The nonprofit I’ve helped develop, de:terminence, launched a campaign recently to climb the California 14ers – 14 peaks that stand taller than 14,000 feet. de:ca14 is ambitious for anyone, but that is especially true for those with disabilities.
A couple weeks ago, team de:terminence, made up of seven others plus me, set out to summit White Mountain – the third highest peak in the state and according to many, the easiest of the 14. The day was beautiful yet difficult for me. We didn’t summit, but that’s not the reason for this post.
Seven people joined me on an adventure that, 11 years ago, a doctor suggested I wouldn’t be able to do. Seven people who know what I’m up against – the challenge to simply walk, constant fatigue and lack of balance, poor reflexes and minimal muscle coordination – but still said “I’m in”.
For most of the team, the hike alone was a challenge in and of itself – a distance, an elevation and a trek most had never been on. It was a reward for everyone to set out on that trailhead, a place many of us wouldn’t go on our own or a challenge we wouldn’t take on just for the fun of it.
This team took on more than usual though. Not only did each person have to worry about their own gear, water and food, they also chose to worry about me too. They chose to walk slow, they chose to wait, they chose to take many rest periods, they even chose to help carry my gear and they chose to allow me to use their shoulders in place of trekking poles when the fatigue kicked into overdrive. They chose to take on this mountain as a team, and they chose to call it a day when reaching the summit became more of a risk than the hike itself.
Despite not reaching our goal, we all still chose to celebrate, to laugh and to take a million pictures. Most, if not all, have also chosen to take this mountain on again next year.
I can’t imagine life without people who choose to sacrifice a bit (or a lot) of themselves for the sake of others. Disability or not, life isn’t meant to be lived without community.
I’m forever grateful for those who have chosen to be actively engaged with me. Whether through running, cycling, hiking, giving, sponsoring or just simply sharing things related to my cause(s) online or listening to the 2DD Podcast – I appreciate you and understand that my life would be much different if not for you!
Thank YOU for helping me get stuff done.