“Be bold, scare yourself, attempt something with no guarantee of success- you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.” –Olive McGloin, first woman to yo-yo the PCT
I was watching a video this morning with this quote and the words really hit home for me today- the 18th anniversary of my accident. In 1997 I was 23 years old and had just started my last semester studying archaeology at the University of Arizona. I walked across the street to get some change for laundry when a girl driving a pickup truck didn’t look where she was turning and hit me in the back. Eyewitnesses said that I flew up four feet in the air before landing on the pavement. I didn’t break any bones, but that accident caused me to develop Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, and my life was changed forever.
I think back to the days when it was hard for me to walk around the block without being in excruciating pain or the months I spent in bed. When I started hiking with my dog Zeus and we’d do the 2-mile Canyon Loop at Catalina State Park I’d pay for it for days with incredible fatigue and stabbing pains. The days when I took pill after pill prescribed by doctors who didn’t know what to do with me and my Fibromyalgia. The flares that would last for months, keeping me wondering if I would ever live a normal life again. Wondering what the future held for me and my broken body.
It’s been almost a decade since I had my last Fibromyalgia flare, but that doesn’t mean that the fear doesn’t still linger in the back of my mind that it will come back. Whenever I have started a big challenge, like my Arizona Trail section-hike or working as a guide on the river in the Grand Canyon, I’ve worried that it will be the thing that ultimately sends me into a flare. Last year’s combination of my Arizona Trail thru-hike and river season was the ultimate test. If you include the planning process, it was nine months of intense stress and physical activity. And though afterwards I was drained, depressed, and tired- which felt a lot like Fibromyalgia- it wasn’t. It was just garden-variety post-hike blues and I got over it.
Through it all, my husband Brian has been there. We met just months after the accident, after the bumps and bruises had healed and before it got really bad. He has been there even when I was absolutely no fun to be around, a depressed, angry, achy lump on the couch. I am lucky to have such a partner.
I don’t talk a lot about that part of my life, mainly because I’m so relieved that I don’t have to feel that way anymore. But every year on the anniversary I can’t help but think about how tough it was to pull through the dark days, when I despaired at what I thought my future would be like. In those days of wondering about whether I was ever going to be able to live without pain and fatigue, I never would have believed it if you told me I was going to hike across Arizona twice. I could barely hike across my own neighborhood! It’s amazing how far I have come and it was worth every bit of the fight to get my health back.
Last weekend, I was with fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors (blog coming soon, I promise!) hiking in Utah. I was so proud to be able to be a part of the community and keep up with such a fit group of folks. Sad, pained, fatigued me from 15 years ago would never have believed it.