Posts Tagged With: Walking as therapy

Why I Trek

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.

You never know who you’ll meet walking along the trail!

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.

And that is why I trek.

Categories: Inspiration, South West Coast Path | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Shall we go for a walk?

Reg and I have asked this question of each other many times since we first met. Over the years we've walked miles and miles together. The arrival of our three boys didn't slow us down. We once bribed them, one chocolate M & M at a time, encouraging their little preschool legs to complete the 3.5-mile loop around the Wawona Meadow in Yosemite. It took us the better part of the day!

One of my favorite things about living in Ashland is being able to head out my front door and set foot in any direction. My walks have taken me uphill and down, through neighborhoods filled with beautiful homes and into downtown where restaurants and boutiques await. The fresh air and local beauty are my therapy.

It took determination to conquer the hills above Ashland, but the views are well worth the challenge.

Walking with my camera in hand made me see and appreciate the little things along the way.


The slow pace of walking allows one to appreciate the the simple things in life; things that might otherwise go unnoticed. And the best part is that it doesn't cost a thing! All you need is a pair of shoes, and you too can discover what treasures are hiding in your neighborhood. It will be fun…I promise!

The Hargadine Cemetery is tucked into the hillside of a residential neighborhood. It is named on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Sometimes there are lessons to learn from my wandering. I stumbled upon the Hargadine Cemetery one day as I was walking around a corner, downhill towards home. It was obviously a fascinating piece of history, so I couldn't resist wandering among the weathered headstones. After a little research I learned that Robert Hargadine was a local merchant and one of three original founders of this community once known as Ashland Mills. Sadly, his one-year-old daughter was the first to be buried on the wooded slope back in 1867.





Categories: Ashland life, Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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