Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Let there be light

Early Monday evening we went for another run. I am thrilled that it is starting to get lighter out. We went to our regular trail out in Carnation that we have not been walking on for the past couple months due to how early it gets dark out. We started our jaunt after 4:30 pm and I still managed to see the trail after 5 pm!

In the spring, summer, and early fall we are on the Snoqualmie Valley trail frequently. However, it is an old railroad grade trail in the rural country side which is not lighted by street lamps. As a result, we eventually had to abandon it as it was getting dark at 4:30 pm. I have a habit of going walking in the evenings which works out really well when it is light out. The light disappeared very quickly while I was in the h0spital and when I came home I was stunned and unready for it to get dark out so soon.

No matter! I found a way to adapt. I started going earlier and then walking in areas and neighborhoods which are lighted or have street lamps.

For the average person this would not be so big a deal. However, for me and many of my NF2 counterparts the approaching darkness is a HUGE obstacle! Commonly and very often these tumors disrupt the vestibular system as the nerve that controls balance extends out from the nerve that controls hearing (8th cranial nerve also known as the acoustic nerve) where the main tumors typically reside. Therefore, we often use our eyes and vision to guide our balance function in something as simple as walking as our natural vestibular (balance) system is not working. So when it gets dark out we may have no sense of balance and stumble around like drunks.

Immediately after coming home from surgery I was not quite ready for low light situations and had to work my way back up again. I had taken my dogs and mother for a walk in one of the neighborhoods near my house. We started the walk as night was falling so I brought my headlamp and hiking poles for stability.

Things went well at the beginning when it was not completely dark out. Soon however it began to rain hard and the way down the hill was dark as the street lamp was not working. The falling drops capturing the light of my head lamp danced all over the place disorienting me. Even though it was a couple blocks, the darkness made it extremely difficult for me to be certain of my footing and I slowly and unsteadily moved one foot in front of the other like a person in physical therapy learning to walk.

Fortunately, I quickly moved past all that and learned how to handle walking down a hill again and adapted to low light situations. I don't believe I have used my hiking poles since that day but I have been regularily walking in the same neighborhood and others going up and down hills.

This holiday season has been particularly pleasant for me as I have found all these neighborhoods decorated with lovely and tasteful christmas light displays. The lights create more illumination to guide my balance. I can begin a walk at dusk and as the sun goes down the show begins. On a cold dreary and often wet NW winter day, it warms the soul to take a stroll among the colors and twinkles.

To all those in the following neighborhoods, I greatly appreciate your spirit and the work you have put into creating a cheerful and inviting atmosphere: Daniel's Ranch, Quail Creek, Issaquah Highlands, Redmond Town Center, and Redmond Ridge.

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