At the end of April I had a horrendous headache and the loss of clear vision. Understandably, this freaked my doctor out and I ended up spending a week in the hospital. I was diagnosed with optic neuritis, the swelling of the optic nerve. It was very treatable with steroids and, in and of itself, not a big deal. I did learn that it is a precursor to multiple sclerosis, a disease I didn’t know much about. My neurologist (yep, now I have a neurologist) told me at different times throughout the six weeks before we left that I have anywhere from a 40-90% chance of developing it. It could be next year, in ten years, or never. I didn’t, and still don’t, know much about the disease. Instead I’m choosing to learn on a need to know basis. Right now I need to know what to be conscious of and changes I can make to my life to possibly prolong or diminish a diagnosis.
The six week before we left were not easy. I hyper analysed every single ache and pain. I learned that I couldn’t handle the unknown well. I was very anxious. I cried nightly. Sobbed actually. I worried, and fixated on all the bad. A week before we left I had my final follow up appointment with my neurologist and he told me I had to live as stress-free as possible, I had to stop worrying, I needed to simply live the best life I could. I laughed at him through my tears. I knew that wouldn’t be possible.
But then we left. Then we hit the road. On a road trip we do every summer, exploring our country’s most beautiful lands. In a way it has become routine. We drive, hike, camp, explore, learn, and grow. But this year was different. Something in me told me I didn’t have a choice but to make the most of it. I made a special point to listen to every bird chirp, each deer stomp, the gentle movements of bear and the speedy ones of lizards. I looked, really looked, at the flowers, the trees, the cactuses, the yuccas. I engaged in conversations. With strangers and with my beloved family. Learning from both of them alike. I watched the history of the southwest. The sometimes painful and sometimes painfully beautiful stories of the people who lived here long before my ancestors. Most importantly, I leaned into myself. I opened my heart, my mind, my body. I have never in my life been happier.
I have a big task in front of me. I need to keep the joy as we move forward through the summer and into the school year. I do think it is possible. The memories this year were too rich to tuck away. I have confidence it will work. This trip was something so special, unlike any of our others.
When all this medical stuff happened, Zak and I sat down and wrote all the goals we have. Some were small and others were large. As we traveled, I realized that if we can keep doing this as long as possible, all our goals will be met. This is how we want to spend our summers, our time off, our funds, our energy. We are just so fortunate that we can.
One final note before I sign off. Zoe and Ellie were usually the youngest ones hiking on our hikes. Turns out that there aren’t all that many 10 and 12 year olds who do what they do. Numerous times throughout our hikes we encountered people who would tell them how lucky they are to have adventurous parents. I chuckle, because it isn’t all that true. Zoe and Ellie are the adventurous ones. They are the ones who push me and keep me going when the hiking is long and hot. They bring the joy to summiting a mountain and exploring a canyon. I am so proud of them. They are stronger and wiser than I will ever be.
And the last (for real this time) note. Thank you. We write this blog so the girls will have something to look back onto. Nearly every night they ask if they can read the blog of previous years. It is fun to know that others are following along. So thank you for spending some of your summer reading about our travels. And thank you for graciously accepting our typos and grammatical errors, as we do almost all the typing on our phones.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir