The Mission Walker

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The Mission Walker is a non-fiction book written by American author Edie Littlefield Sundby and an Audie Award Finalist for Best Inspirational Book. It is an adventure story and personal memoir about her life and illness battling stage IV gallbladder cancer, and describes her healing 1,600-mile walk of the old, historic El Camino Real de las Californias mission trail from Loreto, Mexico to Sonoma, California, with one lung. The personal story is interlaced with the story of the old Jesuit mission trail in Baja California Mexico, and the Franciscan mission trail in California, and cites more than fifty historical sources.

Background[edit]

Before writing The Mission Walker, Edie Littlefield Sundby was a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and mother. In March 2007, Edie was diagnosed with stage-4 adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder with widespread metastasis, including liver, colon, peritoneum, and groin - and given a few months to live. While undergoing aggressive cancer treatment, she shared her reflections on life and illness, authoring essays in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Over the course of six years she endured 79 rounds of chemotherapy, multiple radical surgeries (including the removal of her right lung, half her liver, and part of her colon and stomach), and intense radiation; through it all she walked, and, in The New York Times, she credits walking with saving her life.

Plot[edit]

MAP of Edie Littlefield Sundby's 1,600-mile walk of El Camino Real de las Californias mission trail from Loreto Mexico to Sonoma California.

El Camino Real - which stretches from Loreto, Mexico to north of San Francisco, California - crosses through some of the most deserted, desolate landscape in the world. At sixteen hundred miles long, it covers roughly the distance between Boston and Houston, as the crow flies. But instead of traveling it via a few hours flight, imagine walking the entire way.

And instead of being the picture of health when you set out, imagine having undergone six years of aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, and invasive surgeries in your fight against stage IV cancer. And to make things extra challenging, you're down to just one lung and a fragment of the other.

When Edie Littlefield Sundby was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and given only three months to live, she vowed to fight. She sought out the best care that the medical community could offer, and she relied on the faith she had inherited from her cotton-farmer parents. But Edie also found healing through movement. Edie knew that if she was still walking, she was still alive.

Though she had never walked more than a few miles at a time, six months after her right lung was removed, Edie decided to walk the entire eight-hundred mile Historic California Mission Trail - the northern segment of El Camino Real - which links twenty-one missions from San Diego to north of San Francisco. Undeterred by physical and emotional pain, she searched for restoration and hope.

And then, two years later, her cancer returned. With no time to lose, she set out to walk the remaining eight hundred-mile El Camino Real, from its origin in Loreto, Mexico, north to the US border. If she succeeded, she would be the first person in history to walk the entire sixteen hundred-mile El Camino Real de las Californias mission trail.

Thomas Nelson, publisher of The Mission Walker, describes the book as both an adventure story and a reflection on the universal experience of confronting our own mortality. ‘The Mission Walker’ Book

Reception[edit]

The Mission Walker is a 2018 Audie Award Finalist for Best Inspirational Book.. Randall Sullivan, Executive Producer, Oprah Winfrey Network, and writer/contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote in the introduction to the book: The Mission Walker is a marvelous book. Edie Littlefield Sundby writes of her battle against cancer with simple grace and enormous dignity. The journey she takes us on - her mission walk - is often arduous and at times harrowing, yet there's a spirit of uplift in even the most difficult passages... a moving meditation on the relationships between courage and faith, endurance and transcendence.

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