Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I've always been afraid of heights. I don't even like being on a balcony of a tall building. My brother once tortured me by gently shaking the bridge I was standing on that looked straight down into a canyon with a waterfall. (Remember, Michael, we were on that bridge near Neuschwanstein castle in Germany. You were really funny shaking that bridge.)

(Sorry, I can't figure out how to turn the image the other way)

In 2006 I became the Gaithersburg/ Germantown Jaycees Individual Development VP. I thought a great activity for the chapter would be to go rock climbing. I wouldn't go, but I thought others might be interested. I asked Mike if he would organize it because he likes doing really physical activities. Mike looked into it and found that we could save the chapter money if at least two people became certified belayers (the person on the bottom who holds the rope for the climber) because the climbing center charges per climb otherwise. Then he talked me into doing it and I agreed. I don't know why, but I thought, "what the heck?"

We signed up for two classes and a month of climbing at Earth Treks in Rockville, MD. I was very nervous, but Mike was confident that I could do it. We arrived at the first class and learned how to tie the basic climber's and belayer's knots and basic safety techniques. Then it was time to hit the wall. Mike climbed confidently to the top and then it was my turn. I started climbing and made it up a few feet off the wall the first time, but the instructor pushed me to climb all the way to the top on my next climb. I did it! I felt exhilarated because I had done something I never imagined I would be able to do. I conquered a fear and climbed!

These days, I've climbed higher walls and even climbed outdoors at Great Falls. I'm still afraid of heights, but I push myself each time I climb to keep reaching, to keep climbing, to overcome my fear. Mike pushes me to succeed and constantly cheers me on to reach new heights. He encourages me to keep on climbing when I want to quit. It's hard work and every muscle aches, but when I reach the top I am exhilarated and triumphant and he is excited for me.
Each time I think about my cancer, I remind myself that it's just like rock climbing. I have to push myself past the fear to conquer this beast. I will be stronger because of my cancer and I will not let myself give into the fear. I am strong and capable and with Mike by my side, I can do anything - even something I never thought I would be able to handle.


Anonymous said...

Keep up the power thinking--it will help a great deal. Another thought which has helped me through some killer times "other people have done it--I can do it". I know it sounds really simplistic, but it really, really helps to put things into perspective. Just don't fall into the "well, other people are stronger, blah blah blah" trap. They are strong because they have no choice. Now, neither do you.

BTW, I was in Jerusalem, at the Western Wall, yesterday for Shavuot (Jewish holiday involving shocking amounts of dairy products, all-night Torah study and in certain cases, getting up at 4 AM to walk to the Wall--I focused on the first and last of the three). Anyway, I gave a shout out to G-d on your behalf when I was there.


Mike J. said...

Thanks for the kind words. Plus, the picture doesn't look too bad sideways, it just looks like you are doing push-ups. :)

Jeff said...

You rock Angela. Great post yesterday.

This is a great way of thinking. It's very similar to if you look at the mountain of a goal you have in front of you, then it feels like journey is extremely difficult or perhaps too far off to imagine completing. However, if you take each small hill and step that makes up the mountain as your goal, then you will have many small victories, and the overall goal of the mountain can be achieved much more easily.

Your metaphor between climbing and beating your cancer is also interesting because it was climbing that had you start to investigate why you were feeling lightheaded/out of breath.

You'll be on the wall/rock again soon enough.

victory4angela said...

My Nurse Practitioner, Doug Matthews, is a climber and we exchange lots of climbing and hiking stories. He actually heard about me through someone at Earth Treks and now he's my NIH NP.

Thanks for the encouragement. Every little bit helps.