Sunday, October 4, 2009

Track, Basketball, Hiking and Multiple Sclerosis - Oh My!

I’ve tried really hard not to live my life based on my MS, but there are times I really doubt myself and fear rules; especially when there is a real potential for me to injure myself. 

However, I must admit that I was most pleased with my ability to deal with it last Tuesday and to trust in the very patient outstretched hand of my husband. I love you Josh!
My husband and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary last Tuesday (September 29th). Josh surprised me by taking me up to Logan, Utah where I lived during my college years while attending Utah State University. We spent our anniversary day hiking in Logan Canyon at the Wind Caves.
I miss high energy, sports and all manner of outdoors activities. There’s a great deal of trepidation that occurs in my heart and mind now, when I think about activities that involve light jogging or running, hiking, etcetera... 

From the Spring of 2007 to the Summer of 2008 I sprained my ankles seven times and fractured my left ankle once, all while experiencing less-effective walking on relatively stable ground.
The recollection of the "Ankle Fiesta of ‘07-’08" is especially humbling and especially difficult because I recall very well being on the basketball team at my high school and even at church with the young women of my area. 

I remember the thrill of running the two hundred yard dash in track events. I vividly recall the dedicated practice when learning how to pass a relay baton, while not breaking speed or dropping the darn thing.
I may not have been the best track athlete (I was really just a filler-body to the filler-bodies in that sport). Probably, the only reason I was picked to play basketball was because I knew how to knock people off their feet with my monster hips. 

I Lettered in basketball, probably only because of my hips and the fact that I had a pretty good three-point arm, but aside from that I have many great memories of torturous practice drills. 

I remember being completely capable of performing on the court, while running, throwing, catching, dribbling and defending. I remember these things and think of them most often when I struggle physically.
So there I was, at the beginning of the trailhead for the Wind Caves, reading the description and feeling angry at the fear I was feeling. I remained silent because I’m tired of hearing my own verbalized worries and complaints, so... I began hiking the 9nine hundred foot ascent, three and six-tenths of a mile roundtrip with a relatively narrow footpath.
I took it one step at a time. There were definite pauses. There was patience and endless encouragement from Josh as we took the mountain at the Diana pace, switchback after switchback, step after step, taking important breaks for the sake of my left leg but we eventually made it to the top. Wahoo!! But making it to the top was only half the battle...
What goes up must come down, and so when the time came, we did. Going down the nine hundred feet was physically easier than going up it for sure; however, going down I now had very tired legs and a barely working left leg. 

I had to work very hard not to go too quickly. I had to watch each step and in some cases hold Josh’s shoulders or hand (as determined by the very narrow path). 

It was during this hike that we determined that I need hiking sticks for balance. But I never fell! My legs sure bounced and jittered, but I never fell.

This may seem small and trivial, but it meant so much to me. I desire to be mobile and active. I want to do these kinds of things more often with Josh, with my children and with friends.
At one point in the hike, I tried to explain to Josh what my legs were really experiencing. And it went like this:
  1. When walking normally, it’s common for my left leg to feel like a weight is pushing against it. As time and exertion continues, there’s a virtual weight that appears behind my knee and prevents the sensation that the knee is actually bending appropriately.
  2. After enough continued exertion, I can no longer feel my left knee (however I do feel pressure of activity).
  3. This activity causes my right leg to attempt to over-compensate. After enough time passes, both legs will begin to jitter and bounce beyond my control, thus causing my balance to be in worsened jeopardy.
  4. Somewhere between effects one and two, my left foot will drag and I have difficulty in the mechanics of taking steps correctly. Then it becomes like trying to walk with flippers on. I know that in general flipper walking is entertaining and great for mocking opportunities, but when your knees are already jittery and unfeeling, it can become quite dangerous and unnerving; especially when walking downhill with big rocks all around and a steep fall to one side.
In this trek, support, belief and determination to succeed became the themes that lingered, resonating in me. I can’t give up and back away from doing the things that make me afraid, because when I do, I will lose more than just opportunity - I will lose me.
Even with modified activities (when or if that time comes) I still must push through and do the things I doubt that my body can do. It is the doubt that keeps success from becoming realized. It is the doubt that must be destroyed.

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