Breathe In, Breathe Out

A Walk To Remember July 1, 2013

I was quite content spending this weekend relaxing, and enjoying some quality time with Eamonn. I was happy to not wake up at 2:30am on Saturday morning, to get ready for what I only assumed would be the most physically challenging day of my life, thus far. I was happy to not be on my feet for 14 hours straight.

3:30am, and ready to go!

3:30am, and ready to go!

The Cystic Fibrosis Xtreme Hike 2013 was a 27.5-mile hike through parts of the Taconic Crest Trail, touching 3 states: Vermont (very briefly), Massachusetts, and New York. During the months of training leading up to June 22nd, we learned about the trail and some of its obstacles, but it’s only when you see it face-to-face that you actually begin to understand its fierceness. To give you an idea—the first two miles, beginning at 4am, in the dark, we ascended about 2000 ft. in elevation. Over the course of the 27.5 miles, we continued to ascend a total of over 8500 feet.  It might not sound intimidating but imagine looking ahead, to realize it appears to be straight up, already having hiked 16 miles. It wasn’t easy—but it was all kinds of awesome!

Last year, the first time it was brought to New England, I couldn’t do the hike. Honestly, I was quite relieved, because my dad had mentioned it to me and having a wedding that day was an easy out! This year, I didn’t have any excuses, and neither did my dad—though I think he conveniently forgot that he had contemplated doing it the year prior. So with some thought and consideration for the time we’d be devoting to training and fundraising, we decided to go for it. Our first training hike with other Xtreme hikers was in March, which kicked off 3 months of getting physically and mentally prepared—and we learned quickly that hiking was not the same as walking up Whisper Drive, or running down Beacon Street for a few miles. That initial hike kicked our butts, only to make us more determined.

The many training hikes I went on with my dad and fellow hikers, made the overall experience that much more worth it. Originally I signed-up for the hike to raise money for CF, but what I didn’t realize is how special doing

Mile 13?

Mile 13?

it with my dad would be. First of all, I want to thank him for being easily persuaded. But mostly I want to tell everyone how incredible he is—how many almost 65-year-olds can say that they just hiked 26 miles in one day? But it’s not just that—it’s that he trained so hard, he fundraised like he asked people for money for a living, all while loving every minute. And I got to be a part of it all. Dad, I couldn’t be a prouder daughter. You amaze me.

I also want to thank my mom and Eamonn. On so many Saturdays, you both rearranged your plans to accommodate our training schedule. When we didn’t know how long an 8-mile hike would take us, and we guessed at about 3 hours, and then took an actual 4.5 hours, you both just continued to support us and hope we got home safely. Thank you for your patience through all of it, and most of all thank you for being there on June 22nd. I wish I could explain how your presence, along with Abby’s and Ethan’s, kept me moving onward. Your motivation and positive spirits allowed me to believe in myself over the course of those 14 hours on the trail.

And now to all of you — thank you, thank you, thank you. My dad and I may have put our bodies through significant pain and stress, but it was your donations and generosity that will make the real difference in so many lives. My dad and I had a fundraising goal of $5,000 and thanks to all of you we raised approximately $7,000 to date. Including the money raised for the Great Strides walk, we have raised over $12,000 for continued CF research. CF is on the verge of finding a cure, and because of you I have absolute confidence that we will get there soon. I also want you all to know that during the hike, my dad and I each carried with us a print-out of all of the messages people wrote to us if they donated online. To know we had so many loved ones behind us every step of the way was, and always is, overwhelmingly invaluable.

Eamonn and Kate –I love you both (obviously in different ways!).  When all is said and done, I hiked for the two of you. It’s hard to not sound cliché or like a broken record, but you both inspire me in so many ways. The night before the hike someone reminded us that our experience was about “suffering”, and challenging ourselves in a way that we had never done. It was a reminder to not take our health and lives for granted. A reminder that we were hiking 27.5 miles for those that couldn’t. As we were getting ready to load the vans in the morning someone else saw my look of concern and doubt for what was to come, and asked me whom I was hiking for. I said “My husband and sister-in-law,” and all she said was “and that’s enough to get you through.” I didn’t believe her at the time, but during the 14-hours I found myself thinking of both of you (not creepily), and even a couple of times saying Eamonn’s name out loud. It really did get me through. You are both reminders of hope and positivity each and every day.

At 5am, after about an hour of hiking, watching the sunrise, I thought to myself, “This is awesome.” At about 2pm, after hiking already for about 10 hours, with what would be 4 hours to go, I thought to myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” But I always knew why I was doing it, and it was unbelievably awesome (aside from the 6 painful blisters I acquired, and not being able to walk properly the next day!). I was told many times by veteran hikers that the experience would get under my skin and I’d be back next year, and I’d shrug and think, “I highly doubt that.” Now that I’m walking, not limping, and able to wear closed-toe shoes, I have to admit that I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m back on the trail next year! Thank you to all my fellow hikers who made the past few months so fun and unforgettable. All of us hiked for different reasons, we got to know one another by sharing our stories, and bonding over a disease that has affected all of us in some way or another, but enough to make us crazy enough to hike 27 miles together. I hope we can all continue to kick CF in the butt.

 

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough March 13, 2013

I love hiking. Unfortunately, I do not go on hikes very often, especially because Eamonn cannot join me. But, for the past several years I have found a hiking buddy in my dad. Every summer we enjoy our annual hike together—the first year we took on Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, in the beginning of June on a record-high over 90-degree sunny day. The following number of hikes were less challenging, including one that was a rainy walk at Quabbin Revervoir, joined by countless mosquitoes. This past summer, with Abby joining us, we took on Mt. Monadnock yet again. I will admit, I was reluctant, feeling that I was not in good physical shape, but my dad was persistent (some might say stubborn) and we did it.

This summer I can say with complete confidence will be our most challenging hike to date, and possibly ever. My dad and I are participating in the 2nd annual Cystic Fibrosis Xtreme Hike at Jiminy Peak in Western Massachusetts. We will be hiking 25+ miles of the Taconic Crest Trail, covering three states: Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts. And yes, we will complete this in one day. Are we crazy? Maybe. But most importantly we’re dedicated to CF research, and we’re excited to be a part of the CF Foundation and community and all it is doing to provide a future and hope for CF patients and families.

In previous blog posts I have mentioned my frustration with not being able to make Eamonn healthier—I’d give him my lungs if I could (at least one), I’d do his drugs for him or his twice-daily therapy. Other than being supportive and loving, there is not much I can do to make him better. As a loved-one of someone with a disease, that is far and away the biggest challenge. I have never been one to enjoy sitting on the sidelines, and I certainly like being in control. ?????

Hiker Main LogoThe Xtreme Hike is my way of kicking CF’s ass, as cliché as that is. Hiking 25 miles will be physically strenuous and challenging for me both physically and mentally. Already I am doubting myself–whether I can train appropriately, get into good enough shape, and hike for 12-14 hours in one day in June. Will it be hard? Of course. Can I do it? I hope so! When I do start to doubt myself, or when I think I can’t go one more mile, I will think of Eamonn. He is what keeps me going everyday, and on June 22nd he will have to just push me a little more.

I made a commitment to train and push my physical limits for the next three months. Eamonn has been doing that for 29 years and not because he chooses to. I may not be able to destroy CF or undo its damage, but I sure as hell can challenge its determination to take us down and I can promise it won’t. Together, my dad and I will walk for Eamonn because…we can. And we are crazy.

Hiking Mt. Monadnock

Hiking Mt. Monadnock

Now it’s your turn. Please support my dad and me by donating to our hiking efforts by clicking here. Our goal is to raise a combined $5,000 and all of the money will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in continued support for the incredible research they have done and are doing to find a cure for CF. If you prefer to send a check please email me at elana.alfred@gmail.com for my mailing address.

In case you are wondering, we are also participating in the Great Strides CF Walk on May 19, 2013 in Boston. Our hope is to raise funds together, as a team effort, but that you will also walk with us and join our CF family! To donate to our walk team, Rock-It Lungs, and to start your own fundraising click here.

I cannot thank you all enough for the continued support. I know I have said it plenty of times before, but your love and encouragement never goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It is our family, friends, and community that gives us strength, so from the very bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.