I attended college at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The funniest thing about that, is that I am what one might refer to as, ‘indoorsy‘. Me and the outside don’t get along super great so to choose Boulder where the most prominent pastime (other than binge drinking), is outdoor sports, wasn’t a match made in heaven.
Mountains + snow + kids with their parents’ credit cards = skiing and snowboarding. It was what you did on the weekends. You got a 5 mountain pass from Safeway and hitched a ride up to the slopes with someone who had a car.
I was a decent skier by Midwestern standards, but put me on the top of A Basin with a pair of skis on and you’ve got trouble. It’s not that I couldn’t develop the skill, I was just terrified. I hate the unknown, I loathe feeling reckless and variables are not my friend.
I wanted to fit in like all college kids do, so I kept at it and I kept hating it. Everything about it scared me. The chair lifts, the often poorly marked trail maps, and for fuckssake, freezing your ass off as you catapult down a mountain? Yeah, nope. Here’s what I liked about skiing: hot chocolate.
During study abroad in Florence, I took a weekend trip with some people from my program to ski in Switzerland. This trip started off poorly as I had a wicked cold and felt pretty sick. I also really didn’t know the people I was traveling with.
But ‘when in Rome’… I put on my ski gear and took a gondola up to the top of the freakin Swiss alps. By myself.
This story could be really long and lugubrious, but let’s break it down to this, I made approx 47 wrong turns and an hour and a half later reached the bottom of the mountain in another town from where I started. I basically trailblazed my own run through people’s backyards n’ stuff.
When I got to the bottom I was spit out onto a random road. Nothing in sight but private chalets scattered about. I remember feeling absolutely panicked. I didn’t speak French or German or whatever the hell that part of Switzerland spoke and even if I did, my cold had progressed to complete laryngitis.
In what must have been pure adrenaline, I flagged down a public bus and somehow, made my way back to the correct mountain base. It was truly one of the scariest moments of my life.
I was scared on the gondola up, I was really scared trailblazing down runs way above my ability not knowing where I was, and I was beside myself by the time I was standing roadside holding my skis and weeping silent tears.
I tell you all this story because it is the closest thing I can equate to the way I feel about starting chemo tomorrow.
I’ve been laying in bed wide awake despite a fun assortment of sedatives for hours thinking about how to correlate my fear to something. And then it hit me.
Chemo is my double black diamond. It is way out of my league, surely something I will find scary and reckless and the unknowns are huge.
Here I am standing at the top of the mountain, boots strapped in to my skis, peering over the edge. I know I will make it to the bottom, but how I get there is a frightening mystery.
I know I’ll fall, I’ll probably get lost, I’ll definitely cry, and may even need the ski patrol to come help me out once or twice.
Just like all of my angst-filled, peer pressured ski trips in college, I will learn something from this double black called chemo. I will be stronger for surviving it. I will have one hell of a life experience in my back pocket, along with plenty of bumps and bruises.
I don’t like skiing as it presents so many options for me to get hurt. Same with chemo. But you know what? The gondola already dropped me off at the top and there is only one way down to the hot chocolate.
So come tomorrow morning, I will strap on my boots, click them into the skis and just let ‘er rip, praying that I make it to the bottom in one piece (and that there is a Swiss public bus waiting for me when I get there, preferably driven by a chiseled blonde named Anders).
What? A girl can’t dream from her friggin chemo chair?!?!