Sunday, January 17, 2016

“You Are Considered High Risk”

This is what the nurse practitioner (NP) said to me Friday 1/15 as I sat in the sterile doctor’s office room 30 days to the day of departure. This was based on my medical history, and the fact that I will be above 3,000 meters for more than three days, I have experienced symptoms before while living in Peru in 2006, and I am going from sea level and traveling to a high altitude. My NP looked me clearly in the face and said “we are going to figure this out, the cocktail of drugs I am going to prescribe you. I need to make sure they don’t interact with each other and then with your blood.” I have had issues with my blood for a long time and it affects what kinds of meds I can take. I also am prone to anemia. The next thing the NP said was, “What a year your body is going to have!” My NP had never had a patient doing anything like what I am going to do, so she asked me to be patient as this is a learning curve for her.

Here is our route description:

“You look in good shape and your vitals are excellent, I mean aside from your 99.9 temperature. I recommend listening to your body, not carrying too much to help with your back issues, drinking a lot of fluids and have fun.” My NP recommended I take a malaria and altitude prophylaxis due to my high-risk nature. I am only going to be at sea-level for 3 days but we can’t take a risk she says.  After 40 minutes waiting while the NP cross checked the database the I asked, sniffling of course, if I was ok to train today. My NP said, “all your symptoms are above the neck, but I wouldn’t go overboard, you have a mountain to climb. Good Luck and come see us after if you need to.”

Prescriptions:
Ciprofloxacin
For travelers diarrhea (if needed)
Mefloquine
For Malaria. Weekly: take a week prior to departure, weekly while on trip, and four weeks after return.
Dexamethasone
Take 1 pill every 12 hours beginning day of ascent, discontinue on descent.

That said I took my three prescriptions, my Kleenex, and was sent on my way. I trained with a runny nose and all. This head cold has wreaked havoc on my immune system and I can’t even remember when I was last sick. It’s now Sunday and I am still sick. I have trained this morning, albeit lightly, as I promised my husband. I am doing my mountain affirmations and doing gear check number 2. I have shopped around for the best prices for my prescriptions, and I am rereading Wild (via audiobook this time) and knocking off the endless chores from my to do list. I am still feeling fear of this damn mountain. A quote from early in Wild by Cheryl Strayed resonates with me.

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to
a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself
a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong.
I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

I have to do this. I cannot allow my fear to dictate my story. I have been told ‘no’ so many times in my life. Honestly, I listened to those ‘no’s’ many times, believing I wasn’t good enough for whatever reason. Ignoring the strength I have inside and the relentless and stubborn will that I exude. And this time my stubbornness has gotten the best of me, 'high-risk' and all. Cheers to pill popping!

-a-

Monday, December 21, 2015

Back To The Beginning

Here I am, less than 10 days from my thirtieth birthday. I am happy to say I am at the acceptance stage within the stages of grief and I have come to terms with this birthday. It isn’t even the birthday that I had the issue with. It was and is the fact that I had a vision of where I would be when I turned three decades old and I haven’t made it to that vision, and if anything, I have veered off the path. This was my first mistake, having expectations, because life is full of curve balls, some good and some bad. Try as I might I couldn't stop myself from making that error.  In the words of Kendrick Lamar, “Alls my life I has to fight, Alls my life I has, Hard times like.”

People kept telling me to get over it and stop dramatizing this but I take offense to that because it makes me feel as though my emotions and my own personal journey is not validated. Everyone's life is different with its own ups and downs and in betweens. Try not to be judgmental when someone shares what they are going through. 

I wanted to look super fabulous to ring in this birthday but external stressors (related to my expectations) have reeked havoc on my face in the form of severe breakouts. I am not as in shape as I need to be for the Kilimanjaro hike and just not into the holiday season this year. I am taking a break from training until Jan. 2016. All of which is perfectly okay. I love how rounded I am now in my chest and thighs and I even love everyone of my new acne scars on my face. This body, though fifteen pounds heavier, is solidly strong.

So the last day of training for two weeks also includes volunteering. My one goal is to make sure my holiday time is quality time with loved ones, as the hustle bustle of life often makes time together feel fleeting.  I am where I am and this is perfectly okay. What you see is what you get. That doesn't mean that I want to run in the streets and scream, “I’m 30!” or “Let’s Party.” Instead I am working on my resolutions: Be mindful and stop worrying about how my student debt is ruining my financial life.

I am loving myself, nearly thirty, flaws and all. And to putting my big girl panties on, standing tall with my shoulders back looking life straight in the eye. 

-a-

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Dark Chocolate Pudding Cake Kind of Evening

A milestone happened this week. My partner and I celebrated our first year of marriage. It took me a while to get over the shock of how fast this date came and subsequently passed. The actual date was nice. My husband and I went for dinner. After an 8.5 hour work day, our lovely dinner at 500 feet was like stopping time. I was appreciative to look into the eyes of the person I deeply love and just recall how far we have come as a couple.


My partner reminisced our first outing, when we took the train to Wellesley college for a lecture. He laughed remembering how odd he thought it was that I wore my backpack in front. Not being a city person and having traveled and lived abroad extensively, this was a security measure in my mind but I laughed remembering it. What I also recall is that my partner was so confident, how he walked and carried himself and how the butterflies in my stomach didn't go away especially listening at how he spoke of his love for his family and experiences in Africa. We went for a hot drink, always welcome on a cold fall day. I had tea and I remember him asking me if I drank tea regularly. I answered no and that it was late and I wanted to make sure I could sleep later. Sleep is crucial for a graduate student, something I would learn very quickly. I will never forget his response. I also recall saying that I preferred coffee as my primary hot beverage. I will never forget what my soon to be partner and later husband said. “Good, because if you didn't like coffee I wouldn't be able to date you.” A deep belly laugh escaped me, and I immediately felt at ease. The rest is how we say, well history.
As our dinner ended, we made some wishes for our second year of marriage. My wish is that I work on being patient and having a more positive future outlook. My partner quickly said, “I wish that you make it to and from Kilimanjaro safely and…” I won’t include the rest of what he said until next year :) We had dessert, something we rarely partake in these days and I forgot all about training.


The next two days I didn’t train for Kilimanjaro. Lately, given the physical  issues I have been having, I have stopped using weights as I train, which helped significantly ease my pains. However, this means I am not getting the most of my training. I am willing to give that up for now. I only need to be strong enough to get up and down that mountain and my heart is very fit at this point. Eat on my friends, eat on. You only get a good dessert every once in awhile.
-a-

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Siezing A Sunday Opportunity

It's Sunday, and I have been in pain most of the weekend. Herniated disc spasms and pain, sciatica, toothache, insomnia, and fatigue. A thirty-year-old body is not as quick to rebound as a twenty-year-old one. Somehow I mustered the strength to keep to my training schedule. I ran 2.3 miles on incline and completed 2 miles on StairMaster Elliptical at 17 incline and resistance.  Doing exercises on an incline slows me down. Let's face it, with a body built like mine, with all it's injuries, I am much slower than a decade ago, when I had some excellent cross country races and played walk-on defense for Castleton University's women's lacrosse team. My husband had to helplessly watch a back spasm that happened on Friday night while I was on the couch. It left me with my back 'locking up' and in tears. He helped me stand an forced me to relax. Truth is, I am super terca, or stubborn, a trait my husband and I both share (love you!).
A sweaty hot mess
While I know that I need to take care of myself, and trust me the last 6 months I have been, I can't afford to not train (literally). Every opportunity to do high altitude training has to be seized. I don't want to fail the suggested medical check to go up the mountain (each climber should have a resting heart beat of under 100 beat per minute), and I don't want to be carried back down. Plus who really wants to use their medical excavation insurance? This climb is no joke, and it is not encouraged to "forge on" as poor altitude acclimatization can result in death. All the high end gear in the world won't save someone from succumbing to the mountain.

My two biggest concerns, lack of training and acclimatization. Every year over 1,000 people are evacuated from Kilimanjaro. Click the link to learn more about the perils. For today, I will relish the fact that my resting heart rate is 72 and I did my workout with 0 mgs of ibuprofen in my system. 
-a-

Monday, November 2, 2015

Looking Back Towards Ahead

I just relished a Halloween movie date with my life partner and husband. Thing is we just saw Everest, based on the true story of the 1996 disaster. The film referenced Japanese climber, Yasuko Namba, second Japanese woman to complete all the seven summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. I just realized that
Kilimanjaro is one of these summits. Holy s^%$! I am going to climb one of these! After the film, in which Namba perishes on descent, I decided to have a glass of wine and reflect. Namba was not a mountaineer, in fact, she was a Fedex employee. In her spare time she climbed. She fought till the very end. I wonder what her inspiration was to climb. Was it the accomplishment, the feat of it? The pain and struggle on the body and mind? Whatever her reasons, now I am taking a look back at my 29 years and 10 months.


In this time, I am proud to say that I have moved a lot, studied, traveled, worked, loved, cried and laughed. Just in my last passport, it has an extension filled with student, tourist, and work visas. Nine (9) countries in 10 years, not including Morocco (different passport). Now starting a brand new one.


Eighteen years of my life have been dedicated to education, with two bachelor's degrees, a master’s degree, and a crap ton of debt in my name. I’ve read many good books. Two years spent in the Peace Corps living and learning in rural Morocco. I am proud to say my body is in okay shape, after the many miles I have run to maintain physical and mental health. I am a marathoner. I have been poor, and while I am not rich by American standards, my needs and some wants are met. I have hiked the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu. I have watched the stars in a Masai village in Kenya with my best friend. I have some pretty amazing friends. I fell in love and married, when I didn’t think that was in the cards. I have lived and worked in East Africa. I’ve been on a cross-country trip. I can drive in a snowstorm. I have lost all of my grandparents, and many more people close to my heart, sadly a few living. So many people have inspired, housed and fed me.    

In looking back I realize that the accomplishments are not as important as the process that achieving them was. I have been through so much; the good, bad and the ugly. You know what, I have no regrets, and while I have no idea what lies ahead, love will be there. I will have to continue to fight through the hardships that life throws my way. Character-building as my late grandmother used to say. I am feeling scared of Kilimanjaro today. This 19,341 foot mountain intimidates me, and I am crazy for doing this. I truly am.  For some reason my fear isn’t stopping me. Difficult paths ahead aren’t stopping me. Of all my accomplishments and failures, this is what I am most proud of, my fight.
-a-

Monday, October 12, 2015

These Boots Were Made for Walkin’

Nothing has really changed since last post. I am still on the fence about turning the big 3-0! I am not a huge watcher of The Real, mostly because I do not have TV, but this clip has me thinking about the subject of what happens when you actually turn 30. Start at 3:41.


Are the 20s just a chaotic mess? Will I just have this magical moment of zen and care less about others opinions? I am not sure but this clip keeps going in my head. More on this as we move along in the next 5 months.


I am now freaking out about my physical ability to actually climb this mountain. I have been doing altitude acclimatization workouts, which basically consist of using weights during long cardio sessions to simulate being out of breath. Poor woman’s version of this type of training. How can I guarantee that this soon to be 30-year-old’s body won’t crap out on me? After traveling all that way, and all those savings that could have gone to our ‘family’ fund. I realized that I needed good footwear and fast. I will be doing the Machame Route (more on this in a later post) which is 7 days and over 30 miles of hiking. 
My last pair of hiking boots I bought with a student discount at EMS [Eastern Mountain Sports](east coast version of REI- Recreational Equipment Inc.) prior to Peace Corps, which I am sad to say was over 5 years ago. Where has time gone?


The above map terrorizes me, and my feet too. Where to get good quality low cost high top hiking boots one may ask? Husband to the rescue. I am not the type of consumer who would be willing to do one of those Black Friday stunts and sleep outside but the REI seasonal garage sale was sure to please, according to my partner. This sale offers returned REI purchased gear at extreme rate reductions for whatever reason, from fit to poor ventilation. You get the idea.


We didn't sleep overnight but arrived by 6:20am on a Saturday morning and wow we were 5th in line, a line that wrapped around the entire store as the morning progressed. The doors opened and I felt stampeded. What an awful feeling to have people pushing and grabbing for stuff. The only way I could rationalize this experience was that maybe others were doing something major like me and needed gear, or just wanted extreme discounts. Either way it still felt weird. I went straight for the hiking boots and thought I found a good size 8 pushing my way through the crowd, a half size bigger than my normal size, but they didn't fit well. I grabbed these as a back up. Retail value: $200. Tag value: $95. The tag said worn once but the fit was too snug. With my thick hiking socks on these babies fit like a dream. Check off the list! We managed to get some other needed items- cheap hiking clothes. At checkout we were both surprised to find all hiking books were actually $49. Score! 
If the shoes can make it, then I must be able to right?

-a-

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Trekking Through Life

Everyone experiences angst in life at one point or the other. I am no different, no matter how ‘strong’ I am perceived to be. My 30th birthday is fast approaching and I am going through the seven stages of grief, sometimes all at once. My first thought about my upcoming birthday was, “Am I really 30?” This captures disbelief and denial. Then I move to rationalization, “Well, I’m 30 now so I can skip that workout today, my rest is more important.” The anger and depression surfaces sporadically these days taking me by surprise as I am usually on top of life. Sometimes I tell myself, “You’re 30 and you haven’t accomplished all you have wanted to do or become who you have wanted to become, you really suck at life.” While this is clearly not true, turning a birthday with a 0 at the end has a way of making you feel insignificant while taking stock of life. Society and culture is very hard on human beings.

Life in America often feels like a Facebook timeline and if you are not where the majority are at the moment, then you are the outlier, which I have been most of my life. When I look back ten years, ‘when I was an undergrad’, I truly don’t think I  thought at the time that I would be where I am at currently. After all, who does possess the gift of foresight? Truth is, I have accomplished more than I ever thought possible in my 30 years, especially given some difficult circumstances. These accomplishments never seem to diminish my need to experience or accomplish more. Perhaps this is my naivety at life or youthful exuberance attempting to sow its oats. Why am I always hungry for more? Why does life have those moments when you question everything? In my early to mid 20’s it was one phase after the next and my doey eyed self innocently ooed and awed at the experiences of life. It was way beyond my imagination and I miss that feeling. Now all I feel is too cautious and wise and smothered in adult decision fatigue.

What does one do when starving for inspiration in this life? Run a marathon? Been there, done that. Well, this gal and her best friend of 10 years have thought of something outlandish to do to ‘ring in our thirties.’ We probably shouldn’t do this either. I’m likely not healthy enough to do it. Ok, for now I am going to start checking that at the door. So yeah, we are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 2016. We said we would do this for a long time now and we finally just dedicated ourselves to it. No this is not a Cheryl Strayed or Eat, Pray, Love moment. Leave that stuff for the movies, plus let's be real, only one of these was a good book.  


This is just the beginning, and we have six months to go. So why do this if all I am seeking is inspiration? Because sometimes in life you just have to do things for yourself and your friendships. You have to dig deep and find out what you’re made of, be brave enough to start something, and tough enough to finish it. Also, for bragging rights and to fulfill that need to experience and accomplish. And who knows, maybe this is just what I need to get back on the inspiration track.
So here we go. And first things first. I need hiking boots. More on that later. I must finish this.
-a-