My first Climb wasn’t a climb, it was a five-step walk from my hospital bed to a couch in the family room.
The day I came out of my coma, I could breathe and open my eyes and that was it. I couldn’t give my brother a high five, speak, write, sit up in bed, brush my teeth, feed myself. I wore a diaper and had to rely on my nurses and family for everything.
Every single thing.
My voice came back after two days. It would be a few weeks before I could feed myself, brush my teeth, sit up, or write. I knew how to do those things, but my body destroyed my muscles looking for energy to fight my infections while in ICU.
I went in ICU at 170 pounds, I peaked at 255, and was less than 170 as I came out. I gained and lost 85 pounds in less than four weeks.
For the first time in my cancer experience, my mental game was as weak as my physical game. I had ICU psychosis and no understanding or ability to understand what I had been through. That would come in the weeks, months, and years after.
“This push for independence is a defining element of the young adult cancer experience.”
In this simple state, I locked in on a simple goal: to get back on my feet. This push for independence is a defining element of the young adult cancer experience. It is within us as we are raised to stand on our own two feet and chase those hopes and dreams. Being diagnosed with cancer challenged this massively as I shut down my business and moved back home six months after my university graduation.
But this core pursuit of independence remained, so it is no surprise that in my mangled state I focused in on a goal that moved me closer to independence. Albeit I could never have imagined that this goal would pose such a challenge or come with such satisfaction at the age of 23.
On September 20, 1999, I sat myself up in my hospital bed at home in the family room, swung my legs over the side, used my walker as I stood up as straight and as tall as I could, and them I pushed the walker aside and took five steps from my bed to the couch.
It was exhausting and a symbolic milestone in a recovery that would take years, physically and mentally.
I climbed Signal Hill the next year to mark the milestone and help raise funds for YACC’s programs. On Sunday, September 25, 2016, I’ll climb again with Karen, our kids, family, friends and a ton of YACCers in St. John’s and at Climbs across the country.
A lot of really cool stuff has happened in the past 17 years, but young adults with cancer remain cancer’s forgotten generation. I’ll keep climbing until we turn this mess into a miracle.
Live life. Love life.