It came to me a while back that I should write a blog on my/our backstory. When reading my blog posts, most people might not get why these hikes are even that big of a deal. The mileage that we do is not really impressive, especially in the hiking community. In the hiking community, the mileage we do in a day is a mere pittance to what many others can cover, but to us, it is significant. What I write next is not complaining or whining, so please don’t take it that way. It is meant to inspire and encourage. If we can get out there and do something that is hard for us, then I know others can too. Maybe not on the scale to which we are doing it, but by just starting to take the first steps to accomplishing something you have wanted to do for a very long time.
Gannon and I have always loved being active and outdoors, but after 4 years in the Marine Corps, Gannon was pretty much over any form of camping or backpacking. We both continued to be active by pursing our other passions. I was continuing my love of dance by becoming a dance teacher. Gannon ran and lifted weights. We started a family and had 2 boys. They were raised going to the beach in the summer and snowboarding in the winter.
In the year 2000, we hit a rough patch in our marriage. I will never forget what the therapist said to us. He told us to get a common hobby to share together. Some marriages fall apart after the kids are gone, because the marriage was all about the kids. The couple had nothing to hold their marriage together when their kids left home. We were both determined from that point on to find something that we both enjoyed doing together that could continue when the boys were grown. Our marriage was not going to fall apart after all these years because we had nothing in common anymore. No way, no how!
Over these last 15 years we have tried many different activities, including wine tasting, which is still one of my favorites! Gannon also loves to mountain bike. I gave that one a good try and failed miserably at it. We still go to the mountains in the winter, but instead of snowboarding, we are back to skiing. Not as cool, but much easier on our bones. Over the years, our bodies just don’t seem to take the beating and keep on ticking like they used to. Old injuries and job related injuries have started to side line us. Several have been significant and are the reason that what we do now is so meaningful.
In 2008, Gannon had a lower back fusion. He had rods, screws, and cages placed into his lower back. Most people did not think he would even go back to his line of work. He recovered well and was back to work in 6 months. He still deals with pain, but has full function of his back again.
It’s hard for me to remember when it all my foot troubles started happening. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and had orthotics made to help when wearing certain shoes. Some years later, I developed pain in my big toes and was told I had Hallux Rigidus. The doctors told me to wear orthotics and do other activities like swimming and biking (that’s when I gave the mountain biking a try). I was told to take Advil and use an anti-inflammatory cream on my feet daily. All the years of dance had really taken a toll on my feet.
Most of my physical activity stopped or I just did it with extreme pain. If I did do anything that involved being on my feet, I basically could not walk for a couple of days afterwards. This was no way to live!
Then I developed a ganglion cyst in the joint of my left big toe. I was referred to an orthopedic foot surgeon. After X-raying both of my feet, he informed me that once he removed the cyst, we could start working on getting my toes fixed. What? No one has ever told me there was a fix to this! Oh my gosh, this is a miracle!
I had the cyst removed, recovered, and went back to see what we could do. There were 2 options. I could have injections of cortisone for up to 3 times in each toe or surgery. I chose the injection route first. A temporary band aid by having a cortisone injection shot right into each one of my big toe joints. Super fun stuff!
At the same time, I developed other health issues that were unrelated (or so I thought) and ended up being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia by a Rheumetologist. She told me that most likely it is from living in soo much pain from my feet for all these years. If I had surgery on my feet and reduced the amount of pain I was in, it could also help reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Win, win! Back to the surgeon I went.
On March 20, 2014, I had my right toe operated on. I had a cheilectomy with bio-cartilage put into my joint. It’s really cool new technology that is just starting to be done in toes. Instead of just going in and cleaning up the joint, they also add bio-cartilage to create a good joint again. They also use your own blood to help your body not reject it. At the time of my surgery, my surgeon was the only one in Southern California using this new technique. After 6 weeks of a boot and some self therapy, I was really noticing a difference in my toe. I scheduled the next surgery for November.
In the meantime, Gannon’s health started taking a downward turn and was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, caused by a hiatal hernia and Gerd. He had to have immediate surgery to fix the problem or he was at serious risk for esophogial cancer. He had the surgery in October 2014. He lost a ton of weight before and after the surgery. When he was all done, he looked gaunt and really sickly. It was scary to see him that way.
On November 20, 2014 (6 months from the date of my other surgery) I went in to have my left toe fixed. Gannon was still recovering from his surgery. What a hot mess we both were! I spent another 6 weeks in a boot and went to actual physical therapy this time.
In February, Gannon and I were cleared by our doctors to start doing physical activities again. During all of our recovery time, we talked about starting to backpack. We always wanted to do it, but needed to wait until our kids were grown and my feet were better. We started training in February and had our big backpacking trip planned for mid July in Mammoth. It was exciting to have something to work towards together. We knew this trip could be the start to something great or the end to any overnight adventures for us! Luckily, it was the start to something great and we cannot wait for the many adventures we have ahead. Neither of us is without pain, but the love of finding that special something we love to do together outweighs all the painful moments.