Heather Triumphs to the Summit 2021

#throatpunchcancer Learn More

Hi friends and family,

This is my first year hiking with Triumph Fitness. This organization has helped me in so many ways, I can’t possibly list them all here. I will say that through their talented, compassionate, and kind staff they’ve encouraged and facilitated my recovery post cancer treatment. While I am grateful for the treatment I received through the doctors, there is a gap in the rehabilitation process once all the procedures and infusions are complete. Triumph helps to bridge that gap. But let's go back before I found Triumph...

When I was all done with treatment and got my port removed, I thought I could jump right back into the physical activities I once did…I went for a bike ride for the first time and thought my legs might snap and did not respond like they used to….which was not a good feeling. After that outing I figured I should try something less hard on the ligaments and get back to swimming...

I got in the pool and after only a couple laps, I thought my heart might explode. I’m not talking about just being winded—there was a severe pain in my heart and all signs pointed to I had over-taxed my system with the little exertion I was doing. This was concerning and deflating, to say the least.

Fast forward to where Triumph gets involved. I came to learn of this amazing organization from a former work acquaintance. I learned of his cancer experience and Triumph Fitness testimony on LinkedIn of all places. I knew right away, I had to learn more about this organization and I was eager to participate. I needed help safely getting back in physical condition to swim, hike and play hockey (yes, I play ice hockey)!

I also had the unique opportunity of participating in the Triumph Fitness program during COVID-19. COVID-19 posed more challenges for small and non-profit businesses. Triumph pivoted and moved their classes online, which is another testament to how amazingly resilient and adaptable this organization is. Not only were the classes no longer held in a gym where all the equipment was already on-site, Triumph knew in-person trainings would not happen and cancer survivors still needed to have this opportunity.  The decision was made to provide participants with the necessary resistant bands and mats to conduct the trainings at their homes (which was an additional cost to the organization, but not passed on to the participants…).

These past several years have been difficult for everyone. COVID may have stopped many things, but it did not stop cancer or those who are impacted by cancer. If anything, COVID made it more difficult and necessary for cancer survivors to have access to programs such as Triumph Fitness. One of the main goals of the organization is to provide the 12 week program at no cost to the participant. This is one reason why I am participating in Triumph to the Summit 2021. I want to pay it forward for the next survivor to have the same resource and opportunity I did. Hence why I have set my fundraising goal to $1,500, which is what it costs to fund one cancer survivor through the 12 weeks.

I can’t express how much strength, camaraderie, and gratitude I’ve gained from my brief time with Triumph! Thank you for reading my story and please consider contributing to this cause.

Much love to you,



Don and Priscilla
Here’s to your journey.
Joe Tuscano
You are inspirational!
Lisa and Gerard Lill
We’re so glad your recovery is going well. Thank you for raising funds to help others through this.
Anonymous $100.00
Jay and Jo
We ♡ you!!
Garrett and Jenna Gudgel
We're so relieved following along with your recovery, and it's awesome that you want to pay it forward supporting others with these positive experiences. Happy to help with you :)
Alex Fruehsamer
Rock on Heather! I'm so proud of you! Hope we get to hike together next summer!
Theresa Harris
Heather, I have been following your journey through cancer and recovery and you are so inspiring. I am happy to donate to help someone else the way you have been helped through this group. Thank you for letting others be a part of this with you.
Lisa Howard
Keep going girl!!
Eileen M Grady
Loved your story, Heather! Glad you were able to return to the physical activities you enjoy. I hiked in 2019 when I lived in Sacramento and continue to support Triumph to the Summit because their mission is so important. Happy hiking!
S. + T. PICA
We are proud of you, how you handle the way to wellness.
Christine Soto
Hi Heather, I’m so glad to see you doing so well and that you found this amazing organization! Wishing all the best, Christine
Anonymous $100.00
Ronda Lenci
All the best!
Anonymous $50.00
Deborah Ellison
Keep reach for your joy!

October 16, 2021 1:35 PM

I'm less than $500 away from meeting my goal of raising enough funds to cover all the costs for another cancer survivor the opportunity to participate in Triumph Fitness. So close!! I am deeply grateful for all those who have donated.

There are many reasons to give, maybe you know someone who is in active treatment, or knew someone who is no longer with us and could give in honor of their memory. I know for most people money isn't flowing generously, but if you were ever looking for a deserving non-profit, Triumph Cancer Foundation is it. They offer rehabilitative services, connection and support for cancer survivors that the medical field is currently lacking in survivorship.

Cancer survivors are often in one of the highest risk categories because of the nature of the disease. The treatments and procedures frequently leave our bodies temporarily or permanently compromised. It's true our bodies are forever changed. Triumph is a bright light in a dark world for many survivors (including myself.) They provide the tools, expertise, encouragement and camaraderie to help survivors reclaim their lives. Thank you for considering making a donation.

Much love to you and your loved ones.

September 13, 2021 9:47 PM

This past Saturday was our final hike of the summer. The group scaled the tallest peak in the Napa Valley, Mt. St. Helena. It was over 11 miles and hot!

I had prior advice to bring extra water and I am glad I did. I drank 4 liters of the 4.5 I brought. The trail was not really difficult, as most is a utility road 90%. However, there was virtually no shade.

Along the way, we passed by two groups of rock climbers. There were neat craggy rock fixtures about halfway to the top. Apparently one of the well-known routes is called Bubble Rock. There were clamps already established and the rock had natural hand holds.

The top offered awesome views in all directions. If there hadn't been the marine layer, we probably could have seen the Pacific Ocean. I did get to see Clear Lake and Lake Berryessa.

While at the top, we had our lunch and individual time to reflect on the summer's journey. I thought about those in my life who have been impacted by cancer. I also thought about how far I've come since my last chemo infusion less than a year and a half ago.

I've completed more than a handful of hikes over 10 miles long and several hikes over 9,000 ft elevation. I was also able to get back on the ice and rejoin my hockey team. I would not have been able to do all these things so quickly if it weren't for the advice and training I received from Triumph Fitness.

If you’ve been inspired following my journey this summer, please consider making a donation. There's still time! Every penny goes to help fund more survivors the opportunity to enroll in Triumph Fitness. Follow this link to donate: https://www.grouprev.com/TriumphToTheSummit2021-heather-pica

September 13, 2021 8:43 PM

September 4, 2021

Life has been challenging the past several weeks. With the fires, smoke, and general stressors, I haven't felt my best. I got to spend some much needed rest and relaxation time with wonderful people last weekend. The weekend before that was a hike to Point Reyes.

The last time I saw the Pacific Ocean was well before my cancer diagnosis in 2019. The group needed to escape the wildfire smoke and the ocean was the only place in the relatively close vicinity that offered refuge.

The hike was beautiful and we could not have had better weather on the water. Before getting to the beach, we had the privilege to breathe clean air from the lush fern forest. There were blue skies, comfortable temperatures and hardly no wind. In all the times I've been to the Northern Coast, never have I had such enjoyable weather. The hike was long, 10+ miles round trip. Every mile was worth it though!

I came all that way so you best believe I took my boots off and walked in the ocean! The water was much warmer than I remember and oh so refreshing. It was so peaceful to hear the waves roll onto the beach and recede back into themselves. There is something comforting about being in the presence of such a powerful force. The Pacific Ocean is vast. And yet, there is rhythm and flow embedded within it. I even thoroughly enjoyed the tacky feeling the salt left on my skin as I wiped as much sand as I could off my legs before putting the boots back on.

This Saturday 9/11 is our final hike. We'll be venturing to Napa Valley and hiking to the top of Mt. St. Helena.

If you’ve been inspired following my journey this summer, please consider making a donation. Every penny goes to help fund more survivors the opportunity to enroll in Triumph Fitness.

September 13, 2021 8:40 PM

August 25, 2021

Our #TriumphtotheSummit team was back on the trails this past weekend, but had to quickly change our destination due to the wildfires. We went down to Marin County and hiked around China Camp. I heard different reports on the total distance, but it was somewhere in the range of 8-10 miles with 1,000 ft elevation gain.

I am sure you are aware of by now, the Caldor Fire is threatening much of the El Dorado National Forest. I'm glad to report that our house is not under threat for the foreseeable future. However, this past week has been unnerving and highly stressful experience for me.

From the hazardous air quality making me feel nauseous and irritable, the inability to go outside, the house being shook from the fire air support most days, learning that distant family members lost their home in the fire, the sudden appearance of so many displaced people and the fear of the winds shifting directions towards us has been a bit much.

In all honesty, this situation reminds me a lot of my cancer journey. So many unknowns. So much bombardment from all angles. However, similar to my cancer experience, I will endure and keep moving forward.

That is one of the reasons why I ventured with the group to the bay area. It offered an escape from the constant bombardment of the current environment. There was fresh and clean air. I could see the sky and there were moody clouds shielding us from the intense Sun. I got to see the bay and a bunch of pelicans. It was so refreshing to be able to be outside and enjoy nature and cooler weather. I got to spend time with others who understand it is ok to not be ok and gain strength from that.

With the wildfire situation, Thunder Mountain and any trails in the Sierras off 50 or 88 are off the table this summer. We are working to find new and challenging hikes around the bay area and coast to wrap up our fundraiser. I'm open to hiking suggestions that are within 2-3 hours driving distance from Sacramento, up to 10 miles round trip, have up to 3,200 ft elevation gain and are preferably a mountain. Let me know.

I know this wasn't a super feel good post. But I've shared a brief glimpse behind the veil of what life has really been like. Sometimes life throws a lot of crap your way and it is all in how you respond. I don't have any control over what goes on around me, but I can choose how I spend my time. I've always found healing and solace in nature, so nature is where I go.

If you’ve been inspired following my journey this summer, please consider making a donation! 

September 13, 2021 8:38 PM

August 15, 2021

Another successful hike in the books! This weekend the #TriumphtotheSummit group ventured into the Sierras once again and visited Round Top Lake. We were unable to hike last weekend due to the poor air quality and wildfire smoke, so I was happy to get back up in the mountains again. Other hikers we met along the trail engaged us in conversations as they spied our blue Triumph shirts. These hikes serve as a great way for us to do outreach about #TriumphFitness. We share our mission, and always receive such positive messages from our fellow hikers who are inspired by #TeamTriumph. I even ran into a fellow CalSTRS employee up there!

Next weekend is our first of two summit goals. As long as the weather and air quality cooperate, we'll be scaling Thunder Mountain next week. I'm especially excited to embark on this trail, as I have never been there and I imagine the views must be amazing from the top. This hike is over by Kirkwood off Highway 88. For those unfamiliar with the area there are numerous unusual looking craggy rock structures all over the place. It has a distinctly different look to it than the usual granite bolders you see everywhere else in the surrounding area.

After Thunder Mountain, there are only three more conditioning hikes before the group takes on Mt. Tallac.

Thank you to those who have already given. If you’ve been inspired following my journey this summer, please consider making a donation! 

September 13, 2021 8:36 PM

August 1, 2021

Saturday hike was a success! Our group was able to make it up to Winnemucca Lake and beyond to Round Top Lake. On the way back we checked out Frog Lake, which overlooks Red Lake (where Ricky and I have gone ice fishing in the past). It felt great to get out in the mountains and out of the valley heat. All in all, it was just over 7 miles at 8,000ft elevation.

Clouds steadily built into the early afternoon and we kept our eyes and ears on the look out for possible thunder storms. Nothing transpired until we got back to our cars at the trailhead and sprinkles started to fall as I made my way past Caples Lake. I had to stop and take a picture of the peaks in the background, as that is where we spent our time on the hike.

It was such a wonderful experience to get to see the area from so many different vantage points. I am doing these hikes for my own personal journey and recovery post-cancer treatment. If you are able to, I encourage you to help someone else experience this amazing program as they work to pick up the pieces after a cancer diagnosis. Or maybe you know someone who is in active treatment or is no longer with us. There are many reasons to give. I personally can vouch for how much this non-profit has and continues to help me. Thank you for the consideration.

July 14, 2021 4:38 PM

Hi all,

California was subjected to an extreme heat wave over the past week. We had temperatures in the foothills as high as 108°F (42°C)!! Ricky and I planned to do an overnight backpacking trip in the Sierras, but everywhere we planned to go was projected to be in the high 90s. We had taken time off from work to go during the week and didn't want to let the time go by without doing something....so we settled on a conditioning day hike. We both added weight to our backpacks and Ricky found a 7+ mile hike with 1,000+ elevation gain for us to do instead. 

We hiked the Granite to Hidden Lake loop, which starts at Kit Carson and Silver Lake. It was the perfect timing to catch secluded meadows of wild flowers that were taller than me and numerous streams through craggy sections of the mountains. We brought our fishing poles and Ricky tried to catch a fish but had no luck. While walking through one of the valleys, we found the largest toadstool I've ever seen, looked like something out of a fair tale. Other interesting finds were also a marmot and an osprey.

This was the first time I packed more weight on my back. I did fine until the last 2 miles. My feet were really sore, along with my hip and knees. I was so thankful when we reached the truck and could sit down and put my flip flops on. :) Overall, it was a successful training and conditioning hike that gets me one step closer to taking on Thunder Mountain and Mt. Tallac!

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