As we begin the countdown to our fifth European trekking adventure, I felt it was time to share my story of just why I’ve become so obsessed with walking. I feel extremely fortunate to have recognized the proper trail that would lead me through troubled times.
The door opened and he extended his hand, introducing himself. “Hello, I’m Dr. J. I can’t believe you are still walking!”I shook his hand and glanced over at Reg in stunned silence.
As Reg shook the hand of the neurosurgeon who would ultimately save my life, I tried to prepare myself for what was to come. Six months earlier, I had noticed numbness in the ends of two fingers on my left hand, and I soon found myself shuffled between a series of appointments and doctors. Days earlier I’d had an MRI of my cervical spine and had been told it revealed a tumor. I was about to learn just exactly what that meant. I suspected the news would not be good.
It was November of 2011. Reg and I studied my MRI on Dr. J.’s computer while he explained that my tumor, a fairly rare intramedullary ependymoma we would eventually learn, was located within my spinal cord and had grown large enough to begin restricting the flow of spinal fluid. That was causing the numbness and tingling, along with a host of other symptoms that I would eventually piece together.
“You will need surgery, he said. “It is not without risk. We will take every precaution, but there is a chance you will be left quadriplegic. It is also possible that you will not survive the surgery…but if we do nothing, the tumor will kill you.”
Three and a half weeks later, two weeks before Christmas, I was prepped for surgery. There was really no other choice. Ratcheting up my powers of positive thinking, I put my life in Dr. J.’s hands. I did tell him, in all honesty, that if I couldn’t walk out of the hospital, not to bother waking me up. The next thing I remember, I was in a hospital room bed with Reg by my side.
As I slowly became aware of my surroundings, Dr. J. hurried in and began touching my fingers. “Move this one, now this one.” When I wiggled each finger, as ordered, he turned to Reg and announced, “She will be fine.” And off he went.
While the diagnosis was devastating, the recovery was absolutely traumatizing. Surgery had been pretty much a complete success, but I hurt every time I moved. Two days later, I was sent home. I could walk but I couldn’t feel my feet. Sheets and pants felt like sandpaper dragged across my bare legs. My rib cage felt as though it had been wrapped with an elastic band, and both hands were numb and tingling. I felt as though a spike had been pounded down alongside my neck, a neck that sported an angry, red six-inch scar. All part of the recovery process I was told. My nerves had been traumatized and needed time to recover…and so did I!
A year and a half later, in 2013, Reg and I trekked Spain’s Camino de Santiago together. It was a walk of discovery and gratitude for us both. We had our individual reasons for tackling such a challenging feat. For me, walking is something I will never again take for granted. Reg and I have continued to trek the trails of Europe where we find both a sense of adventure and contentment.
While I’m left with a few lingering side effects from the surgery, I’ve learned not to complain. Some (most) days are better than others. When so much could have gone wrong, I will forever be in debt to, and in awe of Dr. J.’s skills. To keep trekking is the best way I know of acknowledging how incredibly thankful I am that he was able to save my life.
We were thrilled when author George Mahood posted an enthusiastic shout-out for Reg’s book – Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows on his Facebook page. You can read George’s kind words by clicking the above link.
George has published a handful of books himself, based on his own entertaining and often outrageous adventures. I hope you’ll check them out. Happy reading!
Last week, Reg and I had the pleasure of speaking with the multi-talented Dan Mullins, writer, singer/songwriter, broadcaster, podcaster and host of his weekly My Camino The Podcast. You’ll find the link at the bottom of this page.
Proving that it really is a small world, Dan interviewed us from his home in Australia (Saturday morning his time) while we kicked back in our living room on a Friday afternoon. An excellent interviewer, Dan led us back in time with thought-provoking questions, about the who, what, when, where and why(s) of our Camino adventure. He also had some kind words to say about Reg’s book, Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows.
Click here to travel to Amazon, where you can buy the ebook or Paperback. Your review, even if it is very brief, will help Reg as a new author trying to stand out among an avalanche of writers on Amazon.
When I took my first steps on the Camino de Santiago, I never could have imagined where the famed pilgrimage would lead me.
When I sat at my MacBook Air a year and a half ago to chronicle my journey in Spain, my words had an unknown destination.
Little did I know that the trek would take me back to my troubled childhood and lead to real dangers on the path, as my wife Sue’s illustrations show, above. Her ink-and-watercolor works grace each chapter.
Less than two weeks after publication of Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows, my first book, readers have kindly shared where my words have taken them.
“Reading this book reinforced my own interest in “minimalism” and renewed my desire for peace in my own life,” one wrote. “As Reg bares his soul, you can’t help but reflect on what is important in life…just read it.”
Another shared his thoughts: “What an adventure! I was traveling every step of the way with you and feeling every bit of it.”
A third reader shared this: “So well described that I feel like I was there and that the connections you made along the way are my friends too.”
My story features humor, tragedy, triumphs, and hardships through a cast of characters that I call my Camino family. I describe real events and how the Camino stripped away the unimportant and exposed the best in life.
Click here to go to Amazon. I would love to hear from you after you read my book and ask that you consider reviewing Camino Sunrise on Amazon.
I am excited to announce that Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows is now available on Amazon.
I hope you will read my book. I have been told that reviews—even brief ones–can place a book on the radar of more potential readers. If you choose the paperback edition, Sue’s illustrations will be in black and white. They are in color on the Kindle app if you have a color device.
If you are inclined to share this note with enough other people, Oprah is ready to add Camino Sunrise to her book club list. I should attach a “Ha!” to that, I suppose.
“Loved this inspiring and bravely honest book by a fellow pilgrim. The story of Reg’s journey inward while walking with his wife, Sue, on the Camino de Santiago, was a joy to read. Highly recommend!” –Judy