Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Let the Games Begin

Mile Marker 564:

I cannot take my eyes off those Olympic athletes.  

How their shoulders curve forward as they cycle ahead of the pack.  How they become a head-to-toe wave as they push off against the clear pool water.   How their leg muscles bulge as they plant their feet firmly on the balance beam.  

I'm awed by their bodies.  And their precision.

At Mile Marker 564, I return to the rehab gym. 

It’s no Olympic training center, but we’re a team there.  On the surface, it may not appear that way -- we’re all ages, colors, shapes, and sizes.  We navigate the equipment using wheelchairs, prostheses, canes, and walkers.  But if you'd feel the energy, you’d know we are ONE.

Yet on this particular morning – two days after my hospital discharge -- I’m nervous and tentative.  Worried about moving too much.  Or too little.  Wondering if my breakfast will digest without pain.

“I’ve been in the hospital,” I tell my teammates.

There’s a collective groan.  They all know what it means to have set-backs.  Each day, we notice who among us is absent, tired, or hurting.  We do our best to sympathize, encourage, and support each other. 

We also laugh.   More than you might think.

Carmen loves gardening.  We have that in common.  Dan offers advice about my new iPhone 3 (although he agrees with my brother Mark that I’m still ages behind!).   James is quiet, but steady.  Marlene cracks us up with her unintended sarcasm.

Karen’s barely 10 years older than me, but she’s been in and out of the hospital many times.  Still she’s never without a SMILE.  Her birthday’s on Thursday, and she’s bringing a cheesecake so we can celebrate together.  “I don’t do much at home,” she says.  “So I want to celebrate with all of you here.”

At Mile Marker 564, their spirit rubs off on me.  I step onto the treadmill.  This is the game.  I play along even when I don’t know what’s around the next bend.  

It helps to know I'm not the only one.


The stories and struggles behind those Olympic athletes interest me more than their skills.  I watch how US gymnast Gabby Douglas’s family cheers her on.  How John Orozco’s mother hides her eyes during his pommel horse routine. 

I wince when I hear about Irish gymnast Kieran Behan's injuries.  How judo champ Kayla Harrison persevered after suffering abuse from her former coach.  How Turkish gymnast Goksu Uctas practiced outside when her town crumbled in an earthquake.

And I laugh when I hear how Michael Phelps’s mother once sent him to the pool just to get that hyperactive little boy out of her hair!

Then there’s Oscar Pistorius. 

If you haven’t heard of him, you soon will.  Nicknamed the Blade Runner, he's a bilateral below-knee amputee from South Africa. The first amputee in history to cross the line from Paralympics to Olympics.

There’s been a lot of debate over whether he has an unfair ADVANTAGE over able-bodied runners.  There's even the assertion that -- if he runs well -- able-bodied athletes may choose to have their legs amputated so they can run on carbon-fiber blades, too.   (REALLY???)

I don't claim to be an expert on the issue, but I can tell you a few things:

Oscar Pistorius does not have ankles or feet.  For him, even standing still takes the utmost in balance and strength.  His upper body is extremely well-developed.  For as high-tech as his "blades" are, they do not come close to "biological legs."

Oh yeah, this too:  At the end of the day, Oscar Pistorius cannot walk to the shower like able-bodied athletes.

These things are easily overlooked.  Oscar Pistorius is so TALENTED and STRONG and INSPIRING that he makes people stop and reconsider what it means to be disabled.  

That's an accomplishment much bigger than any medal.

Still, you never know how many times someone had to start over.   

Remember Matt Long, from my post last January, In Training?  

Toward the end of his book, The Long Run, Matt describes an incident in which a police officer hassles him for having a handicapped parking sticker on his car.  He was driving with a friend through upstate New York to watch a triathlon.  The police officer cited the two bikes on the roof of his car, his fire department sticker, and his license plate that read IWILLRUN.  He asked Matt, “What’s your disability?”

At the time, Matt had been training hard.  His upper body – visible to the officer through the unrolled car window -- was extremely fit.  He offered to get out of the car to show the damage to his legs and body.  The officer refused and wrote him a ticket.

Afterward, Matt asked if he could say something.  This is what he told the officer:

"The license plate says ‘IWILLRUN’ because that is something I say to myself every day when I wake up in the morning.  It keeps me moving every day and keeps me from wasting my life because of the accident I was in.  The fire department sticker is for a job that I did for 12 years, and that I can’t do anymore because of my disability.  And the handicap-parking sticker is mine, and it was earned because of my disability."

Matt captures it all.  The daily battle, the challenges, the hurdles.  The pain that takes your breath away.   The moments each day when you have to mobilize your last bit of strength to push past all the doubt.  

At Mile 564, I take my place at yet another STARTING LINE.  After all this time, still on unsteady ground.

I walk on the treadmill for just 11 minutes when pangs of pain light up my abdomen.  They’re like thunder in the distance -- threatening enough to make me pack up and head home.  Then, an hour later they dissolve into nothing.

Let the Games Begin.  (Again.)


**Don't forget to cheer on Oscar Pistorius as he runs for Team South Africa!

To read more about the debate, click here and here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It Could Be Worse

Mile Marker 545:

About a week ago, I read this post from the Amputee Coalition Facebook Page:


Don’t encourage amputees by telling them, “It could be worse.”  Amputees will learn on their own that IT COULD BE WORSE, and they’ll use this thought to encourage themselves throughout the day.

At the time, I didn't give it much thought.

 I had FUN on my mind.  I was heading out the door to meet my friend Elaine at 30th Street Station.

In the college dorm, Elaine and I lived across the hall from each other.  When she arrived (from band camp!) with her contagious laugh, we became quick friends.

But over time, what I've come to love most about Elaine is this:  She is ALWAYS Elaine.

Even when 20 years have passed between us -- even when some of those years weren't kind – our time together is just like it always was!
(...Except I hope not quite
as DORKY!)

Elaine hails from the booming metropolis of Lewiston, Idaho.  But last week, she and her family vacationed in New York City.  And she dedicated one day of that trip to see ME! 

When I spot her at 30th Street Station, she's waving, wielding a huge Elaine smile.  Already, the day is a victory for both of us.  I've walked from the car to the train platform, almost a half-mile.   She's navigated both New Jersey Transit and Septa -- an admirable feat for an Idahoan!

As we're departing the station, Elaine declares the day a GIRLVENTURE, a term she's coined for stepping out of her comfort zone.  I'm more than ready to agree!
 
We brunch leisurely at Sabrina’s, then catch up at my house for a while.

That afternoon, we explore the Magic Garden, one of South Philly's treasures.  It began as a rowhouse and vacant lot.  It's now an elaborate, eccentric maze of mosaic by artist Isaiah Zagar.

It also turns out to be a test of balance.  We stop and start, awestruck by the lights and colors that glint from the walls.  We wander over the uneven cement, looking up, down, and to every side.

Within the patterns, we discover words, names, and excerpts of poetry.

We locate holes that serve as glassless windows.

We find dishes, bicycle wheels, and old wine bottles.  We stare at the strange puffy “glue” that sticks it all together. 

The garden is both fascinating and haunting.




Like you’re swimming slowly through someone’s head, taking note of their thoughts and dreams – uncommon, artistic, and strange.

We come upon a set of winding, slippery stairs leading deeper into the “basement garden.”  But they're roped off because of rain water.  I’m relieved not to go down.

Within the labyrinth, three little girls play hide and seek.  When they stumble upon my Genium, they stop short, eyes wide.  To them, the robot leg must fit perfectly here amidst all this stuff -- just another oddity from the artist’s brain.   I answer their questions before pushing on.

Elaine and I spend our last hour together on the edge of Chinatown, sampling summer rolls and grape leaves at Vietnam Palace.  (She says these delicacies are scarce in Idaho!)

Finally, we end our journey the way it started – at the steps of the New Jersey Transit tracks at 30th Street. 

We talk loosely about doing a bigger Girlventure.  Drawing in other friends -- and their daughters, too.  Meeting up somewhere more central, like Chicago.  

Although it's tough for me to travel now, this day makes me feel like anything's possible.  Like things will just keep getting better and better.


Mile Marker 553:

IT COULD BE WORSE.  Over the next week, that Facebook post unravels like the paper inside a fortune cookie.

In a span of seven days, I need new contact lenses, a new phone, and new brakes for my car.  

But at least the WALKING's going well.  On Wednesday, I set a personal best on the treadmill:  1 mile in 20 minutes and 50 seconds!

Then on Thursday, I hear -- and feel -- grinding under the car.  I pull into a local gas station where a kid with a cigarette peers into the wheels.  He tells me my brakes are worn down to the rotors.

“Is it safe to drive?” I ask, figuring I’ll take it to my friend (and mechanic) Jim over the weekend. 

"No, you definitely shouldn't drive it," he says.  "But we can’t fix it till tomorrow.”

I compromise by driving to the nearest Starbucks.  There, I use my new cell phone to locate another repair shop around the corner.

While they work on the brakes, I pace back and forth, logging another mile on their short stretch of sidewalk. 


Unfortunately, that night things screech to yet another halt.

There’s a gas leak on my street.  At 9:15, the gas company pounds on my door -- just after I've removed my prosthesis.   I hop to my bedroom window.  The neighbors outside yell, “Gas leak!!!”  (Very helpful to my state of panic.)   As fast as possible, I pull on both leg and pants. 

It turns out there’s no gas leak in my house.  But the pounding on the door has triggered one of my deepest fears:  escaping in an emergency.

It's now 10 p.m., and I am in full blown "fight-or-flight" mode.  With the gas company drilling outside, I know I’ll stay up all night worrying.  So I fly.  To my parents' house.

“It was like my worst nightmare!”  I tell my dad.

He raises his eyebrows.  "Your worst?" he says.

He's right.  Not exactly.

The next night, I end up in the ER with a bowel obstruction.

Twelve hours of abdominal pain.  Two days with that dreaded NG tube.  Four nights in a hospital bed.

Saturday, 1:30 a.m.
Duane wheels me into my new home.

But it turns out, the hospital is an excellent place to remind yourself that IT COULD BE WORSE.

The nurses and doctors embrace me with care.  I get a room with a window.  They let me wear my own clothes rather than a hospital gown.

(Sneaky photo by Mark,
of course)
That first night, my mom sleeps in a chair next to my bed.  Nurse Stephany returns to the room again and again to suction out my NG tube with a syringe.

Dr. K and Dr. P keep a close eye on me.  The CT Scan shows this obstruction is in a different place than the ones last year.

"But I don't understand," I say.  "I've been so careful!"

"You didn't do anything to cause it," they tell me.  "And there's nothing you can do to prevent it."  On the surface, this sounds reassuring; underneath, it rocks with uncertainty.

When I start to feel better, the nurses disconnect me from the machines so I can take a short walk around the unit -- no easy task with an IV port in my hand and an NG tube dangling from my nostril!

I don't sleep much.  But I get halfway through a new novel.  I figure out the workings of my iPhone.  I watch endless hours of Netflix -- even if the hospital wifi isn't fast enough to sync the sound with the picture.

When I'm finally allowed clear liquids, Mark brings me tea from Dunkin' Donuts.

A handful of friends and family drop by.  On my last night, I even get a surprise visit from one of my favorite surgeons, Dr. J!


Two years ago, I knew nothing of NG tubes, prostheses, or IV cocktails.  And I definitely did not have the hospital ER on speed dial.

My friend Ashley -- who happens to be a nurse -- stops by my room at the end of her shift.  She tells me they only give out that ER phone number to "gold card" members.  We both laugh.

See?   IT COULD BE WORSE.



Special thanks to the staff of 7 West for keeping me comfortable and safe on this leg of my journey!  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Relativity

Mile Marker 521:

It feels like lunch in Italy.

Diane sits across from me over a table of balsamic-drizzled figs, fresh mozzarella, ripe avocado, and frilly arugula.  
 
You’d never guess that we’re down the street from Prosthetic Innovations.

You’d also never guess that we’re both in PAIN.

I met Diane just a year ago, yet we buzz away like old pals.  I’m a "left above-knee."  Diane’s a "right."  In a three-legged race, we'd make a wicked good team!  (Or a dangerously bad one!)

The conversation flows from travel, to family, to wearing a prosthesis.  On every topic, we find ourselves nodding and agreeing.

But especially on this one:  COMFORT IS RELATIVE.


It’s taken me more than a week to get this blog post up.  I've rewritten it from so many angles it's making me batty.  And I’ve avoided finishing it -- not because of writer’s block -- but because I'm afraid that if I focus on the pain, I'll never get anywhere.

Yet it's a part of every mile.

So I'll start with a question:  How far could you travel with a stone in your shoe?

Now imagine that the stone is actually a rock.  No, a slab of granite.  And it’s not actually in your shoe, but inside your LEG.  Pressing against the back of your knee, to be exact.

Well, not exactly.  See, you don’t have a knee.

Sound confusing?  Painful?  Frustrating, perhaps?   Multiply that by 521.


Rewind to a few days before lunch with Diane.  It’s early evening, and I’m heating up some leftovers to take upstairs.  On these – the most PAINFUL days -- I deliver “room service” to myself.   In my bedroom, I remove my prosthesis and massage my leg.  I eat dinner out of a plastic container, cross-legged (well, sort of) on the bed.

Once my prosthesis is off, some of the pain subsides.  The physical part, anyway.  Emotionally, it goes on and on.

I turn on the TV to drown out the rush of feelings.  There's ANGER about all that's happened.  SADNESS that that my life's come down to this.  FEAR that it might not get any better.  

The next morning I wake up with renewed hope.  Unfortunately, the pain rises early too.  It throws off my balance, so I topple over while watering the garden plants.  One minute I’m standing; the next, I’m lying awkwardly on the red gravel.  After that, I tread more carefully, putting weight on my right side instead.

The 520’s are FULL of moments like this.  The miles crawl by in a fit of stops and starts.  

I plod through the best I can.  But it's like inching forward when you're locked in a long, snaking line of traffic.  When all you can see are more cars up ahead.


To avoid discomfort, I shift my weight to the right.  But it's not a solution.  An ache spreads across my back and shoulders.  My right knee and ankle swell from overuse.

It feels like I'm driving a car with a flat tire.  And worse, I worry about damaging my intact, sound side.

But why?  you ask.  Why is there pain now, at this point in the journey?

It's a good question.  And the answer is, it's not just now.  Like most amputees, the shape of my leg changes.  The socket fit changes.  The nerve sensations change.  There is bone pain, and skin pain, and muscle pain, and phantom pain.  Some days are better.  Some are worse.  Some are just UNBEARABLE.

No day is perfect.  But this week was tougher than most.

After lunch, Diane and I head to our home away from home – Prosthetic Innovations.  It’s my third visit this week.  Diane’s second.

Tim acts like he’s happy to see us. 

With never-ending patience, he adjusts my prosthetic angle, alignment, and length -- yet again.  This time, he adds a pylon that offsets the position of my knee.  Then he puts me on the treadmill and sizes up my gait.

He encourages me to take step after step.  He tells me there will be BETTER days ahead. 


Mile Marker 524:

He's right, but it takes a while.

In the meantime, I go through the motions.  Chat with friends at the rehab gym.  Lift weights to strengthen my arms and right leg.  Spend a few hours at work.  

I don’t venture far.  
And I don't WALK anywhere.

When I need to get out of the house, I drive 5 blocks to Philly Java and stash my car in the dry cleaner’s parking lot across the street.  An iced chai always lifts my mood.

Plus, it helps me avoid something else I don't like to think -- or write -- about.  Pain is ISOLATING.

I'm a traveler and an athlete.  When I move, my mind unfolds with freedom.

I’ve hiked through vineyards. 

And snowshoed through the woods of Vermont.


I’ve skated over the cobblestone streets of Bordeaux -- and Philly. 



And canoed on the bluest water you've ever seen.
  
With movement, the road stretches ahead of me, wide open and completely clear.

But when I'm in pain, I see the world through a perpetually foggy windshield.  All that's clear is what's BEHIND me.


As Mile 524 draws to a close, Susan and Rocco come to the rescue.  With their help, my leg rallies enough to navigate the hilly sidewalks of Fairmount.

We make it to our friend Alayne's 4th of July party.

I catch up with the girls over a bowl of kettle corn.

Outside, sparks fly as the guys launch fireworks on the narrow city street.

 I don’t dash out to see them as I used to.  But I hear the snaps and booms.  They're energizing!

It's FREEDOM, Philly-style -- if only for an hour or two!





Mile Marker 530: 

“1, 2, 3, 4 -- no, wait!”

Landon bounces around the kitchen pointing to each person as he counts.  He’s figuring out how many of us need water ice.

He starts over again.  “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… Yeah, 7!”  That's his final answer.

Then he starts in on the cups, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…”

Landon is 4 ½ years old.  34 pounds.  40 inches tall.  And boy can he count!

Susan scoops out the icy treat – pale pink watermelon and bright orange mango.   Proudly, Landon hands a cup to each of us.

It's Saturday night, and we're gathered around my parents’ butcher block kitchen table.  Robert, Susan, Rocco, Jen, Chris, and me.  Landon is perched on Chris’s lap.  

It's hot and humid outside.  The sky threatens to storm.

Before they arrived, I was flat on my parents’ couch, icing down my right leg to control the swelling.

Now, I’m smiling and laughing.

Mile Marker 530 breezes in like an 80-degree day at the end of a heat wave.  It's as refreshing as water ice.

Through no feat of my own, the pain has mysteriously lifted.  I am suddenly and inexplicably MORE COMFORTABLE.   

It is not a perfect place by far.  But it's better.

That blurry windshield defogs.  I picture smoother and easier days ahead.  The idea is so enticing that I consider sleeping in my prosthesis.  

You see, comfort is relative.  But it's also FLEETING.  One good day does not predict another.  I don't want to start over again tomorrow.

But for now, I'm busy.  Through dinner and dessert, Landon entertains me with crayons and stickers.  We get up from the table several times to fetch markers, tape, and Ziploc baggies to hold his drawings. 

The conversation keeps rolling.

I tell Landon my robot leg has superpowers.
He challenges me to a game of Freeze Tag.
Touché!

It's not Italy or France.  It's not skating, or snowshoeing, or canoeing.  But it's better than where I was a mile ago.

And it's good to be moving again...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

True Colors

Mile Marker 514:

From across the street, I hear two boys talking.

“She gots a robot leg!” says the big one to the little one.  (The big one is all of 4 years old; the little one, maybe 3.)

I step up onto their corner, which also happens to be a bus stop. 

They both race toward me eagerly, like the ocean rushing onto the beach.  Their mother leans back against a nearby building talking on her iPhone.

“You see my robot leg?” I ask.  But I know they can’t NOT see it.  It’s impossible to hide, especially in shorts.

Wide eyed, they gather in closer.  The knee of my Genium comes up to the bigger boy’s waist, to the younger one's shoulder.

The younger one reaches forward to touch it, as I know he will.  When I nod, the older one follows.  Their small fingers run along the smooth titanium.

I am ready with a well-rehearsed speech.  This happens nearly every day, especially in the summer.

But they catch me off guard.  The older boy reaches for my other leg.  My right one.   He touches my REAL shin, my REAL calf, my REAL knee.

“Yeah, that’s my real leg,” I tell him, stepping back.

“What happened to it?”  His amazement has abruptly changed to concern.

He's staring at the long pink incision scar from those first surgeries, where they tried to harvest veins from my right leg to save my left.  And then he sees the bigger rectangular scar from the skin graft which occurred one month later.  

Over time these marks have gotten lost in the mix.  To me, they don't stand out like a robot leg.  But when I wear shorts, they’re still there for anyone to see.

I fumble a bit and offer something vague, soothing. “Oh, I got hurt, but now I’m all better.”

It seems to satisfy him.

I make an excuse to continue on my way.  Their mother has finished her phone call.  She sends me a distant smile without eye contact.

As I walk on, I hear the older boy tell his little brother, “I’m gonna get TWO robot legs!”

On the return trip, I’m relieved to find their bus has come and gone.

It's late morning, and I meander down some side streets.  This path distracts me from the distance left to get home.  The uneven bricks force me to walk slowly, to rest my muscles.  

And the colors call to me.  On the tightly-packed houses, they stand out as signs of individuality.  

With flowers and paint, each place tells its own story.


When I least expect it, I stumble onto a makeshift art exhibition and meet “artist-in-residence” Greg. 


He looks like your typical South Philly guy.   Don't let it fool you.  His IMAGINATION is anything but!  Fascinated with Indian culture, he decorates his square of the city with Gods and spirits made of metal scraps and pastel paint.  He proudly tours me through his outdoor art gallery and even invites me inside his house to see more.  (No worries Mom -- I went politely on my way!)


As a little girl, I had a book that showed how colors mix together to create new ones.  

Blue + Yellow = Green.  
Red + Yellow = Orange.
Blue + Red = Purple...

I was awed by those illustrations!  For years, I swirled my watercolors, and crayons, and magic markers to see it happen for myself.

But it's true off the page, too.  We’re a combination of everything that’s happened to us -- colors from "before" mix with those we are "now."  The shades are darkened by some experiences and lightened by others.  Tinted by people we meet along the way.

The results can be predictable or surprising, like questions kids ask.

They can be obvious or subtle, like details that make each house a home.  

They can be proud like an artist who displays his work, despite what his neighbors may think.



When I was in the rehab hospital, a nurse told me, "Scars are tattoos of the brave."

I think of all the remarkable people I've met along this journey:  veterans, fighters, survivors, and heroes.  And I know she was right.

But our colors -- all of them -- make us who we are.  They tell our TRUE stories.

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dare To Dream

Mile Marker 511:

“You’re going to be bionic.”

These are the first words I remember hearing when I woke up in the ICU.
 
At that moment I believed anything was possible.

I grew up watching episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.  My brother Mark had a Steve Austin action figure complete with surgical bay and bionic parts.  We recreated the TV show in our backyard.  Our next-door neighbor Josh jogged in slow motion, making that bionic “dih-nih-nih-nih” sound.  We were all convinced it made him FASTER!

Gentlemen, we can rebuild her.  We have the technology.  
My body was wrecked.  So I would be bionic.  In my semi-conscious state, it seemed a simple solution.

But on this journey, nothing is simple. 

As you know, I’ve even been wavering on my goal -- to finish a thousand miles by November 9, 2012.   It took me a YEAR to do the first 500.   Bionic or not, it's a long shot.

“It’s ok,” people tell me.  “It doesn’t matter when you finish.”

And it’s true in my head, but not in my heart.  I don’t like to FAIL.

When I think about other goals I've set – projects at work, volunteer opportunities, solo travel – I realize that they were pretty much attainable from the start.  Sure, they shoved me out of my comfort zone.  But they were doable.  Even before I began, there were plans forming in my head.  I could already picture the finish line.

Last July, I figured this journey would be similar.  Walking and writing.  Writing and walking.  Challenging, but fun.

You're probably laughing or shaking your head.  You've seen many events push me off course this year.  In fact, most of the time, I haven’t even been able to SEE the course!

So Mile Marker 511 appeared like a signpost -- or a possibly a GPS -- in the midst of all the ambivalence and doubt.

I met Matt Miller.

Matt is a triathlete who – against horrific odds – survived and thrived after a terrible bike accident in November 2008.   He is the subject of a new book, The Road Back: A Journey of Grace and Grit, by Michael Vitez, the journalist who, coincidentally, also wrote the Inquirer story about me last year.

Michael Vitez is a vivid storyteller.  But as I listened to their book discussion at the rehab hospital, Matt’s words pointed me in the direction I needed.

“DARE TO DREAM,” he started out.

(I guess you could say he had me at hello.)  

If I try to quote the rest, it won’t sound like him, but the message I received was this:   Reaching a goal is not as important as trying for it.  Don’t let your fear of failure -- or the strength it will take to succeed -- get in the way of moving forward.  It is always better to TRY.

Like I said, exactly the signpost I needed.

His words were more than encouraging.  They granted permission.  To hold my goal steady, despite unlikely odds.  To continue to walk forward into a future that’s already more difficult than I imagined.  To go after what I want -- even if it might not happen the way I plan.

I finished reading The Road Back this morning.  It was all at once gripping, fascinating, inspiring, and FAMILIAR.  I’ve dog-eared pages and underlined sentences to read again.  Even the fallen bicycle on the cover – the actual photo from Matt’s accident -- stops me in my tracks.

But it was early in the book that I found the rest of the signpost from Mile 511.  A lesson Matt learned long before his accident, during months of triathlon training.

"…the mind gives out long before the body, and the challenge, the essential element of endurance training, is to convince the mind not to quit, to continue, that the body can persist and must be pushed along."

With each step in this journey, I’m testing my own limits.  I AM bionic, but not in the easy way that transformed Steve Austin into a superhero.

I am still myself.  And if I'd known how hard and sweaty, how confusing and painful -- how UPHILL this journey would be -- I might never have begun.

But at Mile Marker 511, Matt's words urge me onward.  Life is endurance.  It’s not an all or nothing sport.  It is about TRYING. 

Maybe there’s a downhill around the next bend.  Maybe not.

Thanks, Matt.  For now, I'll dare to dream.