There is nothing as satisfying as knowing that you have faced a challenge and succeeded beyond your wildest hopes. That is how my recent four-day backpacking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park over Memorial Day weekend felt. We hiked 3.5 miles from the car and camped for three nights at 10,500 feet, exploring some of the neighboring terrain on day hikes. (The trip is chronicled in a two-part video: Episode 5.)
Throughout the whole trip, I kept having to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t in some spectacular dream, feeling so strong and healthy. Was it really only four months ago that I was still toting around a wound vac to heal my stubborn abdominal incision? At that time, my wound still hurt too much to even go on the shortest hike. Now here I was in the middle of the remote and snowy mountains, toting a backpack instead of my vac, immersed in the beauty of nature and feeling pretty much unstoppable.
As I head back into the wilds again, I do find that every trip provides some unique challenges, but nothing that I cannot overcome. This uncertainty reminds me of when I first got my stoma. There was so much newness to everything. I had to learn an amazing amount of information in a short length of time in order to live with my ostomy, and I made plenty of mistakes. I got anxious and overwhelmed at times, and I cried. A lot. But soon I began to master my basic ostomy care routines and the worries were replaced by confidence. By eight weeks, I was feeling like a pro.
None of the challenges I have faced with my stoma in the wilderness have brought me to tears yet, but I have gotten frustrated a few times. I have made mistakes and have had to deal with many new things that I never had to think about before having an ostomy. Just as I think of my early days with a stoma and laugh at some of my mishaps, I am sure I will chuckle when I watch these videos in the future and recall some of the things I tried when first attempting to head out on outdoor adventures post-surgery. “Did I really try to tie a bag to a tree to empty my pouch on that cold, blustery night? Why in the world did I do that? What was I thinking? My current technique is so much easier.”
I have to remind myself that someday I am bound to feel more like a pro at managing my ostomy outdoors too. Until then, I am happy to be out there trying, blunders and all. As I face my fears and uncertainties one by one, I am finding freedom and strength in the mountains again.