The interesting and often challenging thing about being part of a family is that you not only get to go on your own adventures and do your own thing, but that your family also takes you on all sorts of journeys to places you would never, ever consider going. As a result, you find yourself stretched, pulled and even contorted in all sorts of directions you never thought possible and if you don’t snap somewhere along the way, you actually stretch and grow so far beyond your perceived limitations and you emerge your own personal super hero. I understand that you might not have seen my lasoo, but I am Wonder Woman by the way!
Quite often, I at least, find myself thrown in the deep end, way out of my depth on these adventures. Thrashing my arms around in the swirling vortex, I feel myself about to go under and yet I somehow find my strength and go on to exceed even my wildest expectations. Amazingly, the frightened little mouse emerges from her ordeal a lion, even if my roar is still a little soft.
Given my struggles with my autoimmune disease which attacks my muscles and lungs, these challenges can be terrifying and intense. However, my fear is counterbalanced by my intense desire to be an active part of our family and be able to do things with them. Sometimes, these challenges involve relatively simple things like taking the dog for a walk, walking to the shops or being able to go the park after the school. However, every now and then some big challenges come along and it doesn’t get bigger or more terrifying for me than our annual ski holiday.
The rest of the family are mad skiers who have been checking the snow reports for a few months now and started crossing down the days to our next ski trip as soon as they exited the slopes last year as green oases were opening up and the alpine streams were flowing fast.
I, on the other hand, prefer traveling up and down Perisher’s Front Valley on the chairlift, stopping off at mid-station for a decadent Toblerone Hot Chocolate served with a marshmallow snowman on a swizzle stick and walking through the snow taking photos. However, there was also something about the allure of skiing which sort of drew me in…no doubt, seeing how it made the rest of the family glow!
Two years ago, we took the kids skiing for the first time. They, and of course, my husband had a mad time and came home totally ski obsessed. I didn’t go skiing that time thinking that it wouldn’t be possible. This idea was challenged when we met the para-olympic ski team training down there and they put me onto the Disable Winter Sports’ Association. I don’t use a wheelchair and so there are some things they can do that I can’t. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it down the hill in a sit chair and didn’t think I’d ever be able to pull off conventional skiing until I met my instructor. Yet, this meeting provided the initial spark.
This spark grew into something of a determined flame.
A dream was born.
I was going to turn my mountain around. Instead of climbing up the mountain like so many garden-variety adventures, I was going to do my own thing and ski down the mountain instead. I was initially going to do it as a fundraiser but in the end decided that it was too much to organise and that I was better off just making sure I reached the bottom on the mountain. You could just imagine organising some kind of huge event and then being too scared to go down and instead of being the all-conquering hero, being rescued rather red-faced by ski patrol in the ski-do.
Anyway, you’ll read in a previous post that I actually made it down to the bottom of the mountain. Of course, I didn’t feel like the conquering hero at the time. I was too busy shaking in my boots and relieved it was all over. Yet, I’d done it. I had conquered the mountain!!
However, instead of this achievement being the finale for what had been an amazing year of personal achievements, it actually signalled the beginning of a serious fight to save my life. While down at Perisher, I developed the beginnings of the chest infection which developed into pneumonia and this pneumonia became seriously life-threatening. My lungs were almost cactus according to my specialist. The pneumonia meant new CT scans of my lungs and these showed that the scaring or fibrosis associated with my auto-immune disease had progressed and was now “established” not “mild”. This development resulted in some very serious medical appointments but then I was offered chemo which, at the time, felt like a life raft to a drowning soul. The chemo worked but it has been a long road and I’m not back yet. Lungs have improved from 43% (the worst was unrecorded) to 60% and my lung specialist was “impressed”. I don’t think he’d expected that. My muscle strength is also pretty good. Most of the problems I had relating to my auto-immune disease have improved significantly but ironically I’ve been battling “chemo brain” and have dreadful troubles with my memory and any sense of time. Multitasking of any sort is impossible. I am dependent on lists, alarms and the occasional cattle prod from Geoff, the kids or the pile of school notes.
After going through all of that and I must admit that I somehow successfully managed to squeeze my violin exam and Christmas in between it all, I am rather apprehensive about returning to the snow this year. I remember all those awful out of control feelings as my skis took off seemingly well ahead of my body and the absolute nail-biting horror of looking out from the top of the mountain and seeing the village way, way down below. I felt like I was perched on the very edge of the world about to fall off. Do I really need to go through that level of fear all over again? Isn’t doing it once and knocking it off my non-existent bucket list, enough?!!
Of course, I have replayed that horror over and over and over again as I prepare for my return to the mountain. As much as I feel like letting that fear engulf me and running as far away from the mountain as my ski boots can carry me, I’m also determined to show that mountain that I mean business. That it’s not going to get me again. I can beat the mountain and I can also take out the muscle disease, the dreaded lung disease and I am going to be so much more than a survivor. I am going to be an almighty conqueror. I’ll put in a little prayer request at this point because I need to acknowledge the one who is the wind beneath my wings. I know prayer has helped to get me where I am and I’ll certainly need it as I conquer the mountain again!
So I ask you to think of me as I keep walking the dog to get myself fit for this latest challenge on my journey. I have already taken so much more than the first step. I have conquered the mountain before and now all I need to do is go back. That is what it means to be brave!
I can do it!
I can do it!
I can do it!
Wish me luck!
PS: To all my overseas blogging mates who have real mountains to climb, you might find my angst about skiing down what could be seen as a “hill” a little petty but where I live, it is flat so even a little knoll seems significant. We can’t all have Everest in our own backyards (although I must admit, I’m sure Everest lives inside my head and challenges me each and every day as I stagger out of bed!)
PPS. I should point out that while I am more afraid of tackling the mountain this time because I have been down there before, at the same time, I have been able to reassure myself that I am in pretty good physical shape and I can also reassure myself that because I’ve done it before, I can do it again. I will also have my instructor to help me. It’s great to know that we don’t have to conquer our mountains alone.
I am also looking forward to skiing more with Geoff and the kids hopefully beyond the learner’s magic carpet this year.
Gee…now I really am starting to sound like Wonder Woman and I might even confuse myself.