|A few days after my surgery. You can see my wheelchair in the background;
I’m so glad to be rid of those space boots. Recovering from the surgery
in the end was the easiest part of the entire experience
Yesterday I finished my final exams here in Spain and now I can look forward to two months of traveling and, above all, climbing. It’s hard to believe that almost a year ago I woke up with excruciating foot pain after what had already been the most challenging six months of my life. I took the quarter off and lived from doctor’s visit to doctor’s visit unable to run, drive, walk my dog, climb or even run basic errands. The pain consumed me and I fell into a depression and became a shell of my former self. I lived from diagnosis to diagnosis, hearing words that terrified me, words like “neuropathy” , “Lupus” and “permanent nerve damage”; words and vague statements that threatened to change my way of life forever. Four months passed without an answer or relief and I was beginning to doubt that I would be well enough to leave the country in January or even to live a normal life at home. Then, in the middle of November, after countless doctor’s visits and tests, I was finally diagnosed with compartment syndrome, a rare ailment that only requires minimal surgery to cure.
On November 16 I went into surgery literally two hours after going to the Spanish consulate in San Francisco to apply for a visa for the third time. The employee who files the paperwork remembered me because I had already been there twice within a year and a half. For two weeks I recovered in a wheelchair and for another two in medical boots. After a month I was able to walk again normally, however my doctor said it would take about 3 months before I started to notice any drastic improvement. Thus, I faced around two months of studying abroad where I still had to endure a similar pain but in addition where I would still not be convinced about whether the surgery hadworked. I remember very distinctly the pain I felt on the bottom of my feet when I walked through the tiled floor at SFO on my way to Barcelona. I didn’t think I was ready but I forced myself to swallow the pain and keep on walking. My feet steadily improved but I was not completely pain-free until March. In other words, I was not completely convinced I was cured until the middle of my study abroad program.
I wanted to quit so many times. I wanted to quit after calling the UCEAP office and asking to postpone my trip a second time. I wanted to quit in the beginning of November, when I was sure I would never be diagnosed or cured. In the airport I wanted to turn around and go back to my parents, unsure if I was strong enough to handle everything I was taking on, unsure if I was strong enough to be able to silence the pain and keep going. The task was enormous-ignore the looming threat that I was not cured,that I would have to regress back into a life that did not fulfill me, while being emotionally and mentally challenged as I tried to start a new life abroad. Despite all of this, I never, ever stopped trying. Something told me that the experience would be worth all of the hassle, pain and stress-and itwas. Now I have no pain and can say with certainty that I am cured. Studying abroad has been my therapy; meeting new people and exploring new places helped me forget about the pain and the struggles. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.
People here tend to tell me that I’m moving too fast, that I should take a weekend off to just relax and do nothing. That I am too obsessed with climbing, that I should do something besides the thing I love the most. I have a hard time trying to explain why I never stop, why I choose to wake up early to go to the crag or go on a hike instead of doing other things, but I hope this note helps somewhat. After this experience I cannot accept giving anything less than my entire self, giving less than all of my energy to living my life in the way that I want to live it, even if I’m not exactly sure what that is just yet.
I’m not one for cheesy and inspirational messages and there are plenty of people who have gone through much worse than I have but I have to say this: life can change in an instant, for better or for worse. Enjoy what you have but always fight to improve your life. Above all, live in the moment and do what you love. APROVECHAR.
Thanks to EAP for letting me postpone and change my plans three times. Thanks to everyone that I met along the way and to everyone back home that supported me, even if I isolated myself and barely talked to anyone. A special thank you to Gemma de Blas, Benjamin Liu , Axel Forreiter Gutiérrez and Mar Puchau- muchas gracias por todo. Most of all, thanks to my surgeon, Dr. Amol Saxena, for getting rid of that nasty dead muscle in my foot- it is much appreciated.
Don’t worry, more emotionless posts about what I’ve been climbing lately coming soon, especially with some of the sweet trips I have planned! Though sometimes it’s good to reflect and appreciate the things you have and the experiences that have made you a stronger, better person.