Chapter 3: Cherry Blossoms and Liver Spots*

(March – May 2018)*

First day of chemotherapy – December 27, 2017

I started chemotherapy two days after returning from my Christmas trip to Tokyo. That sleepy smile in the photo above is a combination of traveling and the massive dose of Benadryl I received before the infusion.

“My chemotherapy nurses, Jaime and Vickie…”

Jaime (left) and Vickie (right) made my chemo treatments as easy, and as fun, as chemotherapy could possibly be. They were happy, loving, and friendly to everyone, and I will treasure their friendship always.

“Halfway through chemotherapy, I flew to Japan…”

You read that correctly. (That isn’t a COVID mask – it’s what an immunocompromised cancer patient wears to try to stay safe in public).

“My mother went along to help…”

My mother, Paula Ross-Jones, played a crucial role in my cancer treatment and recovery, as well as joining me for one of the most important climbs of my #100Summits year. When I had to fly to Tokyo in the middle of chemo treatments, she volunteered to help me make the trip.

The ruins of Edo castle

The ruins of Edo castle sit in the public portion of the Imperial Palace Gardens in central Tokyo–one of the few places I could visit during my visa-signing trip in March of 2017. Although chemo had weakened my immune system, my doctor approved outdoor excursions, if I avoided people.

“I didn’t know why one tree bloomed and the rest were barren…”

The lone sakura (ornamental cherry tree), in bloom on the Imperial Palace Grounds in Tokyo. This tree was important to me for many reasons.

With Julie Matteson, the fabulous realtor who sold our house in California

Since we planned to leave for Tokyo as soon as I finished chemotherapy, we had to sell our house while I was undergoing treatment. We worked with a fantastic realtor, Julie Matteson–who I recommend highly if you have a real estate need in the greater Sacramento/Fair Oaks area! You can reach her via the link above, or by email at JustSeeJulesRE [at]

Originally named Bumblebee, Oobie not only served as the inspiration for the cat in my Hiro Hattori mystery novels, but was my constant, faithful companion during chemotherapy. Her name change resulted from her tendency to get into trouble. We’d see her getting into something and yell, “Hey, you! Bee!”–which, over time, became “OO—Bee!” . . . and then Oobie.

“I couldn’t bring myself to pack the suitcases…”

These suitcases stood in a line against the wall of our temporary apartment in Sacramento during the final weeks before our departure to Japan. My hesitance to pack did not arise from fear of leaving the USA, but from a deeper (and not entirely unfounded) scare that arose near the end of my cancer treatment. (This is the actual suitcase photo from 2017.)

Unexpected advice from Dad

Bonus photo: while sorting and downsizing my possessions in advance of the move to Japan, I came across an old notebook that belonged to my father (who died in 2007). Most of the pages were either blank or contained mundane items like shopping lists or reminders about appointments. About halfway through, I discovered this note–clearly written as a reminder of a different nature. It spoke to me across the years – one last, important piece of advice from the father whose life helped to inspire my mountain quest.

For more photos, notes, and “extras,” please continue to

Chapter 4: You Are Not Prepared.

* This page is part of the photo companion to CLIMB: Leaving Safe & Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan. You can find the story behind these pictures (in hardback and ebook formats, and either in person or online) at your favorite local bookstore or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble (both in the U.S. and internationally).