Horseradish on My Oatmeal: Climbing Kilimanjaro with Osteoarthritis
I would assume that all of my readers, particularly those living in "snow country," are attempting to keep a positive attitude and survive those gloomy winter doldrums. I know, in theory, all of the little things I need to take care of my body with arthritis -- not to overdo, not to get too tired, too work out with guidance, to eat right -- ad infinitum.
However, I make a far better preacher than a listener. I rehired a personal trainer recently who had worked with me before I attempted to climb Machupicchu in Peru a few short years ago. I know the kinds of things I need to focus on to help me prepare for my upcoming work in East Africa. I will also confess that I'm definitely NOT the best judge of my limitations, particularly in the physical area! My first thoughts about hiring someone -- I couldn't afford it financially -- but I also realized I couldn't afford NOT to do it!
When I first worked with Liz, my trainer, my trek in Peru was a few short months away. Oh. I forgot to mention that I was recovering from two major orthopedic surgeries on the same ankle and foot in a period of two months (compliments of osteoarthritis, of course). It can be depressing and frustrating to realize the effects of osteoarthritis on the body; but it's also totally awesome to realize what good surgeons can do!
Now, it's about four years later, and I've accepted a new challenge. I will not only be living and working in East Africa for three months as a volunteer in a tiny rural community, but I'll also attempt a trek on Mt. Kilimanjaro -- an obsession of mine for many years. "Her Majesty," as she is called, is over 19,000 feet high, and those who have attempted the complete ascent have said that it takes a minimum of 5 to 7 days. At first, my thoughts vacillated between I WILL do the WHOLE thing to the reality that someone would probably find my carcass part of the way up, to an equally unrealistic "there's just no way I can do it!!!!!" So, I'm working with a trainer to TRY to get this slightly older, out-of-shape body ready for a challenge! When I "did" Machupicchu, I was much younger (a factor that is far more important in my mid-60s than when I was 40 or even 50). Oh -- I've also now added a couple of artificial hips to my repertoire (thanks osteoarthritis)! I've also decided that, for me, my victory with this mountain is that I actually will be on her for my 65th birthday!!!!
So I'm actually doing what I need to do to help make myself a healthier adventurer. I normally eat fairly healthy, but have added a bigger variety of fresh fruit and veggies to my diet. I even added oatmeal --not a big deal for many, but I was "traumatized" at Girl Scout camp with this stuff when I was 8, and it definitely hasn't been on my #1 list since.
Many people put brown sugar on it, which I didn't care for, but discovered that a little
bit of my homemade jam makes it almost good. The other morning, at 4AM (yes, that's when my dog and I start our day) I was rushing around the kitchen trying to feed the dog, give her an insulin shot, and get to the gym on time. I made the oatmeal and calmly dumped some fruit butter on my cereal without looking. Much to my horror, I actually dumped horseradish sauce for shrimp on my oatmeal. It would have probably REALLY spiced up my day, but after I quit laughing, I carefully spooned my way through this unique treat, avoiding the horseradish, of course!
In the midst of my training, I discovered I needed some minor surgery. So, no training again until the stitches are removed. When I explained this to my trainer, she gave me at least 100 (maybe 10?) things that I COULD do to keep up my routine without causing any damage. I'm sure that many of you understand how easy it is to get derailed from a training program!
Tomorrow's another day at the gym. A new program we're working on is a special treadmill where we can simulate my mountain climbing. It's horrible (so it must be REALLY good for me). I've found a variety of ways to survive these intensive work-outs. I feel just like the little engine in the children's book, and quite often find that I am mumbling to myself "I THINK I CAN! I THINK I CAN!!!" I've also been practicing my Swahili as I work in other areas.
I refuse to let osteoarthritis (and my age) limit what I can do. I KNOW that I'll never beat speed records for climbing and probably won't even TRY to climb all of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The reality is, I now have a new lease on life. I have the freedom now to learn and experience things many people only dream about.
Arthritis will always be with me, but so will the desire: I KNOW I CAN, I KNOW I CAN, I KNOW I CAN!