I decided to go to Colorado. No itinerary. Just loaded up my car and took off. I met up with some friends while I was there. After spending a day in Alamosa, I drove up to Aurora, CO to meet one of my CDH1 sisters – Amy Albers. I met Amy on the internet and was blown away about how much we have in common. Ironically, there is less than a month difference in our ages. She was diagnosed with breast cancer the same time I was. Like me, she discovered she had the gene mutation that put her at high risk for stomach cancer and she opted to have a total gastrectomy which was done only 2 days after mine. Amy really inspires me. She’s been through a lot more than I have. She’s endured weeks of chemo and radiation, yet she’s risen through all of it . She is taking in more than 1500-2000 calories a day and does cross fit three times a week. HOW does she do it? I had to meet her in person and find out. We decided to meet for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. As I walked out onto the patio – there she was. Short sandy hair and a huge smile across her face. She talked me into eating some french fries….. and now I think we’re bonded for life.
After lunch, we went shopping at the health food store where I purchased some iron and calcium supplements and then we went to her Cross Fit studio where I purchased some protein powder called Progenex and a mixer cup. Since I like coffee, I chose the loco mocha flavor. Now – I have a plan to help boost my energy level.
In just the few hours I was with Amy, we shared a few laughs and even tears. I look forward to the new adventures shared with my new friend…
Climbing Mt. Beirstadt
After a several days of wandering around Colorado, I finally met up with my friend and climbing partner, Gayla. We planned to enjoy a few days hiking together before she joined some other friends for a backpacking trip. We met up in Idaho Springs and drove up to Guanella Pass and pitched our tents.
I shared with Gayla how much I wanted to climb a mountain while I was out. We both knew this would be a huge challenge for me, since I haven’t exercised in months and get tired easily, and occasionally get waves of nausea after I eat. Being the friend she is, she agreed. We decided on Mt. Beirstadt – it’s an easy 14er (practically just a walk up).
The plan was to get up at midnight, eat breakfast, and drive to the trailhead. We would walk with our headlamps, walk slow, and take frequent breaks. After I got it in my head that it was possible, I got really excited. So excited in fact, that I got little sleep the two nights before our big day.
As planned, we woke up at mid-night on June 22. Gayla made coffee and I mixed my coffee flavored protein powder. I drank it slowly and finished it as we were driving. I think we started on the trail close to 1:00 a.m. I set the pace. I remember losing the trail briefly and was caught off guard when having to make a water crossing. The icy water numbed our toes. As I was drying my feet and putting my boots back on, I thought it might be a good idea to take a few bites of a protein bar.
The night was spectacular. The stars were bright and we could see the silhouette of the mountains around us. We walked slowly, slowly…. catching a glimpse of shooting stars.
As the night grew on, I felt pretty good as far as energy. However, my abdomen started cramping. I’m still not sure if it was from the few tiny bites of the protein bar or from the shake. I kept hoping it would get better….tried not to complain too much, and walk on. After several hours, I was worse and I was feeling discouraged to the point I had to stop for a break. The sun was beginning to rise over the mountains and Gayla got out her phone to snap some pictures.
I was beginning to believe I was too sleep deprived, too dehydrated, and calorie deficient to make it. Besides, I had a long way to go back down and it didn’t look like I was going to feel better anytime soon. The wind was very cold and my chest was surprisingly sore from the pull of my pack. Self doubt had sneaked into my mind and I began sobbing. I think all the emotions I had kept harnessed came trickling out at that moment. Gayla took out the emergency blanket, wrapped it around me and explained that I probably just needed a minute to get my head on straight. She believed in me. We probably had another 1,000 feet of elevation gain left. After a few minutes, we took off again. Another break before the summit, then the final push to the top.
I was so overwhelmed with emotion, that I fell to my knees when I reached the summit. There was a young guy already up there ( I think his name was Branden). He probably wondered what was wrong with me, but I didn’t care. I had made it to the top of a mountain only 2 1/2 months after a major surgery. This was huge in my mind because if I could achieve this so early on, what could I do in a year from now….or two years from now?
I just want to say, I don’t know where I’d be without the love and support of family and friends. I have had people that I don’t even know praying for me and I believe it’s why I’d doing as well as I am.
I have met some wonderful people along the way that have been incredibly supportive. I call them my CDH1 brothers and sisters. Thank you, Karen Schreiber, Susanna Lindfors, Dan and Anne Crawford, Cecilia Carr, Nicole McDonald, Jessica Sasser, Charlette Graham, and Amy Albers and many others. These people have given their time in emails, texts, phone calls, face time….. just a wonderful network of people I’m so thankful for. I hope I can return all the love and kindness that has been given to me…
A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated with some friends of mine here in Missouri. Here’s some pictures from that special evening….
Make new friends. But keep the old. One is Silver. And the other Gold.