It might seem silly to compare my recent trip to Telluride to climbing Mt. Everest, but that is honestly what it symbolizes to me. Making it to Telluride after the year I’ve had was one of my greatest achievements in life, and I believe, is nothing short of a miracle. Exactly 2 months (to the day) after having major liver surgery, followed by a relapse with the Lyme disease, I was headed out to the Rockies for a trip I had been dreaming about for so long. This trip was one of the only things I had to look forward to for a very long time. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not trying to take away from anyone who has actually climbed Everest, or even attempted to, but this trip was my Everest.
I had heard about this magical bluegrass music festival nestled in the mountains of Telluride, Colorado for a few years, but when my friends Craig and Jake got back from it last year and told me all about it, I knew I needed to experience it for myself. I was determined to do just that. I started planning right away and trying to convince friends to join me. Of course, Rachel (my best friend) was in. We had several other friends who showed interest (and are probably kicking themselves for not going after hearing our stories and seeing our pictures :p ), but it ended up being just the two of us and another wonderful festivarian we were lucky enough to find and have join in our adventure. You’re the best, Nick, and thanks so much Gwen and Cara!
Rachel and I bought tickets immediately when they went on sale, and continued the planning from there (this was all before I got really sick). Then things started to go downhill for me incredibly quickly as my symptoms multiplied and continued to worsen. I went from doctor to doctor and specialist to specialist, but no one could help me. In a matter of months, I had gone from being an outgoing, fun-loving, social butterfly to barely leaving my bed or apartment. I was so sick that at one point, I had basically moved back in with my parents so they could take care of me.
During this period, there were many times I was basically incapable of social interaction- I couldn’t converse with people or understand what they were saying, even when I was looking right at them. It was like they were speaking another language or something. I felt like the socially awkward weirdo who didn’t know how to engage with or relate to others. I was constantly stumbling over my words, forgetting what I was saying (well, forgetting basically everything), getting lost in my own neighborhood, etc., all of which was so foreign to me. I had never been like that. I was a total space cadet and my brain just didn’t work. I was completely terrified from all of this.
When I was brave enough to venture out for an hour or two (I forced myself to try to maintain some sort of a life no matter how deathly ill I felt), I was often too afraid to go more than a few blocks from home…and this, from a girl who was once passionate about traveling and exploring the world- a girl who thrived on pushing herself out of her comfort zone and experiencing new and exciting things. I had no idea what was happening to me, but this wasn’t me.
Then there were the physical symptoms- the unbearable pain, the vision problems, the inability to sit up in bed or even lift my head because I was so weak…I know I’ve gotten into this in previous posts, so I won’t keep going, but I was pretty much incapacitated both mentally and physically most days. When I finally started getting some answers- first the Late-Stage/Neurological Lyme Disease, and then the giant liver mass, I was nothing short of devastated. I felt like in the blink of an eye, my life had been shattered into a million pieces. Nonetheless, I still kept thinking about Telluride and how determined I was to make it there. Even if I couldn’t stand and had to go in a wheelchair, I was going to do whatever it took to be there.
I told Rachel about my wheelchair idea, but she wasn’t too fond of it…she said she was not going to push me through a music festival (in the mountains, I might add) in a wheelchair. In retrospect, I guess that’s a pretty ridiculous request and kind of a lot to ask of a friend, haha. I probably wouldn’t want to do it, either. Therefore, my only option was to fight like my life depended on it. I think I had somewhat convinced myself it did. I knew that if I could make it to Telluride, in whatever way, shape, or form, I could beat anything life threw my way.
I had my surgery on April 19th, and beginning two weeks post surgery, I was walking approximately 2 miles almost every single day. On my really bad days, I physically couldn’t do it, but I did put forth every effort to make it happen on a daily basis. I had to- I was training for Telluride;) I knew I needed to build up my strength and my spirit, no matter how hard it was or how much it hurt. For a long time, I couldn’t even stand up straight because my stomach muscles were so constricted and non-functional since most of them had been completely severed. Regardless, I was cruising around A-town at the pace of a hunchbacked granny, with dreams of beautiful Telluride hanging in front of me like a carrot on a stick.
I’m sure there are people who don’t understand why I would go on a trip in such a fragile condition, and with an ever-growing stack of medical bills (and yeah, maybe I could have made a little money selling my ticket to the fest, but still would have had to pay for the condo and everything else). This wasn’t about money to me, though. I’ll tell you one thing, and I hope you’ll remember it: if you or a loved one is ever in a similar situation (experiencing serious health problems), it is critical to have things to look forward to- things that bring you joy and can pull you out of the depths of despair and isolation that an illness or injury can bring. It’s easy to become completely consumed by something that so greatly alters your life, but I have always made it a priority to do everything in my power to not let my disease destroy every part of my life. The Lyme had already stolen so much from me…I wasn’t going to let it take Telluride, too.
I did (and still do) feel guilty when I do things for myself or spend money on anything other than medical bills, medication, etc.- but I shouldn’t. I should never have to justify doing something that makes me happy, especially if it’s something that keeps me fighting so hard. I deserve to enjoy life and have fun just like everyone else. I was also lucky enough to have some very loving people in my life who gave me money with the instructions of using it to do something for myself- not for medical bills. THANK YOU!!!
My trip out to Telluride was on June 19th (surgery was April 19th), and I honestly don’t think I would have been able to go a week, or even a few days earlier. I fought every step of the way, and the journey was definitely a long, difficult, and painful one- one which seemed impossible sometimes, but I made it! I made it from Mayo Clinic to Appleton to Chicago to Denver to Telluride in exactly 2 months, and even handled the altitude and a bit of mild mountain climbing like a champ (but that’s my opinion- sorry for any complaining, Rachy and Nick!). Sure, I was still in pain and had to pace myself, take it easy, and go back to the condo often to rest, but to me, just being there was an incredible victory. I was so happy to breathe in the Rocky Mountain air, be surrounded by breath-taking natural beauty, listen to amazing music, celebrate life, and share the trip of a lifetime with some wonderful people.
This trip was about so much more than a music festival in the mountains- it was about determination, strength, resilience, believing in myself, and refusing to give up. Not going was simply not an option for me, and my experience at Telluride Bluegrass Festival did so much for my soul and my outlook going forward- it was priceless. I am still nowhere near 100% healthy, but am having many more good days than bad (and I never thought I’d see that happen). I still struggle, and I expect there will be bumps in the road, but I’ve proven to myself that I’m a fighter, and I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have learned so many things about myself and about life. No matter how hard life might get, it is still beautiful, and it’s definitely worth fighting for:)