Q&A: Marsha Murphy
Marsha Murphy, originally from Oklahoma, served as a Military Police Officer in the US Army. Last year she rafted down the Grand Canyon with a group of veterans, we asked her some questions about her experience and this was her response.
Q: During the experience, what was the greatest challenge (physical, mental and/or emotional) you faced and how did you overcome it?
A: The greatest mental challenge I faced was recognizing that I do things for others and keep myself inundated with things to do. I do this to avoid thinking about things from my past and dealing with some of the factors that contribute to my current state of depression. Having the camaraderie of fellow soldiers, our “adopted” airman and No Barriers staff helped me realize that I was trying not to face many things. I’m still working to overcome many of the issues, with the help of a fantastic psychiatrist I had to fight to get! The VA doesn’t have the resources to see me on a regular and timely basis, so I jumped through all the necessary “hoops and red tape” until I was able to get approved to see an outside resource through the Veteran Choice program. Prior to our expedition, I would not have advocated so aggressively for myself.
The greatest physical challenge was hiking up the canyon. I wasn’t sure that I was in the physical condition necessary to make the hike. It took all I had, but I (we) made it! Yes, I had many extra pounds to carry up that canyon, when compared to the shape I had been in when I was in the service, but I kept telling myself, “If Cory can do this, my reasons are pale in comparison to his!”
Q: Has life changed since your experience? Have you made shifts in your day-to-day life?
A: Approximately one month before the Grand Canyon Expedition started, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was difficult to leave him in such uncertain circumstances, but he insisted I go. He underwent surgery last November. In January, only three short months after the expedition, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After seeing how strong my husband was with his battle and rediscovering my inner strength during the expedition, it was easier for me to be courageous and get a double mastectomy.
On Aug. 23, 2016, I underwent my second reconstructive surgery, the third surgery since Feb. 22, 2016. I won’t lie. It’s been a long, challenging and often overwhelming battle. My husband and I are both still dealing with the impact of having cancer.
I liken the journey to the tumultuous rapids we encountered in the canyon. When facing them, they often looked too tremendous. However, with each new victory over the rapids, came more confidence and excitement knowing that regardless of their pure strength, I had the ability to overcome the struggle! So through this difficult battle—medical and emotional encounters— I know that I have the confidence, stamina and wherewithal to get through them victoriously as well! Although it has been an unexpected, difficult struggle, my husband and I are learning to love one another in new ways.
While I’m actually in a big transition, it seems small in the scheme of things at this point in my life. In May, I quit my seven-and-a-half year teaching career and took the summer off to spend time with my grandsons. Rather than return to the relentless demands and stress of teaching elementary education that consumed my every fiber, I decided to reenter the corporate world. On Aug. 29, I interviewed for a job—still covered in giant bruises from my latest surgery and wincing when standing up or sitting down.
Q: Have your relationships improved with your family, friends, spouse? Do people see a change in you since you returned?
A: When challenged with a battle that is too personal to share at this time, my psychiatrist noticed a difference in how I was able to reach out to a friend when I felt suicidal. This was a monumental step in my growth since the expedition. I still struggle with this situation almost daily, but during the expedition, I relearned how to reach out and ask for help, especially when I’m at an extreme low. I’m so thankful for this newfound strength because there is a very real probability I would not have reached out to my friend or even still be here had I not participated in the expedition.
Q: Can you describe your best day on the journey?
A: My best day was on the second or third day when I chose to get in the paddle boat. Everyone who had ridden the rapids told me it was amazing, but I was reluctant to try it. I didn’t think I had the strength and endurance to keep up with them. I’m so glad I chose to give it a try! Not only was I was able to keep up, , but I also had a great time paddling and getting to know more about them–their struggles and families back home. We really bonded on the paddle boat. I had forgotten how strong the bond could be between my military brothers and sisters. Getting out of the military on a hardship discharge made me feel ashamed, so I didn’t keep up with my closest buddies. I truly lost an important part of my life with this foolish decision. I think about them frequently, wonder how they are and wish I had not ostracized myself from them.
A close second, also on the paddle boat, was the day the guys convinced me to “Ride the Bull,” which involved sitting at the front of the boat and holding onto a rope through the full force of the rapids.
Q: What does the “No Barriers Life” mean to you? Can you tell us more about how you believe this experience helped you to live a No Barriers Life?
A: To me, a “No Barriers Life” means facing any and all barriers that come into my life. It’s recognizing that dealing with barriers is never easy, but it is essential to face t barriers and to learn and grow from them, gaining whatever knowledge and strength we can from the encounters! Living this way reignites confidence, courage and determination that’s necessary to get through life, and it empowers me to inspire others!
Q: Looking back, what means the most to you from your time on your No Barriers Warriors Expedition?
A: Looking back on the expedition, the two things that mean the most to me are the personal strength I’ve regained and the bonds of friendship I’ve established with the other warriors!
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
I will NEVER forget Toolie Town!