25 November 2014


Peacock Flake

Ten years ago this month, I gave a neurosurgeon permission to cut into my back. He removed a crippling bone chip from my sciatic nerve and rendered me able to walk again.

I spent the next seven years doing everything I could to encourage nerve regeneration and regrowth. They say that's how long it takes nerve damage to heal, if it's going to heal. No promises.

The emergency surgery also allowed demoralizing arthritis to gain a weed-worthy foothold.

I can't truly blame the surgery for this hardship. Arthritis runs heavily in my family. I probably would have succumbed to the stiffness and pain of everyday life eventually, with or without the surgery.

I have spent the last ten years trying to "stay active," even when it hurts, because my doctor told me that's the best he can offer. Sitting still magnifies the stiffness. Dormancy encourages and stimulates atrophy.

I've tried to do something special, something challenging, each anniversary of my surgery, just to prove to my physical body who is in charge. Mind over muscle. I will not be held back.

This year, I celebrated with a bicycle climb up Deer Creek Canyon. It may not seem noteworthy or even much of a challenge. I've done it probably 30 times, although with decreasing frequency the last couple of years.

Nearly two years ago, my back became an issue again when mischievous teens broke a fence post and unwittingly challenged me to a bicycle-hurdling demonstration. A broken wrist, a dinged camera, hamburger knees and elbows, and a mystery back injury not entirely discovered or diagnosed for ten whole months forced me to start all over again on my training and healthy lifestyle. (That second link reveals one of the best tragedy overcome poems I've ever composed, in my opinion.) Thankfully, my bike was fine.

I wasn't able to scale Deer Creek Canyon again until early this last summer. Forest fires that first summer and the next prevented me from repeating the fete often enough to maintain ability.

Pleasant Park School

cookies for climbers

Back in September, I reached the top again for the second time since May of 2012. It was a long, grueling climb, and I felt like a collapsed shack near the top by the time I reached the top. Then, thanks to my continual habit of over-committing myself and my inability to say, "No," I didn't get another opportunity until the tin or aluminum anniversary of surgery. And even then, hours and daylight were limited. There would not be enough daylight to tackle the entire climb, so I had to modify my goal.

I decided within the first four miles I would try to beat the best miles-per-hour average I had ever attained on the Deer Creek ride, which includes up AND down. I think my snail's pace going uphill on any trail, road or bike path has been steadily improving since before the bicycle accident, albeit very, very slowly. So just going a little faster up the canyon wouldn't be enough for me. I wanted something I could really call a feather in my cap.

I decided to pedal hard as far as I could and then to keep trying to get back up to intensity as much as I could for the remainder of the ride. I don't think I had ever pushed hard for 27 whole miles on any ride anytime anywhere. If I could bring up my total average by a mile or so, that would be an accomplishment. That would be the peacock's feathers.

Peacock Blues

As I pedaled, I wondered if I should start celebrating my renewed outlook on life in October of 2012 instead of the back surgery, since the discs damaged in the bicycle wreck have more impact on me now than the bone chip. As I reached the top of the day's climb, about the halfway point because that's all daylight would allow me on this particular day, one of my most cherished motivational songs began to play on my iPod once again, at just the perfect time.

"I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life"
-- Coming Back to Life, Pink Floyd

I don't need to dwell on that bicycle accident anymore. It was awful. It changed my life. It zapped my will. It brought on one of the most devastating bouts of depression I've faced since the deaths of my little brother and my little sister.

By gosh, that day is gone. I'm not letting those silly kids and that stupid fence post have any more of my life. Yes, I have an injury that isn't going to go away and will eventually get worse. But by golly, I'm not giving up. I'm going to enjoy what I have left of life, and I'm not memorializing that fateful day anymore.

Good riddance!

Deer Creek Canyon, 10th Anniversary Climb

I pedaled down the mountain fast. I typically am very conservative when descending. But for this day, weather was perfect, road conditions were good (no gravel, not much traffic), I was feeling strong, and I wanted to prove I could go a little faster and still be cautious and observant.

When I got back to the (mostly) flats, I faced a devilish headwind, and I wasn't about to let it slow me down, either. Although sometimes I couldn't pedal faster than 5 or 7 mph, I kept giving it my all. I tried to pedal as hard as I could.

At the end of the ride, I quickly reached inside my rear jersey pocket to punch in the end of my ride and see if I'd reached my goal of one mile per hour faster than ever before.

Raise the Roof!!!

If any earthquakes were detected that day, that was me. That was me dancing for joy. That's the way I intend to live the rest of my life.


  1. Best way to be, never give up and keep on keeping on. But 7 years it takes for nerve stuff to get better? Damn it, I still have 5 years to go, uggg.

    1. Thanks, Pat! I'm so sorry to hear, though, thta you have nerve damage, too. Please do everything you can to encourage healing and regrowth. It is indeed a long, long time, but it's so worth it!

  2. I know how a back injury can affect your life. I had emergency surgery for an epidural abscess 7 years ago. I can't walk very far without paying for it later. Glad you have overcome some of the obstacles in your life. Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. Wow, Charlotte. I had no idea. You do very well for having such a horrible obstacle. Keep right on crocheting and creating sunshine; how wonderful that you do still have that!

  3. You're awesome! I wish I had a fraction of the perseverance you have. Well done.

  4. Wow, Deb, that is truly an impressive gain! I feel like I'm riding fast if I maintain that speed on the flats ... and you did it with a climb thrown in! Big cheers from Wisconsin!

    Boy, do I hear you on how an accident can mess things up. Mine was nowhere NEAR as bad as yours, but I'm still struggling with it on a very frequent basis. I can't bring myself to sign the insurance paperwork because I hate to be reminded of it. There are still flashbacks and mini panic attacks when the accident is mentioned or thought of, and the end of the cycling season was not good at all, as I seemed to regress back to where I was just after it happened. I do so hope next season will be better. Let's walk away (or should I say ride away?) from those memories together, shall we?

    A big hug to you, dear friend.


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

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