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Buddy Check 10: Hiking for Healing

A woman named Dolphin and her group of friends called "The Dolphin Pod," take breast cancer survivors and those currently battling breast cancer on hikes through the Smokies so they can experience the healing of nature and friendship.

A woman named Dolphin Riggs is changing the way women view life after breast cancer.

She encourages survivors and women recovering from treatment to "bridge the gap to their new normal" and surround themselves with nature, love and friendship.

Dolphin started a hiking group called Hiking for Healing to accomplish that goal and to bring women together who can relate to what it's like to go through breast cancer.

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Dolphin is not your typical hike leader-- she is as she puts it, "71 going on 20"-- and that shows in her fun-loving and caring spirit.

She can often be seen splashing in puddles, making a joke, or holding a stick pony she calls her "horsepower for the trail."

Dolphin has always loved being active and being outside.

She works at Little River Trading Company in Maryville, and she says she is so grateful for their encouragement.

She still plays and coaches softball when she can, and she leads all kinds of hikes-- everything from nature trail walks to overnight backpacking trips.

Dolphin has developed a friend group over the years she refers to as her "Dolphin Pod." They are women who love hiking and who have stuck by her through thick and thin, including her own battle with breast cancer.

Dolphin was diagnosed with breast cancer at 70 years old after going in for her yearly mammogram.

The otherwise healthy hiking connoisseur was floored, but not defeated. She knew she couldn't just stop doing what she loved.

She underwent surgery for a double mastectomy and was back on the trail eight days later. She says the day she got back in nature was the best day she had experienced in quite some time.

Dolphin says she couldn't have made it through that tough time in her life without her group of friends.

"It has to do with attitude, it has to do with my support system of what I call the dolphin pod, and my ladies that hike with me all the time that became my family... my pod," Dolphin gushed.

Dolphin knew that if nature and community helped heal her, she needed to share it with others.

"It doesn't matter if it's softball or hiking or beating cancer. You are a winner, and you have to choose to walk that journey step by step," Dolphin urged.

She started hiking for healing, and all sorts of breast cancer survivors and fighters have joined in, but the group says they want more people to join in and hike with the community of women they have built.

Dolphin also says there's no need to worry if you aren't an expert hiker.

"Different groups tend to have part of the group that wants to go a little faster, part of the ones want to stay back, but there are people that will be with you. You are not going to be left behind, you are not going to be left walking alone, it will be a very safe environment for you to let the child that's been hidden within come back out," Dolphin explained.

Dolphin also received a proclamation from the state of Tennessee for her Hiking for Healing group. She said when she received it, she could hardly read it through her tears of joy.

You can find more information and join Hiking for Healing by visiting the group's Facebook Page.

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