I wanted to put up a picture of the ‘Hell Hill’ that started the Goddess run, or that that put about 10 minutes between the back of the runners/walkers and me. The long sloping hill turned steep and when it seemed it was all over and I had slid to the back of the pack, but still definitely in the 5K race we turned the corner and, whammo, hell hill!
This was Sunday’s Goddess Run, which I signed up and paid for as a gift to Linda back when she was in the Hospital. Promising champagne (never saw it), chocolates, live music and massages in an all women’s 5K, 10K and half marathon, it was something for Linda to look forward to. Plus, by paying the same fees as the Times Colonist race, I got to donate $20 toward the Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Center. The Center not only does counselling but supports women who have been sexually assaulted with a person there, supporting them from the hospital to the police interview right through the trial.
I don’t know why Langford, a suburb of Victoria is trying to replicate San Francisco, or maybe developing land left because it was part of the side of a steep mountain is the other reason. Either way, this hill is so steep that all I can do is push, then grab the top of the wheel and hold myself locked as the gravity of the slope tries to pull me backward down the hill. I get four or five inches per push. My shoulders are screaming in pain. My left thumb wouldn’t move at all for two days, and my right hand still can’t pick up objects as they drop from inability to grip.
The all female race reminds me of the breast cancer runs in Cardiff Wales. Everything from the serious to those in tutu's. We start all a gaggle, seem to be far more than the limited number of 350. Each race section has a limit to the numbers, which is why I got in with the last 18 people, booking it after talking to Linda in hospital back in April.
For the runners the uphill was just a hard but odd start, then on to the flat sections, for me it was 10 minutes of hell with construction workers staring. They were up for the Goddess race of all females: mothers with daughters, friends, and a team of women in pink tops which read “Fueled by Chocolate”. The construction workers were working on Sunday to make the slopes in gravel on the NEXT development project (forbid we should have anything green or natural on this island). What goes up must come down, and just as steep. With only hands and gloves for brakes, I found that even when I locked my hands and the wheels, the wheelchair’s locked wheels were sliding down as fast or faster than a walking pace.
Then there were the cars and trucks coming straight at me, while I was going up hill, and coming down with very minimal control and trying to just keep my speed as low as possible. Though we told them two months ago, the race organizers did not inform or act to acknowledge the two wheelchair racers, Linda in her power chair and me in the manual. So the wheelchairs weren’t called to go early, and the people who were to mark the ‘end’ of the race, as the 5K went last, so the streets were opened after the last of the 5K participants passed, followed the runners, opening up traffic to drive straight at us. The worse, when going down that hill, out of control, were the cars and trucks going across the streets and there was no way for me to stop until I reached the bottom.
You can see, here on the Goose trail, once the Hell Hill was over how quickly the Edema responded to the stress as take a look at my shoulders here compared to the ones going up the hill. My body, already stressed with the disease in final stage, was breaking down cells for the water and I was swelling.
It was hard, and I went for a nap at 8:45 pm on Sunday and didn’t wake up until mid Tuesday. The good news is that my kidneys were still working, though they turned off for a while, or went into ‘holding mode’ but when I did make it to the bathroom, the dark orange pee said that toxins were leaving the building. I though of trying to take a picture but doubted I could make it to my camera and back.
But do I regret? No way. For this one hour, I LIVE. To challenge myself, to challenge the idea of what someone in final stages of dying can do, this is who I am. Or at least would want to be, not just lying in the bed, watching systems fail, like lights going out in a house, which itself seems to be covered more and more in a foggy mist.
With so many women and young girls around I didn’t want to swear, but they put three hills as our start! When the going got tough Linda could hear me saying, “NDY! N.D.Y.! N.D.Y.!” There is so little in my life and my body that I can control now, so to have it reduced to one horrific hill, and five inches at a time. I can’t stop the fact that whether it is five or twenty five weeks, I can’t, despite what some may think, keep going forever. It is almost over. And the pain just keeps getting worse. But having been removed from hospice and hounded by VIHA because a broke a stereotype that palliative people would want to live longer, would go to the Y, would do more than just ‘accept and wait.’ And thus I was to be broken, or put in a hinterland where the medical tests show I am end stage, but both VIHA manager and GP seem outraged and angry that I should go to a film, or the Y, and perhaps, evidence aside, I am making it up, or need no help at all. ‘Bring in the Shrink!’
All this, with financial, job woes, were reduced to four to five inches and if I had the will power to push once more. "Go Elizabeth" someone called out earlier.
With our names in bold, any and all spectator can urge us on with the added power of our name. But here, on hell hill, it is just Linda and I. And for Linda, it looks far worse than it did on the map. After reviewing the options it comes down to this: Do or quit. The same decision to be made several hundred times for just that one hill.
Several times a week I go to sleep and then can't wake up, can drink water, can move my head or even cry. I can’t wake up and it terrifies me, as I sleep on, like a ship sailing into a fog, drifting through dangers unknown, with fevers, and the muscles breaking down as my food intake decreases while the edema is so fast it transforms my body in a half hour. Meanwhile, if I want to pay the cost, to risk the time I have, simply to do what I haven’t done in a couple years, and push myself up a hill, finish that 5K. Once more into the fray…
I am an academic, a lesbian who IS married, 17 years, and a full time wheelchair user, now power chair user. I write about disability issues on the blog Screw Bronze and up to Nov. 2008 on BBC's OUCH! Currently I am working on the postcard project (sending out a postcard to everyone who wants/needs one! Over 5,300 sent. To get a postcard for free click the link below!).
Yeah, I'm terminal, I'm end stage, I have days without hope - so similar to all those years of retail jobs during Xmas. Hee.