I began climbing three years ago and immediately became obsessed with it. It’s an awestruck feeling to have adrenaline and a profound sense of peace pulsing through your veins at the same time. From the instant you touch the rock you commit your blood, sweat and sometimes tears to the wall. It was something that always provided me the motivation to go beyond what I thought my body and mind could do.
My world was rocked last January when I was diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma. Between the surgery to remove the cancer and the yearlong treatment, my doctors were adamant that it was in my best interest to move on to a sport other than climbing. Not climbing was not an option for me. Why would it be, it was part of who I was. The commitment and discipline that I inherited from climbing would have to translate now more than ever. There were no ifs. I MUST recover. I HAD to. There was so much more I wanted out of life that I didn’t realize I wanted or needed until I was faced with the possibility of losing it.
There is something to be said for pulling yourself out of a passion, a community, a family for six months to be on the mend. That something is “Oh my god, get me off this couch!” That’s exactly what I did; I got off the couch and began making my way back into the big, wild world of activity. Now, seeing as I was twenty-five pounds less and most of the less was made up of muscle mass I had to start slowly. I was already on the couch for six months; moving quickly and injuring myself would just be…for lack of a better word, idiotic! I started with a bike. You know the old saying, “It’s like riding a bike?” Well…it’s true. After not being on a bike in ten years, not bad, I could do this. So I started with three miles; an exhausting three miles! High fives all around! I was officially off the couch and on my way to saying “Look at me doctors! I’m going to climb and become stronger than I was pre-cancer!”
That’s what I did. I am four months post-treatment and I am climbing close to the level I was before I left. Now, for those of you with injuries don’t take this as get on the rock or your bike or whatever it is you do and push as hard as you can for as long as you can. This took time. Months and months of being frustratingly patient (maybe some tears) in building myself back up. Three miles every few days has now turned into 60 mile rides and small bouldering sessions have turned into planning excursions to climb the Grand Tetons in July. Did I mention that I am now cross-fitting? Something I never thought I could do. It’s an amazing thing to go into something nervous and saying “I can’t do this!” and then walking out of the class saying “Wow, I can’t believe that my body and mind is capable of that!”
I think…that we are all capable of that. We are all capable of saying I don’t want to lose these possibilities in my life or I don’t want to miss this chance to be the best I can be. My advice to you…Get off the couch now! Don’t wait another minute. Plan that trip to climb El Capitan or that trip to Nepal. Go see the world! Go to that cross fit class you never thought you could survive. You may surprise yourself. And remember; always tell your friends and family you love them.