Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Hell Hill of Goddess Run: Not Dead Yet

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…


SharonMV said...

cograts to you Beth! And to Linda. I am proud of your determination & perseverance. The managers of the race should have made sure everyone was finished before allowing traffic to restart. So glad you made it through. hope the pain is less now.
Love, Sharon

Lorna, Bob and Liam said...

Wowsa, I probably couldn't do those three hills on my feet, let alone in a chair. That last photo of the two of you is simply awesome... like the two of you.

As always, holding you both in our minds and hearts...

Lorna, Bob and Liam

Kate J said...

Wow, I can't believe you did it, you and Linda both, you are heroes - I guess that should that be heroines? - but I must say it sounds like the race organisers were somewhat remiss. I hope the pain lessens, that Linda is soon back on her feet and able to give you more help, that you get to spend some fun time together and that those b*****ds in Victoria health care start behaving like human beings rather than nazis. You deserve the library, the movie, the Y, the trips to the park and the beach...
Love and peace

Anonymous said...

you are an awesome"warrior Princess" - term from the 90s
I am again humbled and schooled by you


Anonymous said...

When we got to the starting area I looked up the course and saw the first part of the hill and thought "that's going to be hard".

After the race when Linda drove us along the course so I could really see the hills I kept thinking "holy crap this is brutal!"

I am in awe of your will and determination to finish. You are pretty incredible!


SharonMV said...

Dear Beth,
I hope you are recovering some stability after your massive effort on those hills at the race. I've never known anyone else with such strength of will.

Love, Sharon

GirlWithTheCane said...

Hi Beth

Hi from Ontario...thinking of you lots... - Sarah

william Peace said...

Wow, what a great photo of you alone going up the hill.

Baba Yaga said...

Congratulations on yet another insane feat of will...

Much more, though, on doing something you wanted to, on taking a piece of life back. On finding something you and Linda were free to do together. (How did the power chair stand up to that hill?)

I have problem's with women's sexual assault (etc.) centres - there's too often an implicit assumption (a) that men won't be victims, needing the same provision, and (b) (not always, but prevalently), that men are aggressors. The segregation which arises probably from the best reasons seem to make that thinking easier.

OTOH, provision for some may be better than provision for none...

Elizabeth McClung said...

Baba Yaga: I am glad I was able to do something, both for the sexual assault center and for myself.

I don't disagree that an organization which umbrella's sexual abuse done to male and females before breaking down into sub organizations for victims of sexual abuse by gender - which is the preference of those who need help. And I would not make a person, at the most vulnerable, going through an oft de-humanizing process which blames the victim still, to be a sacrifice for the ideas of perception.

one of the only options for counselling open to me the last few years had two counsellors, a male and a female. Due to past experience, I simply won't have a male alone with me in my home, and particularly not when counselling might include memories or feelings of abuse, or sexual abuse from males. Where I lived in the city meant the male counsellor was the one assigned. The organization would not switch and I simply could not, not 'would not' but 'could not' have him as a counsellor.

Because there was a hate crimes officer in the UK, when I brought in the journal of acts against me, I was able to proceed towards making a case. To have someone you know be there, to simply know that someone IS there to help support you is one of the few ways these under-reported and vastly undercharged and underconvicted assaults can take place. In Victoria, with an active 'old boys system', sexual assualt, abuse and rape on campus by faculty is almost impossible to bring to charge, the same occurs with stalking, institutional sexual abuse and other areas where the police won't act or take note so that a system of harrassment or danger can be shown.

I am sure there could be more, and no one is stopping those who want to start more. But I am glad there is something, because after assault, or sexual abuse, rape; it doesn't really feel like there is an advocate system FOR the abused, more the reverse.

My brother's last contact was to tell me that he was going to sue me unless I stop saying what he himself admitted to my parents a few Xmas ago. Why? Because I can't charge him after the age of 21. And because I knew that he would willingly spend tens of thousands to hurt me further and my parents would probably not stand up to speak the truth if it inconvienced them, I stopped writing about it. It wasn't right, but I didn't have the luxury of choices. His actions don't make me think all males are like that, but if I knew someone had my back as an organization, I wouldn't have to be censored over my own incest experiences.

I can't the issue or the support of women in positions, post incest, post sexual abuse, post rape in an abstract way, and I don't think I want to. I know that women are capable of abuse, as the female run VIHA demonstrates, but I still feel passionately that a women's centre for sexual abuse is needed, until the world changes so that it is no longer needed. The 'Take back the night' annual marches here were female only as well, as that was appropriate, to my perception. There is a time for allies, there is a time for single gender representation, in my opinion. The same I think is true for ethnicity, religion and other areas where discrimination, violence and crimes are systemic. I don't think a organization for helping muslim individuals report and prosecute hate crimes says anything about me as a non-muslim except that I probably should do more to help those who are experiencing those painful experiences which will alter their lives for some time to come.

Baba Yaga said...

Hi again, Beth.

I try to resist double-commenting, but it's not reasonable to let your thoughtful answer pass unremarked. Certainly, raising funds for a good cause is worth doing, even when other causes are good, too!

Your point is entirely fair: segregation for the purpose of safety is needful for many people. Certainly, imposing male counsellors on people (of either sex) who have reason to be afraid of men is grossly insensitive, and likely to be re-traumatising...

(Incidentally, 'won't' is surely just as legitimate, in such contexts, as 'can't'. Isn't re-claiming autonomy key to recovery from sexual assault?)

... But segregation for the sake of safety, within an umbrella organisation (point again taken), where coming together for common cause is at least hypothetically possible would be very different from the usual failure to recognise the needs of a whole sex, and especially from the political and agressive segregation which allows only certain viewpoints. That isn't the aim, but I think it's an accidental (usually or sometimes accidental, at any rate) result. The politics do bother me.

Also, perhaps because I just don't fit the model, my experience of womn's sexual assault services isn't as positive as yours - I have the misfortune to be a woman who viscerally mistrusts women, not men. (Within a context, anyway.) Not acceptable within that framework - profoundly unacceptable, in fact. One might as well admit to cannibalism.

Even when I've tried to be a good victim, and tried to work with women in women's agencies - never successful -, I diverge strongly from the prevalent political viewpoint: also so taken for granted that to deviate, to view one's exoerience differently from the expected and required way, isn't *understood*. The hostility is palpable; one can't legitimately be in need of a service, if one doesn't think like a good victim. I have routinely been identified as a troll, 'though the term wasn't then in use.

I can't *and* won't think thae approved way. I'd be wrong to do so; whether or not others are right to do so, which it's entirely possible they are.

On the other hand, I've always been an odd bod, and never fitted well in any system: playing the part of a good victim or patient or client (or whatever I'm supposed to be this week) has never been my forte.

All that doesn't invalidate the effort to improve things, on an individual or political level; and perfection's a lot to ask of any system. It does make me extra-aware, though, that the sexual-assault-provision-for-women system is one which excludes, as well as includes - systematically, not just incidentally. If it were *only* supportive and not political - if it could legitimately not be political -, I might view things differently.

Neil said...

Congratulations to you both on finishing, and stayin' alive to do so. You still make a lovely couple together!

I saw the same attitdue from the organizers when I volunteered for a run here: "Yeah, that person is so slow that the person bringing up the rear was told to ignore her."

And for this year's run, the toilets were at the start/finish line ONLY. 10K with no porta-potties.

You are both awesome. And Not Dead Yet. That is good. But I wish people would stop being so rude about you wanting to LIVE until you die.

Love and zen hugs,

Elizabeth McClung said...

Baba Yaga: Your experiences are your experiences and I certainly can point you to several good male sexual abuse counsellors. I don't think you 'must' have a female, and I have not found that the local health facility in the UK for counselling, under the NHS, has any form of segregation, although males could be requested if wanted.

As to autonomy and 'won't' or 'can't' - how applicable is that for those deemed 'vulnerable' - when I can be overpowered, am unable to leave a room, or even turn around, and am part of the highest statistical percentage of those who are sexually abused, is it logical or rational to have males unaccompanied in the home?

There is being aware of our own limitations, and taking action to limit them, and then there is wandering into dark alley's after midnight - I don't consider the latter to be 'autonomy' - nor do psychologists and psychiatrists, as the mind itself can change, post sexual assualt, which seems to be linked in some ways to age.

Cannibalism is part of the human condition, and exists in every culture humans create in some way or another. So perhaps your view of cannibalism is different than mine, because I see it practiced with regularlity. But I think you were trying to say it is considered taboo. I have met many females that don't interact well with females. I can understand not wanting to use services yourself, but you are advocating that as it didn't work for you, thus it should not exist. If the majority of users found it to be so, that would be reasonable and sound, but the stats and opinions show that the majority of users find this model works.

I don't know what it means to be a 'good victim' any more than I know what it means to be a 'survivor' - These are words that people construct meanings around, such as you have done. I don't know your experiences or the expectations you have run into enough to know what you mean. I could repond as we do as a society in law and tell you that you probably deserved it, provoked it or it never really happened. However, I think that the law and legal outcomes are still far, far, behind in acknowledging what people will openly state (two years ago, a newspaper survey found 66% of females saying they had been in an abusive relationship) - while that might be illegal in law, it is not reflected in outcomes.

I don't know what 'model' you refer to as I have experienced one, I don't know what 'political' you refer to unless you know something about this centre I don't know. As to the fact that you will not change how you think - good. And as you are passionate, why not assist those who don't fit what you see as 'the model' by creating someplace for them. Victoria has male for male sexual abuse groups as well as gay male sexual abuse groups - which I knew when I selected who I raise money for. Considering the centre is for women through the criminal process, eliminating them would likely increase the sexual abuse, as without restraint, or outcomes, predatory individuals will continue after being caught due to witness' not coming forward. I don't see that as political, but I have found that people can find almost anything political, and maybe it is. Maybe, all writing is political, all art political, all media, all interactions - I have heard it argued so. But fail to understand the pluses or minus of such.

If the system failed you, certainly don't support it, and create another. But why stop someone far away from supporting something that might help someone like them?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Baba: respond as you wish. I acknowledge that we have different experiences and thus will have different viewpoints on subjects. I don't believe that different viewpoints invalidates a person, and am happy to simply agree to disagree

Baba Yaga said...

"I acknowledge that we have different experiences and thus will have different viewpoints on subjects. I don't believe that different viewpoints invalidates a person, and am happy to simply agree to disagree"

Ditto. If - as I probably did! -, I came cross otherwise, I'm sorry.

One thing, though: I am *not* "advocating that as it didn't work for [me], thus it should not exist". If it reads that way, I expressed things very badly. Hellfire, almost (?) none of the orthodox models/treatments/systems have worked for me! (Luckily, the unorthodox has, by and large - the internet saved my life.) What hasn't worked for me is not really a good basis on which to assess anything.

On the other hand, what has worked against me has been instructive. I do think it reasonable to draw on that, in the context of other things.

As for autonomy: it is or damned well *ought* to be yours, not defined by others. Much as safety amplifies the argument, it seems to me unimportant _on the level of autonomy_, although not on other levels whether you need not to have men in your home, or just want not to: it's your home, and your right to self-determination. Your right to respect. Your 'treatment' or 'support', too.

That people seem intent on denying you that right - well, it's rotten, all ways up. Wrong.

I won't go on: this isn't *my* blog! More, I shuld probably have held my peace in the first place. My political brain sometimes forgets simple manners: I apologise for that.

Thank you, though, for being willing to read thoughtfully, and answer likewise. It's a rare generosity you show; and I do find the discussion of value. Disagreement can be ripe ground for better understanding, done right.

Oh, the NHS: decided, when I expressed a preference for working with a man, that that was all about sex (er, what?), and promptly assigned me a woman to work with. A touchy-feely woman at that. So I didn't work with anyone, much to the consternation of those who Knew Better. ;-)

This appears not to be a day of few words. !