Friday, January 7, 2011

January 16, 1995 - January 7, 2010. The battles sucked but I won the war.....

"I was born a stubborn soul.
Ain't afraid of the great unknown,
Nor the windin road thats all uphill.
This is just a stumblin' block;
Intimidating wall of rock.
If you think this broken heart
will break my will....

I'm gonna take that mountain.
Ain't nothing gonna slow me down.
And there ain't no way around it.
Gonna leave it level with the ground.
Ain't just gonna cross it, climb it, fight it... I'm gonna take that mountain!!" Reba

Downhill skiing is one of those things that has been just outside my reach most of my life. I grew up in the perfect place for skiing, neatly tucked in the Catskill Mountains and within driving distance of some of the best skiing on the east coast. Yet my mother felt it was too dangerous for us to try, so every Friday night the cool kids would head off on the ski bus and we never got to go.

Finally when I made it to college I got my chance. I actually learned to ski on a dare (thanks Heather for that btw, did you ever give up the diet coke?). It was amazing and I was hooked from the first time, especially night skiing. It felt like flying to me and it was one of the few times in my life that my mind shut off and everything else melted away. I was truly at peace on the mountain. For the next two winters I was a season pass holder at Greek Peak and most weeks went 5-7 days a week. Right before I got sick I was even offered a position on the ski patrol.

Unfortunately that all came to an abrupt halt when I got sick and eventually lost the feeling in my right side and my ability to walk (due to a botched shunt surgery and subsequent strokes). Until the last year I had really thought that my skiing was behind me and just a great memory, that that piece was gone forever.

When I started at Lifetime a year ago I was asked to identify three major goals for myself, in addition to losing weight. My three goals were 1) to get certified in scuba diving 2) to walk in the 3 day Susan Komen Breast Cancer walk and 3) to get back to skiing. The first two were important to me, but as things I have never done before they weren't big deals. The scuba diving would be the easiest, my fear around it was getting back in the boat but losing weight solved that (although I still haven't done it I know now I could). And the three day I would like to do but it isn't a huge issue for me.

Skiing however was a big deal, and truth a goal I thought was outside of reality to ever happen. Even my first trainer when we talked about it a few months before he left thought it would be years before it happened. He flat out said he didn't think it would be possible this winter.

But slowly over the last few months the drive to do this, and my belief that I could do it began to outweigh my fears of failing. This was something I knew was going to happen this winter. As with so many other things in my life the people around me helped me realize I could do this, and were there to make sure it was done safely and successfully.

Originally my plan had been to tell no one and to go alone, if it was a disaster no one would ever know I tried and I would quietly put it behind me. But Nick (my trainer), rightly so, pointed out all the flaws in that plan, the biggest being my tendency to chicken out on things. And I can tell you today he was 100% right, I would have gotten there, looked at the mountain and left. I never would have left the parking lot!

In finding someone I had a long list of criteria and a short list to choose from. They had to ski, they had to be willing to tell no one we were doing this, they had to be someone I felt safe with and also someone who could be totally self-less, willing to leave 10 minutes after arriving if it wasn't doable and not feel cheated of not getting to ski. The list only had 2 options on it, and I went with the one that made the most sense, Todd. For those of you who don't know Todd, he is the other trainer I had considered during my trainer change and is now my metabolic specialist.

For only having known Todd for about 6 months now he seems to keep ending up at the biggest moments in my life, some of you will recall he was the person standing beside me at the Twins game. Todd in his amazing style IMMEDIATELY said yes when I asked him if he would go with me about a month ago and it just took us til now to find a date that worked. He was the perfect choice and I am so grateful to you Todd for all your help and moral support today. Not to mention a laugh or two (remember...push don't pull!!!! *smile*).

The actual skiing went a MILLION times better than I expected, to the point I am wondering why I waited so many years to try. I had some major challenges with the people mover (how you get up the bunny hill at this ski slope) and with making left turns. But I am shocked, proud and excited to say I didn't fall once actually skiing. I never made it off the bunny slope, but I could care less. I did it!!!! And now I know I can do it. I know that I can start working on getting better and that I don't need to write it off my list as an impossibility now.

The amazing part was the realization standing on the mountain today that I am now completely whole (or better than whole) from where I was the day the surgery happened. I can not think of one thing now I could do then I can't do now. This was the last piece to the puzzle. I am the weight I was before it happened, I am back to wearing heels, I can walk long distances and I can ski. I'm whole again! Now everything from here is just improvement not catch up, and that is a pretty amazing place to be, especially since I vividly remember what it felt like to wake up after the surgery and thinking I would never walk again.

This post wouldn't be complete without three really important thank you's. Every one of these people would be the first to point out I did the work, and I did, but as I have said many times on the blog before, life is a team sport, no accomplishment I have made was done alone, and it is important to me to remember that. All my progress, especially today was because I let others help me (ok in some cases they helped me despite me fighting them on it *grin* I still have a ways to go on that front).

First Todd. Todd you being there today is more than I can ever express my gratitude for. You are so patient, so supportive and so brave. I consider your friendship a great gift and it is not lost on me how I met you and how lucky I am for that.

Next Nick. Nick you too came into my world by force, and as much as I hated the idea, it was the change I needed (and didn't even know it). My strength, both body and mind, has come so far in the last 5 1/2 months. Thank you for pushing me (even when I push back) and for not giving up on me, even when I probably deserve you too. You made me truly believe I could do this and you helped me physically build the tools I needed to do it successfully. You were truly an "upgrade" *smile* and I consider myself very lucky to be working with you.

Finally Dr Deborah Friedman. Debbie, you were there in 1995, you of all people know how bad it was and that I saw EVERY reason at that moment to give up, and I tried. You fought me, you made me keep going, you rescued me when I tried to end trying (literally and figuratively). I look at my life now and all I would have missed since then and I am overcome with emotion thinking about what could have happened. I truly owe you my life Deb, you knew it was worth saving when I didn't. THANK YOU! I am here today because you didn't stop fighting, for me and against me.

As always I also need to say thank you to all my friends and cheerleaders. You guys keep me going when I lose sight of things, but more importantly you are there to celebrate with me on days like today. I love you all.

I hope everyone gets to feel what I feel today at least once. I have the most amazing life and I wouldn't go back and change one bit of it, because knowing how low things can go is what truly allows us to value how good things are now!!!!!


  1. I am so happy and so glad that you have reclaimed this lost part of you! Hey look !!! You're smiling in your pictures :)

  2. KOL HAKAVOD!! You positively ROCK!!! Now perhaps you can convince me to go and try skiing again!!


  3. Bravo! Cross that off your list, and add something else!

  4. First day skiing, and already a ski bum. Who else takes off on a Friday morning to hit the slopes? ;)

    Let me know when you're ready to try diving. I'm always looking for a buddy.


  5. Congrats sis. Jealous that you didn't fall. *smile*. I am proud of you. -Thom

  6. There is nothing like skiing although my son says snowboarding in the way to go. You should never give up on your dreams because eventually even dreams do come true. Way to go!! Yes, I did give up the diet coke. I don't drink that much soda, it's really bad for you.