The x-rays revealed a severe stress fracture in my right tibia and also fragments of cartilage floating around my ankle. Damning evidence of the abuse I had inflicted upon myself in Alaska.
“You will eventually need to have an ankle replacement…both feet” his eyes still on the report in his hand.
“How long?” I asked, feeling like a death sentence had been handed down.
“Your ankles are like the wear and tear on a car. Ten years if you take the tar road, five years if you take the gravel road.”
Not great news for anyone to hear. Especially shitty news for someone whose passions have always been a series of brief stops along the path less travelled.
Dr. Saragus would operate days later via two tiny holes on the top of my foot, barely requiring a single stitch each. The procedure involved flushing out the joint, removing the stray fragments of bone tissue, smoothing of the joint surfaces and injecting cortisone into the surrounding tendons. The relief was immediate. It changed everything. I wasn’t waking up every morning feeling like I was damaged goods, I could do this! This was a new chapter of my life and it was titled “Recovery: Round six”.
It is said that pain fades with time, but in a state of depression, the memory of pain doubles. While compiling these chapters I scrolled through the photos and videos of our Denali trip and realised the extent of how the situation was stained by my state of mind. Examining the dates on the photographs, what felt like a lifetime, was only fifteen days on the hill. I have sifted through the footage and can now dust off the facts buried within my twisted perception of what I thought had happened up there.
Five years have passed since our expedition to Denali, but the thought of returning to that mountain still scares the shit out of me. It is the gaping divide that separates me from achieving a dream that is now 17 years in the making - to complete the Seven Summits.
I fear having to grind my way back up that monster of a hill, having experienced ninety-five percent of the turmoil once before. I dread the idea of clipping into the rope again, the pulling, jarring and the cursing, a mass of spaghetti tangled in my clown-like snowshoes. And that f*cking sled.
I have been conflicted to a point of questioning the validity of the entire Seven Summits goal itself. After all, five out of seven is still a pass - right?
Not even close.