posted by ARR
posted by ARR
Hello friends! I hope this greeting finds you all happy and healthy and enjoying this holiday season with loved ones. It’s been quiet here on apAdventures this later half of the year for valid reason. The unspoken rule on our little blog here has been to only share the good news and not the bad. I’ve never been a fan of ranting about negative happenings. But I have to admit, this year was rather crappy for us (me, specifically)! And I know some of you would appreciate an update. So here goes…
2017 started out in typical apAdventures fashion, with Paul and I being in great climbing shape and with trips scheduled to Hueco Tanks in Texas. We had spent the later half of 2016 incorporating kettlebells and power lifting into our strength training regime and felt stronger than ever. Not a week into the new year though did I make a trip to the doctor’s office to discuss this mysterious bump inside my belly button and our plans went south. Turns out I had developed an umbilical hernia 5 years prior when I was pregnant with Ivan. The surgery to fix it was very minimal, however I was forced to refrain from lifting anything heavier than 20 pounds for 6 weeks. Not exactly what a rock climber with a newfound love of lifting heavy things wants to hear. Needless to say, we spent the majority of the winter at home instead of being outside climbing. Booo! On a positive note though, being at home meant time to devote to home improvements (a constant item that gets pushed to the back burner for those obsessed with climbing rocks all the time). In my laid-up state I designed a rainwater harvesting system for our home. We got a 1000 gallon tank installed to catch the guest house roof water to irrigate a future citrus tree. Next year we plan to add a 2000 gallon tank for the main house to irrigate the garden. We also did some long overdue maintenance work on our home such as stucco patching and a complete paint job. Being responsible homeowners has some level of satisfaction, I must admit. But it pales in comparison to climbing good rocks! haha.
Next came spring and my return to fitness. Our dear friends Brian and Jen and their two boys from Pittsburgh drove to Hueco in March and we met them there. It was a bittersweet adventure. I was just barely climbing again, Jen was nursing an injured shoulder, and above all this would be their last trip to Hueco in the winter for quite some time, as their oldest son was transitioning from home-school to high school. Nonetheless, peeps still sent rad boulders and we had a stellar time.
After that was spring break in Yosemite (we’re really becoming fond of those granite boulders!) Paul ticked off more classics and even the kids did plenty of their fair share climbing. My focus though was not on climbing at that time. Late in 2016 I had committed to become kettlebell instructor certified, since a cert was happening in Tucson, at the gym Paul and I had been weight training at, with our trainer. It was too good an offer to pass up and so I didn’t. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with both training and sharing training beta with others. And so, at the time of our spring break Yosemite trip I was heavily committed to quickly getting strong enough to pass the certification, having just been robbed of my winter fitness do to the hernia surgery.
Ivan turned FIVE at the end of April. The certification came in May and I passed. Silas finished off school in the first grade (and was again saddened and confused by the fact that school does not run year-around, ha!) We let our spring garden wither with the increasing heat of summer and hit the pool. Ivan learned to swim officially and confidently without me needing to hover…even underwater. And we frequented the Priest Draw boulders of Flagstaff, Arizona ALOT. Paul continued to crush as Paul always does, and I had a newfound power that was unprecedented in my climbing career. Having done so little climbing earlier in the year thanks to the surgery and training for the certification, it was almost unbelievable how well I was climbing. Clearly full-body strength training is a good thing…likely in any sport.
We opted for a “local” summer vacation, crushing more Priest Draw boulders plus a short little jaunt up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The kids had never seen the canyon before so this was quite the treat. For Paul and I having only visited the North Rim via foot (from the south rim), we were floored by the beautiful drive across the grassy meadows to the rim. That drive could quite possibly contend for making the ‘top 5 most beautiful drives in the country’ list. Breathtaking!
The end of this summer trip marked a distinct transition point in our lives. A transition that I realize now, in retrospect, was a key contributor to the disaster that came next. I even remember making mention of life getting busy and complicated in a webpost here for goodness sake! Summer was winding down and our little Ivan was about to start kindergarten. With no more kids at home, my plan was to return to work. I initiated the process, calling my point of contact at work and pulling together my resume. My plan was to start my new job when the kids started school. Being heavily involved with the school in previous years, I was also trying hard to find creative ways to continue to volunteer, while working a new job. With my fitness instructor certification in hand I also had just started teaching a class at the gym, specifically geared toward climbers. It was only two days a week and in the evenings so it (at the time) didn’t seem like that significant of an obligation, even on top of a new job. Never mind that I was responsible for all my own programming and a small portion of the marketing. And in addition to all this came my usual obsessions – getting our fall garden planted with the monsoon rains, cooking and preparing healthy foods for my family mostly from scratch, spending quality time with the kiddos in their final days of summer break, and of course the ever-present climbing. With my newfound fitness thanks to the strength training I felt closer than ever to reaching my next level in climbing, the bouldering grade of V9. And as every athlete knows, one can only ride a performance high for so long before a substantial rest period is in order. I wasn’t ready to rest though. Not yet. The Hueco season was just around the corner.
I awoke in the middle of a hot mid-July night with what felt like food poisoning. Only, it didn’t subside in the typical 24 hours, just gradually got worse. After two days of severe intestinal distress I saw my doc. She gave me some home remedies to try but also scheduled me for an appointment with a gastrointestinal doctor two days later. I saw him and he prescribed some over-the-counter meds and said if it gets worse give him a call. It got worse. I gave him a call. He prescribed a moderate dose of prednisone and said if it continues to get worse, go to the emergency room. Long story longer, 8 days after I awoke that fateful night, I was admitted to the hospital. I was dehydrated, pale as a ghost, shaking uncontrollably with chills and possibly shock, feverish and had blood pressure so low I couldn’t sit up without feeling as if I was going to pass out. Doctors swarmed over me, asking Paul and I a battery of questions while nurses tried unsuccessfully over and over again to draw blood to test. “Diet? Lifestyle? Fitness? Existing conditions?” Family History?” I was a rare patient of what appeared to be superb health. This didn’t make sense. I was shuttled to the ICU.
Three days later I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease. News to me. I was experiencing what the doctors were calling a “life-threatening flare…if left untreated.”
With a diagnosis finally in hand, I was hit hard with the meds – a prescription anti-inflammatory to calm the bleeding ulcers plus high dose prednisone to shut down my immune system so that it would stop attacking my large intestine as a foreign enemy. The symptoms slowly subsided but because I had lost so much blood I was dangerously close to the transfusion threshold. I spent 9 days total in the hospital. I lost 20 pounds (which is HUGE when one only weighs 120!) including all of my hard-earned muscle. My blood pressure was still so ridiculously low that it was very difficult to stand up and move around. Walking across the room would put me out of breath. Conversation was labored. Showering took all the energy I had for the day. I was in rough shape to say the least, but still held on to the belief that this was all simply a small setback, one that I would bounce back from in a few weeks or so. Like I always had. Like the flu. Or at worse like the minor surgery I had earlier in the year. Or at the very worse, like childbirth. How bad could this really be?
Well, it was bad. Very, very, very bad. Five months later…yes FIVE…I can now say with absolute conviction that I am finally back to my normal April-feeling-self. My recovery was an excruciatingly long and painful slog out of a very deep and dark black hole of rock-bottom health. That short little 2-3 week experience left me in a completely malnourished state, in which not only were all my nutrient and mineral stores drained, but also my blood supply, fat stores and muscle mass. To make matters worse, the medications came with significant side effects that made me question hard how on earth they could possibly be helping matters.
On the bright side of this recovery phase though, Paul and the kids and I were assured that we’re apparently very much loved. Family and friends literally swooped in from all angles to help out in any which way they could. The visits, phonecalls, cards, emails, texts, flowers and well-wishes really touched us deep with love and gratitude. I can’t even begin to report all the ways in which people stepped in to help or cheer us up (or this novel of a web entry would become a mini-series!). Thank you to everyone. I can only hope to repay your kindness through paying it forward.
In the midst of my recovery, life did indeed move forward. Ivan started kindergarten and absolutely adores school. Silas turned 8 in October. His two favorite activities in school are multiplication/division and sewing (could a mama be any more pleased with this?! hehe). Both boys were penguins for Halloween, Silas an Emperor Penguin and Ivan a Little Blue aka “Fairy” Penguin. And we were able to follow through with our trip to Yosemite for Thanksgiving that we had planned long before I got sick. Little by little Paul too returned to his normal laid-back self. It was very apparent how trying the entire experience was for him but he held down the fort like a champ. He never left my side during all those days in the hospital and took on the role of both parents during my recovery when the extra help went home. He was exceptional at curbing my eagerness to exert myself on my rare “good” days and bringing things into big-picture perspective on my bad days. Once again I am so thankful that we have climbing in our lives. Climbing at the gym or out back on our home woody was his therapy. He’d come in after a session and I could literally see the weight lifted off his shoulders, if just for a few hours.
So here we are now in December and I am feeling GREAT!!! FINALLY! I’ve made some lifestyle tweaks in diet, sleep, stress management and exercise that so far are working in my favor to manage this “disease” without medication. (I use quotations because it’s difficult for me to feel “diseased” if I am without symptoms). My weight is back up to par. My muscles are visible again. My hair is thickening back up. My skin has color again. My climbing strength is slowly but steadily returning. I have re-started the process of returning to work again, but have dropped the fitness instructor gig…for now anyway. I’m acutely aware of the difference between obsessing over the little things in my life and focusing my attention on what’s truly important to me. And above all, my spirit is soaring once again with happiness and motivation, trademarks of what makes me, me. And although this entire writeup was mostly about me, as many parents can probably relate, when mama is happy the whole family is happy!! Life is indeed good at the moment. :-)
So to wrap this puppy up, we’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. We have decided to keep it simple and stay local this holiday season in light of all the drama explained above, but that’s not to say that those we usually spend the holidays with back east will not be in our thoughts and hearts. We miss you all! Let’s FaceTime, yes?!
And finally. Can I get a big ‘ol heck-yeah cheers for the coming of 2018 please?!!!! Fresh slate needed!
April, Paul, Silas and Ivan
posted by arr
a) I’ve decided that I’m NOT sharing my hard-earned veggies with the desert critters anymore.
b) We need to go bigger because we are veggie devouring machines.
c) I’ve since learned a thing or two about growing food in the desert, specifically in the realm of basin-planting and rainwater harvesting.
The photos should explain our modifications to date. It’s still a work-in-progress. We had hoped to finish before the fall planting season, but…uh, we’re also eager to get started at Hueco again too, so estimated completion should probably remain TBD at this time.
Meanwhile, double CSA share! Farmer Frank LOVES this family, haha.
posted by arr
…announced Silas during his first swim in the pool this season. He played in the chilly water until his lips were blue!!
Three, two, one, blast-off!
Now Ivan’s turn
Ivan’s not nearly as psyched as Silas about this
And after a few test-dunks with his life jacket on Silas wanted to practice swimming ‘for real’ without it. He jumped in and swam just fine, first try! He had only just barely got the hang of swimming on his own at the end of last summer. Guess it’s like riding a bike? Waahoo!
posted by arr