After my Intracranial Hypertension (IH) was in remission, and I had the last shunt removed, I found that I was still having headaches. My neurosurgeon, Dr. Boulis, offered a trial of a different medical device: a neuromodulator to help with the headaches.   Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive, but I trusted Dr. B; he was the only neurosurgeon I’ve ever had who asked me what treatment I thought was best.


After what would hopefully be my final brain surgery, my Medtronic neuromodulator was implanted, and my life quality of life improved significantly. One of the many ways my life changed was was that I was able to be active again. I did so with the hopes of becoming a Medtronic Global Hero, which I accomplished. Following the Medtronic Twin Cities in Motion run, I decided to improve my mental health like I had improved my physical health. I opted to hike the PCT.  

To date, I have hiked 406 miles. This is a major accomplishment, considering less than two years ago I suffered from debilitating headaches. The hike offers a fair share of ups and downs, and I love the up days. I am approaching both colder temperatures and higher altitudes. This is a difficult combination for a lot of people, but for me, it is a lesson in perseverance despite hardship. I have a basic knowledge of how my neuromodulator affects my body, but I don’t fully understand why changes in barometric pressure cause me a great deal of pain. I know that with the help of science, I am living a full life, I’m hiking the PCT, but the upcoming portion is one that I’m starting to mentally prepare for…  

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The opening of this post may seem odd, but I’m pretty sure it will become clear if you read it in its entirety.

I’ve had many setbacks throughout my lifetime: depression, obesity, and rare brain disease, to list a few. I am also a childhood survivor of sexual abuse. The impact of abuse is long-lasting. The abuse violated my understanding of and relationship with the world.

In 2008, I attended a survivor of sexual abuse retreat at the Women’s Wilderness Institution in Boulder, Colorado. The Institute provided an ideal environment for women to reconnect with their inherent strengths and sense of well-being. 

I believe that there is healing in nature. Along with six other women, I set off on a primitive camping expedition. Growing up in Florida, soft sand and beaches were my playgrounds. I had no experience camping, and I did not know that rock climbing was even an activity.

Today I came across photos from that trip. I was so cold that I needed two sleeping bags in one photo, and I didn’t drink nearly enough water. As with life, I survived.

Weighing in at 365 pounds, the traditional equipment did not fit me appropriately. The other women assisted me in tying knots to make a safety net of sorts. Wearing a make-shift harness, I scaled my way up the side of the mountain. It took a lot of courage to reach the top, but I fell in love with nature once there and knew I had the strength to do anything.

I finally understood the old Negro spiritual, “Rough Side of the Mountain,” and felt liberated. A year later, I developed the rare brain disease, Pseudotumor Cerebri /Intracranial Hypertension (IH).

My journey has never been easy, but the years following that trip were tough.

 After fifteen surgeries (eight of which were brain surgeries), I am reminded of the first day I fell in love with nature.

I hear a lot of, “I can’t,” “I would but,” “With my condition, it’s not possible, “or “I’m not able” when I talk about my ventures. At first, I tried to be empathic with others’ situations, and then I recall having the physical strength at 365 pounds to lift myself up a mountain.

I remember waking up the morning after one of my brain surgeries eager to go for a run (at the time, I hadn’t run in over 15 years). I am reminded of my childhood and the courage it took to trust others and trust myself.

I am doing what no one has done before, hiking the PCT with a neuromodulator. Now, when I hear a list of excuses, they are just that, excuses. My motto has been “I can, I must, and I will.” If I can, you have no excuse.

 

 

***** Change of perspective:  I better understand the value of lived experiences. We all face challenges and barriers. Because I can, doesn’t mean that if you’re not able to, you’re lesser than… you are YOU. Hike your own hike. (03/17/2018)