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Monday December 17th 2018


Chronic Snarkopolist: Climbing Our Cliffs

Post Published: 02 June 2011
Category: chronic autoimmune conditions column, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 8 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves!

When I was on vacation I had many experiences. I saved one story to tell you because of all people I thought YOU would understand.  And I hope you have similar stories to share!

On my trip, I made plans to hang out with a dear friend who knows me, knows my story, has dealt with family illness, but is “healthy as a horse.” (Are horses healthy?)  We had agreed to go to some beautiful falls and see the scenery.  Once there he said, “Shall we climb them?”  I had NO intention of going to the top.  It was a mile up and a subsequent mile back down.  I would never make it.  NEVER!

Not a single bone in my body wanted to miss time with my friend.  I was angry at my body.  I was angry at my lost life.  I wanted to impress him.  I felt foolish at how “out of shape” I was. When my reality is, I’m not out of shape, I’m fucking sick.  I’M FUCKING SICK and I’m healing! How do you make words for, “My body might not be able to do this but I so want to!”

I said, “I would like to try. But I need you to understand my limitations and have patience with me.”  I cannot tell you how humbling and humiliating and horrifying it was to say those words when I wanted to say, “LET’S GO! LET’S GOOOOO!!!”

What is a twenty minute trek more able (normal? healthy? walky-uppy?) people took an excruciatingly long time for me.  It was an easy path, made for EVERYONE. It was paved and not tenuous.  There were no brambles or stumps to navigate. There was nothing hard about this climb but my own body screaming out, “Please, I’m not used to moving, why are you making me work? Have mercy!”

Again and again I said to my friend, “I need to rest.”  And we would stop along the path, every few steps and he would chat with me.  I wanted to cry and tell him I was sorry for ruining our trip.  But instead I chatted and talked.  I will refrain from telling you HOW my body felt.  I’m sure you can imagine.  This was also an emotional journey.  And the two conversations in my brain were of both victory and defeat.

I felt simultaneously victorious not to be in a wheelchair anymore and that I AM walking on my two feel.  I am GRATEFUL that I have been given back my mobility.  And I felt defeated by my own limitations, by illness, by the loss of my health, my vitality, my resources.  I felt ashamed to be standing by a muscular individual who could have RUN up and down the cliff but instead waited patiently and graciously with me whilst I had to stop and rest at every turn.  Being stoic has never been so difficult.  All the time I chatted and nattered on.  How odd to feel both gratitude and the unfairness at simultaneously.

The contradictions made me feel dizzy even as I pushed them back and ordered my feet to walk.  I commanded myself to pay attention to the greens, the sights, the sounds.  I took pictures.  I felt the presence of my friend, whom I adore.  I was in the moment.  Yet being in the moment means, I had to FEEL all of my emotions, all of them.

Once we reached the summit the feelings hit me even more.  We looked out and I felt overwhelmed by the victory, by defeat, by pain, by joy.  I never thought I would be able to do this again.  And yet, instead of hugging him and telling him beautiful stories of my life or listening to his beautiful stories, I shared with him a painful story that I RARELY tell anyone.  Why?  Why did I bring PAIN into such a victorious moment?

At first I thought, I cannot let myself have any happiness at all.  I cannot allow myself to feel joy, even at the victory of a climb I never thought I would have again.  But then, after some consideration, I thought, perhaps I felt SAFE enough, with this soul, to actually SHARE ALL of it.  And at this cliff, there WAS everything.

These falls might as well have been the top of the highest mountain for me a year ago.  And on this day I just climbed to the top with a friend.  Of course there is every feeling.  I did it!  And when we reach victory, we never just find joy.  We see all of life.  And all of ourselves contain every emotion.  We feel all of our pain, all our happiness, and all of our losses.  And yes, there is GREAT loss in being chronically ill.  There is GREAT loss in realizing how much we will never have again.  And there is great loss standing there and bearing it and sharing it with another.  It was a vulnerable and beautiful and joyous and he was my witness.  And now I am giving it to you.

Has this ever happened to you?  Is it normal to have such pain in victory?  Is it normal to heal a little and realizing that even in our healing there is so much loss that we never even knew it until we get to a summit and look out and allow ourselves to truly feel?  I would love to know your stories.  I would love to hear how you handle such situations!  How do you celebrate your victory yet simultaneously honor your losses without stealing the present moment? Please tell me! I must know!  You are my heroes! Thank you for listening to my story. I saved it for people I thought would understand.  Sharing our stories heals. And this was a healing, beautiful, painful, vulnerable journey for me.

I will see you same time next week! Kiss kiss!


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8 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: Climbing Our Cliffs”

  1. Anna says:

    Thank you Melissa! I struggle with this EVERY DAY! This is my new reality. Because of the cancer, surgery mishap and radiation, I cannot breath with ease, ever. My brain tells me I can still run, bike, play tennis, swim, but with any attempt, my lack of breath stops me and reminds me I can no longer do those things without difficulty. When my marathoner friend told me if she helped me train and build stamina, I could still run a marathon, was it wrong for me to want to slap her? My vocal chords are so close they will not allow more air in. I am still healing, but I know I have limitations. I was told I wouldn’t sing again yet I sang at a concert a few months ago. It was joyful and painful at the same time; joyful that I did it, painful that my voice is weaker and I cannot sing the same songs I was able to before. Life is short, we do need to celebrate every victory albeit small in our minds. We can’t let our losses steal our beautiful moments!

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Thank you so much for sharing and writing in!!! I’m so with you!

      I love what you’ve written and what you’ve said! Yes to celebrate every victory! And yes yes yes to not letting our losses steal our victories. And here’s to finding our balance!

      So grateful you are here!


  2. I completely understand your experience Melissa and first off let me say, CONGRATULATIONS! You did it! You must allow yourself to savor these victories. Pain in victory, I like that. So very true. Yet it makes the achievement all the sweeter doesn’t it? Due to a stroke on top of thyroid cancer I am able to walk 15 steps now and I am very proud of it! I know what levels of pain it has taken in order to get to where I am at. As Anna stated above, we cannot let losses steal any of our beautiful victorious moments.

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Thank you so so much for writing in!! And oh my! I’m so so grateful for your 15 steps and for sharing it! And I’m humbled that you have shared. I cannot wait until next year when you let me know how many more steps you are taking. Every day is always new and different. And some days are trickier than others. Pain in victory – Yet STILL VICTORY!

      Thank you so much!

  3. Joanne Naso says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have felt that way just thinking about walking to the mailbox on some days! I keep wondering when I will get my old self back. I am only seven weeks post surgery, so am hopeful for an energy increase.

    It sounds like your friend is an amazing support for you. How lucky for you!

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Thank you so much for writing in Joanne,
      Wow – yes, being so soon post-op is new and fresh. And yes, every week and every day is such a transition. I cannot wait to hear how it goes. And I cannot wait to hear you share! We are here! Please please write in and share! I’m so grateful for your words and your presence!!!

  4. Becca says:


    Your story has encouraged me to change several things. I too, was just recently on vacation and faced with the opportunity to climb to some beautiful water falls. My loving boyfriend is an amazing athlete, much like the friend you describe. Instead of explaining my fears, my illness, my pain, to him, I squashed it all down with chatter and deep breathing. I made it to the top and back without a problem. I was prematurely congratulating myself on maybe getting “better”. Alas, later that afternoon, my body punished me for taking on such a great feat of physical exertion. It took me well over 3 days to recover. It ruined the rest of our vacation (In my opinion-not his) and I regret not telling my friend my real feelings and fears about the beautiful hike.
    Thank you for showing me how to handle it better next time.

    with love and energy,

    Becca Boo

    • Melissa Travis says:

      I’m so grateful that you’ve written in, and so happy that you are able to make it out into the world. I’m sorry that you had blowback and consequences from over-doing it. But so so happy that you are able to navigate the world. Always a good way to consider “next time.”

      So so proud of you and so grateful that you’re writing in! Keep sharing! Keep being here! We are all necessary to our support and healing!

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