Although I was born in August I consider April 15th a birthday of sorts. Eleven years ago on that very day I sat in on a bed in the emergency room, unable to catch my breath and deathly afraid to find out what was wrong with me.

Every April I reflect on my medical history and all that happened on that extraordinary day. Every year I thank God that I survived that medical ordeal. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of that trip to the ER. Here is what I wrote to commemorate that occasion.

The truth is ten years ago today I sat in a hospital bed with a pulmonary embolism unaware of what that meant or what was wrong with me. As months passed and doctors failed to diagnose my condition I felt broken. I cursed my body instead of praising it. I went on long walks and cried at the realization that I could die and that if I lived I surely would never be well enough to give birth to any children. Years later, when I finally felt well enough to get pregnant, I spent months failing to conceive. And in the midst of trying was unexpectedly diagnosed with blood curdling neuropathy. Once again I felt let down by my own body.

When my husband and I drove away from the hospital on the day my second child was born I bawled uncontrollably. I still cannot believe how my body has healed over the last ten years. It is certainly not free of aches and pains, it couldn’t run a marathon or even run a few miles, but the fact is I survived two medical crises and infertility.

My body is stronger than I ever could have imagined and I have two beautiful boys to prove it.

This past weekend my son and I went rock climbing at one of those places that has walls designed to look like Mount Rushmore and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Before we left the house I turned to my husband and said “I want to climb too.”

He gave me a look that said, “are you sure?”,  but I knew I wanted to climb those walls from the minute we talked about driving there. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to feel the strength in my legs and arms. I wanted to move up and not stop until I reached the very top.

As we drove I questioned myself a couple of times. Am I really strong enough to make it to the top? With all of my medical history is this just a really bad idea?

My son and I stepped into our harnesses and stood before a young kid nearly half my age who tightened them for us and explained how to snap ourselves to each belay.

I followed my four year old over to a large wall, assessed the possibility of making it to the top and snapped my harness onto the rope.

I took note of the weight of my body. I paid extra attention to where I placed my feet and looked for solid footing before reaching up. My arms felt strong as I reached up and gripped the holds above me.

I’ve been rock climbing a number of times before. A few of my college friends would often go on the weekends and I trailed along beside them on more than one occasion.

I remember my good friend, Chris, telling me you want to rely on your feet when climbing. You want to find solid footing before looking for the next place to put your hands.

As I maneuvered up the wall I took note of my strength, of the way my body felt, every inch from my fingertips to my toes. The fear of heights struck me for a bit as I climbed to the top. My hands began to sweat, but I continued until I could go no further.

I reached the top, climbed down and then climbed up different walls over and over again.

I am reminded of the need to thank my body for all that it has done for me. For not giving up despite my medical issues, for pressing on through the birth of two children. For allowing this nearly forty year old woman to get to the top and to be just as excited to get there as the children climbing the walls around me.

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