Hiking with a Disability

Hiking with a Disability

Hey everyone! I’m so glad you’re reading my blog! I’m really excited to introduce myself and let all my readers get to know me a little bit! My name is Mary Campbell, I’m 25 (almost 26!!) and I’m the event coordinator for Trails of Freedom. I also do some of the video editing. I’m going to be blogging about what it’s like living with a disability, and more importantly, try to show everyone that life isn’t over with a scary diagnosis. For my first entry, I want to give everyone a little background on my medical history, leading up to the four scariest words in my life.

I started having vision problems in 2006, and doctors chalked it up to stress. Every time a new visual symptom would show up, I would continuously convince myself that I was just stressing about something, and try and calm down. Fast forward a few years to 2009, to when I was reading a book in bed, and I suddenly realized I couldn’t see the lower portion of the right page. It was weird, I could see the page, but the words weren’t there…  Some good friends convinced me to see an eye doctor.

I saw the eye doctor the week before I turned 24. After a battery of tests, he concluded I might have a brain tumor, and sent me for an MRI. I remember I scheduled the MRI the day after my 24th birthday, because I didn’t want bad news on my birthday. A few very long, scary days later, the eye doctor called and gave me some bittersweet news. There were no tumors, but there were lesions on my brain.

Over the next few months, I had a battery of tests. EKG, EEG, more MRI’s, cancer screenings, Fluorescein angiography, spinal tap… and many more tests. I’m not going to go into all the gory details, because believe me, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. I saw specialist after specialist. Finally, it was a neuro-opthamologist that said the four words that changed my life forever. “You have Multiple Sclerosis”.

Multiple Sclerosis. It’s not a pretty disease. Google it, and there is all sorts of scary information that would make anyone want to curl up into a corner and never come out. In short, it’s a disease where the nerve signals don’t make it to their intended destination. This can result in nerve pain, muscle spasms, vision problems, paralysis, and cognitive issues… basically anything neurological. Another difficult part of MS has to do with heat. Any rise in body temperature can cause a temporary relapse of symptoms. It’s a scary diagnosis.

When I heard those words, I thought I was doomed.  Luckily, I have amazing family, friends, and a wonderful boyfriend that helped me through my diagnosis, and still help me with medications, treatments, relapses, and doctor’s visits.  I’ve had good times, and I’ve had bad times. I’ve had terrible, terrible times. But my friends and family keep me going. They convince me that I can do anything, and pick me up when I am down. They are the most vital thing in my life; live casino I don’t know where I would be without them.

I remember the first hike I went on for Trails of Freedom.  It was in October, a mere 5 months after my diagnosis, and I was worried about whether I could still hike. “Don’t worry, it’s just a few boulders you have to climb over.” Those words were lied to me by Jordan Coleman, now Vice President of Trails of Freedom, a guy who I consider now to be my brother. We were going to conquer Breakneck Ridge, in New York. You think the name would have been a dead giveaway. We arrive there, and it turns out the first mile is almost straight up, almost hard enough to be considered a technical climb, requiring equipment. The majority of the first mile is spent scrambling on hands and knees, pulling yourself up over HUGE rocks, hoping you aren’t going to slide back down several feet. A few boulders, my butt. There were a few times I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the summit. It was one of the hardest hikes I’ve done yet, and the most rewarding. Leigh Anne, Justin, and Jordan were there for me every minute. It was incredibly worth it, the almost 360 degree view of the Hudson River was phenomenal; the section of the forest where every single leaf on every single tree was yellow was just breath-taking, and the ruins of a forgotten dairy farm was beautiful. I couldn’t believe that I got to experience that. Me. Mary. The girl with Multiple Sclerosis. It was a pivotal moment in my life. I realized that even though I have multiple sclerosis, I can still do anything.

This blog is going to be all about hiking with a disability. I’m going to share some of my embarrassing moments, and how you can avoid the same mistakes. (I promise you, you’ll laugh at me, like the time I slid back down a huge boulder at Indian Council Caves because I wasn’t watching my footing. Oh yeah, it’s on camera also.) There are going to be tips and tricks, and advice.  (Like make sure you always have pain relief, like Advil. Trust me, you will be SO glad you have it with you after a long hike.) I’m SO excited to share with everyone my adventures, and I hope that somehow, I can inspire someone out there to try something they have always wanted to do, no matter WHAT their physical condition. That feeling that you get after accomplishing your goal is truly special, and I want each and every one of my readers to experience that feeling. It can change your life.