Sunday, February 10, 2013

Heading South - on foot.

The fantasy

I have a plan.  Now.  For some time I've had a rich fantasy of walking off this nagging, chronic illness I have.  Last year, I began to plan how I might accomplish a long-distance walk.  Just open the door and head south, always south with no particular goal in mind, just the pure joy of walking, the feeling of being "on the way" and on my own two feet.  I have no desire to walk the Pacific Crest Trail nor to undertake any such rigorous, cross-country, mountainous trek.  Back roads, bike trails and streets of small towns and large if it comes to that, are my preference. 

Heroines and role models

I had been thinking about this off and on for a long time, inspired by a story written by favorite author, Mary Austin, a story called, "Walking Woman," first published in Atlantic Monthly in 1907.

"By her own account she had begun by walking off an illness. There had been an invalid to be taken care of for years, leaving her at last broken in body, and with no recourse but her own feet to carry her out of that predicament."

I began to take note of real women I knew about who did the unthinkable, who just began to walk - thousands of miles.  In 1999, at the age of 88 Granny D walked 3,200 miles from southern California to Washington DC, taking a little over one year.  She walked in support of campaign finance reform.

Peace Pilgrim walked across the United States for 28 years, clocking more than 25,000 miles in support of peace.  Then she quit counting (miles) but kept walking.  She started from Pasadena, California, during the Korean War and continued to walk throughout the time of the Vietnam War and beyond.

Closer to my own home in the Pacific Northwest, Bonnie Tucker, a retiree from Olympia, Washington, logged over 1,100 miles last year, wearing out 3 pairs of shoes.  And my friend Calvin Stutzman set out from home in Bellingham, WA and walked over the mountains to Chelan.

The plan

Last week I decided to take my methodic inspiration from a guy, Harvey Manning who walked the beaches from Seattle to Bellingham in a series of day treks - and then wrote about it.  I decided to just set out from my front door and walk as far as I felt like it the first day, then call my husband for a pick up.  I'm recovering from a foot injury, and I have headaches nearly every day, so, for me, I figured this was a doable plan.  The next walking day, I would drive the car to the point I left off the day before, park and start walking south once more.  My husband and I agreed this sounded great, but we're not sure how it will work out once I get about 100 mi. from home.  I'll let you know.

Day one - approximately 5.5 miles

I head south on the Interurban Trail with a nut bar, an apple, a water bottle, my camera and cell phone.  And, of course, my raincoat.


If anyone wants to walk with me on any day, let me know.

Below:  scenes along the way.



Woodstock Farm


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Visible and Invisible Me

The most difficult thing for me about having chronic headache disease - and being close to people - is what they don't see or, perhaps, what I have not yet learned to share.  They do ask how I am or how I'm doing, but it tends to end there or with an expression of sympathy.   And I don't follow up with more specifics, what's going on with me day to day.  I don't know how to bridge this gap without dragging things down into a kind of hole.  And I have good friends, who are good people, whom I value highly.

Half Seen
The trouble is that sometimes I don't really want to go there either.  If I'm more or less ok at any given moment in time, I'd rather focus on the now, the good dinner, the company, the garden, the outdoors, art, my travel plans or any other of a million things I'm truly interested in.  But just sometimes - I'd like to talk about what happened yesterday, the day before or last week.  About how I had a classic (as opposed to common) migraine with aura for the first time ever.  About the niggling little fears that accompanied the recent research published in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Assoc.) revealing that women with migraine have brain lesions with unknown health effects.

What People See, hear, and say:  the right side of this drawing

The other day, a group of us were together, and someone said, "I don't really feel any older."  Everyone agreed more or less - except for me.  I said, "Boy, I do."  Slight pause, then resumption of conversation.  I think people assume they know what's up with me - that I'm just having a lot of headaches.  Period.  But it's both way more complex than that and difficult and sometimes interesting, sometimes, believe it or not, funny.  It's my life.  It's not the same boring pain, day after day.  It's often different and I'm always trying to figure out what, if anything, set this last one off.  I'm always working on the next step I need to take to try and improve my status from chronic-daily headaches, right now, to episodic again.

What People Don't Know to ask about and what I don't say:  the left side above

For example, right now I'm focusing on getting more exercise and trying to sort out the migraine aspect from the cervicogenic headaches which is a fairly recent diagnosis.  I'm having to make decisions about whether or not to go for ablation of cervical peripheral nerves now or wait and collect more information.  Each and every time I get a headache I try to distinguish migraine from cervical headaches and then decide whether to call my anesthesiologist for another injection into those cervical nerves to confirm his conclusions.  He tells me, that while this ablation procedure (burning or cauterizing) could eliminate my cervical headaches for 6 months or so at a crack (when another procedure will then be needed), there is a tiny possibility that it could make things worse.

And so it goes.