One day… or Day One

by winteryder


Today was for that moment when the orthopedic surgeon said I’d likely never walk again without a cane. I was flat on my back in a hospital bed at FMH, fractured pelvis, crushed sacroiliac joint, internal bleeding, stomped by a horse. The only question I had was, “Will I still be able to lift weights?”

The doctor laughed. “You’ll never carry a backpack again, squats and deadlifts are out of the question. Your climbing days are over. We can look at installing a morphine pump for pain management, but you’ll be in a wheelchair for at least twelve weeks. You’ve got spinal cord impingement, sciatic nerve damage, your pelvis is fractured like a sheet of plywood and you have a fracture 2mm from your spinal cord. If you take even one fall, you’ll be paralyzed for life.”

That was October 4, 2003. I was 26 years old. I had a two year old toddler, a brand new full time job with the State of Alaska and a 12 credit course load at UAF in the criminal justice program.

Every day since that day, I’ve fought hard for every step. I live with the aftermath of a crushed sacroiliac joint and the sciatic nerve pain that resulted. I’ve learned a couple things, though. Life hurts whether you’re trying or NOT trying, whether you bench yourself and sit on the sidelines of your own existence or whether you push the limits of what is possible with every breath you take.

You get to choose your pain. The pain of not engaging fully in your own life, the pain of apathy, listlessness, purposeful ignorance, self-pity and the destructive, distracting behaviors that result from that are monumental. I know. In December of 1999, I weighed in at 306 pounds because I ate myself into oblivion. At 23 years old, I was ancient. Weighed down by my own misery, I hit the end of my rope. I changed my mind. I shredded 150 pounds off in eight months. I had a brand new baby to raise and I didn’t want her memories of me to be those of a woman who made excuses. I took up powerlifting in those years, because it was a natural fit. I was incredibly strong from carrying so much extra bodyweight.

As I lay there in the hospital on October of 2003, I made a decision. I decided that I would walk again. I would crawl if I had to, but I wasn’t going to live a half-life, reliant on pain meds and drugged into oblivion. With whatever life I had left, I was going to truly live.

When I stood on top of my first mountain, deep in the heart of the Alaska Range, in May of 2009… I cried. I spent two weeks in the range that spring, hauled 100# in a sled and 75# on my back. I dug snow kitchen after snow kitchen as we moved down glacier. I held my climbing partner’s fall when he stepped into a crevasse. We weighed the same: 185 lbs.

Years passed. I climbed mountains. I biked. I hiked. I backpacked. I raced. I lifted heavy, trained hard. I set a goal for myself five years ago: to break every personal record I’d set in my 20’s before that accident.

Today, I deadlifted 300 lbs.  I haven’t pulled that kind of weight since I was 26 years old. I haven’t broken my record yet on that lift, but I will.

Strong is what’s left when you use up all your weak. The choice is yours: is it “one day…” or is TODAY your Day One. You decide.