Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seizing the moment… and not letting go

The other day I was reading about a fellow MSers dilemma. Recently diagnosed, he wondered if he should go with his son on a long-planned camping trip—in the heat, no refrigeration for his meds, and an uncertainty about how he would fare in the back country. There should have been no dilemma. If you think you can do it, do it. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. Don’t ever look back and say, “I should have.” Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable beast that can be as mild as a bell pepper or as nasty as India’s Naga Jolokia, the world’s hottest chile pepper.

In the spring of 2009 when Wolf Creek ski area decided to open just for the weekend (in mid April, mind you), there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. I had to go. And I’m glad I did. My last day of the ski season was one of those blissful powder days when my disease all but vanished. But it didn’t start that way.

For my first run, my legs barked at my brain in frustration as I clunked down one of the easiest trails on the mountain. I sat down before the last headwall, wondering if I should take the easier cat-track around or tackle the steeper pitch, which can get a little bumped up.  “You can do it, dude,” said a snowboarder eager to help me overcome my fear of a green run suited for beginners. “What level are you?” he asked. “Expert,” I said. “Former expert.” To say that was sobering. “No problem, man. You got this. Coming back from an injury or whatever, you can do this.” My new snowboard friend was determined to get me off my ass and down the mountain. It worked. The rest of the day, my wife at my side, I went down black diamond runs I hadn’t been able to board for the last two seasons. Everything, inexplicably, clicked. We pounded all day, the legs never tiring. Even when a whiteout hit and the lodge was packed with not a chair available, a woman—who saw me squatting to save leg strength—offered up her seat. She would eat her lunch standing up. I told her karma has a funny way of working out.

The storm easing, my last few runs were perfection—floating arced turns on virgin, untracked powder. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was to be my last day on a snowboard. But I’ll always know that I’ll never have to say “I should have.” Because I did. My first season as an adaptive skier begins at the end of January 2012. And I can’t wait!

Originally published May 14, 2009, edited for clarity.