In 2000 and 2001, doctors from the Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medical Center told me I suffered from permanent nerve damage and would never recover. Their advice to me: Stop pushing yourself and accept that you’ll never live the life you want.
Despite this, a voice buried deeply within me urged me not to give up. Or perhaps it was my own stubbornness. Either way, I refused to let disease rule my future.
About 12 years ago when I was in my 13th year of a chronic illness, I craved to be out in the wilds. To take a short walk and immerse myself in God’s creation. Mired in abject misery, I suffered as every bit of my body throbbed in pain—my atrophied, inflexible muscles; my joints; and even my skin. Still, I needed to get outside.
Ken found a mile-long trail to a lake nestled among the pine, fir and cedar forest of the nearby Lakes Basin. Even though I could barely trudge around the block, I believed I could reach that lake. I had the drive. And the heart. I would prove the doctors wrong. I’d reclaim my life.
We pulled up to the trailhead in Ken’s GMC Sierra that was the color of a lake itself: a deep blue shimmering in the sunlight. I didn’t take a pack. Ken would be my Sherpa and carry what I needed.
Placing one foot in front of the other, I plodded along the path as it zigzagged across the hillside and cut through the tangled Manzanita. I could taste the dirt Ken’s boots kicked up.
“I will make it,” I kept repeating to myself as I slowly progressed up the slope.
Minutes into my excursion, my body gave way to gravity. I stumbled over my feet, my legs weakening almost to the point of collapse. Everything was heavy—elephant heavy.
I couldn’t overcome the distress of my body, so I ceded and slumped onto a granite boulder less than ten minutes after we’d started. I’d lost the battle. Ken had driven me 75 minutes one way and I couldn’t do it. I cradled my pounding head in my hands and sobbed.
Fast forward to this past May. Since it had snowed the weekend before, we searched a topography map for a lower elevation trail where we could hike without mud or ice. That’s when I saw the trail to the lake that I hadn’t completed those many years ago. It was time for me to overcome that earlier defeat.
Even though the trail steepened, my muscles moved freely and I found an easy rhythm trekking up the hill. As I stood at the lake’s edge, I sent love back to the me who’d so bravely attempted to reach it many years ago. Then I thanked myself for never giving up on my dreams. That day, we continued hiking over the summit and onward to another lake, putting in an 8-mile journey.
Please never forget that even in the moonless midnight of your life, you possess an ember of hope. Nurture it. Yes, it’s difficult to focus on that sliver of light when you are plunged into the darkness. But remember: The Most Divine won’t forsake you. You will endure and, one day, you’ll thrive.