.” 

Freeman’s mother struggled with frustration as tasks such as hiking that used to come to her with ease suddenly felt so much more difficult. But in the moments the frustration settled down, Freeman witnessed her mother reclaiming her life. 

In nature Freeman’s mother was alive and gathering the pieces she thought she had lost to recreate her world. To Freeman, it was incredible. 

“We were on our way up this mountain, and I just remember staring at her as we were getting ready to approach this lookout and just seeing that joy radiate across her face,” Freeman says. “It was the most that I had really truly seen her smile in what felt like years. I mean, at that point, it had probably been two or three years, so it was truly the most that I had really seen her smile.”  

Freeman comments that the trip was very much reflective of the ups and downs they had been experiencing. She feels trails and trips offer the recurring theme of reimagining life in a different light, helping explorers work through and heal from the worst. It’s always tough but in the best of ways. 

“It was really this amazing thing of watching someone who had been through so much in such a short amount of time and so unexpectedly really just conquer themselves again,” Freeman says. “To watch the outdoors bring her back to life and bring me my mom back, she wasn’t just a lady who had lymphoma, now she was a survivor. But that’s not all she was, she was still who she was beforehand.”