Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reaching a Goal

Hike #20 of the season - Mt. Pilchuk in the WA Cascade Mountains

First 2 photos taken by TSNW hike leader Connie Anderson and photo 3 taken by TSNW hiking friend Lori Mitchell
If you look closely or click on the first photo to enlarge it, you can see Mt. Baker in the background.

After I returned from our vacation and the NIH trip in late August, I reached my hiking goal of the season in early September by hiking up the challenging rocky talus fields of Mt. Pilchuk.

I was incredibly excited as I have never been on this hike and the terrain is not something I could have handled over the last 5 years. It was the most difficult I have managed throughout the season but that made the hike all the more sweeter. As I climbed up the mountain, I began to feel more and more invigorated to acheive this task and reach the top. It felt miraculous and every breath I took was a reminder that I am alive!

You see, hiking for me is a complete physical release, outstacle to overcome, and a game play of the mind. For me, hiking is like playing chess for other people. Especially on a hike like this one where I have to cross countless rock slopes. I have to constantly be thinking of where to safely place my poles and where I should take the next step all while shifting my balance and using my arms to keep me from falling.

I am sure some of the younger crowd or advanced mountaineers have passed me thinking "What is that idiot doing up here? This is way out of her league."

What they don't know is my story, what I have been through, what I have yet to face, and what the hike means to me. On a hike near Mt. Rainier I told my friend Elaine, "No matter how ridiculous I look and how difficult of a time it looks like I am having, it is really nothing compared to facing a brain surgery." I enjoy the challenge and it drives my soul. I feel life when I am in the mountains.

The mental grit and perseverance it takes for me to struggle my way to the mountain top, is the same kind of tough skin and courage that it takes to accept a surgery, know the tough road in store, and to hang in there.

I relate NF2 and my surgery to an elevation hike in the mountains. Some hikes are long. I do not mind. The elevation gain is a joy but can really beat on you depending on how much the gain is and what altitude you start and stop at. What really hammers me is the terrain which involves all my muscles, stamina, and mental focus. The route up is just like the road going through surgery. At times you question yourself but you know if you hang in there you are going to make it. You can envision what it is like at the summit and the reward when you get there. That is recovery. What I finally reached this summer. It was fantastic! It is hard not to want to just stay there and freeze time, just like being at the top of a mountain. However, you know at some time you have to go back down and go over the terrain again. With NF2, you know that one recovery is not the end. You will need to cross the path again for there will be other mountains to climb. I have gone through the ups and downs of radiosurgery and brain surgery. It was a very good summer - one you never want to end. But now it is time to face another mountain in the hope of reaching another summit.

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