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Monday, March 22, 2010

A momentous day for me

In a small way and insignificant way for most of the world, today was momentous for me. Over my 20 years of struggling with spinal degeneration, I've learned that the old saying that "can't isn't part of my vocabulary" doesn't apply to me. Now, I have a long list of things that I can't do - and my greatest fear about my surgery was that the list might grow.

I've been an athlete since I was a little girl, yearning to feel the fiery burn of pushing my body to its limits almost every day. Even at age 6, my parents say that I'd skip lunch on weekends so that I could ride my bike all day long. I even started a 'bike gang' in my neighborhood - I was the boss, of course, and we rode the alleys behind our row houses for hours on end.

For a short period, I abandoned biking for other sports, sports that I grew to love including lacrosse and competitive running. But then, the "can't" word entered my life when doctors saw images of my spine when I was in my early 20s. Running was forbidden due to the jarring impact of each footfall. I love watching my dogs run, and often wish that I could break into an easy jog along side them. But, I've accepted that I can't.
In addition to the ban on running, all sports involving twisting were deemed too dangerous because they were likely to accelerate the spinal degeneration. I felt obligated to listen to the doctors. After all, I needed my spine to work for many more decades. So, "can't" became a word that I was forced to accept. By accepting it, I learned how to flow downhill like water, gliding around obstacles rather than fighting them. It's part of why I declared this year as the Year of the Bobcat for me - I wanted to emulate a bobcat's flexibility and tenaciousness. After all, bobcats have flourished despite human cruelty and extreme habitat loss. They've flourished by adapting to their new world, just like I hope that I can continue to do in my life.

So, when all my favorite sports were banned, I needed to find the path that would bring me the joy of nature and hard exercise while observing the new rules laid out by my doctors. I turned to biking and fell in love with it.

I'm not your average mountain biker. I love riding my mountain bike in the most secret and quiet parts of the forest. I stop frequently, dropping my bike to go look at a tree, follow wildlife tracks, explore a boulder outcropping that looks like good bobcat habitat, photograph wildflowers, or just sit in the silence. For me, my mountain bike is a way of covering lots of ground in the forest while exerting myself to my limits. I ride silently and, to the best of my ability, without leaving a trace. I also love riding with a dog by my side, listening to her easy gallop as I struggle up hills and over rocky trails.

So, when I decided that it was time to submit to neck surgery about 10 weeks ago, I feared that more activities would become forbidden. Most of all, I feared for my mountain biking. To combat my fear, I followed every rehabilitation recommendation to the letter. I've been walking 4 miles a day, every single day - but I've loved almost every step of it so I can't complain. I've been doing neck exercises three times a day focusing on range of motion, strength, and 'nerve gliding' (to prevent the nerves that go from my neck to my arms from getting stuck in scar tissue). Moreover, I've ridden indoor bike trainers daily. I started riding a recumbent bike trainer in the first week after surgery, and in recent weeks, I gradually traded that for my regular mountain bike mounted on an indoor training device. In short, I've spent the majority of my waking hours strengthening my beleaguered body to prepare it for today.

Today, after careful consideration by my PT, I rode my mountain bike outdoors!!! Below, I headed out onto our dirt road, full of excitement and the weight of trepidation. I feared a million things... but mostly I feared that my neck would no longer could bend enough to allow me to look ahead while riding. I shouldn't have feared - my neck performed beautifully. I had a joyful and short ride on our dirt road. My only deficit was that I couldn't look over my shoulder... but I've been assured that my loss of twisting motion will undoubtedly pass, as soon as my neck muscles loosen up.
The photo of my momentous event certainly isn't as cute as the photos of the bear cub or my Labraduo, but it means the world to me. I teared up as I arrived home, feeling content in the knowledge that bike riding will become part of my life again. My first ride was supposed to occur in the desert this week, on a vacation that we've postponed because a virus has hit our house. That's why I slogged through snow to get to the road!

Ironically, my young nephew who I hope will be my biking companion some day was learning to ride his first true mountain bike yesterday. His photo is much cuter than mine!
Today, before I rode my mountain bike, I had the honor of both members of the Labraduo joining me for a hike. I tossed aside the snowshoes because they've been torturing the ruptured disc in my low back and decided to tromp through the snow in boots, even if it was thigh-high in places.

After watching her closely today and on other days, I've concluded that K's rock-climbing obsession is partly so that she can keep watch for the huge dog pack that comes through on most mornings. R joined her today.
And, they struck a joint pose at one point.
Although we weren't close to the bear den, I think that the bear scent wafts in the prevailing winds toward this lookout point. The dogs always orient toward it. However, they've both recently demonstrated an extreme fear of bears so I no longer worry about them taking off toward the scent.
As we hiked, R seemed closely connected to me, stopping to look closely at me, as if he'd never really seen me before. The photo at the start of the post was one of those moments, a heart-touching instant of connection, and this one was another.
When we arrived home, K homed in on the sunniest spot in the house next to my exercise ball, her habitual morning snoozing spot. But, unlike most mornings, R wanted to be as close to her as possible, even though no more sun rays were available.
They crossed paws, seemingly a symbol of their growing bond.
It was, indeed, a good day.


  1. It sure sounded like a good day! The pictures are beautiful! It must feel good to be on your bike!
    Have a nice day!

  2. Back on the bike, huh? :) Way to be a fighter. If you'd given wouldn't be able to move now. Your persistence and activities are paying off every minute. I am crossing my paw just like your bonding pups, to your health and many trail rides with the peanut

  3. Congratulations! We are sure that today was a very important day on your road to recovery. You are awesome!!!

  4. So many good things in this post, from your first bike ride, the pics of the dogs, those sweet crossed paws . . .I am thrilled for you, KB and wish you more and more each day.

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  5. This post made me really happy. I had a feeling when I read the title that it would bring the news that you've gotten back on your bike.

    I was having a particularly bad moment the other day, thinking about Marge's recent injury and the fact that the weather was so nice, perfect for agility, yet I couldn't do it. I happened to be on my bike taking a ride around the neighborhood at that time, so I then thought how you must have been feeling the same way about the fact that you couldn't yet ride. Life is just one giant crapshoot, I guess - that was the bottom line of my thoughts - but I am glad that today luck was in your favor!

  6. Hurray!! Hurray!! I thought you might have news about your first ride, and I sat on the edge of my seat until I read your announcement. I threw my arms in the air!

    While I certainly cannot fathom what you've gone through with your back, I can appreciate the need to get out and move. I also know how frustrating it can be to be benched from an activity. I can't believe your patience for your daily rehab and time on an indoor bike...but look where it's brought you!


  7. Congrats on the incredible achievement!

    AND thanks for sharing awesome crossed paw shot!

  8. wonderful! i can hear the joy in your words!
    i think R is "coming into his own"...such a beautiful, love, love the pics of the crossed paws...and the dogs on the boulder, stunning!
    you are a strong and determined person that chooses to concentrate on what you can do, rather than what you can't inspiration...
    a wonderful day indeed!

  9. Welcome back to the bike. Terrific news. And, that last photo of your two holding hands? Priceless.

  10. What a fantastic day's story! The paws together pic is just amazing!


  11. I was holding my breath as I read the beginning of your post, hoping that you were going to say that you'd gotten back on the bike and not gotten told you couldn't ride!

    My husband started taking his niece and nephew riding with him last year along with his youngest brother and sister. Two weekends ago the niece and nephew were busy out in the garage cleaning their bikes and getting them ready for when he calls to see if they want to ride! He's currently trying to figure out how he'll get his soon-to-be year-old nephew out on the trails with them this year! It must be a bike-lover thing!

    K and R are just stunning, yet again! I love all the photos of them!

  12. Congratulations!
    You rode your bike, I know it seems like an eternity to you, but it really hasn't been that long , you heal fast, you have good company to help you and you managed to keep yourself as well as the rest of us interested in your surroundings. Great job KB, I am very happy for you and look forward to seeing you in the forest.


  13. Congratulations to both you and your nephew!

  14. Woohoo!!!!! This post made my heart jump for joy!! I am SO happy for you my friend!!!! I cannot imagine the relief and absolute ecstasy you must have felt!!

    Way to go KB!!!!

    Grinning like a big happy idiot over here!
    p.s. Those pictures of R are SO sweet...and I love the holding paws picture too :) tell your hubby that we send special healing thoughts his way!!

  15. Congrats KB!! Back on the bike!!! All the hard work is paying off! Very good post and I'm really happy to hear that I'll see you out on the trails this summer! Keep it up!

  16. Hey there KB!

    What a joyous occasion and inspiring post!...Im almost tempted to put on my gym shoes and declare today the day of my transformation! (I'll let you know if I do!)

    You have such incredible tenacity it's quite unbelievable. YOU are my inspiration for today!!!

    Thank you for sharing this milestone with us. It is truly wonderful! There is a notion which sits well with me...Any sentence with "Can't" should have a "YET" added as the last word...try it!

    I am so happy for you! Take it gently though!

  17. What gratifing news. I am so happy for you. Your hard work realy did the job. Love the pictures particular the one of R because I know how difficult it is to get good pictures of a black dog. Love EM

  18. Ah- wonderful! I remember a few years ago my first mtn bike ride after 3 months of back brace and therapy and the fantastic feeling of motion and freedom.

    I'm like you BTW- love to stop, take photos, explore, check stuff out. Drive my friends crazy.

  19. You set a good example for us who chose to sit on our couches and watch endless hours of mindless TV.
    Keep biking and enjoying your outdoors! Where in the dessert are you vacationing?

  20. Woohoo! I can just feel your spirit soar through your written words! Congratulations! Such a heart-warming photo of the dog paws!

  21. Wowow!!! That is so awesome and must feel just fabulous! And LOVE all the pictures! Everything in your photos and writing screams a level of zeal and happiness that makes us smile over here!
    Hugs from us all xoxoxo
    Sammie and household

  22. What a great day!! Yeaoooooo! Being back on the mountain bike, fantastic! And, thigh high snow on the hike! Wish we were still in that snow mode.
    K & R are as beautiful in spirit and body as ever. Their bond with you and with each other is heart warming. Must ask about the 'dog pack!?'...cayotes?
    Hey KB, do you know the Mt. Bike Hall of Fame folks? Just wondering.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose and mom

  23. OH my dawg! that is so awesome to see you on your bike again! i've been riding too finally, tho not with my dogs. i dont' think i could ever multi task to that level with my sibe. Labs i think make excellent cycling companions. you are very lucky to have them!

    congratulations on your "can't can't" (get it? you can't "can't" ...) LOL. ok i won't quit my day job. which is...????

    i love the crossed paws at the end. perfect.

  24. Kia ora KB,
    Rave on my friend. Two weeks away from my own surgery your place and inspiration continues to brighten my day, and what I may be able to look forward to interacting again with. Kia kaha!

  25. Congratulations! Back on your bike and just shows that all your hard work has paid off. Awesome!! The pics of your Labraduo are fantastic. Thanks for visiting us.
    Ernie, Sasha, Chica

  26. Thanks to everyone for your uplifting messages! You made my day even happier!

    CiscoKid: We were planning a trip to the Utah desert, in red rock land. But, now it looks like we're taking a stay-at-home vacation. Between illness and yet another big snow storm here, it seems like the best choice. We'll save Utah for May!

  27. Congratulations - what spectacular news and a tribute to your fighting spirit - Year of the Bobcat indeed!

    P.S. - Love the paws crossed.

  28. Oh - Happy Day, KB! I felt my own eyes tearing up as you talked about your "can'ts" and then your "cans"! So unbelievable and so wonderful that you are already on the bike. You beat me girl! I hope to get back on mine soon but must conquer the dizziness first. The photos are priceless - the duo shots great!

  29. Miss a few days of following and look what happens! Congratulations!

    The two dogs together is a pretty touching sight.


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