Happy to be Trying, Blunders and All (feat. new video)

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.

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A wonderful community of people

I just returned from a four-day backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was an amazing adventure with some unique challenges including some extremely cold temperatures, deep snow and National Park Service requirements to pack out our human waste due to the winter conditions. We shot lots of footage for our next film, so stay tuned!

On a separate topic, last week I went to my very first local ostomy association meeting, sponsored by the Ostomy Association of Metro Denver. I had intended to go much sooner, as I am sure it would have been very benecial right after surgery. Unfortunately, during those first couple of months, I had a few healing hiccups and didn’t feel up to it. After that, other scheduling conflicts always seemed to crop up. Finally, things lined up and I headed to my first meeting.

I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect, but those fears quickly vanished as I found myself among some of the most welcoming people I have ever met.

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Packing for a trip: could GORP come along? (feat. new video)

It is crazy what goes through your mind before surgery. Of course, I was worried about all the big things like how painful surgery would be, and how well my stoma would function, and if I would have any complications. But many times, other goofy little worries would pop into my head that should not have been on my radar screen. One of those was whether or not I would be able to eat GORP.

GORP, or good old raisins and peanuts, was a staple of my wilderness diet. I would create all sorts of great mixes with dried fruit, nuts and a variety of chocolates and candies. Yet nuts and raisins are both on the list of foods to be cautious with when you have an ileostomy. I feared that I would never be able to take one of my favorite treats into the wilderness again.

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A Frigid Return to Backpacking (feat. new video)

On April 16, Doug and I headed out for our first post-surgery backpacking trip. We chose an easy and short route for the overnight excursion, though weather threw us a challenging curve ball. Still, it felt wonderful to be out there again. There was one other unexpected bonus: the campsite had a privy. After years of constantly scoping out the closest bathroom due to UC, it was funny to find one in the wilderness.

My biggest concern on the trip was keeping my pack light. I wanted to make sure I took it easy on this first excursion to let my body adjust to carrying a load of gear again.

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The “what-if” Game

People can be good at all sorts of games. Some are awesome tennis players, and others play a mean game of poker. A few might even be able to pull off an amazing backbend to win a Twister tournament. I am great at the game of “what if,” and wish I wasn’t so competent at it. I find that my mind constantly likes to worry itself over how I will handle some challenging aspect of having an ostomy.

This week, despite no differences in diet or timing, I had a nightmare appliance change. The second I took my wafer off, my stoma started to spew like crazy, and it wouldn’t stop. Minutes whizzed by, then an hour, as I went through half a roll of paper towels trying to keep up with the mess while still trying to make progress with the change. As the clock struck the two-hour mark, I finally had successfully placed a new pouch on. At that exact moment, my mind also decided to play the “what-if” game.

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Back on the slopes: snowboarding with an ostomy (feat. new video)

I managed to get three days of snowboarding in this season which is more than I ever would have imagined!

Of course, one would hope that post-surgery improvement in sports would occur in a linear fashion, getting better and better each time. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. My third day of snowboarding on May 8th (closing day at the resort) was the most frustrating.  It had nothing to do with my ostomy, which once again caused no problems at all. The problem was hard-packed snow and not knowing how much beating up my body could handle.

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